- Contributed by
- John Fred Roberts
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 31 January 2006
These are the events of what happened in my life during the World War Two period of it, and this is as near as I can remember. I know that the sequences of the moves I made are not in the right order, and there are very few of the people and place names I can recall. It is only this last year or two, since I got a computer, THAT WRITES AND SPELLS A LOT BETTER THAN I. That I plucked up the courage to have a go, My war was no where as dramatic or painful as some had, but my three sons and two daughters, have asked me, for the 14 grandchildren, and seven Due to become nine in Sept., if the expected twins arrive safely.. They have, girls. Great grandchildren.
1533739 L.A.C. J. F. Roberts.
First a G.G. Then R.A.F.Reg.
Service from 14/7/41 to 17/11/46
I well remember us all sat round the table in our house in Rowley Grove, Hull, and we were all staring at the radio, and listening intently to the Prime Minister Nevil Chamberlain as he told us that the dead line that we had given Hitler to withdraw his troops from Poland had now passed without him attempting to do so, and so we were now at war with Germany. I well too remember the groan of disappointment, and almost disbelief from my father, who said: "Oh Lord, not again." and he was almost in tears.
There was very little concept of the horrors of war in those days, most families did not even have a daily paper, and pictures of conflict around the world, were snippets in the news reel at the local cinema, or what you heard on the radio. Today the horror of it all is brought to you in your living room via the T.V. So it was only later, that I understood what my dad must have felt, him having been in France in WW1.
However the Nation swung into War mode, and all the homes were digging holes for Anderson Shelters to be erected, all lights were hid, Some Air raid wardens became little Hitler's themself's, everyone got into something, as well as the A.R.P. Wardens, there was the Auxiliary Fire Service, Police Specials, Demolition Squads, The Home Guard, W.V.S. Men were being called up left right and center, and women were having to fill there shoes, doing jobs that women had never done before. Everyone had at least two jobs, their regular and their War effete one.
Mine was at "William Jackson & Sons" Slaughter House, on
Ingelmire Lane. were my father worked in the meat processing factory, and my wife Lillian worked later for we were married in December 1943. I was also in the A.R.P. as was both my mother and father. Mother had a job full time, Dad was an A.R.P. Post leader. He had been in the A.R.P. right from it being formed months before War broke out. ( and was still in until it was discontinued at some time during his time at Toplocks, a Lockkeepers cottage on the Chesterfield Canal, close to the village of Thorpe Salvin, to where he moved in 1944 for he used to attend meetings occasionally at the area's headquarters. Maltby Police Station of all places. The coal mine village that I was born in, and later worked and lived in, and our last three of six children were born.) In the A.R.P. I was a messenger, and in a raid "And we had plenty in Hull." I would report to the headquarters, and if no post could be contacted, due to any reason, off I would go on my trusty bicycle, this I did until I went into the R.A.F. on 14/7/41.
But before I joined up I had one or two experiences worth mentioning, on one occasion during a heavy raid I had to take a message to area headquarters as they were out of contact, the road to head quarters had been bombed, and a water main busted and the road flooded, the overhead trolley bus cables had been broke too, and the power was still on, as the cable kept dropping into the water and flashing, I had to do a diversion through some allotments to get round. On another occasion a road that was concrete, "Not Tar Mcadam" it was laid in big slabs of about 30 ft. with Pitch in the joints, had been hit by a bomb, it must have penetrated at or near the joint and at an angle under the slab, for the whole section of road was stood on its end like the Berlin Wall.
I also had to pass an unexploded Land mine, that had got its parachute tangled in the overhead trolley wires. " Land mines come down on parachutes, they are about the size of a pillow box, they are attached to the parachute so that they hang at a sloping angle, and at the bottom are several prongs, and as soon as one of the prongs touch the ground it goes off.
Well these prongs were almost touching the floor, and two naval bomb disposal lads finally came and had to deal with it, talk about dicing with death.
