BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page was last updated in February 2012We've left it here for reference.More information

14 July 2014
Accessibility help
Text only
WW2 - People's War

BBC Homepage
BBC History
WW2 People's War Homepage Archive List Timeline About This Site Print this page 

Contact Us

Like this page?
Send it to a friend!


Memories of My Life Born in 1918 to being a Soldier in the Second World War Part 13

by robert beesley

Contributed by 
robert beesley
People in story: 
Major Vargas - Security Officer, C.O Hill
Location of story: 
Germany and England
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
01 January 2005

I am still in 1949 and in the R A O C In Oldenberg.
When I awoke the next morning, the first thing on the agenda was P T Training. Then we had breakfast and then I had to go to my duty, which was at the entrance to the Vehicle park. I had 6 German drivers, they had all been Prisoners-of-War but they were now employed by the Army. At 10.00 a.m. a wagon arrived with food, which the Germans could buy, such as pork rolls. All of the vehicles which were being returned, came through the gate at night. I locked the gate and handed the keys to the Regimental Police Lodge. After tea, I had a shower and went to lay on my bed for a short time. My mind went back to thoughts of home, when I had returned from being a Prisoner-of-War. I recalled the Wednesday when I went shopping with my mother, and we were walking up Sheen Lane at Mortlake in Surrey.
The remarks that my mother had made to me about the Italian Prisoners-of-War, that were walking towards us on the pavement. My mother said to me "We will have to get into the road now". My reply was "You stop where you are". As they approached us, it was them that had to step into the road and as we passed them by, not one word was spoken.
Then Fred, my friend brought me back into reality, otherwise I would have fallen asleep in the canteen. He said to me "We have to go". So off we went.
About 10 days later, while we were at lunch, I had a message given to me, that I had to report to Captain Vargas, the Security Officer. He welcomed me to the camp and he told me "That there was a Security N C O and could I keep my ears and my eyes open. If you hear of anything to report it to him" I replied " Yes I would". Then he dismissed me.
I was not very happy at just sitting around all day, and doing sod all! I was missing 145 Vehicle park and also the company. But you learnt that being in the Services, that you do not ask questions, you just carried out orders.
I had not visited Oldenberg Town yet so Fred said to me "Next Saturday, we will go in to the Town", meaning Oldenberg. I was looking forward to this, and as Saturday got nearer, we left the camp at about 5.00p.m. that day and boarded the bus. It arrived in Oldenberg Town and we both had a look around the Town. It looked like any other Garrison Towns, such as Aldershot in Surrey. The Service men were walking along the roads, then we reached the NAAFI Club. We went in there and had tea, then we went into the rest room and Fred said" Have you heard about the riot that happened some months earlier?". I said "What riot?". He then told me about the Danish soldiers, their camp was just outside the Town. They were once the Red Caps and when a Service man was drunk or was making a scene. The Danes would use their truncheons to beat up the service man. We all had made complaints but nothing had been done about it.
It was one Saturday and there was a big meeting outside of this canteen. The leader, when he was talking to the crowd of service men, an Officer got on to the platform and started to speak. Some one then threw a stone and it caught the Officer in the face, then all hell broke loose. The men fought right up to the Danish Army Barracks, beaking down the fence and they were pulling out iron spikes. On reaching the entrance to the Barracks, the leader saw two machine guns mounted, and two men sitting behind them, also a Danish officer. He shouted "Stop, or I will order the gunners to open fire".A British officer and the Red caps came to the front of the rioters and said "Enough is enough, you have made your point". The Policing of Oldenberg was taken from the Danes and that is why we were not allowed to buy Guinness in the canteen because of the riot. A Colonel F Hill stopped that. There were ten N C O's detailed for a Vehicle and tank refresher courses for a week. The first two days we all had to drive different types of vehicles, from 15 hudredweight to over 10 Tons. We all passed this test. Next you had tank recovery, the Instructor drove the tank onto the waste ground, he then told us to "Dig it out". We were all given shovels and when the hole was large enough, a recovery vehicle drove up, we then attached the chain to the tank. We all had to try to recover the tank, but the hole had got deeper and it was impossible to recover the tank. So the Instructor fitted the vehicle battery and drove the tank out of the hole. After that, we all had a turn at driving the tank. Then we were told that we all had passed the course. But what a laugh we had doing this exercise.
