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by cornwallcsv

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Kent, ESSEX, Training camps around England
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20 November 2005

This story has been written onto the BBC People’s War site by CSV Storygatherer Lucy Thomas of Callington U3A on behalf of Arthur Eade. They fully understand the terms and conditions of the site.

Good old dad!
My father bought a car, a flying standard ten. It was second hand from Dick Williams of Callington Motors. He took me out to Tavistock to learn to drive, my very first time out and we had to turn a hair-pin bend on the road up to Tavistock Hospital and I hit the wall. I didn’t wind the steering wheel fast enough. We had the car for about twelve months before I went into the Army. I took a full driving test at Launceston where there had been an old railway station. Looking back I think my father bought the car for me to learn to drive because he knew the terrible conditions in the first World War as a private soldier in the Devonshire Regiment. He also knew the war was coming and that you were less likely to be killed as a driver than as an infantry man.

Cold Comfort Training.
On the fifth of March 1940 I went to Salisbury and joined the 4th Wiltshire regiment and was given the number 5573300 and sent to Shaftsbury, Dorset. After eight weeks infantry training, in marquees in icy conditions and a week of field fire at Tidworth, I joined C Company fourth battalion as an MT Driver in charge of a 15 cwt Bedford.

In May we left Shaftsbury for Luton where we slept in billets. A few days later HQ C.Company collected a dozen new Bedford 30 cwt lorries and we were sent to Woking, Surrey. C.Company was in a large house with polished floors. We were all wearing nailed boots! Trains full of soldiers were going through Woking Station but we never knew what was going on except in our own company and battalion. I spent my 21st birthday here for which I had looked forward to 7 days embarkation leave. It was cancelled!

Auction for next of kin
Our next move to Chesham was in very hot weather. Lying on a loading dock in the loading bay at the back of a shop next to the cookhouse we all slept until the morning when the cooks poured water - cold water - on us because we didn’t get up fast enough to go for our breakfast. We moved on to Saffron Waldron in civilian coaches to become mobile reserves. The powers that be were worried about airborne troops so we spent most of the time between Debdon air field and Oakington near Cambridge. One day whilst we were there the Germans came over and bombed Debden. The quickest way to cover was to get under the truck. I stayed under the truck which was carrying mortar bombs and other things! Unfortunately our camp was bombed killing one man. The casualties kit was auctioned. I had never seen it done before or since. Everything he owned was put up for sale and then the proceeds were given to the next of kin.

Exercise Porpoise
In April 1944 we started training for the Normandy Landings. We knew it was going to be a landing because all the vehicles were water proofed. The engine blocks were all cleaned down with petrol and all the leads and everything were covered with a waterproof plastic coating. The petrol tank was sealed with “Bostik”and other compounds. The air intake to the carburettor and breather for the petrol tank had a thin copper pipe going up above the cab roof.

We practiced landing by going through mock up water troughs driving down through them, water came over the bonnet into your lap but you had to keep going because if you took your foot off the accelerator the engine stopped. You could not hear the engine working at all. The actual practice landing was called ‘exercise porpoise’. We drove down to Southampton where we loaded onto LCT’s landing craft tanks. We sailed that night and in the morning we landed at Selsey Bill. The Naval officer was in charge of the landing craft until we got to land, then the Army officer decided when to go ashore. They dropped the ramp. The first off was a jeep into the choppy water, the jeep disappeared out of sight but its load, wrapped in tarpaulin, floated to the surface. In the meantime I was half-way down the ramp and hadn’t enough speed to move off into the sea. As a result I was caught on the end of the ramp and I went head first into the sea. I got onto the roof of the cab with the waves breaking all around me. I was asked if I could swim. Without waiting for my reply they said “cheerio” and went away leaving me there. Where I stayed until the recovery vehicle came and pulled me out. I was towed into a car park with other vehicles. My landing ration which I had carefully wrapped up in water-proof cloth had floated away. Fortunately I had some tins of pea soup which we put in a bucket we found and so were able to have hot pea soup. That night Eric Woodbridge towed me away to Wimbledon where we left the vehicle. Well that was the end of that.

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