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15 October 2014
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Big Ben from the Fen

by cambsaction

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Archive List > British Army

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Mr Norris Ernest Bennett
Location of story: 
UK and France
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
09 October 2005

This story was submitted to the Peoples War site by Steven Turner of the BBC Radio Cambridgeshire Story Gatherer Team on behalf of Mr Norris Bennett (Born 1923) and has been added to the site with his permission. Mr Bennett was interviewed at a Royal British Legion event, Woodgreen near Godmanchester in September 2005. The author fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

"I joined up in 1938. I wasn’t old enough being 14 but I told them, with my height, that I was four years older (Ed. Mr Bennett is at least 6ft 2 at 82 years of age!). I joined up with Wally Charlton of Sevenoaks, at the Sevenoaks Drill Hall. We asked a bloke called Rogers in the pub to fake the Birth certificates, afterall my Mother would given me a hiding had I asked for mine. Rogers did this for a shilling. There was a twenty five-shilling gratuity if you signed up.

Our first summer camp with the Territorial Army was at Shorncliffe in 1939 and then we went to France with the B.E.F. We were in Belgium when the German advance began and I remember the order that we should lose our pay books if they broke through. Our only identification would be our dogtags. At this point twelve of us were brought together and told we were going to be sent home. They had discovered that we were all underage. We were back a good month before the evacuation of the B.E.F began. When we arrived back in England there were no officers from our unit to keep an eye on us, so we took a truck from an army lorry park, drew weapons and ammunition and drove down to Hythe to wait for the Germans. The oldest of us was sixteen years old.

Captain Chittey came back and he made a statement to the effect that he wished “they were all as eager as us” (to serve) and they demobbed us. I daren’t go home for fear of a hiding. So I stayed with a girlfriend and went to work with Curtis & Lane of Borough Green, Kent, repairing bomb damage in Medway. I remember working on Rochester Cathedral after shrapnel had damaged the slates. It was labouring, pick and shovel work. I had two or three girlfriends at that time!

I went to Slough to train as a welder and then I was told about the RAF needing servicemen for guarding airfields. This would be the nucleus of the RAF Regiment. I did a lot of escort duty once I’d signed up. I even guarded Winston Churchill when I was at RAF Northolt.

One day we were waiting for a vehicle and the Warrant Officer was going up and down the line jabbing people with his finger, well he did this to me and I told him to stop. I chucked my rifle up and hit him. I ended up with a court martial and nine months in Chorley (Military prison).

After that my unit was sent out to Iceland. We sailed on the Empress of Russia from Glasgow and I remember seeing the rocket ships being built on the Clyde that would be used in the D-Day landings. We thought we were going to Norway but it turned out to be Iceland, Reykjavik. I escorted Anthony Eden in a Catalina once and spent time in Northern Russia, Alaska, Greenland, Canada and the U.S.A.

I was demobbed in 1947. I went to agricultural college for six months and then did a series of different jobs. I was a butler and handyman, a baker, delivering bread on a horse and cart, even a lamp lighter."

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