- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Frank. A. Danning; Marion McDougall; the Rev McBurnie;
- Location of story:
- Redruth to Hamburg
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 07 July 2005
This story has been written onto the BBC People's War site by CSV Storygatherer Robin. D. Bailey on behalf of author Frank. A. Danning. They fully understand the terms and conditions of the site.
I was informed to report to REDRUTH for a medical, cough and to give various details.
I wanted to join the Air Force - mainly because they were the Glamour Boys (Brylcreem Boys) and you stood a better chance to get a Girl in the smart Blue uniform than as a soldier in the drab Khaki uniform.
I had passed my Driving Test in 1935 which must have been advantageous, but no - Dream on! Tell about a square peg in a round hole. I think all they wanted was "green" material to knock into the shape they wanted. I hadn't even fired an Air Rifle - I was green!
I became Gunner 1541788 and very soon was posted to the "Citadel", PLYMOUTH to join the Royal Artillery where we were square bashing and knocked into shape. We were told we could send home our clothes if we wished, but we would use them again in six months. Little did we know that it would be six and a half years before we were civilians again.
We were then posted to the 505 Coast Regiment, R.A. stationed at KINGHORN, Fife, Scotland, a distance of about 500 miles from here. We, the English and Cornish went to PETTYCUR Battery, three quarters of a mile from KINGHORN Battery occupied by the Scots. This caused a certain amount of antagonism which was eventually solved by the Padre - Rev McBurnie who said he had to "Leaven the Lump". No idea at the time what he meant, but by mixing the troops he solved the problem and it worked out very well.
In between manning the 6 inch Guns, which fired 100 pound Shells, we had training how to fire and dismantle then reassemble small arms, Rifle, Sten, Bren, and Tommy Guns - never a dull moment. The 6 inch Guns were manned 24 hours a day - in shifts.
It was during this time in 1940 when I met Marion McDougall, a local girl, who later in 1943 was to become my Wife, and last week (this was written on 25/06/2005) we celebrated 62 years of marriage. Aren't we lucky!
In 1942, I was posted to INCHKEITH, an island Fortress in the Firth of Forth - what a place YUCK!
1943, and the country was being hammered and a lot of men were eager to go on the offensive - Patience was wearing thin.
Later the tide started to turn and I was posted to the RASC near SEVENOAKS. I took my rank (Sergeant) with me and was responsible for several men and vehicles with direct access to the C.O.
Lots of exercises followed, especially Map Reading and Map References - There wouldn't be any signposts and we had to be at the right place at the right time. We left our billet there three days before it was bombed.
1944, and D-Day had come, loads of activity everywhere, and not many days after we were on board heading for France. The weather had turned rough and we were unable to land for 30 hours. A sitting duck for the enemy and tremendous damage and casualties, but we were O.K.
The Landing Craft bows dropped down and we had to drive into about 3 to 4 feet of water before we reached GOLD BEACH.
Every driver had to waterproof their own engine and this had to be removed very soon after landing. The enemy, especially the Air Force, were attacking Left, Right and Centre - it was Hell Let Loose, but we made it. The army occupied only a small amount of ground but surprise, surprise; I met my Brother who was in the R.E.M.E. in the next field. My other Brother was in North Africa. The Brother I met we hadn't seen each other for a long time, so it was wonderful, unbelievable.
We had landed at ARROMANCHES, then on to BAYEUX and CAEN, but couldn't break out for a long time, until the FALAISE GAP, and then we were on our way. I remember, once during an enemy Artillery attack, taking cover alongside a dead cow in the field. Maybe it saved my bacon.
We had a wonderful reception in BRUSSELS, perhaps, their war was over.
I think a difficult time was the Dutch - German border; the locals didn't know who to support because it was very fluid at the time, so you couldn't blame them.
One of the worst sights was the mass grave of hundreds of bodies at, I believe, SOLTAU. These would have been from, most likely, BELSEN.
I remember the Planes going over on the Sunday for the attack on ARNHEM or NIJMEGEN and we had an urgent order to deliver supplies. Not long after, we were on our way when all of a sudden - about turn - as a pincer attack was in progress and we got out just in time.
We then went down to the ARDENNES Forest. The weather was terrible, snow everywhere, but I believe it was the beginning of the end.
Our next main stop was HAMBURG, where we occupied the Herman Goering Barracks for a few days. Then on to a disused Brewery on the River ELBE.
The war was over, but I didn't think we would have to remain there for 12 months before being discharged.
I'd lost a lot of good friends, very sad, but my two Brothers and I all came back.
I served for six and a half years and am now 87 years of age.
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