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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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Active Army Cadets

by Frank Mee Researcher 241911

Contributed by 
Frank Mee Researcher 241911
People in story: 
Frank Mee
Location of story: 
Stockton on Tees
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
29 October 2003

"A" Company 8th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry Cadets. Many of the older lads went off to the war and some did not return. It was all good training for my joining the Army after the War. I am Front Row second from right.

As the war became more active after the spring of 1940 when the German army took us all by surprise, more people wanted to do something to help including us kids. I was a Boy Scout as my Father had been in the first world war. 2nd Norton St Mary's troop met in a local hall and we were taught all the usual things. Knot tying, first aid and many other things for which we could get badges to sew on our arms. I had not realised that your parents had to have enough money for uniforms and other kit so we were all of a social type which meant most of my friends around the Norton Green area.
Our remit was, although not officialy announced, to help the Home Guard as runners if the Parachute troops ever did land.
At 13 I lied about my age and joined the Army Cadet's, you were supposed to be thirteen and a half. Issued with uniform and army boots I walked home feeling that at last I was getting nearer to being usefull in the war effort. I was still at school and would be for another three years where as a lot of my friends had left school just before their thirteenth birthdays to go to war work.
My Mother a tailoress took my uniform to bits then cut it to fit so when I went on Parade in the uniform for the first time I was not tied up like a sack as most were.
"A" Company Durham Light Infantry Cadet's were part of the 8th Battalion covering our area, each company meeting in each of the towns around. Every company was fully manned with a waiting list to get in, I was lucky in that a large group had come of age to join the regular army leaving positions for us new boys.
"A" Company run by Major Downs my best friends Father also had the drum and bugle band, again fully manned and so keen they spent most of their time in practice sessions.
One Sunday in the month was church parade, we would all assemble at the William Newton School (a new school ready just as the war started so it never opened as a school for some years) There was a large parade ground where we were got into order by the Sergeants and our Sergeant Major. The officers would take posts the band strike up and off we went out on to the road and to the church swinging along with the swagger that was drummed into us with hours of marching practice. People going to the morning service (just about everyone) would watch us march by and the local girls giggle as whispered comments came from the ranks (If you got caught doing it you lived to regret it). After the service we would march down the High street turn and then march back up to our base. As we came out the girls who had followed us would be waiting at the school gates but it was the Peacocks in the band with their fancy Lanyards and instruments they were all after.
They joy to us was we got hold of real guns, we had rifles and bren guns to practice with, the rifles were Canadian Ross rifles, the bolt came straight back and if you did not lock it down properly could lose an ear as it flew backwards off the rifle. Those were quickly changed to the trusty Lee Enfield Mark two's a first world war rifle which I loved. I was a good shot having been trained by Uncle Arthur on the farm since I was knee high to a rabbit. We got to shoot often in the 30yards range at the Norton Drill Hall. 22 rifles mainly but quite a few mark two Lee Enfields with a lined barrel. I got into the shooting team which meant we got quite a lot of ammunition to fire off.
Being a big lad I also got to be the bren gunner for my section the down side being you had to carry the thing everywhere when on training, the upside, I got to fire it a lot.
We had manoeuvers with the Home Guard and regular troops from the drill hall so got to play with Mortars and heavy machine guns it was a boys dreamland. We also learned to dig, we marched for miles at what was called the DLI trot, march so far then run so far with our rifles at the trail. When you arrived you dug and the funny part of it was we still enjoyed it all.
Socially we had meeting nights games afternoons and once a month a Company Dance, by dint of my having danced since I was 11 years old and knew every dance there was I got to be MC (master of ceremonies). Having to announce each dance as the three man live band decided what we would do next, my gambit was "Right Mary-Joan-June or whoever was in favour you are having the next dance with me and it will be, the Waltze Quickstep or Chrysanthemum waltze which ever and I would be first on the floor. My confidance must have been astronomical, at the time it was just taken for granted and I do not remember any refusals.
We had annual camps with the whole Battalion in military area's where we saw the latest weapons did our mock attacks under the eye's of soldiers who had been there and were now training new men to go. it all imbued me with a longing to be older so I could get into the real war, after all a few bombs and sleeping in shelters a lot of nights was not real war, it was just a nuisance. Young Keen and Daft as my Dad used to say. More later.
Frank Mee Researcher 241911.

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