- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Hugh Victor Jones
- Location of story:
- France, Belgium, Holland and Germany
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 04 October 2005
Mr Jones is willing to have his story entered on to the People's War website and agrees to abide by the House Rules of the B.B.C.
A young green lad from the Welsh hills, I was called up in early 1939 for six months militia services in the army. The war started consequently all we "Militiamen" had to remain in the Army for the duration of the war. We, at least I wasn't one, were not actually soldiers but there we were, to do our duties and, sadly, to lose many of these young Militia men whose lives were taken from them, as did all casualties. The "Militia men" never once spoken of or ever mentioned nowadays. The general "conscription" term used for all, but we were there in early 1939! I have a slight grudge therein! Anyway, green or not, off they send me to the B.E.F. in France. I had learnt to salute all officers but had hardly fired off my rifle, and we were to face the formidable German army! The winter of 1940 was very bitter and we were billited in draughty shed etc, but the spring came and with it the German Blitskreig. My unit drove nearly to Brussels, then driven back into France to make its way to Dunkirk. My poignant memories are of the terrible sufferings of the populations, driven out of their homes to block the roads hampering the army's movements. Refugees, women, children, babies, all subjected to terror raids by Stukas. Such inhumanity beggars belief once evidenced! But it was so and I can't forget it. It is said 'Well they acted up on orders' mayhap so but how could mortal human beings carry out attacks such as happened! Unforgetable scenes of cruelty from human to human! Anyway we pushed on to Dunkirk, having disposed of our transport and intended to march all the way. We, a few of us, got into a vehicle and drove it a goodly distance, although passage being difficult with the roads being crowded with fleeing people begging us to pick them up and take them to England. No way of course of doing that.
I got on to the sand dunes of La Ponne to shelter from shelling and in the evening we were put into one of the hotels on the front, not into beds of course! Awakened in the middle of the night, told to take off our boots and carry them and evacuated on to the promenade. In the morning Lord Gort and his staff walked out of the hotel, the reason for our evacuation. He spoke to me and asked me what we were doing on the promenade. I told him we were to move a dump of comatose milk off the beach and he complemented us by saying 'Good to see people acting like soldiers'. Little did he know that I was just a terrified young Welshman! I eventually walked along the beach to Dunkirk, about 10 miles of open beach with accompanying Stukas. Not very enjoyable! I got down to the seashore to be told no more boats coming in, so I dug a hole in the sand and spent a noisy night. I didn't get off till evening of next day. Got off the infamous Mole and on to an Isle of Man ferry which got to Dover to be refused harbourage as land mines had just been dropped so we pulled into Folkstone. All this in the dark of night to walk up railway lines to a station platform to be handed a cup of tea out of the night by an angel. God bless her and her like! My first cup for days!
D DAY 1944
Landing on Sword Beach with the 3rd Infantry Division on D Day the noise of and the sight of the tremendous broadsides and firing of the battle wagons almost stupified me! Warspites 15 inch shells passed over us on our landing craft unceasingly and noisily. One could feel for the recipients on the enemy side. I very well recollect a Polish destroyer tearing about firing incessantly and rapidly! This Polish ship spared no enemy! Surely these Poles hated the Nazis more than we did. With, of course, full reason. I boarded the landing craft a few days before D Day. We could almost have walked from Gosport to the Isle of Wight so compacted was the shipping, over the decks of this gigantic "Invasion Fleet". Very memorable! How Hitler never bombed this massive target was miraculous. I recall a damaged RAF bonmber kept airborne flying low between our craft and neighbour bravely kept out of our way to crash and explode on the sea at our rear. I still can see the face of the rear gunner looking down. Gallant young men. God rest them. I made the beach quite safely and carried on with the war. The war didn't end with D Day it began my long trek through France, Belgium, Holland over the Mons and Rhine ending the war near Bremen. Many comrades lie in these countries "Young men, young men".
We veterans return to our comrades graves on our pilgrimages, emotional, tear jerking! The graves are well kept. School children parade at many to place flowers on the graves. Holland, for instance, at a small town called "Overloor" the 3rd British fought a severe battle. The town was completely demolished by shellfire and a great many inhabitants killed. The people planted a tree which now is huge and much loved by the people. We go to them on pilgrimage. We are joyously welcomed and feted. We ask, "How can you so welcome us when we killed your people and destroyed your little village"? They reply "You were our deliverers". Therein lies the difference between us. Britain, mercifully was not invaded or occupied. It didn't suffer as they suffered and, thank God, there wasn't a Channel Tunnel then! I went on, crossed the Rhine on pontoons to finish the war near Bremen. I came back to Glastonbury where I put down my roots, married and lived with a local girl for over 62 years. Sadly she passed away last September. God be thanked, I returned, so many did not. Nothing I had done "Someone" cared for me.
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