- Contributed by
- CSV Solent
- People in story:
- Ewen Hentall
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Civilian Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 24 May 2005
This story was submitted to the People’s War website by Marie on behalf of Ewen and has been added to the site with his permission. Ewen fully understand the site’s terms and conditions.
My memories of WW2 may be of interest, mainly because of my position at 4AM on the morning of June 6th. 1944, but I will start at the beginning.
People of my age always remember Neville Chamberlains words at 11AM Sunday September 3rd. 1939, telling us that we were at war with Germany. Until May 1940 things were comparatively quiet but then it all changed for us all with Dunkirk.
I was a boat builder working at Elkins boatyard at Christchurch, and from here saw some of the "little ships" go out to help to try to save our soldiers at Dunkirk. It is amazing how they saved so many, and that they reacted in quick time, putting their lives at risk for their nations sake.
The call went out for volunteers to form the LDV, becoming the Home Guard later, and I thought I could help here. Yes, it is hard to believe but true that all we had at first were broomsticks, but things improved. I remember in particular seeing poor old Southampton getting a pasting on the two main nights of the blitz from the cliff top at Highcliffe.
Later on a request went out for volunteers to go to a gun battery at Friars Cliffe , recently built, and this I thought, as a youth , would be more exciting. Working a twelve hour day and training to become a gunner was hard, but when one is young things are easier to achieve. I must say here that someone in Government had the right idea on the fact that as the threat of invasion receded the need for full time manning of these batteries became less necessary, and so it proved to be so. The regular 100 plus RAs were reduced to a dozen or so eventually, with we HGs taking over on a part time basis. The RAs were then trained in other RA activities of course.
I had moved up the ranks to become a Sergeant in charge of number one gun, two 6" BL guns with associated searchlights etc. forming the coast defence battery, and at the time of 4AM on the morning of the 6th. of June 1944 things became clear to us on the cliff top, after a noisy night . There before us was a mass of shipping so vast that it looked as though one could walk to the Needles without getting wet. A mind boggling and unforgettable sight of course. We HG gunners had been told to report to the battery full time a week or so prior to the date of June 6th. so we knew what was to come.
Never to be forgotten period of our lives.
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