- Contributed by
- Paul Walker
- People in story:
- Albert Walker
- Location of story:
- England and D- Day
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 26 June 2003
I was born on 26th February 1925 in Stourport On Severn, Worcestershire.
At 14 years of age I left school and started work at “ Worth’s” Carpet Factory earning 75 old pence for a 48-hour week. At the end of the year WWII broke out, my elder brother Joe was called up as he was in the Territorial Army. When I was 16 I enrolled in 156 Squadron ATC (Air Training Corps) at Kidderminster. I then also changed jobs and went to work at “Steatite and Porcelain” as an Electrician’s mate. I was getting a bit bored with the ATC so I resigned and became a member of the “Home Guard” at the Steatite. We did guard duty at Stourport Power Station, which at that time was one of the largest in the country. We also did fire watching at the Factory in case German Aircraft dropped Incendiary Bombs. My mother died in November 1941 Aged 46 of stomach cancer, My Father and Older Sister (Lill) both worked at “Worth’s” which had now been converted into a factory producing Incendiary Bombs.
In November 1942 I decided if the war was ever going to end, I would have to become a soldier, so getting my fathers consent and adding 3 months to my age I set off to the Recruitment office in Worcester to enlist with Jim Bettis, (Jim ended up in the Royal Navy), I wanted to go in the Navy but I was rejected on the grounds that I had flat feet). After taking a medical and swearing allegiance to the King I became a Soldier for “Hostilities Only”. I was then told to go home and I would be sent for in due course.
In January 1943 my Father died Aged 52 of Bronchial Asthma, two weeks later on the 23rd January 1943 I was sent for and was to report at “Budbrooke Barracks” in Warwick next to Warwick Racecourse. For six weeks we were given basic training on how to become a soldier, weapon training, firing all types of guns, Route Marches and Square-Bashing. I was then kept on for a further ten weeks intensive training as an infantryman. We were then allocated to different Regiments. I was sent to the young soldiers 90th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment, (It was for lads under 20 years of age), at Berwick on Tweed. After about three months the 90th Btn RWR was disbanded and I was sent to the 2nd Btn Royal Warwickshire Regiment stationed at a camp between Lockerbie and Lockmabew in Scotland.
I was now a member of the 3rd British Infantry Division in which there were three Brigades. The 185th, 8th and 9th Brigades.
185 Brigade = 2nd Warwick’s, 1st Norfolk and 2nd K.S.L.I. (King’s Shropshire Light Infantry)
As part of our training we did mountain warfare, street fighting in the streets of Glasgow (the slums of the Gorbals, which had been evacuated), also assault landing from the sea in preparation for D-Day. We also used the Royal Marines assault course. I met a Stourport man Dave Thomas who was a Marine; he now lives down the road from my hose in Stourport.
Going back to March 1943 when I was finishing my training I wrote a letter to my Brother Joe who was serving with the Royal Artillery in Tunisia asking if he would claim me, (as then a father could claim a son, an Elder Brother a Younger Brother so that they could serve together), but a few weeks later it was returned to me saying “Killed In Action”.
Each Battalion was split into six companies, of which were A.B.C.D.HQ, S, The A.B.C.D. were rifle companies, HQ was Cooks, Signallers, Clerks etc. S Company was Bren Carriers, Mortar Platoon. I became a Bren Gunner in “B” Company and was called “junior”, as I was the youngest in the company.
In May 1944 we transferred to “Haywards Heath” in Sussex and were put in a camp within a camp. We were in the centre camp with fencing all around, then the “Redcaps” (Military Police), were on the outside, so that we had no contact with the outside world.
On June 4th 1944 we left in closed lorries for the port of “Newhaven”, where we embarked onto a L.C.I. (Landing Craft Infantry) and set sail for “Normandy and Sword Beach”. We were in Mid Channel when we were told we would not be landing on 5th June as planned owing to bad weather and high seas. We therefore spent all night of the 4th and day and night of the 5th going round in circles, the sea was very rough and most of us were very sick.
At last at 9.55 am on the 6th June 1944 we landed on Sword Beach, at that time I didn’t care how many Germans were there as long as I was on solid ground. Encountering medium opposition, we fought our way to our main objective, which was a village and wood called “Lebisey” which overlooked “Caen”. The attack started at 8-45 am on the 7th June, we made good progress through the cornfields, and on the hill, crossing a tank trap about 8ft deep and 10ft across we got to the ditch on the edge of the wood.
