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The Royal Army Service Corps
The Army Service Corps was formed in 1888 by an amalgamation of Commissariat and Transport Staff and Corps, whose history can be traced back to the formation of The Corps of Waggoners in 1794. Royal was added to the title in 1918.
The role of the Royal Army Service Corps is the supply regiment, delivering all supplies including petrol, food and ammunition up to the front line.
In 1965 the RASC amalgamated with Transportation and Movement Control Service of the Royal Engineers, to form Royal Corps of Transport.
Companies during the Second World War.
The Wartime Memories Project is the original WW1 and WW2 commemoration website.
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Apr 2015 - Please note we currently have a large backlog of submitted material, our volunteers are working through this as quickly as possible and all names, stories and photos will be added to the site. If you have already submitted a story to the site and your UID reference number is higher than 217875, your information is still in the queue, please do not resubmit without contacting us first.
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List of those who served with The Royal Army Service Corps during The Second World War
Select a story link or scoll down to browse those stories hosted on this website
- Sgt. Joseph Allen Read their Story.
- Sgt George Simpson Andrew (d.1st Jun 1945) Read their Story.
- Private Robert Cummings Anthony (d.17th June 1940) Read their Story.
- Raymond "Ach" Aquilina 182nd Coy
- Arthur William Ash
- driver Charles Ash
- Frank Stephen Ashby Read their Story.
- Pte. Cyril George Atkinson 10 Coy. Read their Story.
- Cpl. Leslie Ball Read their Story.
- Lt-Col George Banks OBE . Read their Story.
- Lt. Henry William Barham Read their Story.
- Dvr. Robert Beck Read their Story.
- John Levi Bending Read their Story.
- Dvr. William Millar Bennett 52 Lowland Division Read their Story.
- Pte. Robert Henry Bethell 2/4 HRC Workshops Read their Story.
- Dvr. Albert Andrew J. Bigg Read their Story.
- Dvr. Stanley Walter Boden 229 Coy Read their Story.
- George "Geordie" Braithwaite Read their Story.
- Pte. Ronald Robert Broadway 35th Searchlight Regiment, 342nd Battery Read their Story.
- Dvr. William Buckley Read their Story.
- Arthur Henry Budd 3 Amb Car Coy (d.1st August 1942) Read their Story.
- Sergeant George Frederick Thomas Burrows (d.5th July 1941) Read their Story.
- Dvr. Albert " " Carter (d.27th Mar 1945) Read their Story.
- Sgt. Arthur William Cheese Read their Story.
- L/Cpl Cyril Tracy "Ginger" Cheesman 613 C(M)T Coy Read their Story.
- Staff Sgt. Atherton Ffolliot Powell Christie Read their Story.
- Cpl. Albert Arthur "Nobby" Clark Read their Story.
- Dvr. James William Codling Read their Story.
- Cpl. Sidney Derek Collingwood Read their Story.
- Henry Thomas Compton 2nd Btn. Traffic Control coy. Read their Story.
- Pte. Charles Edward Connelly (d.16th Jan 1942) Read their Story.
- Cpl. Charles Henry Cowing C Section Read their Story.
- Robert Hutchinson "Boxer" Cox Read their Story.
- Cpl. David Cumming Read their Story.
- Sgt James George Robert Darling Read their Story.
- Harold Davis Read their Story.
- Douglas William Dellar 224 Company Read their Story.
- Sgt. Charles Arthur Denness 797 Water Transport Coy. Read their Story.
- Pte. Alfred Frank Denny Read their Story.
- Pte. Verdun Bramley Dilks Read their Story.
- Dvr. Leslie Claude Drake 196th Field Ambulance Read their Story.
- John Dukes Read their Story.
- John Dukes baker Read their Story.
- Cpl. John Dukes Read their Story.
- L/Cpl Reg Arthur Dunnage 43rd Wessex Coy Read their Story.
- Private W H Edward Read their Story.
- CQMS R. Elliott 255 Car Coy. (d. ) Read their Story.
- James Edward Ellis Read their Story.
- Albert Henry Emery Read their Story.
- Pte. Frank "Sparks" Farmer 580 Company Read their Story.
- Dvr. James Fletcher 290 Coy. Read their Story.
- Mechanised Sergeant Major Sidney Fox Read their Story.
- Sgt. John Charles Francis Read their Story.
- Dvr. G. H. Fuller 716 Coy Read their Story.
- Cpl. Charles Henry Francis "Chaz or Carl" Galliers c section 14th reserve MT coy Read their Story.
- Sgt. Charles Edward Gannon Read their Story.
- Driver John Gannon (d.7th February 1945) Read their Story.
- John William George Read their Story.
- Dvr. Frederick John Gilbert Read their Story.
- George Alfred Gilbert Read their Story.
- Sgt. Harry Gill 24th Coy Read their Story.
- 2nd Lt. Kenneth Roy Gough Read their Story.
- A/Maj. Ralph Kent Green 517 Petrol Coy. Read their Story.
- Capt. Samuel Robert Hall 180th General Transport Coy. Read their Story.
- Sgt. Edwin George Hann Read their Story.
- Dvr. Thomas Edward Haskell (d.20th Mar 1941)
- Pte. Sam Crossley Haswell Read their Story.
- Roy Hayward Burma star Chindits Read their Story.
- Pte. Cecil "'Pop'" Hearnden Read their Story.
- Sgt. Robert Heaton MID. Read their Story.
- L/Cpl. Thomas Waugh " " Heslop 236 Bridge Coy (d. 28/3/1944) Read their Story.
- Maj. Alexander Robert Clifford "Brasco" Hewer-Hewitt Read their Story.
- Pte. Jack Hilton Read their Story.
- Pte. George Caleb Hodgson (d.2nd Jun 1941) Read their Story.
- Bernard Arnold Holt Read their Story.
- Pte. John Nursall Hughes EFI ( NAAFI ) Read their Story.
- Lt Col. Ian Bruce Hunter MBE Read their Story.
- Herbert John Hynds 20 DID Read their Story.
- Dvr. Thomas Patrick Ireland (d.11th Aug 1944) Read their Story.
- Drvr. Thomas Patrick Ireland 282 General Transport Coy (d.11th Aug 1944)
- Sgt. George Wallace "Judd" Isherwood Read their Story.
- Joseph Jacobs Read their Story.
- Llew James Read their Story.
- Llew James Read their Story.
- William Griffith James 145 Coy. Read their Story.
- Sgt. William Griffith James Read their Story.
- Cpl, Samuel Emlyn Jones Read their Story.
- Pte. Kanchana Senerat Kadigawe MID 5th Btn (Scottish) Read their Story.
- L/Cpl Thomas Kelly (d.11th Jun 1940) Read their Story.
- Reginald King Read their Story.
- Dvr. Stanley Lambert 314 Coy. Read their Story.
- Joseph Lawson 37th Reserve MT Read their Story.
- William "Beeky" Lay
- Cpl. Jack Lee 3 Car Ambulance coy Read their Story.
- John Little Read their Story.
- William Lowe 545 Tank Transporter Company Read their Story.
- Cpt. William Lowing Read their Story.
- Bernard Lyde 384 Company Read their Story.
- Patrick Mahoney Read their Story.
- Sgt Mjr. Charles Manchester Read their Story.
- Dvr. Albert Martin Read their Story.
- Private William Martin Read their Story.
- Sydney Matthews 384 General Transport Coy (d.15th Feb 1942) Read their Story.
- Mjr. Frank William John May Read their Story.
- Dvr. Ronald McCormick 10th General Transport Company. Read their Story.
- James George McCulloch Read their Story.
- Driver Charles McDougall Read their Story.
- Private Robert Lional Mead (d.2004) Read their Story.
- WO1. Bernard Peter "Pat" Meagher Read their Story.
- L/Cpl Reginald William Morris
- Dvr. Luke Morrisroe Read their Story.
- Cpl. Douglas Phillip Oliver Read their Story.
- Dvr. Edward Owen 240th Coy. No 1 Platoon Read their Story.
- Driver James Parker 384/909 Company Read their Story.
- Dvr. George Parkinson Read their Story.
- Rex Parkinson
- Pte. Arthur Sidney "Taffy" Pascoe 73 G.T.Coy Read their Story.
- Pte. Payne Read their Story.
- Cecil Roy Perkins Read their Story.
- Sgt. James Perkins 36 Coy. Read their Story.
- L/Cpl. Henry William John Pettit 298G.T.Coy Workshops Read their Story.
- Frederick J. Pinnell (d.17th July 1941) Read their Story.
- Frederick J. Pinnell (d.17th July 1941) Read their Story.
- Dvr. Frederick James Pollard 329 T.C. Coy Read their Story.
- Pte. William Henry Price Read their Story.
- L\Cpl. Walter Thomas Redpath Read their Story.
- Pte. Horace Revill
- Dvr. Douglas Haig Rippin Read their Story.
- Capt. Cyril Edward "Robbie" Roberts Read their Story.
- Dvr. Jack Robinson 585 Coy Read their Story.
- Gordon Henry Rout RASC Read their Story.
- Bertie John Rowlands Read their Story.
- Dvr. Harold Sanders 501 Ammunition Coy. Read their Story.
- Dvr. Arthur Saunders Read their Story.
- Dvr. Leslie Gilbert Scott (d.29th Nov 1941) Read his Story.
- Dvr. Joe Sheen Read their Story.
- Pte. Ronald Frederick "Shep" Shepherd 8th Battalion Read their Story.
- Pte. Jack Percival Sheppard Read their Story.
- L/Cpl. Ralph William John Shotter (d.17th Jun 1940) Read their Story.
- Dvr. John Sinderson Read their Story.
- Dvr. Edgar Maitland Skerritt Read their Story.
- Pte. Thomas William Slight Read their Story.
- RSM William Henry "Harry" Smallwood Read their Story.
- Pte. Leslie Arthur Smith Read their Story.
- S/Sgt. Janes Hercules "Jerry" Sossick 27 A.A. Bde.(TA) Read their Story.
- SQMS Albert Edward "Spav" Spavins Read their Story.
- Dvr. Jack Symonds Read their Story.
- Pte. Leonard Henry Taylor Read their Story.
- Corporal Percy Thackray Read their Story.
- Richard George Tossell Read their Story.
- Lt. Reginald Martyn Tucker 29th Station Transport Company Read their Story.
- Dvr. Harry Usher (d.31st Mar 1945) Read their Story.
- Cpl David Elwyn Vaughan (d.14th Aug 1940) Read their Story.
- Pte. Harry "Sonny" Walker Read their Story.
- Dvr. Edmund R.A. Warren Read their Story.
- Reginald Herbert Watson Read their Story.
- Pte. Harry John Weeks 2 Motorboat Company (d.4th Aug 1943) Read their Story.
- Corporal Leonard John Albert Wenham Mentioned in Dispatches
- Capt. Leonard Weston (d.13th Feb 1942) Read their Story.
- Richard Henry James Whiting (d.17th Sept 1945) Read their Story.
- Pte. William P. K. Wightman (d.28th Jan 1947) Read their Story.
- Sgt. Ronald Hubert Wilkinson Read their Story.
- Staff Sargeant Robert John Williams Read their Story.
- Sgt. William Morris Williams (d.21st July 1946)
- Cpl. John Derek Williamson Read his Story.
- Martin Sidney Wilson Read their Story.
- Lieutenant-Colonel Philip J L Wooley-Lane Read their Story.
- Pte. Arthur Albert Philip Wray 514th Coy. Read their Story.
- Corporal Fredrick Wyman Read their Story.
- Pte W Ashton
- Dvr R Booty
- Ralph Allison Brown. Read his story
- Cpl. George Burton Read his story
- Ron Chiverton. Read his story
- Charlie Corden Read his story
- Pte J Conby
- Sam Cooper. Read his story
- Alfred William Cox. Read his story
- Bill Elliott Read his story
- James Mackie Fowler Read his story
- Maj F C J Goodyer-Pain. RASC Read his story
- Pte. J Graham
- RSM. S C J Gyford
- Dvr F Haitt
- Danny Hampton. driver Read his Story
- Thomas Edward Hopkins Read his story
- George Derrick "Dink" Hunt Read his Story
- William Jenkins. Read his Story
- Ron Jones. RASC Read his story
- L/Cpl T Keats
- Norman Keep
- Bob Lee. 384 Company Read his Story
- John Little. Read his story
- Cpl J Lord
- Bernard Lyde. 384 Company Read his Story
- Dvr Charles Alexander McQuillin. 286 Coy, R.A.S.C. (Bluebirds) Read his story
- Cpl J Mann
- Sgt. Arthur W. Marfleet. Read his story
- Harry Mathieson. Driver. 327 Coy/217 Field Ambulance (att.) Jeep Platoon/57 Coy 36th Inf Brigade. Read his story
- Pte. Harry William May Read his Story
- Freddie Mills
- Driver Glen Oram. Read his Story
- Capt Paterson.
- Lt Col. N W Reeves C.O. RASC Base depot
- Harry Richards. Read his story
- Lt. J A Richardson
- Stan Rogers Read his story
- John Saintsbury. Read his Story
- L/Cpl John Seale. RASC
- Staff Sergeant Skinner. 384 Company Read his Story
- Sgt. Frank Sumsion Read his story
- Robert Taylor. Read his story
- L/Cpl H Wineburg
- Harry Vera
- Bill Wynn-Werninck. 19 Company RASC (MT). Read his story
Cpl. Charles Henry Francis "Chaz or Carl" Galliers c section 14th reserve MT coy RASCMy paternal grandfather Corporal Charles Henry Francis Galliers, RASC "C" section, 14th reserve MT coy, middle east forces in 1941 was in the POW Camp PG78 in Italy after 1942 (not sure of dates) and then stalag IVB during spring 1944 (I have a letter sent home with april 1944 on it). He died 3 years ago, the only memories he told were of being starving hungry in the Italian camp and chewing boot leather to stave off hunger and when a donkey was brought into camp pulling a cart it didn't live to leave! He was treated better by the Germans. I have some photos with a couple of other POWs names on the back - Geoff Galloway and George Frick (?can't read the writing properly looks like Frick) - also some photos of my grandad working on building a war memorial and on the back it reads "newborderf am elbe, (again not sure of spelling) prisoners of war cemetary, taken 7th may 1944". There is also a photo of a german guard - his name on the back " ? officer Siebel". Anyone who has any info about my grandad, his platoon, the camps he was in I would be interested to hear from them. I will send scans of the photos I have later when I have mastered the technology!Sam Galliers
L/Cpl. Ralph William John Shotter Royal Army Service Corps (d.17th Jun 1940)My grandmother was romantically involved with Ralph Shotter, who was in the Royal Army Services Corps and has heard that he was on board the Lancastria when it sunk. He was 21 years old. Apparently he has no known grave, but his name appears on a war memorial in Dunkirk, France, which I would love to take her to see. Also, she would love to hear from anyone who may have known Ralph and to hear of any last memories of him or see any pictures. Please email me if you have any further information. Many thanks.Claire Wilmot
Pte. Harry John Weeks 2 Motorboat Company RASC (d.4th Aug 1943)I discovered some pictures and info in my Gran's bits and peices about two of her brothers who were killed in WW2. I would appreciate any info on Harry Weeks or just about his unit, no 2 or no 247 motorboat company. Thanks in hope and anticipationRoy Strickland
Cpl David Elwyn Vaughan Royal Army Service Corps (d.14th Aug 1940)I am desperately trying to trace my Grandfather, David Vaughan who died in the Second World War aged 27. His wife was Annie may Vaughan and she died aged 33 in 1950. They lived in Glyneath, South Wales and the circumstances surrounding his death are vague. His only son died in 1993 and his only daughter, my mum is unable to recall any memories due to his death when she was only 9 years oldKeithForward
Pte. Cecil "'Pop'" Hearnden Royal Army Service CorpsMy father served in WW1 having falsified his age to join up. He was in the reserve at start of WW2. and went with the BEF to France. During retreat to Dunkirk, he was in ambulance with other wounded and didn't make it to the beaches. They holed up in a barn for a few days but was captured by the Germans and ended up in Stalag XXB. From what I can find out this was the only camp in that area,but I distinctly remember my Mother addressing letters' Nr Konigsburg'. He said very little about his experiences, but he told us he was on the' Long March' he owed his life to a german soldier who dug up vegetables from the fields. I'm just getting around to doing my family history! If anybody can help I'll be very grateful.Charles Hearnden
John DukesHello. My grandad, John Dukes, passed away a couple of years ago, and I am trying to find out anything I can about him. He was called up for duty as a baker on the 25th of April 1941, and he was demobed on the 19th of June 1946. He left a story of his life in the army from 1941 to 1946, but I would like to know more information if there is any. I hope someone can help. Thank you.Richard Pryor
Bernard Lyde 384 CompanyI'm writing on behalf of my grandad, Bernard Lyde, who has just celebrated his 91st birthday. He and my Nan, Margaret, have been married for over 66 years. Nan & Gramp have lived for nearly all their lives in Weymouth, Dorset. He served in the North African desert in 1941/42 in 384 Company, Royal Army Service Corps (RASC). Gramp was called up and enlisted at Sutton-on-Trent on 27 June 1940. He spent the war in N Africa and Italy before being demobbed in January 1946. Gramp is especially keen to make contact with his mate, Bob Lee, or his family. In late 1946 Bob was on holiday with his wife in Burton Bradstock, Dorset. Nan & Gramp met up with them in the Dove Inn at Burton Bradstock. Intending to keep in touch, Gramp made a note of Bob's details on the back of a packet of cigarettes, but subsequently lost it and they never made contact again. Gramp believes that Bob was originally from the London area. It would be fantastic if Gramp heard from Bob or any of the other lads in 384 Co.Mark Honnor
John Dukes baker Royal Army Service Corpshello, this is my grandad. He passed away a couple of years ago and I am trying to find out anything I can about him. He was called up for duty on the 25th April 1941 and he was demobbed on the 19th June 1946. He left a story of his life in the army from 1941 to 1946, but I would like to know more. If there is any more about him, I hope someone can help. Thank you.Richard Pryor
RSM William Henry "Harry" Smallwood Royal Army Service CorpsMy husband's father has recently passed away and my husband would love to know about his service record, His Name is William Henry Smallwood, and he was a Regimental Sargeant Major, and he served in Burma during WW2. I believe he joined the RASC in Haydock near St.Helens (which was then in Lancashire) around 1939 at the beginning of the war. He was also a great bandsman and may have played in an army band I would be very greateful for any information anyone can give me.Gillian Smallwood
Private W H Edward Royal Army Service CorpsLooking for information on the above Service Man he is on Fetcham War Memorial WW2 all the others I have managed to identifyO Steele
Private Robert Lional Mead Royal Army Service Corps (d.2004)My Dad, Private Robert Lional Mead, served with the Royal Army Service Corps. He was captured at Dunkirk and spent the duration of the war in Stalag XXB. He is in the picture sent in by Robert Hedges' family. We have several photos taken in Stalag XXB. He died in 2004 aged 91.Val Pearce
Corporal Fredrick Wyman Service CorpsFredrick Wyman was my grandfather. I am trying to find some information on him as our family has so little. We know that he was a driver in the Royal Army Service Corps and that he drove some quite influential people around but that is it, we would love to know more.Sadie Barnard
Arthur Henry Budd 3 Amb Car Coy Royal Army Service Corps (d.1st August 1942)I am trying to research my uncle's war years. Arthur Henry Budd was in the royal army service corps, he was killed 01/08/1942. Does anyone remember him?Colin Budd
Richard Henry James Whiting Royal Army Service Corps (d.17th Sept 1945)My grandfather Richard Henry James Whiting, died in Rimini at the end of the war on 17 Sept 1945. He was waiting for his date to come home to Croyden after having served 6.5 years - he went in with the Territorial Army and served with the Royal Army Service Corps. He had written to the Croydon Advertiser complaining at how long it was taking to get them home - especially as he had not had any leave (or seen his little girl) for 2.5 years. His little girl (my mother) was 2.5 years old when he died - he never did get home to see her. He offered to do a 'run' for his mate and was either shot by a sniper or had a road accident - nobody knows. He was 27 when he died.
I am going to Coriano Ridge war cemetery in Rimini to pay my respects to my Grandfather, of whom I am very proud. I wondered if there was any way of finding any one who might have known him, or what had happened to him. I know it is a tall order but nothing ventured nothing gained.Amanda Newman
George Alfred Gilbert Royal Army Service corpMy grandad, George Alfred Gilbert RASC, was mentioned in despatches during World War II and I would be very interested to know how I can find out what he was mentioned for.Karen Moore
William Lowe 545 Tank Transporter Company Royal Army Service CorpsCan anybody please tell me which beach the 545 Tank Transporter Company, Royal Army Service Corps arrived at on D-Day and what direction they took as the weeks unfolded?
