- Contributed by
- Stockton Libraries
- People in story:
- GNR H. A. Evans ~ 962295 ~ 77th Duke of Lancasters Own Yeomanry RA
- Location of story:
- France, West Germany and Holland
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 25 August 2005
My service started in January 1940 when I was told to report to the 25th Medium and Heavy Regiment RA at Pooh Camp, Marske near Redcar where we went through our training as Gunners and Drivers. After our initial training, we were transferred down the road to Biddy Camp to make room for another intake. Here we endured parade ground marching and learning the intricacies of the IC Engine. We were then posted as trained gunners and drivers to the DLOY at Llanion Barracks, Pembroke Dock, South Wales, where we saw Sunderland Flying Boats coming in, sometimes followed by a German bomber trying to bomb the oil tanks and once succeeding.
After a while in Pembroke Dock, we were off again to spend time and training in the Pontypridd area. When the QM (Quarter Master) learned that I was a tailor, I was supplied with a machine courtesy of the local Singer shop. One of the town’s butchers loaned me a room above his shop where I could ply my trade, purely for my Regiment, by altering the humble battledress to something more respectable sartorially. The gunners spent more time on Pendine Sands firing at floating targets in Carmarthen Bay.
Our next station was Market Hill, near Armagh, County Down. On one of my trips on the ‘passion wagon’ I managed to buy three yards of dress material and a pattern with the object of making a dress for my wife. I was busy one evening when the CO2 walked in and got quite a shock when he saw what I was making!
After Market Hill, we were off again to Newcastle, County Down. That stay terminated with ‘Scheme Duff’ ~ an exercise to find out how quickly w e could vacate an area. I had managed to get ‘digs’ for Mrs E, who by that time was pregnant and her stay lasted about a week. All the wives were visited by Lady Ann, wife of the CO2, who could not actually spell out where we were going but hinted ‘it has a wishing well’. That was enough of a hint for my wife who guessed where we were going and took the opportunity of boarding the next boat home armed with a 12” doll we had purchased for the new arrival. Some of the sailors on board asked her if that was all her husband could manage ~ cheeky!
Coming back to England after all the intensive training we had in Ireland, was the start of numerous ports of call on our way to Aldershot and beyond. I was fortunate to find Mrs E digs again with friends I had met in Market Hill. We were walking in town one evening when we bumped into Manny Etchells who, when we were on a route march, marched in front playing his tin whistle. Unfortunately, he was one of the casualties in France.
Then came the day we were off again, this time Tilbury Docks ~ destination France. All was quiet, reasonably, when we landed on the beach. In one position we occupied, that was the QM Section and LAD (REME), I got what I thought was a good idea that would benefit our section, that of rigging up a shower. With the help of the three tonner where my sewing machine was situated, a non returnable petrol can and a camouflage pole, I set to work by asking the LAD to drill a circle of holes in one side of a can like a sprinkler rose and solder two loops on the opposite side. I could heat water with petrol I managed to obtain from the presumably empty cans lying about on the position and suspending the can on the end of the pole, which was fastened between the tarpaulin and the metal frame of the three tonner. My system was to wet my mates whilst they soaped themselves, then with the rest of the can, wash the soap off.
One day the QM came to me with a request. Could I shorten sleeves on a shirt, put on epaulettes, a breast pocket and make a tie. After a quick costing, I said ‘yes’ but I would have to work on a three for two basis as I could only cut a tie out of the shirt back. The job was completed satisfactorily and after the next QM meeting, I was inundated with request from other QM’s. The result being that, in the end, I have more shirts, I believe, than any squaddie in the army.
My most vivid memory leading up to our last position at Rendsberg in Schleswig Holstein, was pulling in to the side of the road to allow the Scottish Infantry smartly marching by with the pipers in front playing their bagpipes on their way to take the town of Caen.
The Falaise Pocket where we heard that the Typhoons were having a field day with the German tanks.
Holland near Asten North Brabant during part of the winter when we were stuck due to thick snow.
To Venlo on the river Maas.
Into Germany to occupy Munster Barracks which we took over from the infantry.
Osnabrook Barracks, then up to Rendsberg on the Kiel Canal.
After installing myself in a room at the top of one of the barrack blocks, word got around to other units that were based in the area and that started a flood of work when I took on their alterations. So much work necessitated me taking extra help., I was introduced to a Polish DP (Displace Person) who before the war was also a tailor. At first it was difficult for me to converse as he could speak no English, apart from a few choice swear words and I could just manage to make myself understood with basic phrases. To make sure the right people got their garments, I kept a book where all work was booked in and when the work was finished, was signed for. Besides the tailor’s shop, another idea was born ~ what was the point of having clothing that fitted, and little if any, crease in the trousers ~ especially when there was rivalry between those on guard duty for the honour of being the ‘Stickman’ whether they were on 24 or 12 hours? There was a room at the barracks with a stove and a heavy flat iron and a soldier was detailed just for pressing.
Then came the day when my group were to be demobbed and with a heavy heart, I said my ‘goodbyes’ to my Polish friend and his wife on Rendsberg Station where they gave me a small bunch of flowers with the saying ‘Forgess Mich Nicht’ ~ forget me not. Across the sea and then train to
Strensall Barracks at York where we were again kitted out with another strange outfit ~ ‘civilian clothes’ ~ shoes, socks, shirt, suit and a trilby hat! I would love to have taken a photograph of the new civilians coming away clutching their railway tickets. If it were not for the fact that at home waiting for me was my wife and baby daughter, I would have turned back if it were possible.
Many years passed and one Sunday evening I was decorating in the hall and at the same time watching the television on which was the programme ‘The Golden Shot’ with Bob Monkhouse. It was customary to invite a celebrity on his show and that particular week it was Arthur Lowe who at that time had his own show going, that of ‘Dad’s Army’. I had for a long time the idea that I knew Arthur, and one week he had his team at nearby Billingham performing his own show of ‘Dad’s Army’. I realised he would be busy so I waited until he had finished at Billingham and sent him a letter in which I told him that I was also in the 77th and stated that I tailored for the Regiment commanded by Lt. Col. Wintle and CO2 Major Paler. He sent me a card which I still proudly posses saying ~
Dear Mr Evans
Same Mob. 77th
At Pembroke Dock
Afterwards Northern Ireland
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