This next incident was while I was cycling home for lunch from work on Ingelmire Lane. I was suddenly surrounded with a shower of incendiary bombs, one only feet away, I don't know how many is in one of those containers that they drop them in, but there appeared to be about 50 scattered around me, some had gone through the roof's of the houses on either side of the road, that was causing quite a panic, apparently it was just a lone raider that somehow had got in undetected.
These incendiary bombs were made of a magnesium type metal that burned with a terrific heat once the metal got going from the primer material that ignited on impact, and some had an explosive device built in, and once the bomb was well alight it blew it up, scattering the burning metal all over, they were about two pounds in weight, so if one had hit me on the head none of you would be reading this. Hull really had a pasting, and I had to go into the town one night when all the telephones were out, the roads at that time in the City centre were oak blocks set in pitch, this was from the horse and cart days and was to help cut out the noise, well this night all the roads were rivers of fire the oak blocks and pitch was well alight
Another thing you noticed was the queer effects bomb blast had, a theatre was hit one night, a direct hit it was, and one member of the orchestra was never found, until some weeks later, when a major water pipe, one of those big concrete type, had to be repaired in the road next to the remains of this theatre and underneath this big pipe in the clay they found his body.
One night in a big bomb raid and the City was really getting plastered, a big department store building got set alight, How a building that is constructed with steel girders and concrete can burn with such ferocity is beyond belief, but burn it did, and one of the German Bombers raiding the City was Shot down by Ack Ack fire, the crew had bailed out and with the light from the fires and the searchlights you could see one of the parachutes drifting down to this furnace, The man dangling from it was desperately struggling to steer away, but the down draught would not release him from its grip, and into the flames he drifted. It was suggested to the Firemen there that an attempt should be made to rescue him, the reply was he started it, let him keep it going.
I also saw on several occasions where houses had been completely flattened except for the Chimney breast, and on one in particular the pot clock and two vases was still stood on the mantle piece of what had been a bedroom with not a scratch. A house just round the corner from us had a direct hit after hours of an air raid warning with no activity at all, then wham and the house was flat. The family were all in the air raid shelter and sleeping it woke everyone up of course and the husband found that his wife was missing, he immediately assumed that she had gone into the house to make a cup of tea and was still in there, and was tearing great lumps of masonry out and tossing them to one side with the strength of ten men until his wife appeared from next doors shelter where she had gone for a chat, also at this house the window frame had collapsed inwards, and on the inside window sill was a goldfish bowl with the fish still swimming in the now dirty water. there are tales galore of this nature.
After my eighteenth birthday I was eager to get joined up, I was keen to get into the Airforce and be an Air Gunner. ( When I volunteered my job being a slaughter man was deemed to be a reserved occupation and I was turned down, so on my second application I made sure the job I was doing was deemed none essential, I found out that being a Gut Man was not and so the next time I went in that was my occupation and I got in.) But as a ground gunner as there was no vacancies for Air Gunners at that time, but , the recruiting officer told me, you will be half way there if you are trained up on guns, and will have no trouble at all re-mustering to Air gunner when they are needed, and you will know when they are short before we do, for the squadron notice board is always the first place to know.
Warrington:- My orders finally came and I had a travel warrant sent for me to travel and report to the Recruits centre at Warrington Lancs. here we were kitted out with all our gear, had jabs galore, generally mucked about and bullied by blokes with stripes on their arms, with the excuse that it was all for our own good, you had to learn that senior rank had to be obeyed, and the higher the rank, the nippier you had to be in fulfilling the order. after four days we were sent to Blackpool for our foot slogging six weeks training. I am now 1533739 AC Roberts J.F.
Blackpool:- was teeming with Airmen, the majority like me new recruits, but the training staff, and admin.. etc. amounted to a lot of none resedentional staff. and folk were still coming for their holidays too. There is no wonder half the landladies in Blackpool, were hoping the war would never end. When we arrived at the station, we were all marched with our kit bags to what was a Chapel but was being used as head quarters for what was to be our Squadron. Here we were divided into three flights, and each flight into three squads, these we had to remember and was part of our postal addresses.
We were then marched off and distributed to various boarding houses, given twenty mins. to get organised, drop our kit bags and get back out on parade we were then all marched back into town to a street behind the tower, we were halted outside a shop where a Warrant Officer, who belonged to the same (grab all you can club) as the landladies, told us all that we were a disgrace to King and Country, and every one of us was in desperate need of an hair cut and he proceeded to direct us into this shop, where six Grinning Sweeny Tod's were waiting behind six chairs. Twenty five mins. later thirty five blokes had all been through the mill, it should have been thirty six, but much to the Warrant Officers disgust one bloke was as bald as a coot. He told us that he lost all his hair when he was ten.
So this is where our basic training was to be carried out, and although our drill instructor sergeant was strict on discipline and protocol, he was fair, and he hated the holiday makers that stood around watching, and titted and laughed if one of us made a mistake. We did our drill on the Prom. there was big concrete blocks " Tank Traps" near the railings to the beach, he usually stood on one of these to shout his orders to us, then there was quite a big space back to where the tram lines were. This was our training area and all along the Prom. were squads drilling, each in their own Square Bashing space.
One day he was really fed up with the laughter, he told us to port arms, and god help the first bloke who broke step. He then marched us back and forth, still in the port position, he then about turned us so that we faced the tram lines and marched us forward, a tram was coming and we were close to the crowd, but no order came, and we knew he meant it when he warned us about breaking step. So we kept going and pushed the crowd right over the tram lines, the tram had stopped before the sergeant yelled "About Turn" and brought us back.
He then stood us "At Ease" and from his pulpit on the Tank Trap gave us a fatherly talk in a loud sarcastic voice that could be heard a mile away, about how sorry he was. Sorry that we had to do our basic training to the amusement of others, in order to fight for our country, and fellow country men. A sample of which was stood around taking the Mickey out of your effete to learn. While they were on holiday, and would be going back no doubt to a well paid job, while you would be getting a pittance.
Benson:- The six weeks soon past, and at the end I was posted to Benson, Oxford shire, this was a peace time Airodrome. All the buildings were brick not Nison huts, The aircraft here were Bleniems, Two seater aircraft, Fighter-bombers.
The Pilot, and a gunner who sat with his back to the pilot. The gunner had a blind spot, he could not see or fire at an aircraft, that came up from below and behind, the Germans soon found this weak spot and if in combat with a Bleniem silenced the gunner as soon as possible. I was not at Benson long, but I saw enough Gunners pulled out of their seat and put into a body bag, to put my ambitions of being an Air gunner on a permanent hold.
It was at Benson that I found out how sneaky officers can be too. We were told that the barracks were to be inspected and the ones with the cleanest room would be granted a Week End pass. We all buckled in until the room shone like a new pin, we had paper on the floor until the very last minute we had polished and shone the windows, the pot bellied stove, every one of our mothers would have been proud of us.
The time came for the officer to carry out his inspection, we are all stood ramrod still, following him with our eyes only. He walked down the centre of the room to the pot bellied stove, pulled a form out and stood on it, reached up to light bulb and rubbed it with his Persil white glove, then showed us all his dirty glove and said: "You filthy pigs, you call this clean, I have a good mind to put you all on Jankers." I have often wondered how many others he has suckered with his white gloves and light bulbs or shades.
Abingdon:- My next posting was to Abingdon and here we really start to be gunners, we have M/c Gun posts all round the Airfield, The M/c guns are Louis gas operated, and twin mounted, but not a very fast rate of fire, these we man for twenty four hours, two men, doing two hours on and two off, at sun set we patrol the perimeter wire, four on four off, and when off, you sleep in the pill box or whatever.
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