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Nonagenarian's Memories of Active Service

by BBC Scotland

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Archive List > British Army

Contributed by 
BBC Scotland
People in story: 
Andrew Brown, Lieutenant-Colonel
Location of story: 
North Africa, Crete, Italy
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
19 August 2005

This story was submitted to the People's war site by Helen Oram, Scotland csv on behalf of Andrew Brown and has been added to the site with his permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

I am 90 years of age. I joined the Army as a bandsman in 1933. I was in Palestine during the trouble at that time. In 1939 when the War broke out and the Italians came in, I was moved to the desert. The first battle I was involved in was Sidibarriani.

Advice was received that the Germans were about to land on Crete. We were shipped over from Egypt to Crete and landed early in the morning of 20 May 1941. The Germans landed that afternoon. We were guarding a large plain in the south of the island but the Germans landed in the north. Eventually half the battalion was in Heraklion and the other half was in the south. I was lucky to be in the north although we were shelled regularly. I was evacuated to Alexandria. 350 men were taken prisoner by the Germans in the south.

I was moved up to Abysinnia where the Italians were still holding on. The Italian resistance was finished in December 1941.

We were moved to Khartoum, then up to Alexandria, and in September to Alamein. It was pretty bloody. We were defending a position on a slope in the middle of the battlefield. The Highland Division went forward on the attack and suffered a lot of casualties.

We went back to Palestine to prepare for the invasion of Sicily and landed there on 10 July 1943. We cleared Sicily and invaded Italy. We landed in the south-east of Italy and moved up north. The details are all in my memoirs.

After a period in Italy I was posted to the Middle East. I was involved in guarding Churchill, Roosevelt and Chang Kai-Shek during their conference in Mena House, Cairo.

I was moved back to Italy in February 1944. I took part in the Battle of Cassino. I was promoted from Sergeant-Major to Lieutenant Quartermaster, in charge of feeding, clothing and equipping the troops.

The winter of 1944-45 was a freezer. Up till then the soldiers had no winter clothing apart from a heavy winter cardigan. Only battledress and Army boots, which were not good quality. At this time the Army introduced string vests. When the thaw came, the men had to cope with a sea of mud. The troops on the front line had a bloody awful time.

I was sent home in January 1944, having been away for six years. At that time I was unmarried. I married the following April. The poor lass, my first wife, had nursed in a sanatorium and had contracted TB. We were married for only three and a half years.

Thereafter I volunteered for the Malay Regiment in which I spent 15 months. In February 1950 I was recalled back to the Argylls to Hong Kong and sent to Korea in August 1950. Korea was bloody awful.

I met my second wife, a Naval nursing sister, and we married in Hong Kong. I spent a year in British Guyana and my wife and daughter joined me there in 1953. Then I spent some time as Quartermaster at Stirling Castle then as Administative Officer at Bridge of Don barracks in Aberdeen. My last two years in the Army till my retirement in 1970 was spent in
Holland at Allied Forces Central Europe.

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