- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Eric Weeden Page
- Location of story:
- Selsey Bill, Sussex
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 14 February 2004
My husband Eric Page was born three months premature and as a result had defective vision. He was technically blind, having only 6/60ths vision, but he accepted this as a challenge and did his best to live a normal life.
After Dunkirk, when we virtually had no army, my husband volunteered to join the army. He knew most eye charts by heart, having had his sight tested so many times, and men were so badly needed for the army that he was accepted. He was posted to the Pioneer Corps, which consisted of men with some slight disability.
On the 27th Sept. 1940 we really did expect the German invasion. My husband’s regiment were sent to Selsey Bill, Sussex, and he and two other men were each given a rifle and one round of ammunition. Nonoe of them had ever fired a rifle in his life. They were given a strategic bridge to guard. Of these three men, one was doubled up with a hernia and couldn’t stand up straight, the second was as deaf as a post and had to be told when things were flying around, and my husband’s sight was so bad the he couldn't tell friend from foe. That is what was defending this country from enemy invasion!
One day Eric was given a missive to take to an officer on the other side of a field. On receiving it the officer asked him how he had come, and my husband said, “Across the field, sir.” The officer nearly hit the roof. “Didn’t you read the notice ‘Keep Out’?” he asked. “That field is heavily mined!” My husband was unable to read the notice.
He was recommended for promotion, but when he came before the Medical Board they discovered he could hardly see and promptly discharged him. His six months in the Army did good as he used to play his accordion in the local pub of an evening when his platoon were posted to New Cross, London, in the blitz. He did much to boost the morale of the other men.
In 1994 I sent the above story in a letter to a Major Douglas Goddard who was organising an exhibition in Woodley, near Reading. Later my son took me to the exhibition in Woodley, where we were greeted by Major Goddard.
He took us to see a large display case in which was a three page foolscap hand-written letter by General Sims, in charge of the Caen Landings, to Field Marshall Lord Montgomery, telling him of all the casualties, prisoners take and advances - a most historic letter. Beside this letter was mine! The major explained that they thought it showed in contrast how ill-equipped we were in 1940 as compared to the build-up of supplied for the Normandy landings. Major Goddard said that he himself had been in a similarly helpless position in 1940 when he had to guard the beaches between Lydd and New Romsey. Having no army vehicles, they used three London taxis. They had one round of ammunition each, and a milk bottle filled with petrol to use as an anti-tank missile!
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