My father William Lowe was a driver in the 545 from 1940-1946. He took tanks into N.France travelling through Belgium and eventually ended up in the Olympic Stadium in Berlin. His Service Number was T/293822 and we have many documents from around the 1943 era.Beverley Hateley-Lowe
Joseph Lawson 37th Reserve MT Royal Army Service CorpsMy name is Joseph Lawson. I enlisted in 1940, although I wanted to join RAF, when I told the recruiting Officer I could drive, there was only one place for me: as a driver with the RASC. After basic training, I joined the 37th Reserve MT and was sent off to North Africa to join the Middle Eastern Expeditionary Force, later to be known as the 8th Army. During my time in the Desert, I was attached to many different Regiments and Divisions: 4th Indians, New Zealand, British 10 Corps. After El Alamein, I then joined up with 1st Army for the Italian campaign, landing at Salerno, near Naples. And in Italy I stayed until 1945, eventually being de-mobbed in 1946, six years after saying goodbye to my family and friends. I am proud to say that I was a D Day Dodger!
It would make me very happy to make contact with anyone who also got their "knees brown" and possibly swap some stories of leave in the Cairo souks, Alex, or Rome. In Winston's words: "Hello My Dear Desert Rat"Joseph Lawson
Gordon Henry Rout RASC 8th ArmyI am trying to trace anyone who may have have known my great uncle Gordon Rout. He served in the RASC in East Africa and then in Italy. He was attached to the Eighth Army.
I have recently discovered a diary he appears to written after the war in which he recounts his experiences from setting off up the Clyde in May 1942, to arriving in Egypt 9 weeks later.
I would be interested to hear from anyone who has information about him as all I have are his diary, some photos and his medals which although give a good picture of the war and his experiences, I would like to know more about what he was like as a person.Catherine Starling
Sergeant George Frederick Thomas Burrows (d.5th July 1941)My father, Sergeant George Frederick Thomas Burrows, R.A.S.C. had been in France in the BEF and managed to get home on one of the little ships at Dunkirk. I would love to know who rescued him. After a convalescent, he was sent out to Africa, not sure quite where they intended to land. His ship was the HMS Anselm and he was one who didn't get off. I was about 6 years old at the time with 'ovaltiney' sisters of 4 and 2 and Mum expecting a baby in the November as Dad was killed in July
He was the sun in my sky and it took me over 60 years to be healed of the grief I felt at his death. This being through my Christian faith and a loving counsellor. War doesn't end with the peace treaty, as I and many others can testify.
I have a Liverpool Echo report of the incident and Padre Cedric Pugh, who, eventually received his well earned medal. It took my local councillors 50 years to get our lost loved ones names put on a monument.I also have many photos of Dad and one of Mum that he carried with him all through the BEF and Dunkirk. Also a small cutting about someone who was rescued from the Anselm. I am not very good with the computer but would be very willing to get good copies if anyone cared to have one.
Sincerely and thanks for the site. I will try and send a donation but am now an OAP and it isn't financially easy in this 'land fit for heroes'.Maureen Bessie Bentley
Pte. John Nursall Hughes EFI ( NAAFI ) Royal Army Service CorpsI am the son of the above man. I believe that he was a Clerk working for the NAAFI in Liverpool prior to the outbreak of the war. NAAFI needed staff to go overseas, so to enable them to be in uniform, they were asked to volunteer. They were attached to the Royal Army Service Corpsin an organisation called Expeditionary Forces Institute, EFI. He was in France in 1940 and was evacuated through St. Nazaire on 17th June 1940. He told me that he was waiting on the quayside, awaiting embarkation. I believe that he was waiting on the quay when the Lancastria was sunk. He was evacuated to Falmouth. and was married on 23rd June 1940 I would be interested in contacting other RASC/EFI families or St.Nazaire survivors. Additionally, Our Family later new and lived close to James Dunbar O.B.E. Chief Engineer of HMT Lancastria on 17 June 1940, and who I believe was awarded his OBE for his role that day.Colin Hughes
Frederick J. Pinnell Royal Army Service Corps. (d.17th July 1941)One of my grandfathers' cousins, Frederick J. Pinnell, served with the Royal Army Service Corps during the Second World War. He was killed in action on 17th July 1941, and is buried in the Suda Bay War Cemetry, Crete. So I persume he was killed in the defence of Crete, though my grandfather heard he was killed whilst trying to escape from an Italian POW camp, though this was just a rumour.Mike Symons
Llew James RASCMy father was captured in North Africa and then held in Stalag XV111A. I have a few photos of him and some mates; one photo has an address on it – Bill Pullan of Harrogate.
Does anyone have any info on my father as he never really spoke about the war?David James
Frederick J. Pinnell Royal Army Service Corps. (d.17th July 1941)One of my grandfathers' cousins, Frederick J. Pinnell, served with the Royal Army Service Corps during the Second World War. He was killed in action on 17th July 1941, and is buried in the Suda Bay War Cemetry, Crete. So I persume he was killed in the defence of Crete, though my grandfather heard he was killed whilst trying to escape from an Italian POW camp, though this was just a rumour.Mike Symons
Llew James RASCMy father was captured in North Africa and then held in Stalag XV111A. I have a few photos of him and some mates; one photo has an address on it – Bill Pullan of Harrogate.
Does anyone have any info on my father as he never really spoke about the war?David James
Lieutenant-Colonel Philip J L Wooley-Lane RASCMy uncle, Philip Woolley-Lane, passed out of RMC Sandhurst in 1928 and served in the RASC until about 1950. I was told he was at Dunkirk. Can anyone tell me anything about his war service?Edward S Webber
Private Robert Cummings Anthony (d.17th June 1940)My uncle was on the Lancastria although I don't know too much about him. He was only 21, just a boy as were so many others. His name was Robert Anthony, and was a baker with the Royal Army Service Corps. He was on deck when the ship was bombed, but was terrified of the water, and wouldn't jump when his pals did. They shouted for him to jump, but he was too frightened. Some of his friends survived, and it was they who came and told his mother what had happened.
Although he was an only son, and just a boy, his name was never put on the war memorial here in Ayr, which his mother never understood. But after many letters and these long years his name is now on a small plate, under the memorial, too late for his mother.
Robert Anthony is buried in the Normoutier-en-L'Ile Communal Cemetery.Fiona McClung
Driver John Gannon RASC (d.7th February 1945)During the second World War the Allied and German soldiers, who were killed in Goirle, Noord Brabant, the Netherlands and in the neighbourhood, were buried at the Roman Catholic cemetery from the parish St. Jan in Goirle.
After the war the remains of the German soldiers were reburied in Ysselsteijn (near Venray) and most of the allied soldiers were reburied in Bergen op Zoom (War Cemetery and Canadian War Cemetery) and in Leopoldsburg (Belgium, War Cemetery).
At this moment there are 27 Allied graves in Goirle. Every year we commemorate the victims of World War II, both soldiers and civilians. We know their names, but who were the persons behind the names? What were their lives before they died? Where did they come from? How did they die? Under what circumstances?
It is my intention to give the victims a face, to write and keep the story behind the gravestones because we always will remember the soldier who died for our liberty. We can forget names, but not faces. I will try to write down all their stories for the next generation so they will know who was commemorated.
Maybe someone can help me with Driver John Gannon, RASC T/14527676, who died on the 7th February 1945, age 20.
Send me a letter or an e-mail with additional information, a photograph or a copy of any personal document, which I can use for The Memory Book or a website. Thank you in advance for your help.Gerrit Kobes
John William George RASCI hope that someone can help. My grandfather was John William George T/129507. He was a driver with the RASC and was, I believe, captured at St Valery around the time of the Dunkirk evacuations. From there he went to Brahnau Camp 2 and was most certainly there over Christmas 1942 - I have a small piece of paper signed by other servicemen in way of a Christmas card.
Like so many others, would not speak about his wartime experiences. I have managed to piece together very little from the few documents I found at his house when he passed away.
I would love to hear from anybody who knew him or anyone who can lead me in the right direction to find out what his experiences were. Many thanks for any help offeredAdam Dingle
Corporal Percy Thackray RASCMy dad, Corporal Percy Thackray, joined the RASC before WW2 and left in 1949; just wondered if any one could remember him, as he never told me about WW2 and what he did, although I think he was a batman driver.Alan Thackray
Private William Martin RASCI am trying to find out more about my Dad, William Martin. He came from Perth Scotland. Was captured at St Valery in June 1940 and was a POW at Stalag V111B. He was a private in the RASC.Wilma Campbell
Pte. Payne Royal Army Service CorpsExtract from newspaper report from an Interview with Private Payne from Luton, Chatham August 1940.
With the collapse of the French army Private Payne was involved in the evacuation of the 2nd BEF and he and other troops found themselves aboard the ill fated SS Lancastria.
‘The story of the Lancastria has now been told’ he said, ’but one thing that was not sufficiently emphasised was the courage of the troops on board.
‘It has been suggested that the enemy were not aware of the Lancastria’s identity after she had sunk I think I can confirm that’ ‘A Corporal Williamson and myself, both clerks with the R.A.S.C., were manning a Bren gun on the top deck. He was firing and I was feeding the gun. We brought down the plane that bombed the boat and it therefore did not return to its base to tell the tale.
In the explosion which followed the bombing my comrade was severely injured. I think I can say that I saved his life because although he was practically unconscious I managed to dress his wounds and get him safely on a boat. I placed him on the last lifeboat to leave the ship. I tried to get into a boat myself, but overbalanced and fell into the water. I had no life belt and I could not swim, but I found an oar in the water and was able to hold myself up. I was in the water more than 2 hours. We were machine gunned during part of it, but I came through okay and was finally picked up by a French trawler.
When I got aboard I found my comrade was there too. He was lying unconscious on the deck and although I was terribly wet and weary I made a pillow for him out of some wet clothing and stayed with him until we were transferred to a bigger ship. Here he was operated on and is, I believe, now in hospital in England.
I think his feat in shooting down the German plane is deserving of some recognition.
Private Payne added that his experience had somewhat affected his help and that he has now been graded B.1.
Corporal Williamson was my father John Derek Williamson, who died when he was 68 years old in 1988.Ann Parker
Cpl. John Derek Williamson Royal Army Service CorpsAnn Parker
Frank Stephen Ashby Royal Army Service CorpsMy grandad, Frank Stephen Ashby, served as a driver in the Royal Army Service Corps from 1939. Very sadly, he died in 1947 at the age of 27 from TB which he contracted during the war. As my dad was only one year old at the time he cannot remember him and would love to know more about him. We know he served in Dunkirk but have no other information. We would love to know if anybody can remember Frank and if they could share any memories with us. Many thanks.Clare Wood
Sgt George Simpson Andrew Royal Army Service Corps (d.1st Jun 1945)died in Borneo captured in Garoet, Java whilst setting up communications for British invasion. Supposed M.I.A (missing in action) one week before Regular Soldier for 7 years. Does anybody have any information on Sgt Geogre Simpson Andrew service number: 193921, RASC, or even know where I can look for a regimental photo. He Joined the Army reserve in 1937, then joined the RASC in 1938. I did hear at one point that there maybe people who were in the same POW camp in Borneo still alive. Thank you for you time.Adam James Fowler
Driver Charles McDougallMy father Charles McDougall of Aberfeldy, Perthshire was taken prisoner at St Valery. His number was T135468. He was a driver in the RASC. He seldom spoke of his experiences in depth, but used to give us snippets of information..
He spoke of being lined up to be shot on two separate occasions, but each time was reprieved...I think that was a form of mental torture. He told us of making soup from nettles and from potato peelings and he worked in a salt mine. He told us that he was in on several escape plans but did nor ever try to escape himself as he reckoned he was too old and might hold the others back. He told us that the Gaelic speakers in the camp were able to pass information to each other without the Guards knowing what they were saying. He told us of the march through Poland when men would be shot if they stopped for a second. He weighed 6 stone when he came home and was of a nervous disposition for the rest of his life.Kay Liney
Lt Col. Ian Bruce Hunter MBE Royal Army Service CorpsI would like to find anyone who knew my father Ian Hunter, during the war. He served in Africa and Italy and was assistant director of supplies and transport in Naples. He enlisted as a private at the beginning of the war and rose to the rank of Lt Colonel. He became an impresario after the war running the Edinburgh Festival followed by many other festivals and managed artists such as Yehudi Menuhin and Daniel Barenboim. He died in 2003. I would like also to find out where else he may have served during the war.Serena Lee
L/Cpl. Thomas Waugh " " Heslop 236 Bridge Coy (d. 28/3/1944)Thomas W Heslop was my mother's eldest brother. All that I know about him was that he served with 236 Bridge Coy RASC and was killed in Italy on 28/3/44 and is buried in Minturno War Cemetry about 78 km north Of Naples.
I have a recollection of being told many years ago that the truck he was driving hit a mine, but I have no way of knowing if this is correct. I would be interested to hear from anyone who may remember him,or indeed from anyone who can give me more information about 236 Bridge Coy,where they were and what action they were involved with at the time.Peter Wood
Sgt. Robert Heaton MID. Royal ArtilleryMy Father, Robert Heaton, was in the RASC and served with the BEF in Europe and later with the Eighth Army in the Middle East (and I think in Italy) after the war he was with BAOR in Germany. I think he may have transferred regiments, as his service medals are in a box which has RA (presumably Royal Artillery) on the back.
When he was first in the Army he had the prefix T before his number, by the time of his discharge the prefix was S. I think that he was a driver at first but later was a despatch rider. He has the France and Germany Star, 1939-1945 Star, Italy Star, Defence Medal and an oak leaf on a ribbon with a narrow red stripe in the centre with a narrow white stripe, then a blue, then a red on either side. I don't know if there should be a medal to go with that.
I have a birthday card which he sent me with T 50124 Dvr R Heaton, H Q 5th Div, BEF on the back. I know that he was at Dunkirk and that he was home more than once on embarkation leave (he seemed to get sent back to Fulwood Barracks Preston before embarkation).
Quite often I was allowed to sew new insignia on his uniform and I was very proud whenever he added a stripe, he also let me clean his buttons - as I was very young I wonder now if he got into trouble for things not done correctly but I know that he would think it worth it for the love that went into those tasks.
I would love to know his full record, particularly why he was mentioned in despatches (he always said that it was for getting the General's beer through, but didn't say which General although I know that Monty was his great hero)
NOTE: The medal ribbon described is for the War Medal and there should be a medal to accompany it, it is a circular medal with the kings head on the front and a lion and the date 1939-1945 on the reverse.Barbara Radway
Capt. Samuel Robert Hall 180th General Transport Coy. Royal Army Service CorpsMy father, Capt. Sam Hall was with the R.A.S.C. commanding the 180th General Transport Company in N. Africa and later in Italy and Germany. Does anyone remember him at the clean up in Belsen concentration camp or in the desert or Italy?Carl R. Hall
Dvr. Albert " " Carter (d.27th Mar 1945)Albert Carter was my Dad he was a driver and was killed in action on 27th March 1945, somewhere on the German borders, he is buried in the Reichswald forest. He was transferred from 9th battalion Hants Regiment to RASC on 11/2/42. I would love to hear from any one who knew of him and exactly where and how he died.Susie Pateman
Staff Sargeant Robert John WilliamsI am trying to find information on my Grandfather, Robert John Williams, who was known as Jack. He was a Staff Sergeant and was 26 years old in 1940, was lodged at 16 Eaton Square SW1 London and was RASC. Would love to hear from anyone who knows him/knew him at the timeLayla Williams
Dvr. G. H. Fuller 716 Coy Royal Army Service CorpsI am trying to piece together the crash site of the glider which G.H. Fuller was in on D-Day along with a war correspondent and a Lieut plus jeep trailer and explosives etc. on Operation Tonga. I believe driver Fuller was taken as POW, my uncle (the pilot) died on landing. The glider was one of four assigned to land on zone V for the attack on Merville.
I hope that I have not stirred up any bad memories with this request if so then I must apologise,but if anyone can supply any info I would be very grateful.Mr R W Ockwell
Dvr. Douglas Haig Rippin Royal Army Service CorpsDouglas Rippin was my Grandfather, I was only six when he died and unfortunately he only spoke about the war to his father. The only information I know is his regiment and that he was a driver, driving supplies and passengers. I've been told he drove for Monty Vera Lynn and David Niven. Apparently he ended up in Brest and he was at Normandy. Any help in finding out more would be welcomed.Darren Vidler
Driver James Parker 384/909 Company Royal Army Service CorpsMy father Jim Parker was RASC. he served in North Africa and did a stint in the LRDG.Palestine 1940/1943 then BNAF Sept/43 to Oct/44. I tried to get him to the Tobruck cementary to no avail. Just before he died in 1994 I promised to visit the cementary at the Sangro River for him.... quote ' I left a lot of my mates there ' at last I am going June 2009, to say thanks to all those men that were my dads mates but didn't come back as he did He wasnt one for reunions but often wondered what happened to certain people, I dont know where he met up with them or what nationality ,as many sons and daughters like myself know Dads didnt talk much about the war. In the desert he drove a large lorry painted yellow known as the Yellow Peril. I was very close to my father and cannot equate war doings with the gentle man that I knew. I doubt there is anyone alive now that knew him but if anyone has mementos that include my father's name please contact me.Ann Parker
Capt. Cyril Edward "Robbie" Roberts Royal Army Service CorpsAs my mother and her family had fled Belgium during WWI and spent 5 years in Nottingham, we were glad to host a British RASC officer, stationed in Brussels, during the winter of '44-'45. As children, my brother and I loved Capt. Roberts! My mother would try her best to get us in bed before he came home at night as he would start to play with us. As a matter of fact, he hadn't seen his own daughter since the beginning of the war. One of his favorite games was to tell us we were getting on a train and he would use his big torch as a whistle and off we went around the house.
His father had been killed during WWI and his body was lost. Through the Imperial War Graves Commission, he learned that his father's name was engraved on a monument in Ypres. We all drove to the Tyne Cot Cenetery if I remember it right and I have a picture Robbie standing next to his father's name.
His wife and daughter visited him and stayed at our house. After the war, he visited my parents several times. The last address I have for him is: 18 Manor Drive, Halifax, Yorks. This was written in my mother's address book and she died in 1970. I'm sure he's gone too but maybe his daughter is still around. Like me, she must be an old lady by now! I would love to hear from her or any of Robbie's relations.Claudine De Leener
Dvr. Albert Andrew J. Bigg Royal Army Service CorpsI am looking for information on Albert Bigg and his service in the RASC, I know that in 1944 he was awarded the africa star with eighth army, and that he enlisted in 1926 in canterbury, but I have no other information so any further details or memories of him would be appreciated.Catherine Starling
Pte. Charles Edward Connelly 46th Div Supply Coy. (d.16th Jan 1942)I was only seven years old when my brother was killed. He was only 21 and my mother went white overnight. I have longed to know how he died because I was told he was on manouvers in Gravesend Kent. His body was brought home and an officer came to the house with a flag for his coffin. When I smell Brylcream his memory floods backFlorence Hardman
Cpl. David Cumming Royal Army Service CorpsDavid Cumming was captured at Tobruk and was a prisoner of war he was taken through Italy were I believe he escaped but was recaptured he ended up in Auschwitz in 1944 he escaped from Auschwitz and joined the Polish resistance he returned home to Carluke, Lanarkshire but he has now since died. I am married to his daughter I would be grateful for any information anyone has.William Bartley
L/Cpl Reg Arthur Dunnage 43rd Wessex Coy Royal Army Service CorpsMy Father joined the British Army in 1942 after losing his Mother and Sister to the German Bombing of London. He lied about his age and was accepted as his personnel records of birth were destroyed in the bombing. He was trained as a soldier and then as a specialist with pack animals and sent to Burma. He was in theatre for 6 months before the military discovered his age through county records. He was repatriated to England in time for his 17th Birthday and told not to even mention he had been in Burma. Apparently nobody wanted to admit they had sent a 16 year old to Burma, let alone the ramifications if the public found out.
Upon his return to England he began taking any course in which he could get out of barracks. Apparently your pay also went up with every qualification. He was trained as sniper, demolitions, driver, driver Ic, medic, crew commander, gunner, parachutist, army commando, and several other courses all listed in his paybook.
He took part in at least 1 cross channel raid on German radar installations that I am aware of as a demolitions expert. He was floated around from unit to unit and finally attached semi permanent to the 43rd Wessex with the RASC. His older brother was a MP with the division and asked to have him attached to keep an eye on him as they say.
He took part in the Arnhem drop as a jump master. His aircraft was shot down and he did survive, though his chute did not open properly and he was disabled on landing. It was several days before he was found by the advancing British Forces. He recuperated in Holland after and still has contact with the Dutch family he was billeted with.
After the wars end he was the senior NCO at the British Stables at the Berlin Olympic Stadium for 4 years I believe. He was demobbed in mid 1949, and then almost immediately remustered for Korea. He was attached with the 29th independent Infantry Brigade and set sail on the Empire Fowey for Korea, and arrived there in I believe December of 1950. Originally he was supposed to be part of the 26th Field Ambulance, but they were disbanded almost immediately and he was then made a crew commander of a Daimler Armoured Car and given convoy escort duties. He was wounded 6 months later while escorting a convoy.
