I do not want to be contacted by other people.
I was persuaded to put my reminiscences on record. I didn't think of my wartime experiences as interesting or of interest to others.
Middle of May 1945 I embarked for Freetown, Sierra Leone, West Africa.
I was in the Royal Signal Corps.
The ship was going onto the Far East. By the time we got to Free Town some of us had already disembarked at what was then called The Gambia. I with about six others disembarked at Freetown.
I was attached to the (RWAFF) Royal West African Frontier Force as acting lance corporal, wow! 1 stripe. As there was only a few of us there to be in charge of the West African troops (we were really only figureheads) as the senior African soldiers would be briefed on what was to be done. When necessary we would have civilian labour with their own headmen, for example when digging trenches for cables, they would be instructed by the senior West African soldier present. In many instances he would be a sergeant.
It was the first time I went abroad. Oranges, bananas, clear blue sea I had never seen anything like it. Porpoise, flying fish.
You were loaded down, very heavy.
Full kit: large pack round which was packed a gas cape, hand blanket, steel helmet (on the back between the straps). Smaller pack at waist level. Then we had a gas mask (got that wherever you were going; might sound strange to take it there), water bottle, rifle, 50 rounds of ammo. Civilian West Africans took the 2 kit bags off us and loaded them on the truck.
Did not do anything after midday. Went back to the camp and lay down on the bed and sweated.
The humidity was very high. I had a pair of shoes and put them under the bed when I looked at them a few days later, it cannot have been more than a week, they were green with mould. There wasn't much to do, there was a canteen.
You did not get sheets in the army but going to West Africa you did. In the army you could put a blanket under you and over you, that was up to you, but in West Africa you got sheets and a mosquito net of course.
There would be an African-house boy between two squadies. They would be responsible for our washing, making the bed, the area around the bed would be kept clean.
Uniform would be supplied to them, food, and accommodation.
Most of the surrounding area was bush and scrub part with quite dense undergrowth, bush with very tall trees and a very narrow trail leading through it. On two occasions when on one of these trails I was told by a following African soldier that a leech had attached itself, just below the knee, on the back, who would light a match under its tail to release its pincer-type grip.
A dead bird tied to a tree or some bones tied to a tree, the African soldier told me it was ju ju.
There was a ritual with young girls, they were lead by a 'witch doctor/medicine man' into the bush. He was completely covered in orange feathers and headdress. A mask or a painted face I cannot quite remember. What went on we didn't know. There were probably women waiting for the girls, it was all very secretive. I saw the procession, there were about nine or ten girls.
Quite by chance I was Guard Commander on night duty (albeit there was nothing much to guard, unless perhaps the canteen) when the news that the war in the Far East had ended. I heard it first on the bush telegraph, that is the drums, I heard them in the far distance, the message was taken up by the nearer ones. I had never heard drums before, I asked the African sergeant what was happening and he then told me the news which was followed shortly by our guard telephone which informed us officially. We had the next day off. Because I had the next day off anyway I only got the one!
I sent a coconut with my home address painted on the husk home and it was actually delivered. Coconut milk is very nice but when fermented, it is very potent, Africans loved it. I didn't try it. I had a bottle and I left it for a while and it sort of exploded and went all over the things in my bedside locker.
You were on 18 months tour at a time. You could do two of those but not more. When I went out there were soldiers on their second one.
One of the pictures I took when I was on seven days local leave at a place called Daru. The train went there, it was single track with place where trains could pass.
We were camped at the back of Sugar Loaf Mountain.
Eventually I was medically downgraded to B7, which meant I was sent home. You had to be A1 to be in West Africa. The white men's graves.
Meanwhile I was seconded to the sergeant in charge of stores. Who put me to oversee the distribution of rations mainly tinned for the cookhouse and for that I had to go on a course as it was dealing with food to Lagos in Nigeria, about 1200 miles away. I was taken to the airport and flew in a stripped out Douglas Dakato, the noise was deafening. I stayed overnight in Accra, which was in the Gold Coast, it’s now Ghana. The course was for two weeks. I came back by ship. I had to report to the harbourmaster’s office each day.
In the ration store there was dried food like dried cabbage stored in tins the size of biscuit tins.