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- 24 May 2004
Rifleman AW Barnes
A Coy 2nd Battalion
Tower Hamlet Rifles
Later 10th Battalion
1st September 1939
I think the first thing is why I joined the Territorial Army, not because I was patriotic but the fact the firm I worked for offered an extra two weeks leave with no loss of pay.
I have had lots of experiences, but I think the first six months of the war will do for starters. Looking back at it now it was very funny and it is a job to realize it really all happened. I will try and put down facts and whatever I say it is what I remembered then.
The first was the calling up, it happened on the Friday prior to declaring war. I reported to the drill hall and was told, as I was 2nd battalion I had to report to Saxon Rd hall on Saturday morning. So home I went till then.
I reported at 9 0’clock had a medical which was not very thorough, it depended on you getting your bounty of £5 or not and all it consisted of was trousers down and a cough, then formed up in the street outside. There were crowns of people waving and shouting, throwing cigarettes and chocolate.
This is the funny part we formed up and off, we march, if anyone knows the East End we went from Saxon Road around to Peoples Palace, which is in Mile End Road about 1 1/2 miles and stayed there for about fortnight.
The first act of war for me was escort duty. On the Sunday morning we were on parade and as my platoon had a full time sergeant we were picked out for the escort and I was one of the six. Our job was to go down to Surrey and Commercial Docks and to escort the crew off a German ship to the ‘internment’ reception which we later learned was ‘Olympia’ West London. So off we went full battle dress in how 1914 equipment, tin hats and rifle, but here the laugh, no ammunition. The sergeant with his revolver, I don’t know if he had any either. Well anyway it all worked out all right.
Then our next task was to guard strategic points around London, docks, railway and air ports. By then we had moved from People’s Palace (two weeks) which had been weapon training (Rifle-Brengun-Anti Tank Rifle) the later being more dangerous to the operator than a tank. Also a bit of square bashing but that was not bad, as a rifle regiment we only trained arms not slope so that was a lot easier. At the empty house around north London we used to do forty-eight hours on duty and twenty-four hours off. My first experience was down East India Dock to guard the lock gates, there was one sentry on in the day and two at night, so it worked out two hours on and four hours off during the day and two hours on and two hours off at night. We had no army overcoat so we were issued with busman’s overcoats. So when you went on guard you handed over one magazine containing five rounds of ammunition and a clip of five rounds, one whistle and at night one torch and as you were close to the water you wore a life jacket, because these were rather big and bulky we never wore full equipment. Just a belt with our bayonet and put the spare clip of ammunition in a pocket. My next experience guarding the railway at Clapham Junction. This is where another event happened whilst on patrol, I lost one live round of ammunition. It was quite easily done when placing clip in your pouch; you poke four instead of five. One must have fallen off and I did not notice till change over. I was made to patrol up and down over where I had been never did find it, that was two hours out of four hours rest period. I looked back on that when I was burying hundred of rounds in the desert.
I forgot to mention that we all had to learn to drive and being the 2nd Battalion we had civilian lorries and cars. I learnt on a big furniture lorry but when it came to the test I was on one of the army 30 cwt, lorry’s which I had never sat in before. The officer was a real stickler, he would stop on a hill jump and put a chalk mark behind the wheel tell you to move off, stop you and any chalk on your tyres meant you failed, but I was Ok.
After all this we move from London to do some training in the country and I was training to be a Brengun Carrier driver. This is a small tank with no turret, driven on tracks with 1/4” steel around you. Quite easy to drive but easy to over steer, so it was quite an interesting few months. These are just a few of my experiences of which there are many. These are a true as I can remember.
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