If anyone remembers my Dad I am sure he would like to hear from you. He is alive and well and living in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, CanadaSean Dunnage
Pte. Alfred Frank Denny Royal Army Service CorpsI am trying to trace the steps of Private Alf Denny, POW no 19372, he came from Ipswich Suffolk. He was taken prisoner very early in the war and spent time at Stalag XXA, BAB20/20. I would really like to hear from anyone who knew him at that time.Clive Claxton
Reginald Herbert Watson Royal Army Service CorpsI would like anyone who knew my Dad, Reginald Watson to give me more information about his war service. I know he served in the Middle East and spoke about being in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Are there any of his old comrades out there? Sadly Dad died some years ago.Kathy Nunn
Bernard Arnold Holt Royal Army Service CorpsMy grandfather Bernard Holt served in WW2 but he never went into detail. I have some German memorabilia and a box with his name, regiment and service number on it. I would like to know where he served and any other info if possible.Martin Holt
CQMS R. Elliott 255 Car Coy. Royal Army Service Corps (d. )I have recently purchased some old books and maps. I have found a German Phrase book issued to 3127590 CQMS Elliott R , 255 Car Company RASC,Stationed at Hoechst , Nr Frankfurt , Germany 26th August 1945. I wonder if he is still alive or perhaps his relations might be interested in this book. I would willingly send it to them.P.H.Curtis
Sgt. George Wallace "Judd" Isherwood Royal Army Service CorpsMy Uncle, George Isherwood was on board SS Empress of Asia when it was bombed and sunk in Feb 1942 off Singapore. He stepped onto an Australian destroyer without even getting his feet wet! He was captured several days later in Singapore without firing a shot and incarcerated in Changi jail. At the end of the war he was on board a transport taking him and thousands of others to Japan as slave labour.
We learned very little of his time in Changi, like so many others he was most reluctant to talk about it and destroyed virtually all records and letters that he sent to his family and fiancé. It was only from one of his friends, Sgt Gwyn Jones from Coed Poeth we learned that he had been picked upon frequently for beatings by the Japs (Nips as they called them) due to his small size. Apparently, the Japs singled out anyone especially tall or small. Gwyn incidentally managed to hide from the Japs an exquisite gold ring which contained a watch, I saw it a few years later when he visited us.
George refused all medals etc. awarded to Service personnel after the war. On their return he sailed in the former liner Sobieski which called at Cape Town where they were treated like kings, fed, feted and taken into private homes. On their arrival back at Southampton the dockers were on strike. The men almost mutinied wanting to unload the ships themselves. The were given rice pudding as a desert for their first meal, it hit the floor and the ceilings.
Their return for compassionate leave was appallingly handled; in the end several squaddies from N E Lancashire commandeered a truck and got home that way. A few years ago I read an account -sadly I cannot recall the author's name - from somone in the area of N E lancs who was on the same lorry and actually refers to dropping George and another of his friends off almost at their front doors.
George who had no children, died around 10yrs ago still suffering physically and mentally from his experiences whilst in captivity.Keith Tanner
Sgt. Harry Gill 24th Coy Royal Army Service CorpsI recently found this website and thought i should put finger to key in memory of my father Harry Gill T/45024 who served with the R.A.S.C.
He enlisted at Canterbury on 31.12.1930.These details come from his paybook, which I found recently. His first posting was in 1932, to Shanghai with the 12th coy. where he spent two years.Before being transferred to Eygpt where he serve with the 31st coy .Spending three years here. On returning home in March 1937 he was placed on the reserve list.
He was mobilized on 16th August 1939, and sent to France with the 24th coy attached to 2nd div BEF. He kept a diary of the events leading up to the Dunkirk evacuation. But it was lost or stolen along with his kitbag on a boat home. I wish now I had talked to him more about these historic times he lived through. But I remember his disapointment at the Belgium goverment for letting the Germans through. Also the desperate scenes of drunken soldiers milling about. And the destruction of supply dumps to stop them falling into the hands of the Germans, although he filled another kitbag with cigarettes at one of these before it was blown. Which made him quite popular on arrival back at camp in England. He also told me he drove all the way into Dunkirk, refusing to disable his truck on the outskirts as ordered. Perhaps it was an ambulance with wounded aboard (he always was a bit of a rebel). Then climbing a rope to board a ship in the harbour. Which upon arriving at a British port was turned away again as it was a French ship, and the French were still fighting. So he had to return to Dunkirk and find another ship home. His paybook states that was on 1st June 1940, a day when 68,000 troops were rescued.
In May 1942 he was posted to East Africa with 22 LTC. And later with 31st I.B. coy. Where he helped push the Italians out of Abysinia and Somalia. Coming home to be demobbed at Guildford on 19.10.45.
I doubt there are many of his old comrades still about now. His best friend was a Scotsman named Nick, who I was named after, but whose address he lost long ago.Nicholas Gill
John Little Royal Army Service CorpsI am hoping that someone will remember my father John Little. He was in the R.A.S.C. with the 8th Army in Palestine until about 1945. He married my mother Stella Brown in November 1939. They lived in South Norwood, London.
Prior to going to Palestine, some of his training was done in North Walsham, Norfolk, and Herne Bay in Kent, and possibly in Hastings, Sussex. For a time he was a medical orderly. (I believe after he had had his appendix removed). I do have an Egyptian newspaper cutting with a photo of him with other medical staff taken at this time. I believe he also undertook administration work.
For a while he was seconded to a regiment from New Zealand. He became friends with an Australian who gave him a wooden napkin ring for his daughter (me) who was born in July 1946. He was a guard in Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Mikado" (presumably put on by soldiers) at the Cairo Royal Opera House. He played piano in the officers' mess. He also played accordion and clarinet.
He returned to England and was then sent to Norway. I never thought to ask why or for how long. I hope there is someone who may remember. I feel that time is running out now and I am very sorry that I did not question him further.Stella Little
Dvr. Edward Owen 240th Coy. No 1 Platoon Royal Army Service CorpsMy uncle Edward Owen served in the RASC during WWII. In 1944 he was in the middle east serving as a driver with No 1 Platoon 240th Coy. Did anybody know him or could anyone shed some light on what the company would have been doing?Jim Owen
Dvr. Luke Morrisroe Royal Army Service CorpsLuke served with the North Staffordshire Regiment and the RASC was taken pow in Tobruk in 1942, he escaped from POW camp 133 in 1943, was interned in camp Moloney in Switzerland. He came home in 1944.Steve Smith
Pte. Arthur Albert Philip Wray 514th Coy. Royal Army Service CorpsMy Dad, Arthur Wray, served in France and on into Holland. I don't have much information as he passed away 13 years ago and never spoke of the war while alive. Would love to have some more information even better if any old colleagues still alive to fill in the gaps.Paul Wray
Robert Hutchinson "Boxer" Cox Royal Army Service CorpsRobert Hutchinson Cox was captured in Greece during WW11 in 1941 and held in various labour camps in Austria. Bob is now aged 92 and living in sheltered accomadation in Chester-Le-Street and, although elderly, has still got all his facalties. I have known Bob as uncle Bob for all of my 49 years. He was in the Royal Army Service Corps but was captured in 1941 in Greece. I am in possesion of his homemade scrap book with pictures taken in the camps by a German Guard (for payment) and includes a lot of his friends as well as his camp tag. Friends include, George Turkington (Liverpool), Paddy Quade (Folkestone), Sid Chalmers (Derby), Jimmie Johnstone (Edinburgh), Bill "Tug" Wilson (London), Bill Timson (Nuneaton), and his best ` Mucker` as Bob puts it Wilf Bailey (Halifax).
I am getting some great stories and information off Bob and will share them in the future. It would be great for any of the family of these men to swap stories. Bob was well known for being the Welterwieght Boxing Champion of the camp for his 4 years of, as he puts it, Holiday on Adolf's cost.Norman Watson
Dvr. Albert Martin Royal Army Service CorpsAlbert Martin was captured at Tobruk by the Italians and was held as a POW in Italy until he was freed at Italian surrender. He then fled to the mountains where was re-captured by the Germans and ended up in Stalag X1b at Fallingbostel, POW No. 138527. He was on the March and was finally repatriated to Britain.Brian Hughes
Cpl. Sidney Derek Collingwood Royal Army Service CorpsMy Grandad Cpl Sidney Collingwood, was in the RASC and served in North Africa and Italy between 1941-1945. I have 4 medals (Africa Star, Italy Star, Defence Medal and War Medal) and his old pay book. Any information or if anyone knows of him and could pass on would be very much appreciated.Wendy McEvoy
Bertie John Rowlands Royal Army Service CorpsMy grandfather served with the Service Corps during the 2nd World War. I am trying to find his army number and find out if he won any medals. He passed away 20yrs ago and would only talk vaugely about the war to me as I think it upset him. My son is now doing a project for his GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE)) History exams and would like to base it on him and the Regiment.
His name was Bertie john Rowlands.I have enclosed a photo if this is any help. thankyou.Kindrey Davies
Henry Thomas Compton 2nd Btn. Traffic Control coy. Royal Army Service CorpsMy father, Herbert Dawson, served in Malta and Leros. He was taken prisoner on Leros and was transported to prison camp in Germany. He was in Stalag XIA. But he was in an out for station work camp in Elbigerode. He was able to visit Elbingerode a few years before he passed away. "Faugh-a-Ballagh" - battle cry of Irish origin, meaning "clear the way".Jacky Pickworth
Staff Sgt. Atherton Ffolliot Powell Christie Royal Army Service CorpsUncle Hughie was captured at St valery and ended up in Stalag 9c POW Camp. He was also in Obermassfield Lazarette and had his legs operated on. He died from thrombosis shortly after the war due to this surgery. "God Rest his soul"Trish Hughes
Sgt Mjr. Charles ManchesterCharles Manchester was my father who I never met. I am told by his pals the he was a Sargeant Major in the Kings Own Yorks Light Infantry in WW2. After injury during service he was transferred to the Royal Army Service Corps. I have tried without success to find him listed anywhere. If anyone can assist me I would be eternally grateful.Beryll Withers
Dvr. Ronald McCormick 10th General Transport Company. Royal Army Service CorpsMy father. Ron enlisted on 15th July 1943 lying about his age to enlist.He was demobbed at York on 11th August 1947.Although I have no verifiable facts family tradition tells that on D=Day he landed at Juno Beach with the Canadians driving a Colonel. At the very end of the war he was shot by a sniper in Arnhem and was recovering in a convent when he found out that the war was over. I have heard that he drove on the Redball Express although I have only just started researching his war records.Ron passed away in 1977.John McCormick
Reginald King Royal Army Service CorpsReginald King , served in Africa , Italy and Dunkerqe and was involved in MT / Dispatch riding /Mechanics. He died when I was young (1982). He originated from Shropshire, but moved to British Steel in Scunthorpe after he left the service. Would appreciate any photographs if anyone has groupshots with named servicemen etc.David Betts
Pte. Kanchana Senerat Kadigawe MID 5th Btn (Scottish) 2nd Independent Parachute BrigadePrivate Kanchana Senerat Kadigawe was the only Sri Lankan to win the Oak Leaves
This is a tribute to SSP Senarat (K.S.) Kadigawe who passed away recently at his ancestral home in Kandy after a distinguished career in the Sri Lanka Police. He was the only Sri Lankan to win the ‘Oak Leaves’ in the British Army during World War II. His death took my mind back to 1976 when for the first time he revealed to a journalist his World War II experiences as a paratrooper in Nazi-occupied Europe. He was then SP (Transport) and I was doing the 'police beat' for the Sunday Observer. At the time Kadigawe was residing at Police Quarters, Keppettipola Mawatha, Colombo, with his family. It all began when he told me that he liked to know the whereabouts of a Greek family that had befriended him during the war. Responding to his request, I had a short news item published on the Sunday Observer front page stating that Kadigawe wished to contact the family of Constantinades who lived in the city of Piraeus. But there was no response to it from anyone, though all details were given. This story is how Kadigawe came into contact with this Greek family. Born in the Wanni, he was one of many young Sri Lankans who had enlisted in the British Royal Army Service Corps at the outbreak of WWII. Having arrived in the Middle-East as a RASC soldier he applied to join the Red Berets. After rigorous training he earned the paratrooper's `wings' thus becoming the only `colored' combatant in the Fifth Battalion (Scottish) 2nd Independent Parachute Brigade.
On July 31, 1944, the now defunct Times of Ceylon ran the following news item under a picture of him in the uniform of the British `Red Berets.' CEYLON MAN AS PARATROOPER SERVING IN THE MEDITERRANEAN THEATRE Pte. K. Senarat Kadigawe is, if not the only Ceylonese parachutist fighting in this war, one of the few. He is the only coloured man in the 5th Battalion (Scottish) 2nd Independent Parachute Brigade,doing service with the Central Mediterranean Forces… Around this time Greece had fallen to the Germans following a Nazi `blitzkrieg' (lightening attack) in April 1941. By the middle of May, the country was under joint occupation by three Axis powers: Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and the Kingdom of Bulgaria. They brought about terrible hardships for the Greek civilian population. Over 300,000 civilians died from starvation, thousands more through reprisals, and the country's economy was ruined.
In 1944 the Red Berets were ordered to go on a mission to Piraeus. Their target was a power station which supplied electricity to search lights that helped German anti-aircraft gunners to spot British and American planes over Greece. The soldiers including Private Kadigawe boarded a Dakota C-47 transport plane, which took off from their base in North Africa with its lights switched off. The night was pitch-black and the plane was now flying over the Mediterranean. Soon the aircraft was over the `drop zone' in Greece and the green light inside the plane came on. From the open side door the paratroopers dived into the darkness one by one. After landing they studied a map that showed the power station and set off separately on different paths to reach the target lest the enemy captured all of them together. Even so it was no easy task to avoid being caught by German army patrols looking for curfew violators. Destroying the power station however turned out to be easier than the Red Berets had anticipated since it was lightly guarded. Probably the enemy did not expect a ground attack on it and assumed that anti-aircraft defences were sufficient to protect the installation. Two army engineers among the paratroopers cut an opening in the high barbed fire fence and entered the premises while Kadigawe and others covered them, ready to open fire if the two German soldiers guarding the place spotted the intruders. But everything went smoothly and the engineers succeeded in planting two time bombs inside the station. They were set to go off within 24 hours giving enough time for the attackers to flee from the place – or so Kadigawe thought. He and his comrades had been ordered to reach the Greek coast and meet at a designated spot from where a British Royal Navy ship would pick them up.
The real fireworks – both literally and metaphorically – however began when the bombs went off completely destroying the power station. The enraged Germans began combing the entire area like mad dogs looking for the attackers. But the Greeks, except for Nazi collaborators, were thrilled. They were willing to give whatever assistance the British paratroopers required. And it was Kadigawe who needed it most since he was on the verge of being captured. But luck was with him. A Greek Bank official, Constantinades residing nearby came to his help and asked the Sri Lankan soldier to quickly move into his house. Kadigawe was then taken to an upstairs room where he was told to hide. The room belonged to one of Constantinades' daughters. The girl's father told her to pretend to be very sick, get into bed and cover herself with a sheet. Bottles of medicine were placed on a small table near the bed. Kadigawe was then told lie motionless on a very narrow stretch of the floor between the bed and the bedroom wall. A bed sheet fully covered both sides of the bed so well that anyone peeping under the bed could see no soldier between the bed and the wall. The Sri Lankan soldier asked Constantinades why he and his family were risking their lives to protect him. If he was captured the Germans would very likely send him to a POW camp under the Geneva Convention rather than shoot him. But the fate of a Greek civilian found giving shelter to a British soldier would be quite different. The Germans would execute the civilian and perhaps his entire family on the spot in as a `lesson' to others. But Constantinades would hear none of it. He firmly told Kadigawe that it was their patriotic duty to protect all foreigners fighting to liberate Greece from the Nazis. So the paratrooper had no alternative but to follow his instructions.
Soon the Germans were all over the place. Uttering the usual warning through loud hailers, they began searching the houses in the neighbourhood for the escapees. Kadigawe was lying motionless but the tension was unbearable. He could hear his own heart beat. His real fear was for the Greek family. Constantinades' daughter was on the bed pretending to be seriously ill and moaning in `discomfort and pain.' At the Constantinades home the Nazis first began searching every room on the ground floor. Then Kadigawe heard the sound of jackbooted feet The Germans were climbing up the stairs. After thoroughly inspecting every room on the upper floor, they came to the one where Kadigawe was hiding. As the Nazi officer in charge stepped into the room, Constantinades fervently appealed to him to avoid disturbing his very sick daughter. She was in great pain he said. For moment, the German stood there looking hard at the girl, who turned out to be a good `actress.' To her, Kadigawe and Constantinades those few seconds seem like an eternity. Then the officer turned back saying `okay' and climbed down the stairs with his men. Kadigawe did not know how to thank the Greek family. Soon afterwards he managed to reach the coast where he joined his comrades before the British Navy ship picked them up.
A year later when Kadigawe met the Constantinades family again it was his turn to reciprocate. They were then in very dire circumstances. Following the German surrender and the end of the World War in 1945, Greece found itself in the throes of a civil war between the government and communists who resorted to terrorist acts. Hunger and starvation was widespread. The Allied occupation troops had opened soup-kitchens to serve the hungry masses. The Red Berets were called into assist the Greek authorities in dealing with terrorism. One day, Kadigawe passing one of the food queues was shocked find two very familiar faces. They were the daughters of Constantinades. Talking to them the Sri Lankan soldier learnt that the civil war had made their father bankrupt. They were given prompt assistance by Kadigawe and his comrades in a generous gesture of gratitude.
Kadigawe earned the Military Medal for an act of gallantry by killing two terrorists and maiming two others in the Greek civil war. Seven months after the end of World War II, on November 24, 1945, Lt. Colonel D.R. Hunter Commander of the 2nd Independent Parachute Brigade awarded Kadigawe a certificate for having won the confidence of his superiors and for acts of gallantry a distinguished service. But his proudest moment came when he resigned from the army and joined the Sri Lanka Police as a sub-inspector. At an inspection parade of SIs at the Police Training School the then Inspector-General W.T. Brindley, saluted Kadigawe on seeing the Oak Leaves and Military Medal on his uniform.
By Janaka Perera, Asian Tribune Sat, 2008-09-13.Channa Madawela
Pte. Ronald Frederick "Shep" Shepherd 8th Battalion Durham Light InfantryMy father (who died in March 2000) was called up in October 1939 and after training joined 9th Platoon, "A" Company, 8th Battalion, 151st Brigade, 50th (Northumberland) Division & embarked for France on 7th March 1940 (his 21st birthday).
He took part in the Battle of Arras in May 1940 which contributed to the Germans stopping outside Dunkirk for 2 days. During the retreat to Dunkirk he "found" a bicycle which he used for a few days. He left it by a tree while he went for a call of nature and was angry to find that someone had stolen "his" bike.
After retraining, etc, he went via Durban, SA & Suez Canal to North Africa. Fought in all major battles in North Africa including: Gazala, Mersa Matru and El Alemein.
Posted back to England May 1942 for training for D-Day. Landed on D+1 (7th June 1944) driving a lorry so didn't get feet wet! His diary entry for that day was: Landed.
He 'lost' 3 rifles during his 6 years including one on 10th June 1944 when top blown off by a shell which killed a man 2ft away. He took part in battles at Tilly, Villers Bocage, through to Belgium and on to Arnhem, Nijmegen & Gheel. He finished the war as a driver with the RASC in Hamburg.
Medals awarded: 1939-1945 Star; The Africa Star with 8th Army clasp; The France and Germany Star; The Defence Medal; 1939-1945 Medal. Also the French 'Dunkerque 1940' Medal. He was one of the few soldiers who started out in the BEF, was evacuated at Dunkirk and returned to Normandy in 1944.Ron Shepherd
Dvr. George Parkinson Royal Army Service CorpsMy dad, George Parkinson,joined up at the start of the "phoney war" in 1939,-he didn't need to go,-he was married with three sons.
I was the middle one.He'd had a driving licence since he was eighteen,(unusual in 1919),and thought his driving skills may have been put to good use. He had joined the Grenadier Guards(1Bn)when he was nineteen,(which explains his "Guards" number). He did three years,-in which time he went to Constantinople to support some uprising against Kemal Ataturk,-then came out. I can remember him Blancoing his webbing,checking the contents of his "hussif" (housewife) and having a .303 SMLE rifle at home! Then he was gone... Because of his age,-he was 38,-he spent all his service in this country,-I believe he spent some time driving an ambulance in Birmingham; the rest of his time he was stationed in Cornwall,transporting stores of every kind countrywide.If ever he was coming to somewhere near Manchester,he would call in give us all a load of chocolate,(which he had saved), then he was gone again. One time he arrived in what he called an "eight legger"-an eight wheeled ERF with a drawbar trailer and parked it in our dead end street in Longsight, Manchester.How he got it out I have no idea!
