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Chapter 3: Colonel Montgomery

by CSV Media NI

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Archive List > Books > Alex Dickson - Memoirs

Contributed by 
CSV Media NI
People in story: 
Alex Dickson, Col Montgomery
Location of story: 
Dover, Kent, England
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
25 January 2006

Shortly after that we moved to the London area Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell and were mostly in empty private houses were people had moved and we did a lot of training there. Every so often Col Lucy go me to do a very special job for him personally, he took me out one day to a air field with very small planes, it must have been somewhere in that London area, and he told me this was a most top secret place again no one was allowed in without special permits and could I see anyway of getting in. Well I got him to drive me the whole way round the outskirts of the airport and there was no way in except the main entrance which was very heavily barbed wire there were double lots of barbed wire very high and sentries. I watched the sentry who was very careful with passes, again going in but not coming out. I could not see any movement about the place although there were planes but mostly small one and two engine planes some of them without markings. There was no way in except the main entrance but I studied from his car and I notice there were lots of army telephone wires going into the airfield passed the main entrance and some in the field in front of it there were some in the ground. So I went back the next day and I took a field telephone with me. I started a good distance away from the airfield but where the sentry could see me. I worked my way along one of the lines and checking it by the way with pins sticking them in by the way I was checking the line for faults, I got closer and closer to the entrance and noticed the sentry watching me got closer to the airfield got right over to the barbed wire and the lines were going along the wire off the ground a bit I pinned into the line there and tried as if I was checking it. Then I walked as far as the sentry and just as I got to him I said "This is a bloody bad fault, I have checked the whole way outside and the fault must be inside," and I walked on past him and he never said a thing.

There was a big wooden building just near the entrance and I walked around it, there wasn't much sign of life there were only about three offices in it, each occupied by a girl typing and round the back there were a couple of building that looked as if they might be places where people might have spent the night and I noticed a seat outside one of them, but I never saw another man about that airfield, it was in the morning mind you. When I got around the back there was an armoured car sitting on one of the run ways, it looked almost brand new I had never seen as good a one I walked over to have a look at it and it was open so I got in and it was fully loaded with a heavy machine gun and there was a little book sitting were the driver would have been sitting, you know the sort of thing you get with a new car instructions. Instruction about this new car so I put it in my pocket as proof I had been in and I started the bloody thing, I moved off and I drove all around the inside of that airport and back and parked it in a different place and walked out, no bother. When I got back and told him this and showed him the little book I had taken out of the armoured car he said "God Almighty, the most secret airport in the British Isles and you got in an out of it.”

I said, "not only did I get in Sir but that armoured car was fully loaded with a machine gun, if I had been an enemy I could have shot up every plane on that airport and drove out through the wire." I said "there weren't a lot of planes there wasn't more than a dozen planes on the field all small".

Afterwards thinking over it that probably that airfield was not a regular RAF airfield at all but one that they used for dropping special operations things dropping people into France with radios and maybe if there were pilots they did mostly night work and had been in the huts sleeping. However, I reported this and the Colonel again approached me about my commission in the Corp of Signals and I again turned it down.
But two days later my name appeared on orders I had been transferred to the 9th Battalion The Royal Warwickshire Regiment at Deal which is down at the South coast. The following day I made my way to Deal with all my kit by train thinking they must be short of a signals instructor. When I got there I was put into an ordinary infantry platoon on coast defences, my position was a big heavy machine gun on the beach, this went on for a week and the Company Commander sent for me one morning and said "Corporal Dickson there is an officer at Dover Castle would like to see you?"

I said "Good God, Sir, I haven't done anything wrong,"

"Augh," he said "I know you haven't done anything wrong you've been very good since you came to us, but this officer wants to see you it's a very top security place so I am sending a Sergeant to drive you there who has been before and knows the ropes and will get you through.”

So I was driven to Dover Castle through security up to a very large office and there was just one officer in it, a full Colonel. The Colonels name was Montgomery I discovered many years later that he was the Head of British Intelligence, and when I arrived he said "Corporal Dickson I am pleased you were able to come I want you to sit down and relax I have just a few questions I want to ask you."

I sat down and I thought it strange, he asked me what schools I went to any exams I had sat this that and the other what my sports were but he seem to know a few things about me, he had papers on his desk, he knew I had boxed a bit and that I was a good runner, but he went through my past and what I did in my spare time, it seems childish to me in a way, the only questions that seemed a bit strange to me towards the end he said to me "What about languages, do you speak any languages?"

I said "No Sir, No."

"Augh," he said, "that's a pity, you don't speak any German or French."

I said "No Sir,"

he said "That'll do us now you can go back to your unit.”

I went back to the Warwickshire Regiment for about another week and about a week later my commanding officer sent for me again and he said "that officer at Dover Castle wants to see you again I've arranged transport.”

So I was taken back to Dover Castle and went in and he thanked me for coming and then he said, "Look Corporal Dickson now I am going to tell you why I want to see you, I want to know why you keep refusing to go for a commission in the Royal Corp of Signals, which is one of the finest regiments in the British Army and one of the most difficult to get a commission in.”

"Augh Sir," I said, "that's easy, my father served in the First World War in the Royal Irish Rifles, he talked about it all through my boyhood and I thought it was wonderful, so when I joined up I joined the same regiment and I was hoping I would get a commission in it.”

"Oh" he says "It's action you want.”

"Augh Sir, every young soldier Sir I think would like a bit of action, now I have been two years in the army and have never seen any proper action, just air raids and shells from France over into Deal the weeks I've been there.”

"Oh is it medals you’re after?"

I said, "Well Sir I suppose every young soldier would like a few medals.”

"Well I'm going to tell you something that I shouldn't, I will give you my personal guarantee that if you will take this commission in the Royal Corp of Signals that immediately you are commissioned you will be sent overseas right away and not only will you go overseas you will go immediately into action and I will be a terribly surprised man if you don't finish up with one or two very good gongs.”

I stood up all excited, "Oh Sir, nobody ever told me that before nobody every told me that before, if that's right Sir I'll go to the Corp of Signals you can put me down for the Corp of Signals."

"That good, I'm glad we've got that settled you can now go back to your unit".

So I went back to the Warwickshire Regiment. The next morning the Company Commander sent for me again and he said, "Corporal your Colonel has been on from Chigwell and your being transferred back to the Royal Ulster Rifles, he wants you back immediately."

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