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75th Anti Tank Regiment WW2

by James Hawkesworth

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Contributed by 
James Hawkesworth
People in story: 
Jim Constable
Location of story: 
Europe
Background to story: 
Army
Article ID: 
A8965443
Contributed on: 
29 January 2006

From interview by neighbour and friend James Hawkesworth in 2005

War is a terrible thing with so much loss of life and when you see so many dead lives you realise - I've seen Tanks burning like hell with blokes inside and I have had to get them out to get them buried - things like that you dont forget.

I was born in Wellington in Shropshire in 1923 a child of the depression.When the war started in 1939 I had just turned 16. I voluntered to join up {I said I was 17}. I went to Church Stretton first for training I remember my first meal it was a bowl of stew and there were cockroaches floating in it!When the officer came around and said 'any complaints' nobody said anything but I did and showed him the complete cockroach floating on top. He took my name and I was instantly put on a charge and staight away put in the kitchen to scrub every pan which was black - that was my very first 2 days in the Army! The training was very severe I had initially joined the Manchester Light Machine Gunners but they were instantly disbanded and converted to the Royal Artillery. We first has 2 pound anti-tank guns then we were introduced to 6 pounder guns then we had a vehicle called a 'quad'I remember the training was very severe. After 6 weeks we were shipped up to Scotland to fire the big guns and shortly afterwards went to Harlech in Wales for further training. After this my first posting was to Cairo to join up with the 8th Army,I was very interested in the Army and was made up to a Bombadier.As we were travelling through the desert we were switched to the 7th Army. I eventually ended up in Salonica where I was by now a Sergeant.The Germans had been retreating and we took over one of their camps, it was a well built camp.Being the first soldiers in Salonika the Mayor invited 6 of us to tea! I remember one of the soldiers got married to a Greek lady and the wedding lasted 2-3 days. We returned to Egypt where we had 25 pounders and saw some action there. I then returned to England in late 42/early 43 by which time I was a Sergeant Major.We were fully re-equipped and continued training.We collected our equipment and Sherman Tanks from a place in Wales, and on my return to Worcester barracks I had a surprise meeting with my older brother Ted who didn't even recognise me at first! The next move was down to the Thames in Kent, it was all very secret - no one was allowed to say anything or go anywhere. We just waited and continued to maintain our equipment, everything had to be covered in gunge and grease before we loaded everything onto the ships at East India docks.When we were at sea believe me with loads of men and equipment we were really sick it wasn't very pleasant! We crossed over and landed at Juno beach on D-Day + 2 The Canadians were with us and we went up towards Caen.We were going towards the elite German Panzer units it was the hardest battle-you got bullets mortars bombs shells and everything falling down like rain and I do mean rain there were blokes with heads blown off and burnt- there were rows and rows of them. There was a big Chateux right at the bottom of Hill 112 we were deployed there with the 16 pounders-we dug in a slit trench.The Chateux was being used as a field medical theatre, there was a large tent and outside the tent on each side were rows and rows of dead bodies covered in coats . I awoke one morning having slept on a Sherman and right next to me on the ground was a young Hitler Youth. He was good looking - a few of us gave him a decent burial. He had been sniping from some trees and had killed quite a few before he was spotted .We had a long battle the amount of blokes killed was beyond belief. The barrels were overheating so we had to pull back and were re-equipped.We went off again towards Flanders because we were by now pushing Jerry back and were chasing him. I remember at 6am one morning being involved in a massive barrage, there was an incident when a German Tank kept poking its nose out around a corner - we were determined to have the Tank but some of the guns we had it was a waste of time like a pea shooter but our 16 pounder could do the job, we had the gun all levelled up and were just waiting for the Tank to come out, but what we didnt know then was everyone had pulled back and we were stuck on our own we were waiting for the Canadians but all the rest of them had gone back but due to the noise and everything we didnt know and anyway the Tank poked his nose out and we got him.The Canadians took over and we lost quite a few men.We had the Monmouths and the KSLI Shropshires with us they were very good. We found we could aim for the Tank tracks and then wait for the evacuation of the crew.We eventually formed up with the 2nd Army and went towards Brussels, however just as we got there we were diverted as they wanted the Yanks to take Brussels not us! Then we went down to Antwerp and had a bit of a battle there which lasted a few days.The weather was changing and we went to a place on the Dutch border we were very well looked after by the locals.We headed for a place called Venlo Venrai.Later the Germans had encircled us but the weather changed it was very bad with snow and ice, we pulled into a village and dug in as deep as we could. Right behind us was a house and the other side of the square was a church but in the house we went and got all the bedding and everything else out of it and put it around the trench. In the house was a big cellar so what we used to do was two men at a time take a bed and have a good nights sleep night or day , however when it was my turn the house was shelled because the Jerries thought the gun position officer was in the Church but missed the Church and hit the house and I was trapped inside. I happened to be on my own - the men must have liked me because I was dug out! We used to put traps out with tin cans to warn us of any movement- one night there was movement and gunfire. The next morning we found out it was a pig! We were there 7 days and it was very cold I was there for my 21st Birthday.We had a stove from which we had run a long pipe to an orchard - the smoke was a frequent target for the Nazis!It wasnt much later when I encountered a Nazi who I saw first before he saw me - I had his boots for many years. We eventually crossed over into Germany went right up into Kiel and then crossed over into Denmark. I didnt even know the War had finished then.I went to Palestine to a training command however I caught sand fly fever and had to return to England. I had wanted to join the Palestine Police Force, however I was sent to London and decided to leave the Army in 1946.

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