We then encountered heavy fire as unknowing to us the wood had been taken over by the 21st Panzer Division, there was no way we could advance owing to the heavy fire. So we remained in the ditch until last light when we made a tactical withdrawal. We had a lot of casualties including the Battalion C.O. who was shot in the head. We then did six weeks patrolling and getting reinforcements; finally after six weeks of heavy bombing and artillery fire we finally captured the wood and village. From there we fought our way through France, Belgium and Holland where we had our next largest battle, at a place called “Venrij”, which was heavily defended. We had lost so many men in B Company that the remainder was split into the other companies. I went to D Company.
We eventually got to the “Rhine”, where we dug in for a couple of weeks waiting for a build up of forces in order to make a crossing. For those two weeks, there was a perpetual fog along the Rhine, smoke canisters were kept going day and night to hide the big build up of troops etc. It was then that we had our first Bread and a bottle of Beer since we had landed, it was quite an occasion.
After crossing the Rhine we fought our way to the outskirts of “Bremen” which, even though surrounded, they would not surrender. We were dug in, in slit trenches when word was passed that from 08-00 hours May 4th 1945 we were to cease-fire unless fired upon. Thus for us the war was ended.
The 2nd Battalion R.W R. was then sent to a town called “Petershagan” for rest and recuperation. I then decided I would like to become a Regimental Signaller, so I applied and was sent on a course to study, Wireless procedure, Morse code, Radio Repairs etc. I passed and was able the crossed flags on my sleeve. After a short time web were sent back to Belgium, to a small town called “St Lievens Houtem”. My friend Tom Waddington and I were billeted with a family named “Victor De Mulder DE Meeler”; they treated us as one of the family. At that time they had a daughter about 10 years old, and we still send each other Xmas cards. We were there for about six weeks, and then we were sent to “Palestine”, travelling in “Dakota” Bombers with the inside stripped out, so that we could sit on the floor either side of the Aircraft.
We pitched camp on a Golf Course on the outskirts of “Jerusalem”, and did Guard Duty and Security Duties. Two months later we left for “Egypt”. I then decided I would like to become a DR (Despatch Rider) so I applied to the signals officer who sent me on a course, we did rough riding which meant riding over any sort of Terrain, do emergency turns in case of ambush etc.also firing the sten gun with your left hand, as you need your right hand for the throttle. I passed the course and was able to put DR and winged wheel above my crossed flags. We spent our time between “Palestine and Egypt”, each time we moved we crossed the “Sinai Desert”. In Palestine we were billeted in the “Hospice Notre Dame” in the centre of Jerusalem. In Egypt we were in tents between “Port Tewfik and Port Said”, there was an oil refinery nearby which gave off an unpleasant smell. I did regular runs from Port Tewfik to HQ at Cairo carrying Despatches to “Allenby Barracks”. I remember you could get a lovely egg sandwich in the canteen there. Back in Palestine you had to be aware of Terrorists at all times, as they would stretch Piano wire across the road to try and decapitate you. One of our DR’s “Pip Saddler” happened to see a glint across the road and ducked, but it caught him across the face fetching him off and scarred him for life. In February 1946 I celebrated my 21st Birthday and got totally drunk in Cairo. I also had a tattoo of which I new nothing about until next morning. My Pal Tom also had the same tattoo; we are still pals nearly sixty years later.
In May 1947 I was told to report to the Platoon Commander, I duly reported and was told that now the war was over they would try to manage without me. I was to be “Demobbed”,(the magic word). So I off set for “Alexandria” where I embarked on a ship for England. On arriving at Dover we transferred to a train for York which was the main demob centre. We were fitted out with Shirt; socks, tie, a suit and a hat. We were then given a Travel Warrant to our Home Town, also our Back Pay,Ration Card and Allowances which came to the magnificent total of £61.1s.7d. So on reaching Stourport I had completed 5 years and 4 months as a soldier and thus ended my war years.
Albert Charles Walker
For more details about the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment see “History of THE ROYAL WARWICKSHIRE REGIMENT” By MARCUS CUNLIFFE Published 1956 by William Clowes and Sons,Limited, Little New Street, London, EC 4
Page 59 Murder of 2nd Warwicks POW’s
Chapter IV 6th June — August 1944
Chapter VI September 1944 — May 1945
Chapter VII 1945 - 1955
© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.