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D DAY Landings - (Part 4)continuation from A6380453

by csvdevon

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Archive List > British Army

Contributed by 
csvdevon
People in story: 
Joyce and Arthur Good
Location of story: 
Normandy, France
Background to story: 
Army
Article ID: 
A6586734
Contributed on: 
01 November 2005

Part 4 (continued from Part 3 - A6380453)

This story has been written on the BBC Peoples War Site by CSV Story gatherer Pamela Buck on behalf of Arthur Good. It has been added to the site with his permission and he fully understands the terms and conditions of the site.

Joyce enjoyed her stay at Worthing; there was Joyce, myself, a Captain Blay (ex Army) Mr and Mrs Hepplewhite (ex Customs & Excise), whom we referred to as Ma and Pa Hepp. Joyce got on really well with Ma and loved to help around the house and do Ma's shopping.

Worthing itself was a very nice place to shop and Joyce used to favour a particular grocers on Broadwater, a small shop named "Sainsbury". For butchers she would walk to near the railway station. Joyce also got on very well with Captain Blay, he thought a lot of her and was chuffed when she rolled his cigarettes; "Never had them rolled so good", he would say.

Number 3 Troop of Number 3 Commando were in Worthing and I was invited to their get together before they went back to Germany to continue fighting. Captain Wesley, whom I hadn't seen since bandaging his wound in Normandy chatted to me and suggested that I go back with them to Germany. I thought, well I have been fortunate up to now and received little but a wound to the knee and so declined the offer saying that there were so many newcomers to the Unit that I would be outplaced and that the newcomers would be supperior to me. Captain Wesket said, "Don't worry about that, you will come back as a Sergeant". This was very tempting but I felt that I had to decline.

The lads eventually had to go back to Germany, Joyce back to Birmingham and I was posted to a new camp being formed near Goodwood race course Chichester. This was around end March 1945 and the object of the camp was to form a base to which the Commandos would return when hostilities ceased. Four of us (No 3 Commando) worked alongside Marines and erected Nisson huts, toilets, wash areas etc. The lads of all Army commandos, Nos.2,3,4 and 6 came to this place when hostilities ceased. By this time it was decided to disband the Army Commandos and return them to the various units to which they belonged.

I should elaborate here and explain that when one volunteered for the Commandos you could request at any time to return to your parent unit. The Commandos were a 100% voluntary unit.

The breakup of the Commandos had commenced but would obviously take a long time to complete. In the meantime my job (with four others) was to sort out the mountain of kit, some of which had come from a Holding area and some from Germany. It was a mixed bag of Service kit, private kit and kit belonging to lads who had been killed. Army kit was returned to store if it was unused, burnt if used. Private kit was packed into personal packages and placed with the Army Post Office. Dead mans kit was sorted and posted to their Home Address. A very nostalgic but necessary job.

During my stay at Goodwood Joyce was able to visit for a couple of days (Easter 1945). During this time I managed (with the lads help) to obtain two bicycles and we were able to tour a fair amount of Goodwood area. After she returned home I spent my evenings (after duties) meandering over the various vast estates, usually with a gun looking for pheasants, rabbits etc. It was on one of these excursions that I wandered into the area of a big stately house which I later discovered was occupied by the secretary to the Earl of Richmond. The nanny (about 40) from the house spotted me and we chatted. She suggested that if I could snare or shoot a rabbit they would be glad of it in the kitchen and also that if I was interested in rough gardening, odd jobs etc, the gentleman of the house would be interested. It transpired that he was attached to the RAF in between duties on the estate and would welcome an odd job man for window cleaning, gardening etc. etc.

A meeting was arranged so that he (the secretary) and I could discuss what was wanted of me. He explained that he needed someone to do odd jobs around the house and gardens and if I took the job on, what renumeration would I expect. At that time I just wanted to be occupied in the evenings and would have done anything, free. But he said "How about one shilling and sixpence an hour and your supper". I didn't show it but I was overwhelmed. So I took the job on and was more than happy with my lot. I did a lot of work for him and enjoyed every minute of it. I worked for 3 or 4 hours every evening and when finished would present myself to the kitchen staff and would be served up with a huge sandwich of bread and cheese (more cheese than a family ration in those days) and a pint of bitter. The four shillings and sixpence or six shillings was as much as I was getting from the Army per day. Affluence.

Unfortunately this had to finish when I was posted to Wrexham, again with a view to disbandment.

At Wrexham they once againn did not know what to do with us. I was offered a job in charge of the Officers' Club serving drinks etc, but turned this down because it would probably curtail my weekend leave. The alternative was Corporal in charge of the other ranks' dining room and catering. I took this job and did all right for the lads and myself, including a tea party for the children of Wrexham for christmas. Amongst my staff I had (and was pleased to chat to) four old timers who had fought in the Boer and Great Wars. Historic.

