- Contributed by
- BBC Scotland
- People in story:
- William Watson
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 21 July 2005
This story was submitted to the People's War site by Helen Oram on behalf of William Watson and has been added to the site with his permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.
I joined up in January 1940, at age 21. We did very hard training. I was as fit as a fiddle: your boots were never off. At first I was posted to Orkney to help with the security of the islands. It was often difficult to get on to the smaller islands due to stormy seas.
I was posted to various places in the UK before going over on D+3 to Normandy.
As we waited to get landed on Arromanches Beach, Jerry was throwing everything at us. It was hellish. I felt we would never get there. As we were dropped by landing-craft, up to our knees in the water, we were being strafed by German planes.
In the first battle, we pushed right in, to wooded country, facing the Germans.It was four days of hell. The Germans were on the other side of the River Odin, 1000 yards away. We were on high ground. All the time, the whole Division was being bombed. The stretcher-bearers took away the wounded. We lost 297 men - killed, wounded and missing. These are the official figures.
The first thing you did was dig a slit trench, with two to five men to a trench. You had a small mess-tin and a tommy cooker and a bottle of water to reconstitute porridge, etc. There was no chance of any other food.
All the time we were being bombed. You couln't feel fear. But when we came out, we were shaking. I remember one young boy who was wounded, crying for his mammy - he got a mouthfull! We were in danger all the time. I knew to jump into a hole when I heard a shell coming. Jerry had "moaning Minnies" - a nasty piece of work. Each one had five or six mortar bombs. They were fired individually, with a wee breath between each one. They caused a lot of casualties.
As Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant, it was my job to get food and ammunition up to a central point, where it was collected by the COs. The Germans were out to disrupt us from bringing in supplies. So I was in danger all the time, and was lucky not to get hurt. I knew to jump into a hole when I heard the shells coming. After four days we were taken out to be rekitted. We had lost hundreds of men.
From June 1944 till the 4th May 1945 we had fourteen battles right through to the River Elbe, with 1,104 men killed, wounded or missing. By 4th May we knew through word of mouth that the war was over.
We rounded up German prisoners and pushed them into a field. We had to guard, feed and water them. It was an ordeal. We took everything from them. Their compo rations were good. Our division had 60,000 prisoners, all herded out of various places. The Royal Army Service Corps took them away in transports, but this took months.
We finished up at Lubeck in Germany, which we occupied. Our troops were tired and hungry. For eleven months we had had it hard, living in muck most of the time. We had seen what the Germans had done to the Belgians and the Dutch. They had no hesitation in throwing the people out of their homes. These people were starving. We had passed miles of refugees as we came through Belgium and Holland. In the mood we were in, we had no little sympathy for the German populace. Although I don't feel proud of it now, we did to them some of what the German Army had done to civilians.
I remember one soldier, a wee character called Paddy, who used to get a hard time from the troops due to his stammer. He appeared with two big heavy kit-bags full of dental equipment! He was told, "Just leave them here". At this he lost his temper, saying, "It's my f-f-f--ing bag and I'm no f-f-f--ing going to". I asked him about the looted stuff when he got back and he said he had got £200 for it.
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