- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Clive Heinz
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 27 May 2005
This story was submitted to the People's War site by a pupil from Swavesey Village College on behalf of Clive Heinz and has been added to the site with his permission. Clive Heinz fully understands the site's terms and conditions.
In 1939 I was 14 years old, and on Sunday I was sitting on a doorstep of the bakers in Willingham. I heard the evening bulletin which was saying how the Prime Minister declared war on Germany. We were all very excited to of heard this. I went home and found that my parents thought since last year we were going to go to war.
In 1938 everyone knew that something was going to happen so people built shelters, trained wardens and got gas masks.
The first night the Air Raid Warden blew his whistle ordering a black out, we all had to go to are air raid shelters, but nothing happened. In the morning I was tired and excited. We were all really excited about the start of the war but it dragged on. Because the Expeditionary Force had gone to France we were told that the war would end by Christmas. Evacuees started to go back to the cities.
By 1940 all the German forces were aimed on destroying the big cities in England, and our rations were introduced. We kept animals for meat, so there wasn't much shortage of that. The Land Army girls were introduced — it was like a gift for us men!
RAF Oakington started being used and a lot of airmen would spend their free time in Willingham. Later Hitler started invading countries like France and Belgium, driving the British soldiers towards Dunkirk. That was when we realised that the war was a lot more serious than what we thought before. Lots of Prisoners of War were taken. England started defending itself, and we introduced the home guard.
One day some regular soldiers turned up in a bus and the news was that a spy had landed in the fen in Over, but no-one was found.
The bombing started shortly after that, we'd sit and listen to the bombs a lot. The Battle of Britain started; basically the sky above the English Channel was full of planes shooting each other. We won by about 200 planes.
When Hitler turned on Russia it gave England some breathing time. We got lots more help from the Americans, who took over some nearby bases. Despite this there was little activity at the time.
When I was 18 I joined the army, I became involved with tanks. I learnt to drive one, how to operate the radio system, fire guns and the training took nearly a year. I wasn't old enough to go abroad, so I went up to Scotland where I waterproofed tanks. I was eventually told I was going abroad. We went up to Glasgow, boarded a boat, sailed out into the Atlantic, then through the straights of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean. We landed in North Africa and were taken by cattle trucks on a two day drive to a depo. It was raining, dark and we slept in tents. When I went to get dried off I came face to face with one of my friends from Over! We were both going to Italy and we ended up in Naples. We stayed at a transit camp, where we saw Italian children climb through holes in the fence just to get some food. I eventually went to join my regiment, where we all developed a big friendship just because we had to rely on each other for our lives. We were all in the same boat, and commanded by an experienced, fearless corporal. Less than a day after we arrived we went into action. The Germans did well, and sometimes we did one to one fighting. During one day of fighting we received a huge gash down the side of the tank from a tank gun. The following day people came to examine the tank, and one guy said that yesterday he had shot dead two Germans who had surrendered. I didn't really agree with that. Later we went to a lake near Rome where our squadron was testing and waterproofing tanks. We were told one tank had sunk, and a man had drowned. That man had been the one who had shot the two Germans. That made me believe in what you give is what you get — kind of like fate.
I was then told to go to the middle east were we spent Christmas day boarding a ship. We were taken to Lebanon were we stayed in tents in the cold. It was January at the time. We stayed there till the war ended.
When the Syrians kicked out the French so we had to then go there to join in the fighting. Within two months the Arabs and Jews were killing each other. We had to go in and stop the fighting.
I didn't come back home until 1948. I then stayed on till 1965. I spent 22 years in the army.
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