There was a rumour running around the camp, it wasa bout the following Saturday's Parade. The Colonel loved Parades, but none of us knew what was on, some had heard that it was going to be a presentation. On Friday evening was spent ironing all of our uniforms in readiness for the following day. We also cleaned our rooms. When Saturday morning arrived, none of us knew what to expect, we were all dressed and paraded, then to march on the parade ground, when all of a sudden, my name was being called. I marched out to the Officer, I did not know him or his name but he was a Captain. He told me that I was to receive my Long Service Medal from the C O and what I had to do after the Inspection. We were to march to the end of the Parade, as the
C O returned to the Saluting Base. I was then told "When your name is called, you have to march up to the C O, he then will pin your medal on you and then he will shake your hand. Then you will fall in at the rear of him". By this time my stomach had dropped, I could have run a mile to get away, but I just stood there. We were marched to the Parade ground, after the Inspection, my name was called up. I marched up to the C O, he then pinned on my Long Service Medal and then we had the march pass. When it was over, the C O said to me "Good Luck to you". After, I went to the billet. Then at lunchtime, the leg pulling started and after lunch, the beer canteen. The first round was all mine and after that the beer flowed freely, but I was still having my leg pulled.
I was then sent on a 4 day railway guard trip and I returned on the Saturday lunch time, then I was informed that I was the Guard Commander on Sunday guard duty, which was for 24 hours. I said "But I have only just come back of a 4 day trip", but the reply that I got was "That is your bad luck, you should not have joined up".
It was October and it was quiet on the Vehicle park. But on a Thursday morning, I saw a lorry, which was parked on the other side of the boundary and I never thought too much about it, until I heard the Germans speaking. One said " That will go missing". So I wrote a message for the Major and went to his office and the door was locked, so I slipped the message under the door. The lorry was there on Friday, also Saturday, so I thought that I had probably heard wrong. The German staff never knew I could speak German, as I had never told them. But they all understood English and that was good enough for me. They all had been Prisoners-of-War in England.
On the Sunday, I noticed that the vehicle had gone and the Regimental Police had been called to the scene. Monday morning, Major Vargas sent for me and he said"What do you know about the missing vehicle?" I said"Only what you know" He replied " I know sod all". But I said to him" But I left you a note". he said "What note?" I replied "The one that I slipped under your door" He then said"I have been away". He then looked in his tray and he noticed my letter and then he read it and said "Damn" Then out I went.
Two days later, the Security N C O turned up and he just said"Security N C O, can we have a chat" I said "OK, what its it about, is it the stolen lorry?" I replied "Inside job" He replied "In no way" I said to him "Then you are mad, this vehicle was stolen from the inside, no outsider, maybe an outsider drove it away with help, you will never recover the vehicle" He said "Bull" I replied "No bull at all, all the cards was stacked against you. Firstly, the Control Commission are selling Army vehicles at Six Thousand Reisch Marks. The vehicles can be driven 7 days a week, the German vehicles only with permission, to stop an Army vehicle, only by a M.P. or if you are a Security N C O. With German Police on road blocks, no one will ever find it" He replied "You bet your life I will" "In your dreams " I replied.
Fred was still on about Christmas leave, but no notice had been posted as yet. I said "It is not December yet, so just keep your fingers crossed." For a while the matter of the stolen lorry went on, questions were being asked such as "Who gave the orders to park the lorry so ear to the wire?" But there were no answers coming abou this. You may as well put all of our names in a hat and then the first one out of the hat held the answer.
To my knowledge, the lorry was never recovered. What with the British Control COmmission selling off Army vehicles, put paid to this, before this vehicle was stolen.The thieves would have the documents to cover the vehicles, so that was the end of the story.
