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15 October 2014
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My Story by Mr Peter Summers

by Bournemouth Libraries

Contributed by 
Bournemouth Libraries
People in story: 
Mr Peter Summers
Location of story: 
England, Scotland & Palestine
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
25 May 2005

I was born in Winton, Bournemouth in 1926 and had an older sister who unfortunately died when she was 16. My father worked at that time in the National Provincial Bank. We didn't have a car, although not many people did at that time. When I was very small we had a maid but when I got to about 5 or 6 and needed a room of my own the maid had to go. We had wonderful next door neighbours the gentleman would turn his hand to anything and his wife would come in and help my mother as they didn't have any children. We had a garage and as we had no car we let him use our garage for any carpentry work and I could watch him and probably get in his way. The lady that owned next door and lived there too was a partner in an old fashioned habidashery in the Old Christchurch Road. My childhood was very happy.

I went to a preparatory school in Wellington Road from there I won a scholarship to a boarding school called Bloxham in Banbury and my first term started in 1939 when war was declared.

When we heard that Britain was at war we felt pretty awful. We had heard all about the Germans and the bombing and knew they had attacked Poland already and that is when Churchill had said that if they did that we would declare war ourselves. There were 27 million people killed in Russia they did more than anyone else to stop the Germans. We didn't hear too much about the war as I was at school then. They bombed Banbury once. Birmingham got a packet and they flattened Coventry.

We were anxious for our parents during the war, there were pupils at my school from all over England, only about 150 students I think in all. I corresponded with my parents all the time. I don't think we had telephones at home at that time. We didn't have half-term then, only a couple of days leave back home. Train travel was hazardous, you had to wait ages for a train and then change and coming back had to walk 4 miles to get back to school from the station and carry your case with you. My mother was awfully good she would stuff my case with jam and everything so we didn't starve. The school was on ration as well. They managed very well though. The national loaf was awful, vagely grey looking with bits in it, you couldn't get a white loaf, it was alright for toast.

My father mentioned that during the first World War he use to have to eat terrible things. He would disguise the flavour and make out they were something nice.

I was keen to leave school, I wasn't a very good sportsman not very good at games, and thanks to my mother she had a large teddy bear and as a small boy I would wear boxing gloves and hit the bear and in time I became quite a good boxer, which was rather good as the school encouraged boxing. One day a relative of mine asked me what school I went to and I said Bloxham and he started laughing, I said "What's so funny" and he said "you will be alright at Bloxham as for the past 21 years the boxing team have won 20 times". I was in the junior boxing team and able to look after myself. There wasn't a lot of bullying but they did put you in your trunk when you first went and threw you down three flights of stairs. That was tradition. "You get that for doing nothing, now do something" someone said. On the whole it wasn't a bad school.

In 1942 I was 16 going on for 17 I managed to persuade my father to let me finish with school and it was suggested by my House Master, as I was quite talkative, that I should get into Law, although I was thinking at the time of being a Clergyman. I looked Law up in books. My father wasn't very keen on it at first but my father knew a very well known Lawyer who had an office in Bournemouth who took me on and from then on I became a Lawyer. We didn't attend Court very much, but on one occasion I was asked to attend Court and state who was acting for who, I was very nervous and scared stiff as I had never been in a Court before, other than a visit to a Court in Banbury when I was at school to look around.

Luckily I got a credit from school in Latin which was very handy as I needed Latin to start my legal career. I managed to do my final exams in 18 months rather than 3 years. I became a Lawyer in 1949 in Winton.

During the war I was the youngest ever Air Raid Warden and I received a letter from the Mayor mentioning that I was the youngest Air Raid Warden and thanking me for doing such a good job. I did two years as an Air Raid Warden. This was 1942, we were on our own then America hadn't come into it then. My duties were that I was on alternate nights, when the siren went I would put on my steel helmet and grab my gas mask and then I would cycle to a house on the corner of Firs Glen Road to start my duty.

On one night the siren went and I went off on my bike as usual and I never knew why but instead of cycling past the house and turning in the road and parking my bike in the garage round the back of the house I decided on this occasion I would go down the side of the house and park my bike. I was just parking my bike when a bomb fell in the road I usually cycle down it blew in to this lovely bungalow and into the porch where a father, mother and daughter were, the son was away on an agricultural holiday he was a great friend of mine. When I reached the bungalow, the father said "look after my wife and daughter", he was suffering from shock - I was first on the scene, I was just about 17 then, I didn't say anything to the father but his wife was in a very bad way, and unfortunately his daughter was already dead, but he hadn't been touched at all. It was something I never forgot, it was the worst thing I had seen during the war even during my time in Palestine. I stayed with them until someone came and attended to them, unfortunately the mother died as well. The bungalow wasn't really that damaged.

