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- 10 May 2005
Chapter - 13 — “Demob!!”
When I got back to England my posting was to a Training Regiment RA in Watchet, Somerset. The word ‘Training’ was a bit of a misnomer because practically everybody there was waiting to be demobbed. As I remember it, the highlight of my week was the day I went to the bank in Minehead to get the money to pay the men. We did have some guns and I do recall the day we were going up on to Exmoor for a training exercise. I was leading a Troop of guns and my position was sitting on the roof of a ‘Quad’ that was pulling the first gun, with my legs dangling beside the driver. A ‘Quad’, by the way was the name given to the vehicles designed to tow 25pounders though why it was so called I never found out and the Army had plenty of other four wheeled vehicles all of which could have qualified for the name. I can, however, assure you that looking down from the top of any vehicle on to the old Porlock hill with its numerous hairpin bends was a pretty hairy experience.
We spent a lot of our evenings at local hostelries and I remember in particular the Lutterell Arms at Dunster where they had long alley skittles behind the pub and we used to ply an old retainer with pints of beer to act as a skittle ‘putter-upper’ for the night. Another was the Blue Anchor which was so well known that it enjoyed having its name on the local one-inch Ordnance Survey map.
A couple of enterprising gunners who had some carpentry skills, sought and obtained permission to use the camp workshop and made a bit of money by scavenging for drift wood on the beach from which they fashioned numerous household articles. One such item, an oak kerb for which I paid the princely sum of ten bob (50p), still graces the hearth in Tony and Thelma’s sitting room.
It was here that I obtained a military driving licence. Of course I had been driving for the past six years but needed a certificate be exempted from having to take a test on return to ‘Civvie Street’. I got mine by driving the M.T officer into Minehead and back one morning.
I don’t remember just how long we were at Watchet but I do remember being heartily relieved when the time came to be told to report to the demob centre, although I can’t remember where that was, there to be signed off as it were and to be issued with one’s demob kit. This included, a suit, mine was a sort of blue herring-bone tweed which looked pretty awful and felt somewhat hairy to boot, and also a trilby hat that was a cross between a pork pie hat and, because of it’s over-wide brim, an American Stetson. We were also paid our demob grant, a sum of, if I remember rightly, some one hundred and twenty pounds.
This was in June 1946 and so ended my almost seven years of military service.
So there you have it. A pretty ordinary story of one man’s War Service: nothing dramatic or really very exciting and certainly no heroics, but many thousands of soldiers, still living or departed would recognise it as quite typical of their own experience. It may have taken a great chunk out of our youth but we learnt an awful lot about life, saw quite a bit of the world and we have a clutch of campaign medals to remind us of those days. Just for the record mine reading from left to right and ignoring the OBE are, the 1939-45 Star, Africa Star with 8th Army clasp, Italy Star, War Medal 1939-45 (usually called the Victory Medal) and the Territorial Army Efficiency Medal (awarded for twelve years service, but war service counting double).
I hope you enjoy reading it Rosemary and that if it hangs around long enough others that come across it might find it an interesting insight into life at that time. I have enjoyed writing it and have surprised myself at how easy I have found it to recall those days of sixty and more years ago. It really is remarkable that as we get older we sometimes find it difficult to remember very recent happenings, yet when we cast our minds back it as if something triggers the opening of a little door in one’s mind and the memories come flooding back.
Brian Hulse O.B.E.
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