- Contributed by
- Civic Centre, Bedford
- People in story:
- Charles King - Service no. 6203667
- Location of story:
- England, Normandy, Germany and Palestine
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 05 June 2004
I joined the Army Territorials in 1937 in Hannslow, London to the Middlesex Regiment 8th Battalion as a signaller in the Infantry.
In 1938 I transferred to the Royal Engineers' searchlight unit at Kingston, London.
In 1939 I was called up even though I was in a reserved occupation. I was transferred to the Royal Engineers 316 Company in Midhurst, Sussex, then I was moved to Hatfield near Doncaster. While there I worked at various searchlight sights and also worked on the servicing and operating of generators.
During daylight hours we used our trucks to deliver slag (ballast) from the Scunthorpe steel works in Lincolnshire to the East Coast defences.
My unit was then moved to Bristol from where I was given my release papers. From then I returned to Stoke on Trent as a civilian where I took up work as a fitter at Meir Aircraft.
After 6 months at Meir I was transferred to Booker Airfield for a further 18 months, servicing Tiger Moths and Magisters. At the end of the 18 months I was called up again and, through a human error, had to take my recruit training for a 2nd time! This took up 6 weeks.
Upon completion of my training I was posted to Catterick, Yorkshire for a few days- they wanted to train me as a wireless operator but I didn't want to do that, so instead I was sent on a 12 week training course for driving all military vehicles up in Huddersfield, Yorkshire.
After that I remained in Huddersfield to take a further 10 week mechanics course. Shortly after I decided to volunteer as a glider pilot, which was unsuccessful because they were not needed at the time.
After taking aptitude tests I then travelled to Bulford Camp, near Salisbury until May 1944. Then my training for the D-Day invasions at Hardwick, near Chester began.
There I was taught assault skills and travelled to Ringmay (Manchester) for Parachute training. I was moved back to Bulford Camp to prepare for the invasion until a signal was given for the the other freshly trained troops and I to be sent to Keevil in Somerset where we were cut off from all lines of communication because of the high secrecy surrounding the planned invasions.
Shortly before D-Day we were flown from Keevil in a Stirling Aircraft (registered as "S for sugar") and had to do the most dangerous thing in my life: parachute behind enemy lines to secure the infamous Pegasus Bridge. Though when I look back I realise how much safer it was than going into the carnage on the Normandy Beaches. We landed at 23:20 hours and battled behind enemy lines to secure the bridge in which many were killed in order to make the landings on the beaches a little easier for the army.
For a while we had no supplies but they reached us in time. By the 9th of June 1944 I was put on a plane back AGAIN to Bulford Camp. However my fighting days were far from over.
On the 23rd of December 1944 I left Tilbury on a barge set to Calais. I went from there to the Battle of the Bulge area in a 3 ton lorry and trailer. I went into action on Boxing Day and gradually, with horrendous loss of life, we pushed the desperate German army accross the River Rhine, their fighting spirit leaving them in the face of impending defeat making the fights more vicious and brutal.
I made it across the Rhine on the 25th of March 1945 and fought on with the Allies until the 8th of May 1945 when, finally, peace was declared. I made it back, once more, to Bulford Camp in mid July 1945.
I went back into training once more because I was set to enter the war in the Far East, which was still not over. I was trained for jungle fighting in the New Forest.
Fortunately I never had the chance to be in that war because the war ended shortly, with the dropping of the atomic bombs.
I was still not to be a civilian again and was flown out for 12 months of service in Palestine. By November 1946, at long last, my national service was over and I got on with my life but still not forgetting all the friends, civilians and fellow fighters who lost their lives bringing down Hitlers' fascist regime and I am very grateful for the life I have now. I was just glad to do my bit to serve our country in probably the most horrific war of all.
P.S. While in the Parachute Regiment I served along side the film star Richard Todd and met him on many occasions. He was a great man and probably the most normal, down to earth film star in the world.
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