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What I did in World War 2

by GreasbyLibrary

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Archive List > British Army

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Joan Patricia Cave (now O'Neil)
Location of story: 
Scotland and Yorkshire
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
22 July 2005

During the War I volunteered to join the A. T. S. and I was sent up to Scotland for 6 weeks basic training. Never having been away from home before I was a little unhappy for a few days but that soon passed and so I became fully fledged and I was then Private Cave J. P. W/305433. As I had had some Red Cross experience I was posted to a very big military hospital and was transferred to the R. A. M. C., in Yorkshire as a hospital orderly quite the lowest form of animal life. The work did not worry me unduly but it was so impersonal and unfriendly. One of the trials was having to wear a surgical overall which were all one size, they were made for six feet tall men and as I am only 5 feet tall this came down to my ankles causing great hilarity among the patients. However a break came and I was transferred to a small unit hospital and I was given a stripe - Lance Corporal no less and 4d. extra per day which meant that I now got the princely sum of 1s. 4d. a day. The camp was huge and we were issued with army bicycles (need I say more!)

That winter was very cold with thick snow everywhere and going to bed was quite something. We all slept in balaclava helmets, scarves and gloves - not a pretty sight! The water in the Nissen hut was frozen solid and the field mice would creep in and try to get into our beds. However, being young, we all survived somehow.

As the War dragged on and some of the German prisoners were captured they were sent to England and a few were billeted at the rear of our camp. When I look back I realized that some of them were only 16 years old. Hitler dragged into the army the Hitler Youth in a last ditch attempt to win the War. Some of these boys were sent to us to do odd jobs in our camp from time to time. We were of course not supposed to fraternise with them but to a certain extent we did. One of these, Otto by name, taught me some German which I have never repeated as I'm not sure what it means.

At last V. E. Day came and we were all confined to barracks but I took a chance and sneaked home. What a night that was, dancing in the street, someone rigged up some lights and we all combined our food and had a wonderful time - well worth the punishment meted out to me on my return

That was a very long time ago but I wonder when we will learn that war is dreadful and in the end there are no victors only much suffering.

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