Someone has calculated that it took a dozen 'backroom boys' (and girls) to put one fighting man at the sharp edge of World War Two. I was one of them and my wife another. I did not choose this role - it was thrust upon me. I never saw a German, dead or alive, never fired my rifle at a living target. I was given the Africa Star, Italian Star and sundry other bits of coloured ribbon. I felt I had earned none of them. I did not collect their metal appendages. Now I am 91 and feel that my stories may awake a response from those who found themselves in similar situations during the great conflict.
I did not wait to be conscripted. Nor did my Danish wife, Minna. We had travelled in Germany in the 1930s and had no illusions about the coming war. In April 1939 Minna volunteered for the recently-formed A.T.S. (Auxiliary Territorial Service). A telegram ordering her to report to Aldershot came a week before the war began in September. I volunteered in March 1940. As a big fellow - 6 feet 2 inches - I expected to be sent to an infantry training unit. The Medical Officer found me sound in wind and limb but with defective eyesight (I am now registered blind). He graded me B1 (fit for garrison duties only). The Recruiting Officer discovered that I was a journalist (on 'The Sporting Life') with shorthand and typing skills. 'You'll go to the Royal Army Pay Corps.' 'The Royal Army what?' I asked. 'Take the oath' (handing me a Bible). 'You are now 7667890 Private Scott, L.E. Here's the King's Shilling and a travel warrant to Sidcup, Kent.' There I received the basic training for my new life.
For a year I laboured to ensure that soldiers, their wives and children were paid the right amount each week. I was transferred to War Office F.9 becoming Corporal Scott. Another move: to Allied Force Headquarters for work in preparation for the invasion of North Africa - Operation Torch. In November, on my 29th birthday, I reached Algiers. Almost immediately I was whipped out of the Pay Corps and became confidential clerk to Brigadier Francis Rabino, Banking and Currency Adviser, British North Africa Forces. My billets were a story in themselves, but my job was fascinating, involving me in some serious Anglo-American-French financial wrangles. After the Allied victory in North Africa my job came to an end in November 1943 — but not before I had taken my chance to explore North Africa. As Sergeant Scott I was sent to Italy, rejoining the Pay Corps at No. 8 Command Pay Office, Centocelle, Rome.
In 2005 I feel little attention has been paid to the effect of long absences from home upon soldiers of my generation. The Second World War lasted longer than the Great War. Many of us served five years or more without home leave. Letters were our only links with home. Some soldiers and their wives were semi-literate. Mobile phone had yet to be invented. Some sought relief locally. Few of us had seen black or brown faces in Britain. Most had no knowledge of Islam.
I attempted to explore and understand the countries in which I served. Algeria
and Italy opened new windows on the world. I was demobilised in December 1945. How returning soldiers took up family life again might merit a web-site to itself. Sufficient here to say that when my wife Minna died in 1999 our relationship had lasted 63 years and that we had a son, Allan, of whom we could be proud.
Below is a list of all the stories I have contributed to the site:
A2272583 Basic Training at Foots Cray
A2272510 Return from Dunkirk...?
A2434150 The RAPC Litany
A2254114 Journey through the Blitz
A2585676 Inside the War Office
A2488593 Convoy to Algiers
A2621918 My Billets in Algiers: A Pub, a Casino and a Bank
A2641718 A Merry (Murderous) Christmas in Algiers (1942)
A2601280 Victory in Algiers (1943)
A2754155 Dawn and Darkness in Algiers, 1943
A2647947 Mail from England: Joy and Grief in Algiers (1943)
A2676170 Race Relations in Algiers (1943)
A2746280 Exploring Algeria, 1943 (1) - The 'Tomb of the Christian'
A2750933 Exploring Algeria, 1943 (2) - Tipasa
A2789472 Sex in the City: Algiers, 1943
A2789490 The Anguish of Absence: Algiers, 1943
A2886159 Explosions in Algiers (1943)
A3587709 Christmas in Hospital - Algiers 1943
A3595502 Miracle in Algiers, 1944
A3609515 Exploring Algeria 1944: an Arabian Night in Biskra
A3652832 Exploring Algeria 1944: The Tunnels of Touggourt
A3662147 Exploring Algeria 1944: The Scorpion Charmer
A3663001 Exploring Algeria 1944: Barbaric Beauty by Starlight
A3683298 Exploring Algeria 1944; The Edge of the Desert
A3687140 Exploring Algeria 1944: A Soldier Attempts to Understand Islam
A3754037 Home Front and Second Front: a View from Algiers
A3757773 Goodnight Algeria - Good Morning Italy
A3783954 The Road To Rome
A3800071 Rome 1944: I go back to School
A3831806 A Roman Idyll - 1944
A3831644 Roman realities in 1944
A2585630 Flying Bombs in Warlingham
A3837602 Contrasts: Christmas in Rome and
in England, 1944
A3849816 Rome 1944: Three Thousand Years in 15 minutes
A3894078 Rome 1945 - Something called Penicillin
A3894122 Rome 1945: The Muscle Factory
A2588439 Victory in Europe - as seen from Rome and from Surrey
A3894168 Rome 1945: The Peace - and After
A3907730 Florence 1945: Ruin and Rebirth
A3907785 The First News from Denmark
A3922526 Total Chaos in St. Peter's – Sixty-One Years Ago
A3936873 The Arts in Rome: 1944-1945
A3951894 The Atomic Bomb - and V-J Day
A3984825 Coming Home (1)
A3984825 Coming Home (2)
A4042810 Home Again: Warlingham, Surrey. 1945-47