I put in for a week's leave at 145 vehicle park and I was told that they were moving to Munchengladbach. I visited the N C O Offices about my Christmas leave and I explained the reason for this request to Major Hurley. When Christmas leave noting was posted, my name and Fred's were half way down. When in December, the day for departures arrived, we were up bright and early. We had breakfast and then we were transported to Oldenberg station. The troop train arrived, and we were now on our way. Aboard the train were the R.A.F.personnel, the train stopped along the way to pick up other service men and women. The ship arrived at Harwich at about 8.00a.m., we went through Customs and then onto the train. We were soon on our way and we arrived home. I found my mother and my father. We chatted and we all had a late night. My mother had told me that my sister, Rose had remarried and that no-one now lived at Ham in Richmond, Surrey.
I awoke the next morning and I could hear the voices of my sister's children. They were being dressed. I found my mother and my sister and they were going Christmas shopping together. They asked me "Are you coming with us?" I said "No, I want to find Dad". At that moment he walked in. My mother, sister and her children all left.
My father said to me "You have never told us anything about you life when you was a Prisoner-of-War and in the camp" I replied "You do not want to hear it Dad". But he then said "Come on, tell me". So I told him all of my experiences and ordeals that I had faced being a Prisoner-of-War. I also told him about the time that I first came home after 5 years as a Prisoner-of-War. How I had felt like a caged animal that had been released from its cage and how all of the family were strangers to me. I told him that I did not feel that I was his Son. Then the reaction which I had, when I was spoken to, because Mum had showed me a little attention and love, but my sister did not like this show of affection and she had turned against me. I then went further, I said about the time that I had first started work. I had got 12 old shillings a week and out of that, my mother would take 10 old shillings of that for my keep. I was bringing in enough meat for dinners at work and at home, also joints of meat. When my sister started working the Laundry, she got 25 old shillings a week. Out of this, she only gave my Mother,
7 shillings and sixpence for her keep. Also Rose always had a coat or a dress and no one else had the same as hers. My sister went everywhere with my parents, but I was not allowed, I was let to run in the streets. Rose got everything, I was always the scruffy one. After I had said all of this to my Father, he replied "Your sister was ill when she was a child and we had been told , that she would not live beyond the age of 14 years of age. I think that is why we did as we did." I said then to my father, "You even showed me up at the Ship Public House, when I was playing darts and because I was only 17 years of age, you told me to get out of the pub. I felt just like a litle boy in front of all the people in the pub. He said "I am sorry that I had made you feel such a fool, but I want you to promise me, that you will never tell your Mother what you have told me today" I promised my Father, that I would never repeat my experiences to my Mother.
I enjoyed my Christmas leave, and when it was time for me to go back to Germany, my father went with me to Harwich to see me off. When we arrived back at Oldenberg, the next day, I had to report to Major Vargas . He spoke about the matter of the stolen lorry. He said "Do you know of anything else to do with this matter?" I said "Yes, if I were with the S I B, I would have a field day" I then explained that there is more Black market dealings in this camp than any other. You just had to watch the canteen and look at all of the wrist watches and you will see what I mean. I was then dismissed, it was now food for thought.
The New year was approaching and soon the New year's Eve party would be in full swing. At the party, we had a smashing time, some of them present had smelt the barmaids apron and that was enough.
Old Father Time had now appeared again and later, it was time to drink up and away to our beds and then to wake up to another year, the following morning.

© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.

Archive List

This story has been placed in the following categories.

British Army Category
Postwar Years Category
Germany Category
icon for Story with photoStory with photo

Most of the content on this site is created by our users, who are members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of any external sites referenced. In the event that you consider anything on this page to be in breach of the site's House Rules, please click here. For any other comments, please Contact Us.

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy