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I was lucky, I enjoyed my time in the Army.

by CSV Solent

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CSV Solent
People in story: 
Reginald Starnes
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Contributed on: 
06 October 2005

This story was added to the People's war website by Marie on behalf of Reginald Starnes. Mr Starnes has given his permission and understands the site's terms and conditions.

I started off in early 1942 training in the Royal Berkshires (the county where I lived). After various postings and courses I found myself in Nigeria in the newly formed R.E.M.E. attached to West African Artillery where we trained and strained through various experiences, some quite traumatic. Until by means of another ship, we travelled back through the Mediterranean, Suez and Indian Ocean until we disgorged at Bombay.

From there we, the troops, black and white, travelled for five slow days to Calcutta. All our workshop tools and artillery guns travelled perhaps even slower down and round Ceylon. At which point the Japanese took a hand and torpedoes the lot, including one unfortunate officer.

We finished up after hundreds more miles travelling by train, lorry and antique ferry boat at Chittagong, not that far distant from the nasty bits. We found ourselves completely ham-strung - not a spanner or gun between us. The regiment retrained as a mountain battery with two pounders which were a bit of a come-down from the very modern equipment before, but that took another year.

I, as a vehicle fitter, was kept quite busy escorting convoys, patrolling regular vehicle routes with various difficulties, hazards and stirring events - many of which I could recall and describe in some detail even now. However, none of these found their way back to Army HQ and publication, so I was amongst the forgotten of the Forgotten Army!

I experienced many wondrous, fascinating and even plain dangerous things. From being rudely disturbed one Christmas dinner by three of the Rising Sun fraternity, to the intelligence of ants, deadly snakes and tiger tracks. None of which really justified my Burma Star medal, which I never wear at any anniversary events. I don’t even usually attend them. I feel that while I suffered more than a few hardships, none can compare to the conditions of those in dire straits such as those in the jungles being shot at by invisible men. I doubt they enjoyed their experiences and yet largely, I did enjoy my time in the Army and almost every day of the many years after that.

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