I joined up and had to report to Caterham, Surrey to join His Majesty's Cold Stream Regiment, that was around 1942 and I was in this Regiment for nearly 4 years. We got very good pay! 3s a day. I'm not sure why they put me in that Regiment as at that time I was 32" round the chest, not even 10 stone and around 5'4" tall and instead of killing me off I grew to 5'11 3/4", went up to 10 stone 8 pounds and up to 38" round the chest, the training seemed to do me good, but some didn't like it and unfortunately during the first 14 weeks there were three suicides, not actually in our lot, I think there were two Grenadiers and a Welsh Guardsman, boys of 18 don't do that for a laugh. The basic training was very harsh. We lived in a sort of hut which wasn't too bad, your bed was made up of 3 planks with a horsehair mattress, with a flat pillow and two grey car rugs. We had in our room a good Trained Soldier, the kindest Trained Soldier, by luck, in the whole depot and they can be rough. He came from Birmingham it was very much a northern Regiment. My father-in-law was in the Cold Stream Guards and he was from Birmingham aswell. As I was living in Dorset at the time the Birmingham accent was something I had never come across before and the Geordie accent I couldn't for the life of me understand straight away, but they were lovely people, they must have thought my Dorset accent was odd too. They were all big guys and very tough. The Trained Soldier's job was to make you do all the cleaning of boots and keeping your bed tidy and cleaning all your brasses etc. He was a very nice man and would make a joke of everything, even when you heard the sound of the bugle he would say, "I've had to get my feet on the deck and put my socks on and so should you", he was a very comical chap, we all thought a lot of him. When he went away for about 10 days, as his wife was ill, we had another Trained Soldier, he was a nasty man. He was the only person that hit me physically. One day I was last out on parade as I was finishing a cigarette and he told me to get a move on in no uncertain terms and I got up to answer him back and he hit me across the face and said, "Don't answer me with a f...... fag in your mouth," and with that I said, "Don't you ever do that again as your feet won't touch the ground and I'll be before the Company Commander before you can say anything", he actually backed off, he was a horrible bloke. They never normally hit you, but I never had any trouble with him again.

I was with the Cold Stream Guards to the end of the war.

I went from Caterham to Purbright to finish my training, there was an assault course we trained on there and after the war I went to see a film called "The way ahead" with David Niven who acted as an Officer in it and in that film was the same assault course that I remember from Purbright. We use to do the assault course about 2 or 3 times a week, it was a very severe assault course. We did battle training as well fininshing off with rifle training firing 5 rounds at a target, but you got use to this oddly. I was very fit at that time, you had to be. They had to get you use to it all. From there we went to Scotland I was in the Third Battallion for a very short time in Hoyke on the borders of Scotland. I visited Edingburgh on leave, very pleasant there, the people were very nice there. I remember going to a cafe for a spot of lunch and I had finished mine and went up to pay and the assistant said "It won't cost you anything", I said, "What do you mean", he said, "Perhaps you saw the old lady sitting over there", and I said, "Yes", and he said, "She paid for yours because you are serving the Country". I was dumfounded, but it was a very nice gesture.

I went from there to the West Country, the camp there was alright. We were all getting all lined up to be the first wave on the relief of Singapore which they said was going to be an absolute "blood bath", which didn't cheer us up at all. They were expecting 80% casualties and in fact "thank god" we were all geared up ready to go and the whole thing was cancelled because the Americans dropped the atom bomb and that finished it.

We were then sent to Palestine. The situation there wasn't very nice. The Jewish Haganar were the official legal Israeli Army, but unfortunately the Argonsylumi were not and they killed off a lot of British soldiers. Why this happened I couldn't understand. Before the war the Arabs were causing trouble there, but when I was there it was exactly the opposite, we had no trouble with the Arabs at all they mainly served us, but we had trouble with the illegal Jewish Army, they killed a lot of people and that was all there was to it!
I was Lance Corporal of the Guard at that time with two strips as Queen Victoria thought one strip looked silly.

Around about this time I remember being with a friend of mine, he had lost a brother earlier on in the war in Germany, so he was his mother's only sibling left, we were walkinig along and there were a lot of bangs and he dropped down at my feet, I wasn't even touched. An Officer came running up and said "That wound is nice and high, you are going to be alright old chap", and they took him off but he later died. I thought of his mother losing her last child like that. I think my friend was hit by shrapnel. It didn't look like anything just a small hole. Unfortunately four others were killed around that time as well. I'm not sure for definite where this was as we were all round the place it could have been near Jerusalem. It was all called Israel at that time and still a British protectorate under the United Nations, France also had a part of this area at that time. Unfortunately when we left the trouble started.

We were there just marking time and why they wanted to kill us I do not know as we weren't there to stay, it wasn't even a British Colony, they talked about it as if it was, but it wasn't. I didn't see a lot of action only things being blown up, it wasn't like being in Germany, although of course you never knew when they were going to do something.

There weren't any air raids only trouble on the ground. They were freedom fighters and had been good at their job, well trained.

I returned from Palestine in 1947 and was demobed then and returned to being a Lawyer. It was difficult picking up the strings as I was very out of touch by then.

I was very glad to be home. My parents were all okay. My mother's sister, who was my godmother, had been a Sister at Guys Hospital, she was wonderful, and because all my lecturing was at Guildford I went to stay with my aunt and uncle who was a dental surgeon, unfortunately he had lost a leg in the First World War, but always tried to build himself up and taught me to do weight training to build me up. I would do my exercises every day to try and keep fit.

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