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15 October 2014
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White Man's Grave

by actiondesksheffield

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Contributed by 
People in story: 
Ernest Green
Location of story: 
Orkney Isles and Sierra Leone
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
25 November 2005

Ernest in West Africa, 1943

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Bill Ross of the ‘Action Desk — Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Ernest Green and has been added to the site with his permission. Mr. Green fully understands the site's terms and conditions.
I joined the Royal Army Service Corps in 1940 and I did my training in Eckington from January to April. Once I’d done training, I was posted to the Orkney Islands where I remained for a year. I enjoyed being up there, it was OK, but we had to guard the coast in case of invasion, but there wasn’t any. After I’d finished my service in the Orkneys, they established another battalion, and we went abroad to Sierra Leone in West Africa. There we were a supply service corps and we supplied the 8th army by rail and air from there, and that was our job.

I was in Sierra Leone for two and a half years, after which I came back to England where I was virtually up and down, moving from between various stations. I came out again in January 1946. So that’s a brief account of my service life.

To expand on this: in the Orkneys, the land was rather barren; there were no trees because there were always gales blowing, but that didn’t bother me, I enjoyed it there, I wished I could have done my entire service there, but I couldn’t. I had to go to West Africa, which was known as ‘White Man’s Grave’, which it is. Anyone who stays there for five years can expect to have something radically wrong with them afterwards, because of the climate etc. We did manage to come away, I didn’t have Malaria, but I did have the preliminary complaint, which was called Ague, and that was of a shaking nature. I was shaking for most of the time and despite being in a really hot climate, I felt cold, I was always shivering in fact. That was the way it affected people; Malaria did likewise.

I did eventually recover from that, but it took about three years before it was gone completely. It was an awful place to be to do service, but they gave us a stripe, to look after the natives. The natives worked for us, they did all the work because it was too hot — 120 degrees. I didn’t like it there, but I soldiered.

I was what was known as an issuer; that was my rank. It meant that I was in charge of anything to be loaded up on the railway, to be sent to the 8th Army, which is why they gave me a single stripe. I didn’t get involved with any direct conflict though.


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