He came home in various trucks,Chevrolets,Dodges etc., etc.,mostly stuff that presumably the country had had to buy from the USA or Canada because of the shortage of vehicles after Dunkirk. As I said he was mostly based in Cornwall,he thought it was the most wonderful place,his stories were full of names like Taunton,Truro,Bodmin,Penzance,Falmouth etc.,and that all true Cornishmen had names that began with either Pen or Tre,-it was a world apart... When he was demobbed,-and after all that effort,he was awarded three medals,Victory;War,and the TA; he "didn't qualify" for the '39-'45 Star,as he didn't serve abroad!Rodney E. Parkinson
L/Cpl Thomas Kelly Royal Army Service Corps (d.11th Jun 1940)Thomas was my Dad's uncle. He was born in 1918 so may only have been 21 when he died. He is buried in Fécamp, Normandy. The few pieces of information I have attempted to cobble together surrounding the circumstances of his death illustrate what a dire situation he and his fellow soldiers were left in after the evacuation. The only saving grace is that he did not suffer as a POW at the hands of the enemy.Adrienne Wood
Mechanised Sergeant Major Sidney Fox Royal Army Service CorpsI'd like to hear from anyone who knew my Grandfather Sidney FoxMichael Fox
Cpl. Leslie Ball Royal Army Service CorpsMy grandfather Leslie Ball fought in many places and I know very little about his life during the war period. Since my grandmother destroyed all of his papers, cards, medals etc. I would be interested in hearing from anyone, who may have known him.
I know he fought in the two Battles of El Alamein and later went to Normandy. At some point he assisted in the attack on Italy and battled on a hill near a small village. He later was part of the liberation of Belsen Concentration camp.
After the war he lived in Croydon and was a father to two children, my father and his brother.Jennifer Skaalen
Lt. Henry William Barham 183 A.A. (M) Transport Co.I am trying to trace any information about my father who was serving with 183 A.A. (M) Transport Company R.A.S.C. in October 1943. I have a photograph of the company's officers taken at this time with all the officers named. I would like to know what this unit did during the war and where did it perform its duties? How do I find out more about the company and also more about my father> He was born in 1911 and married my Mother in August 1936. I do not know when he joined the army. At some point he had been a Corporal in the H.A.O.C. with Number 7634636. I know that he survived the war. Unfortunately, he left my Mother before being demobbed and after they were divorced he lived in Dorking, Surrey. I would be very grateful for any information which I can follow up.Jeremy Barham
Pte. George Caleb Hodgson Royal Army Service Corps (d.2nd Jun 1941)I have been told that my brother George Hodgson was mortally wounded, died in the cellar of a 'safe' house on 2 June 1941 somewhere in Crete. He was allegedly buried in the garden of this house by the Alexander family (who were Naturalised Americans) at that time and not in the war so the German Occupying Forces could not enter the house.
This account of his death conflicts with a claim by a soldier that my brother died, along with three others called Dunn (No 178452), McCurrach and Shiner (196240), having been bombed. It was suggested that the bodies were 'dug out' but no one has categorically confirmed that my brother was one of the dead.
I have a letter from another source in which the writer tells me that the soldier who died in the cellar bore the identification tags with the name George Hodgson. There is no other George Hodgson buried in Suda Bay British Military Cemetery and the story is that my brother's remains were re-interred there after the war. If anyone has any information about this, I would be eternally grateful.Frank T. Hodgson
Dvr. William Millar Bennett 52 Lowland Division Royal Army Service CorpsMy Granddad, William Bennett was a Driver on trucks in the RASC. He joined the 52 Lowland Divisional RASC (TA) in September 1939 at the Yorkhill Parade Ground in Glasgow He was in North Africa for most of his time in the Army. He says he was part of the 8th Army. He was a truck driver who also boxed a bit but was not overly good. He was in Cairo, Tobruk and a few places in between.
His truck was hit by a bomb and he was badly injured. He says he only survived due to a couple of Irish guys from Dublin pulling him out of the wreckage. Danny O'Sullivan, Dave O'Gorman and Danny Kelly are the guys he has mentioned. He would love to hear from them or anybody who knew them. He wished he could have seen them since the war. He was medically discharged in 1943 after going through a number of hospitals. He and I would be very grateful if anybody could help us with information or photos of his unit or friends or get in touch if they knew himJamie Bennett
S/Sgt. Janes Hercules "Jerry" Sossick 27 A.A. Bde.(TA) Royal Army Service CorpsMy Dad Jerry Sossick, joined the Territorial Army in May 1939. The story that I remember was that his Manager had joined and so he thought he had better as well. He was placed in 27 A.A. BDE. CO. R.A.S.C. (TA) Wimbledon. The story (according to my Mother) continues that he went away on a weeks camp and didn't come home again.
Dad was in France with the BEF (British Expeditionary Force)in 1940 and got himself home from Dunkirk. While on the beach waiting in the water he heard that there was a destroyer tied up to a jetty further along the beach. He and his mates decided to try their luck and left the queue they were in. They found the destroyer and got a lift home.
My Mother said she went down to Aldershot to find him and said he was in such a state, dirty and covered in salt, that she did not recognize him, but only Dad "walked in that way". Back here he was down in Wales, Hampshire and Sussex and often came home in the evenings or at weekends.
In 1943 he landed in North Africa and in 1945 was in Italy. He was a Mech. Staff Sergeant and heavily involved in keeping the Army vehicles on the move. His letters constantly say how hard they were working and the long hours that were spent in the workshops and out on the roads. He arrived back in England in October 1945 and he was released into the Reserve in January 1946.
I am just sorting everything that my parents have left me and I am sure there is a lot of information there. I have something like 200 letters that my Mother received and I have my dad's Army documents, his medals and the shoulder flashes he wore at various times. Also there are many photos.S.H.Sossick
John Levi Bending Royal Army Service CorpsJohn Bending is buried in Rome War Cemetery. Any additional information would be greatly appreciated.Mike Bryce
Cecil Roy Perkins Royal Army Service CorpsIan Perkins
James George McCulloch Royal Army Service CorpsMy Grandad Jim McCulloch, aged now 91, was in the Royal Army Service Corps. He joined in 1941 & has good memories of a Captain Don A. Coley who took him on the back of a motorbike, both covered in mud, just after the D-Day landings in a small village in France. I'll get more details from him & post here, if anyone knew my Grandad, James McCulloch, please get in touch.Emma
Capt. Leonard Weston Royal Army Service Corps (d.13th Feb 1942)I am trying to obtain any information about my grandfather on my mother's side, Leonard Weston, who served in WW2. I know he was a Corporal in 1925 aged 24yrs. He married to Marion Kate Stockbridge (20yrs) 18/08/1925. He was a Sergeant (S/6175) in 1930 and was resident in Malta at the time.
He died 13/02/1942 in Malaysia and his name appears on the Singapore Memorial (column 97).Jane-Louise Moore
2nd Lt. Kenneth Roy Gough Royal Army Service CorpsI am trying to find some information about a group of soldiers serving in the RASC who were, I think, attached to the 51 Highland Division. They were stationed near Metz in June 1940. This group did not move with the 51st when they left the Metz area on about the 29th May 1940 but were ordered to remain in Metz until ordered to leave by train on 13th June 1940 bound for St Nazaire. After 3 days the train had only got as far as Vesoul on the 17th June. Some 80 of these men led by 2nd Lt K Gough (my father) eventually found their way to the Swiss border on 23rd June 1940 having walked for 6 days. They were interned in Switzerland. I have the original diary of the journey and would like to find any further information concerning the journey and identify any survivors or relativesR Gough.
Sgt. Ronald Hubert Wilkinson Royal Army Service CorpsMy father Ronald Wilkinson was in the RASC. He loved to talk about the war, but only selectively. He joined up a day or two before the War started in Redhill, Surrey, went to France with the British Expeditionary Force, and was posted missing at the time of the Dunkirk evacuation. In fact, he returned home safely, some days later, from another port further to the west. I don't know which one. He didn't talk much about France, although I remember him telling me how a comrade once saw a pretty French girl walking by and announced, loudly, what he'd like to do to her, whereupon the girl turned around and said, in impeccable English, 'Would you really? How very interesting!'
In late 1942 he went to North Africa. He mentioned many, many times, such places as Tobruk, El Alamein, Mejez el Bab, Sid Birani, Mersa Metru, Biserta, etc. I know he was promoted, eventually to Sergeant. I'm not sure that he made any friends. In later life he certainly never met with anyone from the wartime period, but then he was a loner. From North Africa he went to Sicily, and made his way slowly north as the advance continued. He spoke many times of seeing Vesuvius erupt in 1944, and of visiting the ruins of Pompeii.
After the war ended he was for a time in Milan. I only know that because he often spoke of visiting La Scala to see the opera. He came home by ship, crossing Biscay in a storm. His war years were, I suspect, the happiest of his life. He liked Army discipline and routine, he rarely saw action, and he enjoyed the rugged lifestyle - having been raised under a single mother's thumb. I would love to find out more about his experiences. When I was in my teens he occasionally let slip little details of a soldier's life.
The outfit's first casualty was a dispatch rider who was caught by a shell fragment which sliced the top of his head off and scooped out his brains; he told me of the bar in a brothel where the guys (not him) took turns to visit a particularly attractive girl. He also told me many times about the aerial attack during which he fell to the ground, looked up and saw a bomb coming towards him. It struck the branch of a tree and was deflected. After the explosion he reached out and touched the side of the crater. Untill his death he used an ash-tray constructed from a shell base with a piece of shrapnel from that bomb soldered into it. He struggled to re-adjust to civilian life.Alan Wilkinson
Martin Sidney Wilson Royal Army Service CorpsMy father told me that my Grandfather was in the RASC in WW2 and went back to Europe to fight the Nazis as he was a Jewish Refugee. He called himself Martin Sidney Wilson after the immigration officer who asked him what name he would like. He was German originally had been a decorated German field officer in WW1. He emigrated to the UK via South America and New York in 1939 and lived in London with his wife and 2 children. I know that he secured ausweiss for his two children and they came on a kindertransport to the UK with help from the Society of Friends (Quakers) in 1939. They lived in an orphanage until my grandparents found them late in 1939. Times were rough for many in those far flung days.
Does anyone know of my grandfather or know where I can find out any information about him? Any help is much appreciated .Erica Jones
Douglas William Dellar 224 Company Royal Army Service CorpsI have a copy of L/Cpl. Bacon's diary of events of RASC 224 Company (Infantry Brigade) dating from June 1944. It covers the Company's time in Europe from their leaving England to April 1945, where it stops suddenly, giving the impression that the final pages are missing. It belonged to my father and I have transcribed all that I have, finding it very interesting reading. If anyone has a complete copy I would really appreciate them sharing it with me.Carolyn Parker
Sydney Matthews 384 General Transport Coy Royal Army Service Corps (d.15th Feb 1942)I am a local historian researching the names on the WW2 memorial in my village and have been told a story that I would like to check out, but I can't find anything online about it. It concerns one of the men commemorated on our village war memorial in Clavering, Essex, Sydney Matthews who served in the RASC and died 15 Feb 1942, his name is on the Alamein Memorial.
The local story is that he was a PoW on a ship which was accidentally sunk by the Allies as it was not marked as a hospital ship. This would presumably be in the Mediterranean on 15 Feb 1942 but I can't find such a ship among the list of those lost.
If anyone can direct me to some sources, I would be very grateful then we can record more about Sid Matthews, if it was him involved in this incident.Jacqueline Cooper
Cpl, Samuel Emlyn Jones Royal Army Service CorpsMy late father, Samuel Jones always told me he served in the Royal Army Service Corps during the 1939-1945 war, reaching the rank of corporal. Sadly he passed away in 1987. Now, following my mother's death, I was clearing out her house and came across his medals, one of which has an oak leaf attached to the ribbon. He never talked much about his wartime experiences and the medals were always tucked away in a drawer. I would appreciate any information anyone could provide me with so I can fill in the gaps in his life. There are some old photos of him in uniform, one riding an Army motorbike, but they are now quite faded. If anyone can help me with any information, I'll be so grateful.Graham Jones
Sgt. John Charles Francis Royal Electrical and Mechanical EngineersWhen World War 2 came along. my Dad John Francis signed up. He joined the Royal Army Service Corps, and served in France and Belgium. When the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) were formed in 1940 Dad joined them and was as a Corporal fitter. Then he was forced along with the whole British army to leave France via Dunkirk. Dad described the scene and told how the little boats that came across to rescue the trapped army back to England. Then had to jump onto a slow moving boat in windy bumpy conditions to get home.
He was promoted to Master Fitter (Sergeant) and when the D- Day happened he eventually was stationed in Ostend. His team would collect and receive the broken down vehicles and tanks and blown up tanks and have to get them back on the road. This was a messy job to clean away the human remains and refit the tanks for action. Dad was at Caen – Cormelles in ’44 as part of the Armoured Offensive after D Day. Dad when he was in WW2 was stationed at Nijmegen in Oct ’44. Nijmegen was part of operation Market Garden assault that was the largest airborne operation of all time. The operation plan's strategic context required the seizure of bridges across the Maas (Meuse River) and two arms of the Rhine (the Waal and the Lower Rhine) as well as several smaller canals and tributaries. Crossing the Lower Rhine would allow the Allies to outflank the Siegfried Line and encircle the Ruhr, Germany's industrial heartland. The REME were there to ensure the tanks and vehicles were constantly refurbished when damaged.
Dad met Mum on one of his leave of duty and soon a romance was started. Mum was a Sergeant in the Woman’s Army Auxiliary Corps. They married in Blantyre, Scotland. Dad continued in the War until VE day.Barrie Francis
A/Maj. Ralph Kent Green 517 Petrol Coy. Royal Army Service CorpsMy uncle Ralph Kent Green, volunteered on September 12, 1939 and 3 weeks later was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant, probably because he had taken OTC at school.
He joined the BEF, 48th Division, No. 517 Petrol Coy. in France on 5 January 1940, and was later rescued from Dunkirk. He seems to have moved around a bit during his war service. He was posted as the RASC officer to first the 73rd Independent Infantry Brigade (29-3-1941 to 28-4-1943), then with the Commander RASC staff/1st Airborne Division at Bulford.
Ralph Kent Green my uncle is back row, 5th from the left taken by a photographer from Cornwall possibly just after the return from Dunkirk.
On 12-5-1943 he went to N. Africa, which was the staging area for troops going to Italy. We think he may have been assigned to the 8th Army as part of Operation Baytown. On his return 3-10-1943, he was posted to Airborne Supply Training Wing of the 6th Airborne, which was later re-designated at the Air Training Centre in Lemsford, where he was the Chief Instructor.
After parachute training in July 1944, Kent was assigned on temporary duty to SEAC/India in Leicester, and then about 4-4-1945 again with Commander RASC in Kensington. The words "Syrencote House, Bulford, Salisbury, Wilt," are scribbled on his record, so he may have spent time there as well.
On 10-3-1945 he went by plane to Brussels, Belgium, which was the tactical headquarters for the 6th Airborne for Operation Varsity and Rhine Crossing. After that he returned to the 6th Airborne.
What I remember best about him were my grandmother's stories that had nothing to do with his war service. Apparently he had a trick gullet and could down a beer by simply pouring it directly into his stomach! It seems that gave him a considerable advantage in beer drinking races held along local beaches. At some point Kent contracted TB, and was in hospital after the war and he died in 1977. I would love to hear from anyone who knew him or served in any of the same units.Barbara Kent Lawrence
Dvr. Stanley Lambert 314 Coy. Royal Army Service CorpsMy father Stanley Lambert, was at the Normandy landings in June 1944 as a driver with the RASC. I don't know which beach he landed at, think it was Gold. He also drove the ammunition truck to Arnhem. He was reproted missing believed killed in Dec.1944 but was in hiding with an American in the woods near to a German camp. He told me they could hear the Germans talking and took one of their jeeps and were able to get back to their units.
I'd like to hear from anyone who knew him, particularly Dixie Dean, Harry Austin, Reg Cluitt, Charlie Saunders, Jack Gudgeon, and Percy Berlose. I am trying to find out exactly what my father did in the war, all I know is he was a driver with the RASC B section 314 company.Carole Neville
Dvr. Edmund R.A. Warren Royal Army Service CorpsI am looking for any infomation about my Granddad, Edmund Warren. He was born in 1931 and came from Exeter. I do not have a lot of info except that he spent approx. 4 years as a prisoner of war in Germany, then escaped and was recaptured and returned to the P.O.W Camp. Interestingly, on waiting to be taken back home at the end of the war, he gave up his seat on the plane to a younger man and that plane crashed and everyone was killed. This is family information that I have been given. The plane crash story was mentioned in the local paper of the time, the "Express And Echo". Any information about him would be useful.
Editor's Note: Ancestry lists the following information regarding E.R.A. Warren: POW Number 18028, Camp: Stalag VIII-B in Cieszyn, Poland. He is listed as a Driver in the Royal Army Service Corps.Steve
Sgt. Edwin George Hann Royal Army Service CorpsMy Grandfather, Ted Hann was a member of the Somerset Light Infantry Territorials before the war, from about 1937. He stayed with the SLI until 1941/2 when, as a batman, he followed his officer into the RASC. He was involved in the planning of Operation Torch, and is mentioned in a few letters as being used to carry top secret documents.
After landing in North Africa he then took part in the Sicily operations and then landed in Italy. From 1943/4 he was based in Naples running an RASC office and I still have his pass to AFHQ. In 1945 he moved onto Rome and was eventually demobbed in 1946.
If anyone recalls Ted Hann, I would like to get in touch. I have his war diary for 1943/4 which I am trying to decipher and if any names come up I will try and tally them with any on the site.Kevin Hann
WO1. Bernard Peter "Pat" Meagher Royal Electrical and Mechanical EngineersMy father was John Vincent Meagher DCM, an RSM in the Royal Irish Fusiliers, and my eldest brother, Peter, joined the army as a boy entrant with the RASC, I believe before the REME corps was formed. He served at Arborfield Barracks Bordon, Hampshire in the trade of armourer. He obtained his Lance Corporal stripe whilst there. Dad was very proud of him and his progress. But the next time he came home on leave to Omagh Barracks he was without his stripe. As soon as my Dad noticed his jacket without the stripe hanging on the kitchen door hook, he asked Peter what happened for him to have lost his stripe. Without waiting for an answer, my Dad had Peter incarcerated in the Guardroom for the rest of his leave until it was time for Peter to return to Bordon.
Peter was enroute for the 8th Army, when his ship was diverted to Cape Town where it was revittled, before proceeding to Bombay, India, he was involved in amphibious landing training at Karaqwasla Lake in Maharashtra State, before going in to Burma. I recall letters from my Mum to Peter addressed to an HAA Division. Does anyone remember my brother and this period of his service? He sent home some pictures taken in Rangoon after it was liberated from the Japanese.He also had a picture of him with an Australian type hat with the right hand brim turned up vertically.
He was posted to Northern Ireland,(where he met and married Sue O'Reilly, and they had three children), also Hong Kong, Sham Shi Poh Barracks part of his duties being as small arms inspector for the New Territories, where I visited him whilst on sick leave from the RAF Glugor in Penang Malaysia. After the war Peter was sent to Malta, and spent his last tour in Munchen Gladbach Germany.Anthony P. Meagher
Lt. Reginald Martyn Tucker 29th Station Transport Company Royal Army Service CorpsMy father, Reginal Tucker, was a Lieutant in the RASC during WW2. He did his officer training at Clifton College and I have photographs of him with his platoon on the back of which is stamped '29th Station Transport Company'. He served in North Africa, Italy and Germany - and I think he was at Belsen at some time as it was clearly a scarring memory.
I know little about his wartime service and would love to know more. Does anyone recall him?David Tucker
Sgt. Arthur William Cheese Royal Army Service CorpsMy father, Arthur Cheese was captured at Dunkirk during the evacuation and then at some point was housed at Stalag 383 at Hohen Fels. He never talked about his time there and now has sadly passed away. As his eldest son I am very interested in piecing together what happened between Dunkirk and Stalag 383, and who may have known him during his time there. My father had a serious stomach wound which I believe was a result of a bayonet wounding around the time of the liberation of the camp. I hope this incident and his name may ring a few bells with someone. Fingers crossed.Keith Cheese
Sgt James George Robert DarlingAt the time of writing my Dad, James Darling, is aged 91. He joined RASC in 1940 and saw action in Greece & Crete during 1941. Following this he served with 7th Armoured Divn. in North Africa before eventually being posted to the Island of Rhodes.
After the war he was promoted to Staff Sgt. and served in the REME as an instructor near Lippstadt until 1948Eric Darling
L\Cpl. Walter Thomas Redpath Royal Army Service CorpsMy Dad Walter Redpath was, I believe, a Lance Corporal and drove a petrol tanker. He was wounded and badly burned when a tanker he was driving was hit by shell in Ghent and blew up. He was attached to 21st Army group. Any info would be appreciated.Terry Redpath
Sgt. Joseph Allen Royal Army Service CorpsMy great uncle, Serjeant Joseph Allen, was a POW in Stalag 357. His POW number was 260717 and at one point he was living in Hut 78/4. I took all these details from an envelope of a letter posted to Joseph in June 1944. If anyone knew him and can tell me anything about his time in Stalag 357, I would love to hear it.Jane Colclough
Pte. Thomas William Slight Royal Army Service CorpsMy grandad, Thomas Slight was an ambulance driver and trained as a butcher in the RASC. He didn't tell my Dad much about his service other than he was captured in Crete in 1941, after crashing off a cliff in the ambulance he was driving and was then held in Stalag VIIIB. He told my brother that Douglas Bader was there when he arrived.
Does anyone have any information or photos they could share? Apparently he used to have a group photo of the butchers holding up joints of meat but I'm not sure what happened to it. I am waiting on his service records but they have advised a 9-12 month wait. He doesn't show up on a search of the POW records on Ancestry not sure if there is any particular reason for this?Suzy Slight
Pte. Sam Crossley Haswell Royal Army Service CorpsI am in the process of transcribing the diaries of my late father, Sam Crossley Haswell, who served as an electrical engineer in the Middle East, North Africa, and Italy from 1942 to 1945, having sailed for Bombay from Liverpool in November 1941 on the SS Duchess of Bedford (which was being used as a troop ship). He recounts his journeys, work and leisure activities throughout 1942 and 1944, and mentions the names of many colleagues. He has also left many photographs.
Cpl. John Dukes Royal Army Service CorpsThis is my dad's story of his time in the RASC, taken from a diary he kept.
15th of April 1941
I have just come home from work having been on night work as a baker. My dear wife greeted me with a kiss, and then gave me a letter, on the top was "O.H.M.S." and inside was just one page in very nice words:
'Dear Sir, In accordance with the National Service (Armed Forces) Act; you are called on for service in the Territorial Army And you are required to present yourself on Thursday 25'" April 1941,0900 hrs -12 noon at the Royal Army Service Corps at Warwick; Reg.; I. T. C. Warwick. Travel warrant is enclosed. A postal Order for 4/- in advance for service pay is also enclosed Yours etc.'
A week went by and I had said good-by to Mother, Dad and family, but on Thursday 24th April I had to say good-by to my wife, Ivy and to my three kiddies; Jack, Christine and Brian. It was very hard and I was scared stiff for I thought I might not be coming back. I went to the station and caught the train. Two more lads got in the same camage as I did and they were both going to Warwick to join the R.A.S.C. as bakers.
When we anived at Warwick station a L/Cpl was waiting for us. He took us outside the station onto the road. There were about twelve of us and he told us to get into threes. He then marched us up to the barracks. What a Shambles it was: not one of us in step. We could see people laughing at us.
We reached Budbrook Barracks and were taken into a barrack room. L/Cpl Green told us to stand by one of the beds. After about 15 minutes a Sgt. came in and said, "Right men! Gather round. I am Sgt Harvey and I am going to train you for the next month. You do as I tell you and we will get on well together. Don't let me down!" After that we drew our kit and were given our Army number. I am S/9265637. The next day we were told we had to go and see the doctor and have the needle for TB.
Monday moming came and at 7.00am L/Cpl Green came in and shouted at us to get up and get washed and shaved for breakfast at 8.00am. We had porridge, sausage, bacon, one slice of bread and a mug of tea. One month went by and it had been very hard foot slogging and rifle drill. On the Monday morning we were told to parade on the parade ground to be ready for the Passing-out Parade. We came out of that very well. Our Sgt was very pleased with us. After dinner, Maurice Hides, also from Sheffield, and I went for a walk into Warwick for a pint or two of beer. The next morning we had to parade in our own section. Ours was 'B' section. The captain told us that some were to draw winter kit and others summer kit for the Far East. We were the ones who had to draw summer kit I then had a 48hr pass to go home.
How nice it was to see my wife, Ivy and the kiddies. How good it was to have some good food, and not have an officer come round and ask if there were any complaints. My 48hrs went very quickly, I had to say my good-byes over again and catch the train back to Warwick.
After our month's training we left Warwick and went down to Tidworth in Wiltshire. It is a base supply depot. It is also a garrison town for married soldiers, officers and military police. We had to salute an officer every time we passed one or we would be put on a charge. The next day we were taken to the bakery to meet the C.Q.M.S. master baker, Mr Brown. He said 'You are now going to show me how you can mix dough.' We stood in front of a trough with 20 stones of flour in it. He then said, 'Right! Put your salt and water in and get mixing. It wasn't too bad for me as I had mixed by hand in Civvy Street. Some of the lads had only mixed by machine and they found it very hard. Mr Brown came looking at us. When he came up to me he said, 'Right, Pte Dukes, that's good. Let me see you mould a cob.' I did that all right and then Mr Brown told me that I had passed my third class. Some of the lads were about a week before they passed. Our time was then spent in doing work in the bakehouse.
After about a month we were split up into field bakeries. I was put in the 31st Field Bakery. I knew then that I was going to be moved. The next day we got into Army lorries and we were on our way to Bourn in Cambridgeshire. This turned to be a very nice little country village. It was clean. The bakery was in the grounds of Bourn Hall. We were split into four sections. I was in No. 3 section that had a Sgt, Cpl, l/Cpl, and 8 men. We were taken to our billet, a nice little cottage. We had to sleep on the floor. The only lights were candles and there was no fire, only one paraffin stove. We had three mobile ovens and each one had two decks and was coke fired. We worked in a large Nissan hut, which had three troughs on each side and a large table in the middle. Three of us would mix two doughs of 20 stones each, by hand. When it was ready it would be cut out, put onto the table, weighed into 2lb pieces, moulded into cobs and put six on a tray to rise. When it had risen the oven man would put it into the oven.
Week one we would do night work. Week two, we stacked the flour after delivery, cleaned the camp and did guard duty. Week three was day work in the bakery. At night, Tich Hides, Freddie Hamer and I would go down to the canteen for a game of bingo or table-tennis. We would have a cup of tea and an apple pie for 3d (three old pence). Sometimes, we would go to the pub for a pint or two. Sometimes on a Saturday, Fred and I would get a day pass and go into Cambridge. One Saturday a Red Cap stopped us and asked for our passes. We gave them to him and he asked where we were from. When we told him that was the 31st Field Bakery at Bourn, he said, 'Its you who makes that rotten bread!" So I said, 'Yes, for rotten buggers like you." He just laughed and took the joke.
One day our Sgt came to the cottage and told us we had to move out as an officer was moving in. We were put in a farmhouse with a stone floor and no windows. The smell was terrible and the farmer had about 200 pigs. One day, two of the lads got hold of a piglet, tied its feet together and put it into a soldier's bed. He gave such a yell when he got into bed in the dark. Two of the lads used to do little jobs for the farmer and we used to see them going to the post office with big parcels. We found out that it was lumps of pork they were sending home. The farmer did not know.
The 83rd Field Mobile Bakery. I'm on the 2nd row up 4th from the right.
We are on the move again, and this time into Monmouthshire. We are at a small village called Bedews, right at that top of a high hill in Rupera Castle. The lad in the next bed is called Len Andrews. We had nothing to do one day so we went for a walk into Caerphilly, which is about a mile away. It is very boring here in Rupera Castle just doing guard duty and waiting to be put into Field Bakeries. The day came when we were told that we are going to be made into the 83rd Field Mobile Bakery. Yesterday, we were called out to meet our new Captain Bidwell and the C.Q.M.S., Mr B Prior.
Today we are off on the road to Louth in Lincolnshire. When we got there we stopped outside a school which had been taken over as a billet for us. Inside there were four rooms. One small room for the Sgt's Mess, a large room for our mess and two other rooms, each with six double bunk beds. Len and I took over our bed and I told him that he was on top as he was younger than I was.
It was two days before the machinery came. This consisted of 3 double deck ovens, one 20 stone mixer, one dough divider and six troughs. All of them are on trailers. They were taken up the road into a field. We had to put up the tents and a big marquee ready to start work the next day. The orders went up after tea to tell our starting times, Len and I were down to start at 8.00pm on dough mixing. LICpl Brown and four other lads came in at 10.00pm when the dough's were ready. Len and I feed the dough into the divider and it comes out in 2lb pieces. It is then moulded and goes down a chute to two lads below who put six onto a tray and then put them on a rack. When it is risen, L/ Cpl Brown takes the rack to the oven to bake the bread. He has a lad to help him. When it is baked it is taken into a tent ready to be loaded onto trucks to be distributed to other units, including the RAF at Manby. When we are finished dough mixing we go back to the billet and wake up the 4.00am mixers for their day shift. We are baking about 30,000lbs of bread a day
Last night, Len and I were on guard duty at the bakery from 6.00pm until 10.00pm. At about 8.00pm we fancied a cuppa but we had no hot water. I went across to one of the cottages and asked the little old lady if she would boil some water for us to make a cup of tea. She asked me in while it was boiling. I only had a bucket because we got water from the tank in which we boiled the water for the dough. She lent me a teapot and asked me to bring it back in the morning. I was off this morning so I took the teapot back and thanked the lady. She invited me in for a cup of coffee and a bun. I went in and sat down by the fire and stayed for about an hour. When I said that I had better go and write a letter home she said that any time I wanted to write in comfort I could go to her house. I will take her up on that! She is about 80yrs old and her name is Mrs Elizabeth Baker - the very same name as my Mother's maiden name. I did meet her daughter who was about 60yrs old. She was Mrs Nellie Reid, whose husband had been killed in the First World War.
When we are not baking we have odd jobs to do around the bakery or we do rifle drill. Sometimes, if the Staff-Sgt "Piggy" Patterson is not in a good mood he takes us out on four mile Route March. Our section Sgt is Bill Kennedy. He is OK as he doesn't bother us much. Occasionally, one of the Sgts gets a dance together at Louth Town Hall. He usually asks Len and me to take the money at the door. Some of our lads get in free! There are lads From other units and from the RAF. We get our beer money out of it.
A few mornings ago, Capt. Mason told us that he had been given orders for us to go into a field and build a jungle bakery just in case we get sent to the Far East. We went up to the field and fixed up some camouflage netting. The Cpl fitter cut an oil drum down the middle to make two mixing troughs. He then laid two drums on their sides so that we could use them for ovens. One of the lads made the scales out of wood and I made the knife out of the fin of a small bomb. I bound one end with string and sharpened the other. We had to make the yeast ourselves by boiling potatoes with the skins on and putting in a bottle of stout and leaving it overnight to ferment. Two lads made the dough and two of us lit the fires in the ovens. When the dough was ready it was taken out, put onto the table, cut into 2lb pieces and mould into cobs. When they had risen we raked the burnt wood out of the oven and put the bread on top of the ashes in the ovens. The drum lid was sealed on with clay for about an hour. Capt. Mason came and said it was very good. Since then we call him Jungle Jim.
Dad and his life long pal Len Andrews.
Yesterday afternoon, we were back in our own bakery and I was on my knees washing the trailer floor after we had finished baking when Sgt Stratton came to me. He said, "Go and get changed. The Captain wants to see you in his office.' I asked, 'What have I done wrong?" He replied, "I don't know." I went back to the billet and put on my best battle dress and went with Sgt Stratton to the office. He marched me in and I stood to attention in front of Capt. Mason. He told me to stand easy and then said that I had been recommended by Sgt Stratton to be made up to L/Cpl if I would accept it. "Yes sir!" He then sent me to the stores to draw some tapes to sew on. I was worried at first as to how the lads would take it but they seem to have taken it in good part and we are getting on all right.
When I got my L/Cpl tape I had to do Cpl duties if I wasn't down on orders to work in the bakery. I had to get the lads up for breakfast. After that I would march them up to the bake house to do odd jobs. I had to go to Louth Post Office and collect any mail for our unit. I then had to take it to the office, the billet and the bakehouse. I had to return to the billet to make sure that the lads I had left there had cleaned it up ready for inspection by the Orderly Officer or the Staff Sgt. Nothing to do then until after tea when I would book out the lads who were going out. I then dispatched the lads on guard to the bakehouse and I could then enjoy myself playing cards or table tennis. I had to stay up and book the lads in. They had to be in by 2400hrs or they were put on a charge. I booked them in myself because I knew that they would not let me down. The only problem was if the Orderly Officer came round.
On Thursday morning I got the lads outside the billet and marched them down to the baths for a shower. Just imagine! Twenty lads under six showers all at once. What a shout went up if anyone dropped his soap! The swimming baths were in the open air and I sometimes went for a swim. The water was just like spring - very cold. Not many of the lads could swim. I taught Len to swim. He picked it up quickly. At 1500hrs it was pay parade. It went like this: Name called, march into the office, stand to attention, salute the Capt., draw your pay, sign for it, salute, about turn, march out.
One day Len borrowed a bike. Capt. Mason's bike was outside the billet and as I thought that he was away for the day I borrowed it. We had a nice ride to Grimsby about 20 miles away. When we got back one of the Cpls. said, "Capt. Mason was asking for you as he wanted his bike." I said, "Oh dear!" I had to take it up to the pub where he was staying. When I saw him, he said, "Are you sure you have finished with it?" I immediately said, "Yes sir! Thank you." By the look on his face I reckon he thought that I was a cheeky devil.
We had some good times at Louth. There was a Cpl in our room called Alan Wright who worked in the office. At night, after lights out, he would lie reading his Bible by candlelight. Many a time we would spit on the candlewick and he would spend ages trying to light it. One night, I woke up and thought I could hear rain on the windows. When I had turned my head I could see that it was the lad in the bunk at the end of the room. He had been out on the booze and was having a pee in the wellies of his bunkmate above.
One night we were working in the bakehouse when the L/Cpl on the dough mixer said that he had dropped the thermometer into the mixer and it had broken. We were wondering what to do when one of the lads suggested the well at the back of the billet. We thought that was a good idea. Snakey Phillips went and fetched the handcart on which we carried our rations. We put the 20 stones of dough on it and, at four o'clock in the morning four of the lads pushed it away and dropped the dough down the well. They covered it with rubbish to hide it. Two days later one of the lads went round to have a look and he said that it was nearly at the top of the well.
One night, Cpl Bill Petty and I were on night shift at the bakery. At about 0300hrs we had our break and went into the store tent where the bread is kept ready to be sent to other units. I got down onto one of the racks for a sleep. It was a very bad thing to do because when I woke up I felt really ill with the steam from the bread. The next morning I had to report sick and I finished up in the hospital at Louth for a week.
About two weeks later, I was made up to Cpl and Len was made up to L/Cpl. He managed to get a job in the office for a while and I only saw him at nights. He used to get to know all the news from the office. One night he told me that a Cpl was going to be posted to another unit. Since my name was the first on the list, I would be the one to go. The next morning I reported sick. I said that I had boil on my scrotum and that I could not walk with it. I was not posted because I was sick. Good old Len! In a couple of days it was better!
I was sent to Leeds on a swimming course. Capt. Mason said it would be a good thing if I could come back and teach the lads to swim. When I got there I reported to a big house with twelve other Cpls. We were told to settle down until Monday morning. On Monday morning we were marched to the swimming baths. Once inside we were told to undress and stand on the side of the bath in the nude. The Staff Sgt came and told us to dive in and swim to the other end of the pool. I think this was to make sure that we could swim all right. Buster Crabbe was a good Staff Sgt but very tough. One day he made us swim fifteen lengths in full battle dress and with kit. We were told not to touch the bottom with our feet. Another day, Staff Sgt Crabbe took us to the river in Leeds. It was snowing when he told us to strip off and wrap all our clothes into our ground sheet and gas cape so that they would float. When we had done that we had to get into the water and swim across with our rifles slung round our necks. It was bitter cold and it was a good thing that we were wearing our swimming costumes. One day we had to get to the top diving board, twenty feet high, and then swing on a rope across the bath. Half way over we had to leave go and catch onto a net. Some just fell in. I was lucky: I managed to grab the net. After two weeks of this hard training, the course finished on Friday night. The Staff Sgt told us that we could leave on Saturday morning and call home if we wished, as we were not due back to our unit until Sunday night.
I caught a train to Sheffield and surprised my wife, Ivy when I walked into the house. I spent the day with her and my three children, Jack, Christine, and Brian after they had searched my kit bag to see if there was any chocolate. How nice it was to have some good food cooked well. Sunday morning and the trip back to Louth came all too quickly. It was a good-bye kiss for my wife and kiddies. It is hard to hold the tears when I leave them. When I got back to Louth I reported to the Sgt Major. He said 'What have you come back for? You could have stayed a couple of days, no-one would have known." I said, "Can I go back then, Sir?" He said, "get lost!"
It's back at Louth now doing Orderly Cpl and working in the bakehouse. Capt. Mason told us one day on parade that he had been talking to one of the officers of 119 F.M. Bakery that they were due to go to France. They did not want to go and wondered if we would like to volunteer to go in their place. The Capt. said that he had heard a whisper that we might be going to the Far East but the Capt. of 119 F.M.B. did not know that. All but four of us agreed to the swap.
One afternoon Len had gone out and I was Orderly Cpl. I thought that I would take a chance and go out myself. I caught a train to Grimsby and went to see my Uncle Harry Dukes. We went to the pub and had just had a couple of pints when the air raid sirens went. I thought, "Here I am 20 miles from where I should be on Fire Duty and my train does not leave until ten o'clock. If the Orderly Oficer goes to the billet I am in real trouble." I told Uncle Harry the mess I was in and he offered to lend me his bike. I agreed to take it back at the weekend and set off to pedal like mad for Louth. I was about five miles away when the all clear sounded. When I got into the billet the L/Cpl said that he had covered for me and the Orderly Officer did not come.
The next morning I found out that I would not be able to take the bike back. Len and I were down on Orders to go south with the advance party. We had to pack all our kit and be ready to move the next morning. We went to the station at ten o'clock in the morning and caught a train, wondering where we were going. We anived in London and got onto a tube train. We could not see out of the windows as they were blacked out. When the train stopped, a lorry had backed right up so that we could get straight on to it. We set off and still we did not know where we were going.
We pulled up in a small town and had a boring time because there was nothing to do but wait for the rest of our unit. We could not go out or even write letters home. When the other lads came, the Capt. told us that we were now 119 Field Mobile Bakery (not 83rd). This meant that we were going to France.
Two days later, 26 July 1944, we were told to get ready to move out. We went under cover by lorry to the docks at Newhaven. We were all lined up ready to board and load the troop carrying ship with tanks, lorries, ammo and food. We were told that our ovens and trailers would be coming on another ship. Very soon we were on the deck watching England going away from us. "Good-bye England. I wonder when we shall see you again." We are now with the 21st Army Group, British Liberation Army.
France - 24th September 1944
This is the first time that I have really had the chance to write about my family in France, 47 days after D-Day. The Day that will go down in history as the beginning of the Liberation of France from the grasp of those inhuman Fiends, the Nazis, who, if they had got across the channel to England would have crushed it like an egg in a vice. There was the time when the British Amy made a retreat from Dunkirk and they cold bloodedly bombed our boys on the beaches. We swore we would return that fight and so we did. After four years waiting we made a beach landing in Normandy.
I set sail with the 119 Field (Mobile) bakery From Newhaven on the 26th July 1944. I think it was the first time the channel had been as calm for months so it was a very nice crossing and I slept most of the night. I was expecting to hear enemy planes up above us but we never saw a plane or heard any guns. In fact, it was just like peacetime. Well, we landed on the 27th July at a French town called Aramanches and we had to stay there until we got the information on where we had to go. We waited in a field until 10 o'clock at night and, believe me, we were all dead tired.We had not had a proper meal since we left the transit camp in England and what food we did have was out of our 24-hour ration boxes with which each man was issued. It consisted of four bars of chocolate, sweets, compo tea, biscuits and oatmeal blocks. I myself did not think we could manage on it, but we did and were very glad to have it with us.
It was nearly 10 o'clock and everyone was looking out for the lorries that were coming to take us to our unknown destination. We saw a cloud of dust coming along the road and then made out four troop carrying lorries and we were happy when they pulled up along side of us. We all climbed up into the lonies and were soon on the road. I could see in the grim faces of the other men that they were thinking of the ones they loved across the channel. I could not speak to any of them for I wanted to sit and think of my dear wife and kiddies that I had left behind. Well, we had been on the road for about half an hour and it was still glum in the lorry and my eyes were nearly filling up with tears. I could see that the other lads were the same so I thought it was time everyone cheered up. I turned to my mate Len Andrews and said to him, 'What about having a sing-song?" So we all started up singing and everyone was happy again.
It was not long before we pulled up at a small town called Bayeux. Every one of us was as black as coal for we had not had a wash or a shave since we had left England. After we had had something to eat we thought it was about time we made a place to sleep. Three of us, Corporal Brown, L/Cpl Andrews and myself, got out our ground sheets and started to make a bivvy in the hedge. It was nearly dark when we had finished so we just got into bed as we were -in our battle dress. We had only been in the bed for about an hour when Jerry came over and started to drop his eggs. If anyone could have seen us scramble out of our bivvy, they would have laughed their stocking tops off, I must admit I was a bit scared at first, but I soon got over it. I know that I should have a lot like that to go through during my time in France. It lasted for about an hour and we decided to get back into bed. We found that in our mad scramble the bivvy had fallen down so we just had to get under the best way we could and trust to luck that it would not rain. We were called up at about 9 o'clock in the morning and we made one dash for our breakfast. It consisted of 'Slingers' biscuits and margarine with only half a cup of tea.
We stayed in Bayeux for about a week doing nothing but go for a walk or go to sleep. We then moved to a place called Luc-sur-Mer. It was there that we first started to do some baking. We were glad to be baking because we had not had any bread since we left England. We did not have such a bad time there because we used to go down to the sea front for a swim in our spare time, though we did not have much of that. Len and I have been walking along the beach in a morning looking to see if we could find any dead bodies washed up. We saw a couple which were partly eaten away.
It would open anyone's eyes in Civvy Street if they could just come over here and see how things carry on. The French people do not get any cigarettes or soap and it is nothing to have about a dozen kiddies around you saying, "Cigarettes for Papa." If you could only see the damage done by our bombers! The Jerry bombing in England is not a patch on what we have done in France.
The people were not too friendly towards us in Normandy for the simple reason that the Germans did not bother them so much. I do not think they liked the idea of us landing there. As we got further into France the people changed completely. When we left Luc-sur-Mer we stopped in Rouen for a cup of tea and some dinner. The people there all gathered round us and it was surprising to hear how many could speak a bit of English. It made it a bii better for us to be able to talk to some of the people. We stayed in Rouen for about three hours and then we were on the road again. We finished at a place called Gamanches.
It wasn't a bad little place because we could get a drink of beer - the first since we had left Bayeux. We only stayed there for five days and we were on the move again. You can tell how hard it was to be able to post any letters. It sometimes took a couple of days when we got to a new place to find the whereabouts of the post office, because that moves about just like we do.
25th September 1944 - We stopped at this place called Margurilles and we have been here four days. We can get plenty of beer at 5 Francs a two-pint bottle (about 6d in English money), so our pay goes a long way. Here I am at this moment sat on my spring bed to write this. Len is the best pal I have ever had and I have him to thank for getting the bed for me. He swiped it from a Jerry Flying Bomb site for me so now we can both sleep in comfort.
This week we are on night work and we start at 2300hrs and work untill 0700hrs. During the night it has poured down and drops keep pouring through the canvas and going down our necks. It makes working conditions a bit awkward because the trailer floor gets wet and slippery, and any of the men could easily go and slip off the trailer and hurt himself. We have got rather a busy night tonight for we have got twenty dough's, which is about six hundreds stones of bread. First thing in the morning, it will all go out to the troops further up in the front line -and they need it! We have just been working about two hours now and I have told the Lance-Jack on the mixer to make us some tea. It would make you laugh if you could see how we make our tea. The water is boiled in the Tempering Tank that is used for heating the water for mixing the dough. We make the tea in a bucket and many a time we use the same bucket to wash in or to wash the floor. We don't care as long as we get a good cup of tea I have just filled my cup and it is good and sweet. We have sugar to put in the dough so we just put the scoop in to make the tea just how we like it.
It was now 4.30 in the morning and every one of the fifteen lads is feeling tired, so Len shouts out from the ovens to one of the lads, "Give us the trumpeter, Clive". Clive comes from Lancashire and has rather a gruff voice, very much like a foghorn. Well, he has started to sing it and his voice drowns the roar of the machinery in the bake-house. I am sure that people can hear him about three hundred yards away and it sounds worse with it being night-time. The time is just about 6.30am now and I have just finished getting the last dough down. I am very pleased that I can go and get into bed, for that is a soldier's best friend. As long as we have somewhere to sleep we do not care a damn what happens.
I woke up this aftemoon (26.09.44) and I had to make a dash to get some dinner. I was feeling rather peckish as I did not have any breakfast before I got into bed this morning. It was the usual kind of dinner -Bully Beef -for that is what we mostly live on out here in France. It goes down all right. After we had dinner we went out to the village and were drinking beer and rum all afternoon. When it got to four o'clock we thought it was about time we went back to the billet for our tea, so we set off back. We were both in agony for the beer goes straight through you as soon as you drink it.
It is very rare that you see any animals in the streets of France.
We had our tea and in about ten minutes we were ready to go out again, as I was already feeling dry. We went up to the other village for a change and we started on beer again. We were trying to have a talk to the girl behind the bar but we couldn't make her understand. In a way a good job she didn't know what we were saying to her. It got to about 8.30pm and some Frenchmen came in and started to talk to us. We could understand them a bit. We were a bit crafty in handling our cigs round to them. It was not long before they bought the drinks. It was wine this time so it finished up being a good night.
We weren't feeling much like work so we had an hour in bed before we started. I was called at 10.45hrs by one of the boys in our section -Snakey Phillips. My head was as heavy as lead and I was not in the mood for going to work but, as I could not do anything about it, I had to get up and go. It was pitch black and raining cats and dogs, and when it rains in France it does rain. We had the usual amount of work to do tonight but we soon got going for Len is on the ovens and they were keeping their heat up just to his liking. It didn't give me much chance for a smoke because, as long as he keeps going I have to do so on the divider (the machine I am on this week).
We had worked for about an hour when I told old Freddie Henson to get some tea made. Bakers can work a lot better when they have had a drop of 'char'. In fact, I do not think there is anyone in the Army who drinks as much as we bakers do. Well, he made the tea in the bucket and I got a cupful. Good Lord! It was just like drinking dishwater. I asked Freddie what he had done with the tea. Had he sent it home and made ours with matchsticks? He gave me an answer, for he is a bit of a comedian. "Yes, Jack, I have sent it home in a letter. I am saving it up till I get married and then my old lass will not have to buy any for a long time." There is he, Snakey Phillips and Clive Gawthrop: they keep us awake with laughter; Clive with his singing, Fred and Snakey with their jokes and silly tricks which they got up to. Well, the night is now over and I am going to get into bed for I am really tired out.
It is now Saturday and I have just come off work and I don't feel like going to bed so Len and I have decided to go to Lille for the day. Well, it didn't take us long to get ready and we made our way up to the main road to catch one of our lorries that was going on to Brussels in Belgium. We weren't walking long before one came along and when the driver saw us he pulled up and asked where we were going. We told him, and we were only in the lorry for a matter of fifteen minutes when we pulled up in the centre of Lille.
We expected to see it partly in ruins, but we could hardly tell that there had been any war around the place at all. We had a good walk around the town and I thought it was about time that we had a drink and something to eat. We made our way to a cafe and we were lucky because the waitress could speak a bit of English. We had chips and some meat stuff, like haslet, and French bread with a pint of beer. That cost us 30 Francs. After we had had our meal we walked round again and got a bit fed up so we decided to get out of Lille and go to Labasse about 20 kilometres away. We went and caught a tramcar that would take us out of town. We didn't know how to ask the conductor how much the fare was, so Len pulled out his fag case and gave him a cig. He never asked us for any money, but we weren't going to give him any in any case so it was just the same. We did about 4 miles on the tram and then we had to walk about a mile before we could stop a lorry to take us on to Labasse. It was a civvy lorry that stopped for us and it took us right into the middle of the town.
Labasse isn't such a big town but you can buy nearly everything you want except cigs, sweets, and soap, in fact, you can get things in France that you can't get in England. I can't see where they get the idea that France is starving for the people look a lot better fed than a lot of people in England. It was nearly eight o'clock when we set off back to the camp and it was pitch black. When we got nearly there we decided to stop and have one more drink before we went in. That was the last night out I had in France for we started to pack up ready for the road again the next day.
Getting mobile oven ready for moving out.
It was Monday 2/10/44 and we were all day packing. What a day! Our section always mucks about while we are packing and when old Freddie Henson and Snakey Phillips get going, well, it's enough to drive anyone crazy with laughter. We were packing one of the trailers with kit and Snakey went round tapping the wheels with a 7lb-sledge hammer. When I asked him what he was doing he said, "I am only seeing if it will be fit for the road, Corporal." Then he dashed round to Freddie and they started to do a dance. When they started that, the rest of the section stopped to watch them because they are so crazy. What puzzles me is that we still get the work done. Our sergeant is just as bad as those two and he is the best sergeant in the unit - Bill Kemerly. He doesn't care a damn how we carry on, as long as the work is done.
We were on the road early the next morning. It was bitter with cold when we set off at about 0700hrs for Belgium. There were about ten lorries in our convoy and each section had their own Lorry. We were singing through all the towns and villages we passed. We even sang all the dirty army songs we know for the French people don't understand them.
When we passed over the Belgian border we found out how much better the Belgian people were than the French. They looked twice as clean, and were friendly towards us. We pulled up at the side of some houses for our dinner and two young girls came out with a large basket of pears, they were as big as sweet William's. I only had about six in my pocket and I did enjoy them. We passed through Brussels on our way and nearly all the people stopped to wave to us. We landed at a small town called Kapelle Op Den Bosch and we put our bakery up in a large factory. It is one of the best factories I have seen in my life for being clean. We sleep in another part of it and it is nearly as good as a hotel. It is five storeys high and we are on the third floor. We can go up in two lifts to our floor if we want to and that just pleases us. Yesterday as we were going up, Snakey Phillips was at the buttons to take us up, he said, "What floor do you want, ladies and gentlemen?" And as we passed the second floor, "Second floor for ladies knickers!" When we reached our floor, "brothel on your right, French letters on your left and MOs in the centre."
It is now Thursday 5/10/44 and we are sat on our beds wondering what time we have to start work for we weren't told last night. It's not, like No. 3 section to go and ask, so we just waited. At 0930hrs our master baker came up and asked me to take some men down into the bakery to move some flour. After a bit of grumbling we went down into the bakery. I didn't take Len with me because he was writing a letter and I had just finished mine. He had to start work at 11.00hrs and we hadn't to start until three o'clock, well, that is what we thought.
The master baker has got it in for our section so we had to move the flour and then we had to finish taking the fitters kit up to the other end of the bakery to make room for another bakery that is coming in. I don't know how we are going to go on for room because we haven't got much for our own bakery but I suppose we shall manage somehow. After we had finished moving that stuff we went upstairs to our billet to get changed into our whites ready to start work at three o'clock.
I was hoping that Len had made some good dough so that I could bat on with the ovens and get finished so that we could go out at night for a pint. I was very disappointed for I had to wait for the doughs to prove because the bakery was as cold as ice. It made me have to wait on the ovens and they were red hot so when I pulled my lirst batch out they were as black as coal. I got the usual old shouting from the lads up on the trailer. Snakey said, 'Who's dead then?'That's as much as to say whom are you mourning for? It doesn't make any difference to us because we are used to it. Well, I didn't get finished in time to go and have a drink, so I went and had a shower bath instead. I did enjoy it for the water was nice and warm, and I felt a damn site better afterwards. Then I went and got into my good old spring bed.
I was told when I first came into the army that my rifle was my best friend but I have changed my mind about that. I think it is my bed. There is nothing in the world to beat it while you are in the army, yet there is a better bed waiting for me back in England and a wife to keep me company in it. That is the day I am looking forward to, when I shall be able to go home to her and my three kiddies for good but when that will be I don't know. The sooner it comes the better it will be for all the lads in the army because it is the best part of their lives getting wasted. Yet there are men back in Civvy Street who keep going on strike for more money. I don't know how they would go on if they had three and a half years away from home like me; or five years like a lot more lads. Then they would have something to grumble about. If I had my way I would bring all the lads out of the army who came in at the beginning of the war and make the others take their places. I won't say myself because this is the first time I have been abroad and I haven't had to come up against any of the hardships like a lot of the lads. I hope I don't because I am no hero and I want to go back to England in one piece. The farther away from the fighting line I am the better. As I have said before, I have a wife and three kiddies to keep after the war. Who would keep them if I got bumped off, She couldn't manage on what she would get from the government.
It is now Friday 6/10/44 and I have just got up from a good night's sleep and I am going to make a dash for my breakfast before I am too late. I used the lift to take me down because I haven't got the bed out of my eyes yet and I don't feel like walking down all them stairs. After all, that's what a lift is made for. When I got to the cookhouse I saw that we had got a change for breakfast. It was Slingers instead of bully, and I knew then that it would be bully for dinner, tea and supper. In fact, we have eaten that much bully, instead of walking now - we gallop!
I have been thinking of my wife nearly all day today as she is expecting a baby. It makes a man think more of his wife when he is away from her; more so when he is overseas and can't get any mail through. I know that there are some letters for us but we can't get in touch with them. I am beginning to think that the army post office has forgotten that the 119 F.M.B. is over here. I haven't had much to say to anyone today for I was in one of my quiet moods. When I am like that I can soon be upset. Len had finished work early and I knew that he would be going out while I was still working. It couldn't be helped because he started three hours before me. Still I always know where he has been to if he goes out without me, and that's very rare.
I have had rather a busy week and I haven't had much time to write. We finished work early on Friday 13/10/44 and we went to Brussels for the day. What a fine place it is. I would sooner have it than London, for it is a lot cleaner. I can't understand why Jerry didn't damage it before he left because there are some shops bigger than those in London. We had a walk round a shop called Au Bon March and the first thing we saw was a place to have our photos taken. We had to have a go at that and it was only 6 Francs for six.I was the first to have mine taken and the shop assistant, which was a very nice young girl who was stood at the side of Len and me at the other side. She kept saying, "Cigarette for papa,"Chocolate for mademoisene," and "Kiss me quick," for that was all she knew in English. Len said, "She is nice, isn't she? How would You like to take it back to the billet?" Well I couldn't stop laughing at that. I must admit, she would have been OK to keep anyone warm in bed. Then it was Len's turn to have his photo taken and believe me, I had my own back on him.
After tea we had a walk round and it was nearly dark and the streets were full of nasty old molls. Two of them stopped Len and me and asked us if we wanted to jig with them. They couldn't speak any more English so we told them in plain Engish what to go and do. We know what it is like in the town and most other places because we had lads come back with a touch of the Old Dog - Army slang for VD. It doesn't pay you to go with any of them and yet it takes some resisting. We have got used to that with being away from home for so long and we know that we can make up for it when we get out of the Army and home for good.
We left Brussels at eight o'clock for we had to be in the camp for 2200hrs. It took the driver all his time to find his way back because it was very dark and he got lost two or three times. We didn't get back until 2230hrs and, believe me; it wasn't long before I was in bed for I had to be up at 0230hrs. I woke up at 0200hrs with a nasty temper for I was having a nice dream and I had just got to the best part of it when one of the lads shook me in the back and told me it was time to get up. Anyway, I soon got over it for I knew that I couldn't do anything about it. I then got ready for work. I didn't have much to do and I was finished at 0730hrs - just in time to have my breakfast. I then dashed upstairs and into my old fleapit again and stayed in there until tea time because we had to start night work at 2200hrs.
After tea we went out to our friends' house. They were waiting for us with paper and pencil on the table ready to learn a bit of English from us. They are picking it up all right. The old man works at the factory where we are billeted and is a good sort but slow at picking up English. His wife is going on fine and I manage to teach her a few Yorkshire slang words. It is surprising how many slang words there are in Flemish and it is easy for me to pick them up and use them. There are four daughters in the family. The oldest at 18 is Marguerite and there is one, aged 15, away at school in Brussels. I don't know her name. There is Marie-Louise, 10 and then our little favourite Victoria, aged 4. She is a lovely little kid. Marguerite's young man is rather scared of us and I think he will be glad when we have gone away. Marguerite and her mother and dad are so keen on learning English that they forget about him. I don't believe that they think very much about him in one way. Tonight, Len was opening a bottle of beer and it shot up into the air and some of it hit Old Nick in the face. You should have seen his face with anger. He played merry hell and thought Len had done it on purpose. What made it worse was that the others laughed at him. I thought that he was going to go for Len. If he had have done he would have been sorry for it because I had a bottle in my hand which I was going to open and I think he must have seen the wicked gleam in my eye. He soon calmed down and things carried on as usual.
I have not much to say about this week because I am on night work and I spend most of my time in bed. The weather hasn't been too good to go out. It has rained every night and I don't like getting wet if I can help it.
On Friday 20/10/44 Len and I went to an E.N.S.A. show and it was very good. The comedian gave a good crack about the Nonnandy Star. He said that it was a piece of red tape browned off at both ends! Our Q.M.said that he was going to ask our Captain to indent for some for the unit. I don't know what the Captain said. I suppose he was like us and had a good laugh. We got back from the show just in time to go to work and what a night it was! I was tired out and most of the other lads were the same. What made it worse for me was watching the moulder go round, because it nearly sends you to sleep at the best of times. I thought I was going to have trouble with the divider for it was rattling like a can of peas. I asked Snakey Phillips to get down on his knees and pray, or else we would have to weigh off and mould by hand. So, down he went on his knees and he started to pray, but he must have said it wrong because it got worse. Well, it lasted until we finished our work and the next shift took over. They managed one run and then it broke down, but, thank God, it was mended for when we started again that night.
It is now 21 October 1944 and I haven't been in bed much today because I haven't got to go to work tonight. I spent nearly all the afternoon writing letters and after tea Len and I went round to our friends to take our washing. We hadn't been in the house five minutes before the beer was on the table. We spent most of the night playing music and learning to dance. I don't think I shall ever be able to pick up the dancing. What makes it worse are my heavy boots. It takes me all my time to pick them up!
Mobile bakery (inside a factory)
At about 2000hrs we heard a flying bomb come over and explode nearby. We had got used to them as we had ten or more round us nearly every night when we were back in England. I don't know what it will be like in Antwerp for they say that it is like Hell let loose. We can see the flashes from where we are, because Antwerp is only 30 miles away and Jerry is still there. We hope our lads will soon push him out because he is too near for our liking. The further away he is, the better.
This week we are on the worst shift of the lot. We have to start at 0930hrs and work for about an hour or so. We have our dinner and then work until 2200hrs. It spoils us for going out unless we haven't got many dough's on and then, with a push, we can manage to get out for about 2000hrs. Well, on Wednesday, we didn't have many dough's on and there was a dance and we wanted to go to. Our Sergeant had to do a bit of arguing with the Master Baker before he would let us have an early night. He won! We were finished in good time. Len and I took our friends' daughter and her girl friend. The first thing we did when we got into the Dance Hall was to get some beer. I was very dry from working on the ovens. Len and I got four glasses in and we were only sat down for five minutes when the girls went on the floor to dance. Len and I just sat, drinking beer. It is more in our line than dancing! We had just about eight pints then we thought it was about time we went and had a talk to the girls. Believe me, it is a work of art trying to make them understand. We manage to do it and we can understand them just a bit.
It is now 21 November 1944 and I haven't been able to write much as I have been very busy. I started work this morning at three o'clock as I am on mixing and what a morning it was. It was very cold. We had to wait until seven o'clock for some breakfast and my stomach was empty, as I hadn't had anything to eat since teatime yesterday. You can tell how I felt and I was just dying for a cup of tea. The rest of my Section didn't start until 7.00am and I was ready for them to start for I had a lot more doughs to mix. I didn't finish until 1030am and I had just got upstairs when we heard a flying bomb come over. What a shock it was! I expected the windows to come in any moment. I asked if anyone knew where it had fallen and it was up at Ramsbonk. That's the village where we go, so I got ready and had a walk up there. There was only the windows broken so they had been very lucky. I think myself that they are trying to get the factory that we work in. I am sure that one of these days we shall get hit with one and all the four bakeries will be mixed up into one.
On Saturday 4/11/44 we finished work in good time and I spent most of the day in bed. I never heard any of the doodlebugs that dropped near the factory so I must have been very tired to sleep through it all. We didn't go until after tea and we went up to our fiend's house, We were trying to say a word in Flemish when we heard that terrible sound of a doodlebug. Into the cellar they all dashed and Len and I went outside like fools to see where it was. It was just going over the top of us with its flame still burning and we knew that we were all right. It didn't go very long before the flame went out and it dived to the ground to explode. We left the house at 10.00pm and were walking down the road when we saw a red flame up in the sky. Len said, 'here comes a doodlebug!" It was coming straight for us. There we were stood in the middle of the road looking up at it when all of a sudden its flame went out and it started to dive towards the ground. You should have seen us dive to the ground! I had a cold shiver run up my spine for I thought that at any moment the doodlebug would drop at the side of us and blast us to hell. The Lord was with us again and it exploded further up the village. We got up laughing for we had still got life left in us. Len said, 'That bastard was near!" I dare not write what I said myself but it would have made the devil turn his head in shame if he had been near me. We were glad when we got hack to the billet and into bed. I would sooner be asleep when there is anything like that dropping about because if anything hits you then you don't know anything about it.
I have not had time to write much this week for we are on night work and there are too many doodlebugs flying around at nights now to be able to sit in comfort and write. Last night, it was the nearest we had to the factory for it dropped just at the back of sergeant's biiet and part of it was blown down. There was only one got hurt and that was our master baker who had a piece of glass hit him in the head. He is going on all right now. It didn't do any damage to our bakery, thank God, for we were just starting work. During the night every one of us was fully expecting to get one on the bakery before the night was out. We knew that if one did land then it would blow us all to smithereens, but luck was with us. We have not had one as near us since - and we don't want one.
Having a crafty fag at the railyard.
On Saturday morning 11/11/44 Len and I went into Antwerp with some of the lads in a lorry for our day off. We hadn't been there long before a doodlebug came and dropped near the station. Len and I had left there only about four minutes before it dropped. It did a lot of damage and killed a lot of people including soldiers. We made our way to a cafe for a drink of wine or beer so that we could get over the shock. When we got into this cafe the chap behind the bar asked us if we were cold and when we said we were he told us to go into a little side room where there was a fire. In we went and we were the only two in the room so we stayed there drinking and smoking. After about 15 minutes two of the foulest girls in Antwerp came in and parked themselves beside Len and me. We realised it must be some kind of a brothel. Well, we had just got our glasses filled but we were going to walk out when one of the girls asked Len if he would buy her a drink. They could both speak English so he turned to her and said, 'not bloody likely!" Then they asked us if we wanted to go upstairs with them. Well that did it! I picked up my glass of beer and was going to sling it in her face when Len got hold of my arm and said, "Don't start any trouble, Jack" So with that we got up and walked out. I know it takes a lot of doing for a man to resist a woman when he has been a long time away from his wife. I myself must admit that I like to talk to girls but when it comes to old molls like that I have finished. A man can talk to girls without going too far and I know just how far to go. If I went with a girl and went too far with her there would be a 99% chance of getting a dose of VD. I don't want that for I have such a lot to lose; my wife, my family, my rank and reputation. So I just keep to myself for I know that I can get all the love I want when I get back to England and my wife.
Today it is Monday and the sergeant came up to me and told me to take four men and a lorry to fetch some coal from the docks at Antwerp. So off we went and the first thing we did when we got there was to park the lorry and go into the canteen for a cup of tea. The canteen is one of the finest hotels I have ever seen. There are girls to wait on us and a dance-band to play for us while we are having a meal. The name of it is the "Atlantic Hotel". When we came out the driver asked me where the place was that we had to get. I said, "I don't know, we shall have to ask." Well, we were about two hours running about Antwerp trying to find it. It was right in the middle of the docks and when we got down there it was in a mess. It looked as though Jerry had had a rough time. He had only been driven out of there while we have been in Belgium. In fact, we hadn't captured Antwerp when we first came to Kapelle Op Den Bosch and that's only 25 miles away. I hope he is a long way in front of us now.
Here I am again and I have been neglecting writing in my book again but it can't be helped this week. On Sunday I felt ill. In fact, I was on the verge of collapsing at work in the morning and I was sick three times within the first hour of being at work but I wouldn't give in. I don't like going to the M.O. in case he happens to send me in dock (slang for hospital). There is also every chance of getting posted to another unit when you come out and I don't want that to happen so I just carry on and take things as they come.
On Monday it went up on orders that Len and I were to go on a 48 hour leave to Ghent. Were we glad? We hadn't had any rest for a long time and we were ready for it. On Tuesday we caught the lorry at 12.00 From the bakery and got into Ghent at 2.00. It was pouring down with rain but we didn't care as long as we were getting some rest. The first thing we had to do was to wait until one of the Canadians at the leave centre took us up to our rooms. We were both in a room of our own, and our beds, they did look grand. In fact, I felt like getting on mine at once only we wanted to get out as soon as we could. We just put our kit on the bed, what bit we had, and went for a walk round the city.
What a place! It has some very ancient buildings. We went round an old castle that had been built in the 13th century and we enjoyed going round. We were very sorry when the time came for us to get ready to go back to Kappelle for we were just nicely settling down to a bit of comfort. We got back OK and, much to our disappointment we found out that our bakery was going to move again. We were wondering where it would be this time - Holland or Germany? Well, we have been very busy this week and I have not had much time to write. Now the time has come when we must go up to our friends house at Ramsdonk and tell them that we won't be seeing them anymore.
The bakery driver and me.
We were going away the next day, Saturday the second of December (2/12/44). What a time we had for the lady of the house said she didn't believe us. It was nearly an hour before we could make her believe us. When it came to 10.00 and we were getting ready to go back to the billet she asked us if we would write it them. We said that we would because they had been very good to us. The daughter insisted on giving each of us a photo of herself for she said it would help us to remember Belgium. We took it and before we left the daughter and her mother kissed both Len and me. They both burst into tears for they know as well as we did that we should never see each other again. The old man himself was very down hearted for he used to enjoy us going up and having a chat with them. We said good-bye and went on our way to the billet with that same feeling in our hearts that we have had at many a place. Believe me, it's not very nice when you make friends with anyone and then you have to leave them knowing that you'll never see them again.
We pulled out of the factory at 8.00 in the morning. As we were passing through Fappelle there were a lot of people waiting on the street to wave good-bye to us for nearly all the lads had had a house to go to. When we were going through Ramsdonk our friends were stood at the coener of the street waiting to see us for the last time. We stood up in the lorry and waved good-bye to them and then settled down to a five hours journey to Holland. What a ride it was for it was bitter cold and raining like hell. We had been going for about an hour when our convoy stopped for us to get out for a few minutes, Len went and got in another lorry to ride with the driver and I stayed to look after the other lads. Well, we had just passed through a place called Tibuny when a jeep caught us up and the driver shouted out to me, "One of your lorries has had an accident." I asked if it was towing anything and he said, 'Yes, the same as you." We were towing an oven and I know then that it must be the lorry that Len was in. There was a lorry in front of us with an oven and Len had an oven at the back of his lorry. I was wondering all the time if he was OK. We couldn't stop to see, for when you are in a convoy you have to stay in it.
We landed up at a down and out dump called Osterwlk, and what a place! We had just been here for about an hour when I saw the lorry that Len was in coming along but Len wasn't inside. The oven wasn't at the back so I started wondering again if he was OK. I asked the driver and he said, "Yes, he is OK. It was only the tow bar that broke on the oven. He is staying behind to look after it until we can send another lorry for it."
We were very lucky again for we had got another factory in which to put the bakery. It saves us a lot of trouble having to put the tents up. We also touched for a good billet for sleeping in. I think that is the main thing of all, having a good place to sleep, We were working until darkness came fixing up the bakery for them we had to wait until the next day until there was electric laid on. Len came here about 6.00 at night. He had been OK, for at the place he had stayed it was just out side of a house. The people asked him in to have a cup of coffee and wanted to know if he had had any dinner. He didn't like taking any food from them so he said that he had just had it. I know it's not very nice to think things about people's kindness, but in a way he was a bit afraid that it might have had poison in it. There have been a hell of a lot of soldiers poisoned that way and we were warned about it before we left Kappelle in Belgium.
Night time came very quickly and it wasn't long before we were in the old flea pit and fast asleep for we had had a busy day. I was called at 7.30 in the morning and I didn't feel a bit like getting up but it was a case of having to do. It was the 3rd of December (3/12/44) and we started work at 8.00. What a place! We have to walk about in the mud up to our boot tops and our feet get wet through. I didn't know what it would be like up in the front line about 12 miles away. We soon ask how far we are away from the fighting when we get to a new place. We haven't been very far away each time.
We began to think that we had gone away from all the doodlebugs when we came here but we had only been here about a week when he started to send them over. I am sure he knows that the 119 are after him so he is trying his best to stop us. I didn't think there is one man among us that would take a prisoner if he can help it. I am sure that I wouldn't. I am itching to slit one's throat and I hope I get the chance before I come out of the war. That is, unless Jerry gets me first.
It is now Sunday 17th of December (17/12/44) and I have just finished work after having a steady night. I am on night work this week and I can see myself spending most of the day in bed. That is, unless I suddenly feel like a walk out in the afternoon, and I doubt if I shall feel like that.
It is now the twenty- first of December (21/12/44) and only four days from Christmas. Every one of us lads is wondering how we are going to spend it. By the sound of the news things don't seem at all too good with Jerry making a push forward into Belgium again. We hope he does not get too far before he is back again, we don't want another Dunkirk and that's what it seems like. We just treat these things as a joke and ask one another if he has got his slippers ready. One of the lads will come into the bakery at night and say; there's a Jerry outside, Jack, and he want's to know if we can brew some tea for him. I just say, "Ask him in and I will make it for him in five minutes," I don't know what we would do if we did suddenly see a bunch of Jerry's come into the bakery with their guns pointed at us. I think we would just freeze on the spot. I know there would be no mercy for us after what we saw in Belgium.
I don't think I have mentioned it before - it was at a place called Breendonk. About 3,850 Belgian people were murdered. Len and I went in that place, it was an underground fort and it had a very sickly smell about it. I have read many a book about torture chambers and how they used to torture people. I thought at the time that the author who writes such books must be partly out of his mind to write such silly things. Now I have changed my mind, for I never thought I would go in a place where those things had really happened, and by men who are supposed to be human and have now filled my mind with hatred. We went through the gate which was very heavily covered with wicked looking barbed wire, charged with electricity, We then crossed over a moat which was about 20ft deep and 50yds across. It would have been impossible for a poor swimmer to get across and even if he did get across he would have the charged barbed wire up against him. One touch of that and he would be burned to a cinder so it was just hopeless to try and escape. We went down into the underground passages and they were very damp. They had that terrible atmosphere that there were gruesome and decayed men, not yet dead, still moving about in the shadows. It nearly made the hairs on the back of my neck stick up on end and I could feel the cold chill run up my spine as I thought of all those poor men that had been tortured to death in the horrible place. We came to one room, or I should say dungeon and it was as deep as hell. The Germans used to put a prisoner inside and make him stand in the middle of the floor and water would slowly drip on his head. He would be in there perhaps for two or three days without food or water. When they opened the door again he would be dead. Then there were the gas chambers where they would put a prisoner and slowly gas him. All these things were done just because they refused to obey Gestapo orders or refused to go to Germany to work. We came across another room that was only as big as my cellar at home. In this we could see, by the aid of a torch, iron chains on the wall and imprints of a man that must have been chained there for days on end. It was all smeared with blood. At one time there had been about 100 men crammed into that cell. They had to stand up to get in and every one was dead when the Germans came to get them out. They hadn't had any food or water and had kicked each other to death in their madness. We came across the room where they used to crush a man's hand or foot, or pull out his toe or fingernail. Then there was the W.C. Oh yes, they had a W.C. for the prisoners, but they had to go through hell if they wanted to use it. On the seat there were nails sticking up all over. A man would suffer a lot of pain using that. I said to my pal Len, 'let's get out of here and have a look outside." Seeing things Like that was turning my mind to want to do the same to Germans.
We went outside and came across a large hut. We had a look inside and to our horror it was where they used to store the bodies until they had enough to fill a grave. They would put three bodies in one coffin and when they had got ten full ones they would go and tip them in one big grave. That made a total of 30 bodies in one grave. It didn't matter what sex they were, they all went in together. We could only count about 40 graves but there were some more at the other side of the fort. We next came across 10 stakes in the middle of the yard where they would tie the men and shoot them. Then there was the scaffold where they used to hang them. Well, that's the story of Breendonk, and that name will live in my mind as long as I live. I know the Belgian people will never forget it. I used to think it was all a lot trash when I used to read in the papers about what the Germans did to the people out here; but not any more. I hope to God we can rapay them, for I would love to see one's face as we were trying to put him in the ovens or mixer. I am sure that's what we could do if we got the chance.
Well, that was back in Belgium so I had better get back to Holland, the place I have not liked from the first moment I landed here. Any time we might go out and not come back for someone might try to do you in, but Len and I would put up a hell of a fight if it came to that. We both carry daggers with us and know how to use them.
With german workers, some were supposed to POWs.
I have not had much time to write in this book for I have been very busy and now it is 15/1/45. We had a very good time at Christmas and I think it was one of the best dinners I have had while I have been in the army. We had plenty of cigars and wine that had been captured from the Germans but they weren't up to much. All week we were confined to camp for they were expecting Jerry to break through. We had all our kit packed up ready to put on the lorries and we ourselves had to carry our rifle and ammo everywhere we went. This included meal times, for we had to be ready at a moment's notice to be called out to make a fight of it. Believe me, we weren't at all very cheerfull about it for we are only about 20 miles from the front line as it is. One morning I heard one of the lorry drivers say that a Jerry patrol had been up to 6 miles away from us. Believe me, it put my mind off writing for when I started to write my mind would wander away and start thinking of home and wondering if I should ever see it again. I know it sounds silly, but it is funny what goes through your mind when you are a long way from home, and a good chance of being killed so near. We have got so used to it now, that it would be funny if we didn't hear the guns roaring away in the distance and the old doodlebugs going over at night. I have seen enough of these to last me to the end of the war and the sooner that comes the better for me and the rest of the lads.
It is now 25/1/45 and what a day for it is bitter and cold. I have just finished work for I was up at 2.00 this morning and the time is now 9.00 and I am going to get into bed. 1 have had a busy time and I am made up with cold. I have had it for about a week now and I shall be glad when it has gone away. Well, I have had my sleep and just had my dinner. It was good! I was laid on my bed reading after dinner waiting until it was time to go for a bath when Len and some of the other Lads came over to my bed and grabbed hold of me. The lads said they were going to shave off my moustache and there I lay helpless with one of the lads each holding my arms and my legs. Len had hold of my head. The other lad could not shave it off because he had not got any water so he just struck a match and burned it off. It didn't get me mad for I can stand a joke and I knew I should get my own back on them sometime. I don't know how the hell I have managed to keep my stripes for I am always playing about with the lads. One of these days I shall get caught and that will be the office for me, but who cares? As long as I get my fun I don't care what happens.
We have been having some very bad weather out here. It has been about a foot deep in snow and very cold but we have got used to all that by now. Well, today we drew out of the hat to see who was going home on leave and believe me, what a time it was. We were all in the bakery and the captain had two lads holdig a tin each. One tin had all the names in and the other had numbers in it. One lad drew a name out and another drew a number. Whatever the number was, the chap whose name had come out went on that rotation. I drew number 14, so I shall be the fourteenth man to go home on leave. It will take a long time before I go because there are only three men to go a month. I think it will be about April when I shall see England again. Believe me, I am ready for it and longing to get the touch of some good money in my pocket instead of the stuff I have got now. I would also like a drink of good beer but I don't think I shall be able to drink much with being without for such a long time.
Both Len and I have been spending the nights at some fiends' house playing cards. What a time we have for we played at solo and I had to teach Len how to play it at first. Now, we can show them the way home and it is not very often that we come away without winning. Last night they tried to show us a new game that they play over here, but could we hell as like pick it up. They were talking in Dutch and we only know a bit of that and they only know what bit of English we have taught them. We managed to get on OK talking to one another. Many a time when we are back in the billet we forget ourselves and speak in Flemish. We shall soon forget it all when we get back into England.
It was not long before we had to pack and move to another town. We were on the road for about two hours before we stopped at a place called Nchede. When we got out of the truck the Sgt. told us that we were going to be split up into pairs to stay with the Dutch people. Len and I were taken to a small farmhouse. The lady came out to greet us and take us inside. It was very clean. She took us upstairs to a very nice room that had a large double bed with white sheets. There was a wash basin in the comer and she indicated that we could use it and then go down stairs. She did not speak any Enghsh but we managed to understand her. Her husband only understood us when we asked him if he wanted a cigarette. They had two daughters, aged 18 and 16 years, and a son about ten years old. One of the girls could speak a bit of English. It was very nice here because when we were not on duty we could sit downstairs with them and write our letters home.
One day, Len and I went for swim in the canal. It was a bit dirty and deep. We were told back at the Base not to swim in the canal again because some lads from another Unit had been very ill after swimming in there. The MO. said it was from some dead bodies that must be still on the bottom.
While we were in Enchede the war with Germany was over and all the people were in the town square singing and dancing. The men and women who had been collaborating with the Germans were caught. The women were sat on a chair in the middle of the square and had all their hair shaved off. I saw the people stand three of the men against the wall, with their heels up to the wall and their hands above their heads. Every time they dropped their hands they were hit with the butt of a Sten gun. After about half an hour, as I was walking away, I could hear them being shot.
One day I saw the daughter stuffing grass into the tyre of her bike. I asked her why she was doing that, she said that they could not get any inner tubes, I told her that I was due to go on leave and that I would see if one could get one for her. I went to the office and got my 12-day pass and made my way to the station to catch a train that was going to the Hook of Holland. It was a very long journey and we had to get out half way and have a meal at one of the feeding points. The train was so full that men were laid out on the floor. I even saw one man lying on the luggage rack.
When we arrived at the Hook of Holland, we went on board and again had a struggle to find somewhere to sit. The boat sailed down to Dover, where I caught a train to Sheffield. I managed to get a good seat all the way. It was good to be home, to be able to wear my civvy clothes and walk out with my wife, Ivy, and the kiddies. We went up to see my Mother and Dad, and the rest of the family. My leave passed very quickly. I managed to get an inner tube and brought it back for the girl. She was very grateful.
It was not long before we had orders to move again. It did not take long to pack up because we had done it so many times. They were trying to keep us close behind the advancing troops and there were times when would have the tents erected and everything ready to start work the next day when the order would come to break camp and move out. Anyway, this time we stopped at Nijmegen where we were attached to the 1st Canadian Army Group. We got on very well with them. We were billeted in a very large school. Each section had their own room. Ours was No.3 section and I was in charge of the room. There was my pal, L/Cpl Len Andrews, L/Cpl Henson and eight Privates. They were all good lads and did not grumble much. There was a little pub nearby but it was difficult for us to get a drink because the R.E.'s used to get in before us. Capt. Mason had a word with the landlord and asked if he would let us buy the pub and we would return it to him when we left. He agreed, and a syndicate of the 80 men in our unit bought the pub. This was much better for us because the pub could not open until one of us arrived. One night we had a bit of a dance. Len and I were behind the bar. I had a good few pints and felt merry. I thought I would have a walk outside. The C.Q.M.S. then went up to the bar and asked Len, 'Where is Cpl Dukes?" When Len said that he did not know, he was told, "You had better go and look for him." He found me all right! Sitting in the middle of the road, trying to sing. Len brought Freddie Henson and they put my arms round their necks and walked me to the biiet.
The day before Christmas Eve we had another dance - but I wasn't behind the bar! I was just watching them dance. At about ten o'clock I told Len that I wasn't feeling very well and I went back to the billet and got into bed. About half an hour later, Len came in and said that he did not feel too good. Soon four more of the lads came in feeling the same as us. The Sgt came in and asked what was the matter with us. When we said that we felt ill he sent for the M.O. When he came, he looked at Len and me. He turned to the Sgt and said, "Right! These two to the Hospital. The rest are to remain in this room and no one else is to come in here until I say that it is safe for them to do so." We were taken to the Canadian Hospital. I was a bit miserable because I thought that we were going to miss out on the Christmas celebrations, and especially the dinner. How wrong I was! Father Christmas came round the ward and gave us one hundred cigarettes, two pairs of socks, cigars and sweets, but no beer. We were allowed out of hospital on the morning of New Year's Eve. The condition, which we accepted from the Doctor, was that we were not to drink any alcohol for a few days. When we got to the billet we found that the lads had saved our beer ration From Christmas Day. There were six bottles of stout waiting for me. That was the end of our promise to the Doctor.
The bakehouse crew
I was told that I was due to go on leave on the 16th January 1946 for 13 days. It meant another long journey up to the Hook of Holland, but it was great to be going home again. I travelled with Freddie Hamer who was going to Leeds. It was 13 days of real happiness and I was really sorry when the time came for me to go back. I met Freddie in Holland. When we got to Nijmegen we found that our unit had moved. I said to Fred, 'Wow what shall we do? He said, "You are the Corporal. What shall we do?" I said, "The 118 F.M.B. is in the next field. We will see whether they know where 119 have gone." They didn't know where our unit was. The Sgt-Major said that we could stay with them. We had a meal and after that I said to Fred, 'We are not staying here. Come on." We went into town and asked at the Red-Cap Office if they knew where our unit was going. They said, "No, but if you go into the cafe over the road, you will meet some Canadian soldiers who might know. We had a cup oftea in the cafe and eventually a driver came in. He did not know where they were but offered us a lift to the next town. We thought that it would be all right as we had reported to the MPs. So off we went. After about half an hour we saw a sign on a gateway to a field. It had a big Popeye painted on it and under that it said, '119 F.M.B.' What luck! I asked the driver to stop and let us out. We thanked him and went to report to the Sgt-Major. We told him why we were late and he just laughed and said, "I bet you thought you were lost."
We were at a small village called Wichen. There was not much to do there after we had finished work so Len and I would ask if a truck was going into Nijmegen. If there was a lorry we would travel in it and go for a few pints. We only stayed at Wichen for about two months. We were told that we were going to move into Germany.
When we left we had to leave the bakery behind. We could not understand why until we arrived at the German barracks. We were being disbanded from the 1st Canadian Army. I wondered what we were going to do now that we have not got any baking to do. I soon found out. To my horror, I learned that we were to do rifle drill, foot-slogging and guard duty. We thought that it was stupid because we had not done any of that since we left England. The Sgt came to me one day and said that I was on Guard Duty with six of the lads from the section. I said, 'I have never taken Guard duty on a Parade Ground. He just gave a laugh, and said, 'neither have I!' I marched the lads onto the Parade Ground and I could see the Major and Captain watching us from the window of the barracks. Our Sgt was standing in the doorway smiling. I got the lads into line and said to Fred Rose, 'What do I do now?" He had done it before. He said, "They can't hear you from here, so just bring us to attention and march us off to the Guard House." I was glad that it went all right for I was feeling nervous and embarrassed.
