- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Norman Jackson
- Location of story:
- England, Africa, Sicily and Italy
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 14 July 2005
I enlisted in the autumn of 1939 216 Training Regiment RA. After my training I was posted to the 3rd Battalion of the London Scottish Regiment where I was part of an Anti Aircraft Unit (97th Heavy Ack-Ack Regiment). Our first posting was on Dartford Heath where we witnessed the first Battle of Britain. I was there from May 1940 to May 1941 as a Radar operator. We followed the Baedeker raids: wherever it was thought that there might be problems, we were sent there.
In May 1942 we started to practice as mobile troops. In the following October we embarked for pastures unknown on the MV Britannic. We took on provisions in Sierra Leone and then continued on to Durban where it became obvious that the ship had some problems. We offloaded and spent three weeks in a camp, overwhelmed by the experience of a city like Durban compared with war-torn Britain. I made many friends there and people were extremely generous. Attempts to take us out of Durban (I think for Singapore) came to nothing when the ship had serious engine problems and we went back to Durban... One of my strongest memories was of being greeted on the jetty by a South African singer who performed all the popular wartime numbers. It took four weeks for them to find us another ship and by this time our destination had obviously changed. We headed off for Mombasa and thence northwards to Aden and Suez, to Port Tewfik on the Suez Canal. From there we headed overland to Cairo, but we were too late for El Alamein and we had quite a Cook's tour of the North Africa coast to Tunisia.From there, we took ship again, this time heading for Sicily where we took part in the invasion and crossed the straits at Messina into Italy. From there we made our way up to the Adriatic coast to Bari, and Barletta and Foggia. Our guns were used in the assault on Monte Cassino.
Once again we seemed to be following the action and we did this all the way to Florence. From there we went to Rimini where my regiment was disbanded. Most of the men joined the 1st Battalion as Infantrymen and continued the assault, but as I was a radar specialist, I was assigned to counter-mortar operations.
At the end of the war, the major problem was the repatriation of the troops from Italy. Not many peple had a driver's licence, but I did. As a result I was a driver on a convoy through Austria to Calais and I did this journey five times. Each journey took ten days for the round trip and as it was autumn, a lot of the roads were quite difficult to negotiate. I came home on leave on the last convoy, but then had to return by train to continue the repatriation as the mountain roads were impassable. To rejoin my unit, which I had left in Austria, I had to return to Naples. It was not until March/April 1946 that my demob came through and I was able to go home.
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