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by Wymondham Learning Centre

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Archive List > British Army

Contributed by 
Wymondham Learning Centre
People in story: 
Peter Pavey Fred Pearce
Location of story: 
Hastings, Sussex, Arromanches, France, Falaise Gap, Belgium, Nijmegen, Holland
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
10 May 2005

This story was submitted to the BBC People’s War site by Wymondham Learning Centre on behalf of the author who fully understand the site's terms and conditions.

I joined the Army in September 1942 and was posted to “C” Company of the 8th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment in Hounslow, London, where I became Company Clerk.

I purchased a guitar from a second-hand shop there for £3, taught myself a few chords and teamed up with Corporal Fred Pearce, who played accordion and sang very well, and so the ‘off-duty duo’ of FRED & PETE was formed. I was promoted to the rank of Lance/Corporal in December 1943.

Prior to the Normandy invasion we were stationed in a ‘restricted area’ at Hastings, Sussex, and our Sergeant-Major suggested that we should play at The Oddfellows Public House at week-ends to provide entertainment for ‘the lads’ when wives and sweethearts came to visit. Our kind Sgt-Major would ‘take the hat around’ for us, so we were doing quite well financially, until the Landlord found that beer was in extremely short supply and we were then restricted to Saturday nights only!

When the time came for us to prepare for embarkation, our Commanding Officer thought it would be a good idea for us to take our instruments with us. We were scheduled to land on D+7 and left the Tilbury area aboard a rather decrepit cargo boat.

We sailed down the Channel at night into a force eight gale and when this subsided it was found that all the boat’s winches had broken and we were unable to land until D+12, having spent five days at sea with regular dawn attacks from German planes, subsisting on a diet of corned beef, baked beans and Christmas pudding — the only food rations available on board beside mugs of ‘char’.

The beaches of Arromanches were quiet when we eventually landed, with all our equipment and vehicles lowered on to giant rafts, whilst we had to clamber down the side of the boat on a mesh net — me with rifle on one shoulder and guitar on the other.

A few miles inland we soon encountered fierce enemy resistance and at Hill 112 I sustained a shrapnel wound in the leg, fortunately not serious and it was duly treated by my mate, Cpl. Fred Pearce, the Medical Orderly, who was later ‘Mentioned in Despatches’ for far more heroic deeds that he bravely performed.

The Unit gradually advanced across France, via the Falaise Gap, into Belgium, then to Nijmegen in Holland where we were cut off for several days, delaying all efforts to reach and help relieve the 1st Br. Airborne Division. In February 1945 came the dramatic “Pepperpot” operations in the Reichswald Forest and in March the crossing of the Rhine. Immediately after the German surrender our Company was sent to take guard of the V1 Rocket Missile Assembly Area, hidden in dense forest — an awesome sight!

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