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- Sussex, India, Burma
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- 09 June 2005
My Men and Me at Lacknow
I had attended school in St Leonard’s on Sea and had spent my teenage years there. I settled into a job as a Bank Clerk and I travelled to Rye each day to work. My Mother had died in 1936 and I was living with my Father and Sister, in St Leonard’s. They moved to Godalming in 1940/41
After war broke out and I had left home to go into the Army. My reaction to the news of war in 1939 caused me to feel disturbed but I felt that it would not take long to regain peace.
My Father worked for the Queen Ann’s Bounty and was involved with the collection of tithes and tithe redemption; he worked for them from 1897-1947.
I recall at that time there were not any domestic ‘fridges and that people relied on marble slabs to keep sensitive food items cold and therefore delayed putrefaction, I can also remember as a boy using the ‘cats whisker’ and having to use extreme care to match up the two sensitive points to get sound and to obtain that, which in later years became commonplace as wireless, and then radio transmissions.
1939 September 3rd 11am, the first air raid siren sounded a warning of the approach of unidentified aircraft, which turned out to be a false alarm. My fiancée Win and I went down to the sea front to witness the arrival of evacuee children from London.
My conscription into the Army was October/November, and I was advised of call up November/December 1939, although I had tried to get myself accepted into the forces beforehand, the bank I worked for was against it and their comment was “you’ll be called soon enough anyway,” so I decided to wait.
After having medicals, various tests and inoculations, I entered the services and started with training at Chichester barracks with the Royal Sussex Regiment for 8 weeks, then on to Seaford Sussex, for field training for a few weeks. Then I was then moved on as reinforcement to 2nd Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment at Gloucester following the disaster at Dunkerque, then on to civilian billets in Selby, York’s. As I was moving around the country and in the services I was not affected by rationing but I was aware that civilians were suffering privation and rationing of food. After Selby in Yorkshire
There was a sudden dramatic move to the South to Camber Sands (near Lydd) in September, which was around the time of the Battle of Britain, as defence against possible German invasion. It was a very cold snowy winter with extremely bleak conditions on the coast off the Romney Marshes, an area which is very flat and open and very windy at best.
My duties included patrols along the beaches, pillbox manning and frequent standby’s in fact we were on standby almost 100% of the time. When out on patrol at night, we were often startled when rabbits and rats appeared and dashed away again, as any movement or sound made us very nervous, there was heavy emphasis on Invasion at any time; therefore we were to be very much on our guard. The pillboxes were most dreadfully cold as there were slits for guns and for watching the area; there was a paraffin lamp; which offered a slight form of heating, but it caused bad headaches.
December 1940 I gained promotion to corporal and was sent on a tactical training course Dec/Jan for two weeks to Battle Abbey, Sussex, then back to Camber for a short while. I was then moved to Maidstone in Kent, into civilian billets temporarily.
March 1941, my next move was to be sent to W.O.S.B. (War Office Selection Board) for interview prior to being posted to O.C.T.U. (officer training) in May to Morecambe, Lancs. 4 months hard training and in August was passed out and commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (.K.O.Y.L.I) and was then sent to Bridlington, York’s.
Then another move south to Aldershot and Clacton on Sea, for Light Ack-Ack training on Bofors Guns where we had to shoot at wind socks whilst training. Thereafter a short spell at Crewkerne, Somerset, and return to Kent (Hythe) for further commando training.
1941 at Christmas time I married my fiancée Win’ at St Leonard’s on Sea and we had our wedding breakfast at the Stafford hotel, on the seafront, the wedding breakfast was very meagre, as rationing was really in force by that time.
My Aunt had to obtain special permission to travel from Cornwall to the wedding, as St Leonard’s was a restricted military area, also my Brother-in-Law who was my ‘ best man’, had to obtain special permission from the forces to be allowed to attend.
We were married on December 27th 1941 in Old St Leonard’s Parish Church also my eldest daughter was christened at the church in 1946. During the war the church was bombed but was subsequently rebuilt.
April/May 1942 I joined the convoy at Liverpool and had a 9 week voyage via South Africa to Bombay (diverted from Burma/Malaya due to the fall of Singapore) Spent a short spell at Lucknow, before going as reinforcement to Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry in Assam; a delayed journey, as we became caught up in civil disobedience riots which were caused by Ghandi being arrested, and spent 3 months assisting the railway police, as the locals were persistently stealing the rails and sleepers.
After a stay of several months at Shillong (Assam) I was posted back to India (New Delhi) also did field training at Ranchi Was then transferred
to 2nd Btn. East Lancashire Regt (part of 36 Division) at the end of 1943.
Jan 1944 to May 45. Served in conflict through Arakan until hospitalized with severe dysentery, this was caused by my batman, not using the purification tablets, as he should have done. After recovering I returned to Shillong and in August flew to Myitkina in North Burma and took part in the Japanese retreat Southwards.
We marched more than 650 miles. During which time we crossed the Irrawaddy River some miles north of Mandalay, all our supplies of arms and food were dropped to us by Dakota aircraft on to air strips we had constructed and marked out by using the material of which the parachutes were made. (The Chindits under the command of General Wingate had previously traversed the area we were covering) We then advanced to Mandalay, Maymyo, Meiktila and finished beyond Thazi, returning to Patna, India, which was a nice place.
In this period I was promoted to Captain and after several months to Major.
A large part of the Japanese Army was made up of conscripted men who were for the most part peasants, whose greatest honour was to die for the Emperor, and so they came at us yelling “ Bansai” waving swords and charging; there were many snipers in the bamboo trees, but once spotted they were easy targets.
Their aggression was met with flamethrowers, which I felt uncomfortable about, but unfortunately it was necessary, as the Japanese were very stealthy and at close quarters sadistic. They also hid in the bunkers and killed our men at every opportunity. War is an ugly thing for all I fear.
May 8th VE day was a bad day for my men and for me; as the whole regiment had to be moved, and so we moved at night unseen whilst the shells went over our heads, but it was not a pleasant experience.
Repatriation came in November 1945, following a severe bout of Jaundice and Malaria. My transfer from India to the U.K was very lengthy. As it took 17 days to do the journey from Patna, travelling to Calcutta-Delhi-Karachi, then 4 days wait for a ‘plane which turned out to be a converted Stirling Bomber; up the Persian Gulf to Shaibah in Iraq, then on to Tel Aviv, Castel Bonito, Libya, flying over Marseilles and finally to Cambridge Airport, I had been away from UK from 1942-1945.
Then we had to find our way to Kings Cross with 25 men, when I finally found the R.T.O. and told him accommodation was needed for my men and two officers, he was not at all helpful until I became annoyed and told him that we had had a terrible journey and were very tired and needed accommodation pronto. He then found accommodation for the men, and I had to pressure him to find accommodation for myself and another officer, which he finally managed to secure in Cadogan Place, Officers Club in Chelsea. I ‘phoned my wife, had a meal, and was very glad to rest.
November 1945 I had approximately 6 weeks at home and then went to the holding unit at Newcastle, and then on to Berwick on Tweed which was the ITC Infantry Training Centre where my wife Win was able to join me. Eventually I was demobilized in April 1946 and enjoyed 3 months leave despite recurring bouts of Malaria.
Upon leaving the Army I was granted permanent honorary rank of Captain.
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