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William Mason's War

by Lancshomeguard

Contributed by 
People in story: 
William James Mason
Location of story: 
Europe, Egypt and Israel
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
19 July 2005

This story has been submitted to the People's War website by Liz Andrew of the Lancshomeguard on behalf of William Mason and added to the site with his permission.

I was sixteen when war broke out. I lived with my mother and sisters and worked as a grocer's boy in Blackpool. During the war the town was filled with servicemen of all kinds. I carried on working until I was called up in 1942 and posted to Richmond for ten weeks for all kinds of infantry training. Then I was transferred to the 9th Kings Liverpool Regiment and underwent further training, ending up in Ireland. It was all very new to me - I had never been away from home before and I was about to see different parts of the country and different parts of the world.

I spent a month in hospital and missed D Day and when I was discharged from hospital found that all my comrades had been shipped off to Burma. So I was sent to the 2/4 South Lancs battalion for replacment to France.

We were on the Front Line. If you were lucky you stayed in a building. But often we were in trenches. I remember we spent Christams Day 1944 in the Trenches. We'd dig them out with spades and line them with straw. We were so close to the Germans you could hear them talking on the other side on a quiet night.

We used to fire our guns and then turn away - the shells went quite a distance - 100 yards or so - and you'd have gun sights of course to line up with. At Richmond Camp I'd had specialist training in new weapons - we'd been testing 4.2inch mortars - they were twice the size of the other guns.

We went through France, Belgium and Holland. As you drove through towns, sometimes there wasn't a whole building left standing. It was all more frightening than exciting. You felt vulnerable. People got killed. But you just accepted it - you didn't have any option. On the River Maas at least three of my friends were killed. We had to cross the river in boats. The enemy were firing and we were firing from the opposite bank - they never returned.

Sometimes you had quiet days - but it was never boring - you needed to keep on your toes.

At the end of hostilities we were in Germany at a couple of small villages called Dettmold and Lemgo. Because of my background in the grocery trade I was placed in charge of a Food Warehouse for a short time and responsible for allocating food to some Russian Personnel. I remember the bags of sliced potatoes - they were very very light.

Once the War was over were were shipped out to Egypt and Israel. In Egypt I was put in charge of cooking for thirty personnel and in Haifa in Israel I was cooking again. We were supposed to be the peacekeepers there making a home for the Jews but they didn't want us there. I remember the mesh on all the streets and grenades thrown into the camp over our barbed wire. I was there when the King David Hotel was blown up. It was our Officers' Headquarters and quite a lot of people were killed. We saw the smoke and heard the sirens.

It was a dangerous job but we didn't mind - it was a nice country and a nice climate and the dhobi folk used to do our washing and ironing. They were superb craftsmen and they made me the best shoes I ever had. I remember when we were on the trains the Arabs used to come to the windows offering food and bartering - sometimes they'd just sell us rubbish!

I was demobbed from Haifa and travelled back by boat and then train to Aldershot back in England to pick up my gray pinstripe suit and my discharge papers in March 1947. If you saw anyone in a pinstripe suit you'd know he'd just been demobbed!

My life in the Army lasted approximately 5 years.I enjoyed it - I felt I went in at the right time and came out at the right time.

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