The breakup was finally completed (horrors) my original regiment had been disbanded and I would not be seeing old mates again.

I was posted, along with eighteen strangers, but Commandos, to a Suffolk regiment. We, as Commandos were not welcome in the Regiment but I had only seven months to serve and requested an interview with the Adjutant to ask to be posted to a civilian builder; this sort of thing was permissable if one had only six months to serve.

The Adjutant suggested that I see him when I had only six months to do and he would try to arrange things.

Low and behold, the following week Company orders stated that all eighteen of us were posted to Italy. A Lieutenant and myself (Corporal), were to escort the party to Folkestone and board a ferry for Calais. Arrangements had been made for us to bed down for one night at "Old Park Barracks" Dover. This was indeed nostalgic for me. I had been stationed in the same barrack room in January/February 1942 when we had so much straffe from the cross Channel guns. Next morning we boarded a ferry and in Calais boarded a train along with a mixture of several Civilian nationalities.

The journey proved very absorbing with the scenary and watching how the various nationalities ate their packed lunches. We compared our food with theirs and did a bit of swapping.

As it was winter we started to see snow as we drew closer to Switzerland and soon the whole area was white and mountainous. At each stop we dropped off civilians and around nightfall we switched to a military train. This train travelled on through Switzerland towards Italy. In a thick pine forest at a make do station we halted and were told to de-train. We were told to leave our kit on the train and to make our way down a tricky slope through the pines to eat. I was amazed with the setting; a track through the pines led to a well lit huge log cabin about the size of a tennis court. The log cabin was newly built, well lit and there were about four log fires, giving a cosy warm glow. At the end of the cabin was a raised stage on which was a twelve piece orchestra playing beautiful classical music - sheer bliss. We enjoyed a good meal and then back to the train.

Arriving at Milan we then went by Army wagons to an unobstrusive little town known as Navarra in northern Italy. We spent five or six days here in an Italian army barracks (very austere) awaiting posting. I was eventually posted to MMIA Rome (Military Mission to the Italian Army) and then to No 9 British Liaison Unit in Bari (Southern Italy).

This unit consisted of one Maltese Major, one English Major, one Italian Major, myself, a Lance Corporal and ancillaries. We were billeted in requisitioned flats (not too gracious) and the work consisted of arranging for destruction of ammunition and various types of Italian equipment, also teaching the Italian Army to use our equipment. This dragged on for the remainder of my service and in July I was ordered to report to Villache in Austria to start the demobilisation sequence. Travelled up (solo). Lost ny kit en route, thanks to the dexterity of Napolese "tea leaves" who accessed the train and threw my kit off whilst I was sleeping. Arrived in Villache and was immediately charged with neglect of duty i.e. not looking after my kit. Had to buy new kit even though it was to be handed in soon. The usual medical checks went on and I was soon back in Calais and Aldershot, England.

The method of demobilisation was assessed on age of the person and length of sevice. There was no allowance made for status i.e. married, family or dependants. On the basis of this we were given a demobilisation number. A number was released each week and one could assess when one would be released (barring the odd miscalculation). My number worked out at 37 which suggestd July/August 1946. I must confess that though I had been looking forward to release for so long I was now feeling very scared with the prospect. To serve for six years from a relatively young age (seventeen and a half) and suddenly be plunged into Civvy Street was very daunting. Had I been going on a raid on enemy coast, it would have seemed easier. At least I knew what I would be doing.

In Aldershot I spent the night in an Army barracks and next morning paraded with the rest of the fellows for demob. The sergeant was over nice, we were all on first name terms and he suggested that we might consider staying on. There were no takers. However, up to the pay desk where I received two on three weeks pay, a letter of authority for future pay (I was due twelve weeks) and confirmation that I was entitled to sixty pounds (ten pounds per year) gratuity, also a leave pass valid until end of October. Then on to the fitting out buildings where I chose suit, shirt, tie, shoes etc which were all packed into a neat cardboard box., We were allowed to keep our uniforms but had to pay one pound if we wanted to keep greatcoats. Ironically I paid a pound for mine in Villache to be able to buy it again.

From Aldershot to London and so to Birmingham and Home. There seemed to be an awful lot of people about. I didn't know until I reached Birmingham that it was August bank holiday Monday. No wonder the buses were only running every hour. I was in Civvy Street. What now?

Obviously, in a paradoxical way I was overjoyed. I was greeted at home so well by my wife and sisters and father etc, but it was so strange, no one seemed to realise what a traumatic transformation it was. No doubtit was on both sides. But....I was in Civvy Street.

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