About a week later, it went up on orders that I was to be posted, with a Sgt and Private from another bakery, to a feeding point at Krefield in Germany. I had to say good-bye to Len and all the other lads that I had been with for about four years. I met Sgt Cyril Gatland and Private Bill Williams who were going with me. We anived at the station and had to squeeze onto the train. We stood in the doorway with all kit and rifles. I thought that if we wanted a tiddle it would have to be out of the window in the door, because the train was so full. It was very dark outside and when I looked out of the window I was horrified. We were going over a single-track bridge. The river below was running very fast and it seemed to be very dirty. I was glad when we got to the other side.
We had been on the train for about three hours when we arrived at Krefield. It was a big station. The Sgt had just said that we should find out some one to report to, when a Red-Cap came along. He told us to go to the big railway hotel just outside the station. We reported to the Captain, who said that he hoped that we would get on all right. He directed us to our rooms. Sgt Gatland went to the Sgt's quarters, while Bill and I found that our room had two single beds. After putting all our kit away, we had a wash and went down for a sandwich. I went back up in the lift and got into bed. I was soon asleep. The next morning I felt someone shaking me. I could hardly believe my eyes it was eight o'clock and I was being given a cup of tea by a young Frauline. She could not speak English so she pointed to her watch and to her mouth to indicate that it was time to get up and get ready for breakfast. She then woke Bill and went out. I said, "The room service is not bad, is it?" It only happened that one morning, as some of the lads at the feeding point had done it as a joke.
After breakfast we were taken to the cook-house it was a very big place for they had to feed all the troops who were either going on, or returning from leave. Trains came through all day bringing English, Scots, Irish, Canadians, Poles, and others. It was only a small bakehouse at the side of the cookhouse because we only made dinner cobs. One night, our Sgt came and asked the other Cpl if he wanted to go to the town bakery on the other side of the rail track. He would be in charge of 12 bakers but it would always be nights. He said that he liked it where he was so I told Sgt Gatland that I would like to take it on. He said, "All right, I'll arrange it. I will be coming with you."
The following week I went to the civvy bakery. I had to go up in the lift to the third floor. I met the caretaker whose name was Koolan. He could not speak any English so he called one of the lads who could. I told them who I was. They introduced Fritz, the German in charge. He was very tall and just like Boris Karloff I was to draw all the rations from the cook-house for what we had to make, as well as food for the Germans and myself to eat during the night. If we were eating sausage and bacon, the Germans would laugh at me frying it in the oven because they ate it raw. Our work was making bread cakes and sausage rolls. I didn't see our Sgt much because he went out with the other Sgts and he knew that I would cover for him if the orderly officer came round.
One night, at about 2am I was feeling tired and the caretaker told me to go to his house on the top floor of the building and have a sleep on the settee. I went up and I had only been asleep for about an hour when the lad who could speak English came up and told me the officer was asking for me. When I got down stairs he asked me what I was doing out of the bakehouse and not having anyone in charge. I had to think quickly. And I did! "I've been up to the toilet in the caretakers house because ours is out of order." He fell for it. He looked at my books to see that I had written down what had been made. He then said, "All right, Corporal." As he went I thought, thank God, I do not do any of the work myself I only see that things are made and I book it down. I then see that it goes round to the feeding point.
One night a new man came to work with us. The other Germans knew him and did not like him. They said that he was a bit of a tell-tale and would go round to the feeding-point and gossip to the Sg-Major in the cook-house. About a week later, Cpl Dickie Hatton of the Welsh Regiment came in at about 1Opm. He had been out on the beer and he had had quite a few. The new German started to call Dickie names, not knowing that Dickie could understand a bit of German. That did it. It made Dickie mad. He pulled a revolver out of his pocket and said, "I'm going to shoot you, you bastard!" Knowing Dickie, I thought he would do it, so I got in between them and told him not to be silly. He gave me a look and said, "You are taking his side." He tried to shove me away. I grabbed hold of the revolver and hit him on the chin. As he fell he hit his head on the wall and that put him out for a bit. When he came round, I put my arm around him and said, 'Come on, I'll take you home to the billet." We had to be carefull going through the street in the middle of the night as there was a curfew until 6am. When I got him back to the station, he started to cry and said he was sorry for causing me trouble.
Sgt Gatland came to me one day and said that he was going to have to appear in front of the Major and that I might have to as well, because they said that there was about a thousand pounds of sugar missing. They wanted to know if we could account for any of it. We both marched into the office and stood in front of the Major and the Captain. The Major asked the Sgt if he could account for any of the sugar. He said, 'no, Sir." The Major went on, 'What about you, Cpl?" I said, 'no Sir. The only thing that I can think is that when we asked the Germans to weigh some sugar up, they weighed it in German pounds. A German pound is a kilo and is about two and a quarter pounds. The Major gave me one look and said, "Very good, Cpl. you can both dismiss." We saluted, turned about and marched out of the office. When we were outside, the Sgt said, "Thank god we got out of that all right."
One morning at about five o'clock, I was going round the station when a Cpl from the Welsh Regiment who was on patrol, stopped me and asked for some help. He and a private wanted to bring a Yank out of one of the houses where he was causing trouble with a woman. I could not refuse because of his seniority, so I said, 'There are two of you, why do you need me?" He said, 'Well, if you shout up to him and he sees that you have not got a rifle, he might come out." "That's good, but if he has a rifle, what do I do then?" 'Don't worry we'll have you covered." Trust me to fall for something like this! Anyway, I shouted up the steps to him and after a bit he came to the door and he was unarmed. We went up the steps and into the house. The Cpl told the Yank that he was out of bounds and arrested him. He gave the woman a warning and took the Yank away.
I then went to the station to get a couple of women to go back to the bakery to pack the food that had been made. I had no trouble because they had a better time working with me than they did at the feeding point where they had the Sgt-Major from the catering corps to boss them about. I would let them take their time and have a cup of tea with us. They would not get the chance at the feeding point. At seven o'clock I would tell the driver to load up the truck and then take the women round to the station to sign out.
I was in bed one morning after night shift when I was shaken awake. I looked up and saw C.Q.M.S. Prior from my old unit - 119 F.M.B. 'What are you doing here"? I asked. "I am on my way home, and as the train stopped here I thought that I would ask where you were." I got out of bed and we had a chat about the times we'd had together. I asked him if he had had his dinner and when he said that he hadn't I took him to our Mess Room. I told the Duty Sgt who he was and he was taken into the Sgt's Mess. I knew that he would get a better dinner there than at the feeding point.
About a week later, Sgt Johnson, also from 119F.M.B. came to see me. He was a good Sgt and we all got on very well with him. He told me that Len Andrews was at Dusseldorfwith nearly all the other lads and that Len was going on all right. He didn't stay long because he had already had his dinner and the train was due to leave.
One day at the feeding point I wanted to know where I could find a swimming pool. I found a lady interpreter and asked if she knew. She told me that it had been destroyed by the bombs. I told her that she spoke very good English and asked if she had learned it at school. She said that she had lived in England. 'What part of England?" "Sheffield." "That's where I live." I found out that she had lived in Wilkinson Street, the next Street to where I lived. Her father was one of the Germans who started the cutlery firm Richard's in Sheffield. I did not have the chance to talk to her again for she moved away with some officers as their interpreter.
I was looking out of the Bakehouse window one morning at about seven o'clock. There was a six-foot wall at the bottom of the yard and I saw a parcel come flying over the top. I wondered what it was and I spoke to one of the Germans about it. He told me that it happens a great deal but that they did not say anything in case they got into trouble. I went down stairs to have a look at the parcel and found that it contained tea and sugar. I was told that someone throws it over the wall and comes round for it after he has finished work. I decided to catch him when he came to pick it up. I rang the station and asked for two guards to be sent round to the Bakehouse. When they came, I told them what had happened and what I wanted them to do. It was a bit dark, so I told them to hide behind some bins in the yard and I would stand just inside the doorway. We didn't wait long before a man came creeping into the yard. He went straight to the parcel and as he bent to pick it up we dashed out and got hold of him. We did not take him back to the station in case they involved any of the other workers. We took him to his flat and told him that we were going to search it to see if he had any more stolen goods. We found some folding umbrellas that were no good to us. We told him it would be best if he did not return to work at the feeding point. The Germans were searched when they had finished work each day. If they had stolen anything they would be sacked on the spot. It was very hard for them to find work so it was real punishment.
One night Dick Hatton came into the Bakehouse with a 7lb tin of coffee. I asked him what he was doing with it. He said that he had swiped it from the officers' Mess and they were looking for it. He asked me to hide it because the Orderly Officer might come looking for it. I didn't know what to do at first, then I told one of the Germans to clear the fire-lighting sticks and paper from one of the ovens that we weren't using. We put the tin at the back of the oven and then replaced the sticks and paper. Even if an officer came to light it he would not think to look back there. No one came, so we gave some of the coffee to the Germans for they were good workers.
It was not long after this that it came through that Group 32 was going to be demobbed. I was very pleased to hear that because I was in-group 32. On the night shift one of the Germans said to me, "You look very happy tonight, Cpl." I told him, "I am happy because I will soon be leaving and going home for good." He told the other men and they said that they were very happy for me and they hoped that they would get someone like me to work with.
A week later my Sgt came to me and said, 'Well, Jack! The time has come for you to go home. I am the same Group as you and we haven't any more work to do." I said, 'What are you going to do now?" He gave me one big smile and said, 'I'm going out with two other Sgts to celebrate." It was a very nice day. The sun was shining so I thought that I would go for a walk as my pal, Dick Hatton was on duty. I got a bottle of gin from under my bed and set off When I came to a field I had a good look round and thought how nice and peaceful it was. I went and sat in the middle of the field with my bottle of gin and drank the lot. What a feeling it was to see a field go spinning round me. I slept for about an hour, I think. I then went back to my hotel, or should I say billet? When I got back, I found that I had missed my tea so I went to the canteen and had a good strong cup of coffee. I shall never forget that last day.
The next day was Thursday 27th of June 1946. I got up and went to the office where I got my pass and my papers. I met my Sgt and we both went and said good by to the lads at the Bakery as they had come to see us get on to the train. It was a long journey and the train stopped twice for us to have a meal. We arrived at Calais and boarded the boat for Dover. When we set sail I looked back and thought how lucky I was to be going home alive, when so many of those poor lads were killed.
We had a very smooth crossing and how nice it was to see the White Cliffs of Dover. When we arrived we were taken to the station and put into sections according to our destination. I left Sgt Gatland and wished him luck. He lived in the south of England. I went with a group on the train to York. When we arrived we were taken by lorry to Stencil Barracks where we were told to go and have a wash and then report to the canteen for a meal.
The next day I had to go before the Captain for my final discharge. I thanked him and he wished me all the best for the future. I am now a civvie again! In the afternoon I went to the stores to hand in my rifle and other kit. I then had to draw some civvy clothes. I picked a nice brown suit, a raincoat, shirt, tie, vest, pants and shoes. They were all put into a box because I was still wearing my battle dress.
The next morning, Sunday 30th June 1946, I went to catch the train to Sheffield. As I was walking over the bridge to the platform I saw an old pal, Len Farrell, who was in 119 Field Mobile Bakery with me. He was going to catch a train to Nottingham. I left him and got onto the train. I was only on it for an hour before I got out at Sheffield. I caught a tram outside the station to take me home. I walked along Gloucester Street towards No.55 my parcel under my arm; it felt grand to be coming home for good.
I went into the house and put my arms around my wife, Ivy and gave her a big kiss, I gave my four children a hug and a kiss. I then thought that I must now start my life again.
Good-bye but not forgotten
Now to get out of this uniform.John Dukes Jnr
Dvr. Joe Sheen Royal Army Service CorpsMy grandfather Joe Sheen, was in Desert Rats, 8th Armoured Division, Army Corps. He was a Lorry Driver he was in Cairo in April 1941 and was wounded in Cairo in 1943, he was sent to JoBurg in South Africa to the hospital and remained there until the end of the war. Does anyone remember him?Anna Humphreys
Pte. Jack Hilton Royal Army Service CorpsI'm hoping to find friends of my grandad, Jack Hilton who is now 86 years old and served in the R.A.S.C in World War 2Sarah
L/Cpl. Henry William John Pettit 298G.T.Coy Workshops Royal Army Service CorpsMy Dad,Henry W J Pettit, never talked a lot about his war years, he was called up to service on the 9th of January 1941 and returned from Italy to join a surgical sterilizer firm, GU Sterilizers on Hendon Way, London. I know he was in the 8th Army, RASC in 298 G.T.COY Workshops from 1942/3 and did not return home to his wife, my mother Joan and their first son, until 1946, I think.
He used to mention the horrors of the trip by ship down to Tripoli and Benghazi and then the very rough crossing by landing craft to Sicily,where he very much understated the violence and the sights he saw. I know then that he saw Brindisi, Assissi and then arrived in Rome with his remaining mates. I do not know if he passed via Cassino or Anzio-I suspect the latter. I think he did basic training on Salibury Plain and was released via Aldershot.
I have photographs of his team, and hope an old colleague or one of their family may recognize him.
I do know that his truck once slipped down a river gorge in torrential rains and at that precise moment, his photograph on his mother's mantelpiece in Paddington,London, fell off. We owe him and all those great soldiers everlasting gratitude and respect and love and we would love to know more about his war years.Derek Richard Pettit
Dvr. Edgar Maitland Skerritt Royal Army Service CorpsMy step father, Maitland Skerritt, was a POW in Stalag 21A near Schildberg. He would never talk about his experiences as I think they were pretty terrible. All I know about his experinces is a newspaper cutting from The Recorder on the 27th of April 1945 reporting his escape from a column of POW's who were being marched from a working camp as the Americans advanced. He and 2 others rolled down a slope & escaped into woods. After a 10 day trek they found the American lines.
He has been captured at St Valery in 1940 and marched 350 miles through France, Belgium and Holland evetually arriving in the camp in Poland. He spend 5 years in the POW camp & sadly the privations led to his early death aged 51. I do have a small address book of his which I think has names & addreses of some of his army mates.Jane Bowden
SQMS Albert Edward "Spav" Spavins Royal Army Service CorpsMy father, SQMS Spavins, was a Lancastria survivor. He told me that as he was one of the last people aboard ship he had to go to the boat deck because there was no room below. As the ship began to sink he tried to persuade one of his friends to jump with him. However, his friend could not swim. Dad jumped and as he looked up his friend lit a cigarette and waved him goodbye. He does not remember how long he spent in the water but eventually a mine sweeper, very overloaded, passed by and someone threw him a lifebelt and along with many others was towed home to England. He was wearing only a shirt when he got home. When he finally got a new uniform and equipment he came home on leave. He was in a bad way and told me that the Stuka dive bombers had somewhat un-nerved him.
Dad recovered and some years later volunteered once again with RASC/EFI to go to Korea. It so happened that I was with The Somaliland Scouts at the time and when Dad returned from Korea I flew over to Aden and met the ship where I met my father and some of his friends.Albert Spavins
Pte. William Henry Price Royal Army Service CorpsMy late father, William Henry Price, born in Great Wyrley, Staffordshire served in the R.A.S.C as a driver from 1940 till demob in 1946. I am led to believe, after training in Dunhope, Dundee and Chippenham, Wilts he served in Italy at Casalbordino 20 miles south of Lanciano. He also spoke about Eygpt. Apart from half a dozen photos in my possesion I don't have much to go on. Sadly, my father died 1st January 1981 and his wife Dorothy (my Mother) passed away March 2011. Does anyone remember him or have any information?Christopher Price
Dvr. John Sinderson Royal Army Service CorpsJohn Sinderson was held in Stalag XXa, Torun, Poland.Peter Kryworuczka
Cpt. William Lowing Royal Army Service CorpsAmong other things, in my late father's wartime memorabilia he has two Christmas menus which have been signed by many members of the unit. 1943 - headed '50 B.C.D. - 14 B.I.S.' and location given simply as 'Italy'. and 1944 - headed E.F.I. Company - Transport Section (Eastern Detachment) but no location information (although I think it was still in Italy?). If anyone can throw any light on these detachments or would like scanned copies of the menu cards, please get in touch.Mike Lowing
Dvr. Harold Sanders 501 Ammunition Coy. Royal Army Service CorpsI am in the research stage of writing the biography of Driver Harry Sanders who joined 501 Company (Ammunition) RASC of the 42nd Division in April 1939. He went to France with the BEF and was eventually rescued from Dunkirk in May 1940. Harold is still alive and I have his notes, but my problem is finding out about 501 Company. I have written to the museum to see what they have, but I really need more information on the company especially its time in France before Dunkirk. Company Officer names and their ranks are also hard to find. Any assistance anyone can provide and any other Veterans of this company you know of would be greatly appreciated.Adrian Streather
Joseph Jacobs Royal EngineersMy late father Joseph Jacobs, like many men, never talked about his wartime experiences. I visited the National Archive and looked through the Questionnaires completed by POW's when liberated by the British Military only to find that there wasn't one for him.
What I do know are his German POW details after capture and holding by the the Italians: Full name Joseph Jacobs Service Number: T/279560 Army Service Corps then Royal Engineers. German Prison of War Number 154744. He was held prisoner in Stalag XVIIa then Stalag XVIIb - both near Vienna, modern day Austria and was repatriated to London in May 1945.John Jacobs
Sgt. Charles Edward Gannon Royal Army Service CorpsCharles Edward Gannon - my Dad - was in the RASC during WW2 and was stationed in Accra, in what was then the Gold Coast and is now Ghana. I have an album from that time with various photographs and documents. One of the photos lists names of the Africans and Europeans in the picture. The Europeans include: Sgt Gannon (Dad), Cpl Scott, Pte Rush, Sgt Heelis, Sgt Franklin, SSM Currie, Sgt Stanley, Sgt MacEver, Cpl Chambers, Pte Bull, Cpl McTylee (3rd Row) Cpt. Malek, Lieut Wauters, Capt Oakley, Major Artmitage, Brig Richards, Capt Hardy, Majors Sarif, Hilton, Howells, Capts Millais, Simpson.
As far as I can make out, Dad was in Buller B Squad No.3 Company at the RASC in Mandora Barracks, Aldershot before moving out to Accra. I have letters from other servicemen or their wives who brought back/received items for Mum brought home by his pals - these include: Eric Chambers whose address was the Hall, Everton, near Doncaster; G.H. Stanley who was living at 36 Abbeysteads Road, Liverpool; and G.Reader from 52 Whitstone Road, Shepston Mallet, Somerset. I also have a menu card from one of their Christmas dinners out there, an impressive menu, which is autographed but it is difficult to read all the signatures.Pat Gannon-Leary
Cpl. Albert Arthur "Nobby" Clark Royal Army Service CorpsMy dad, Albert Clark, Nobby, died 15 years ago and is only now I relise how little I know or knew about him and am keen to find out more. If anyone has details of him or his war time history, in particular, the time he spent as a Army Prisoner of War in Görlitz, Saxony. He worked in the NAFFI all his life so I am not sure if that continued during his war time sevice. I have many pictures of the camp with other prisoners some are signed but I have no idea who these people are.Mary Hooker
Mjr. Frank William John May Royal Army Service CorpsWe have been trying to discover some information regarding my husband's father Frank May, who we understand was with the BEF and evacuated from Dunkirk. He was about to swim to a ship close to the beach but as he was a strong swimmer made for one further out. A lucky choice as the inshore vessel was hit and sank. He also served in Iceland, went to Jamaica and we think Germany. This is all we know as he never spoke of his experiences and later separated from his wife. Any information reagrding Major May, or how we can get more information would be greatly appreciated.April May
William Griffith James 145 Coy. Royal Army Service CorpsI lost my father, William James back in 1977 due to Leukaemia, some say his time held in a Japanese POW camp had something to do with it, as to the way they were treated and tortured in so many ways. I was always interested in what his war service history involved, but he never spoke about it, broke down on occasions, watching a war film on tv, so I never pushed the fact. I remember my mother telling me some years back about him being in a Japanese POW camp and the attrocities that went on at that time. Also that he was a tank driver, drove shermans mostly plus he was a motorcycle despatch rider for a short time. and I found a Gurkahs knife in his bottom drawer and remember him saying that they were the best and ultimate fighting men, amazing soldiers to fight with when he was in Burma.
That's the only info I have so far, apart from 7 photos, only 1 of them with any info on the rear which was as follows : WG James, no.68701, 145 Coy RASC, 6 DTC (or that might be DTE or DT@) Barnard Castle, County Durham. Might make sense to someone out there or the photos might ring a bell?
I've recently been told that the T32871 Tank in one of the photos is a Valentine mk2 and that the white red white painted marks on the turret means that they were on Operation Crusader in 1941 out in North Africa, Egypt or Libya so that might make the regiment the 8th Royal Tank Regiment but with the back of the photo saying " 145 Coy Rasc wouldn't that be the Royal Armed Service Corps which fought with the Chindits in 1942? I know there was alot of regiments made up for special forces like I think I saw somwhere while surfin that the 145 R.A.S.C. were changed to the 21st Tank Brigade.
I'm sure with time the info will raise its head, it means a lot to me and my family, with my children already interested in what, why, which, when, where and wanting to know how all these brave soldiers from all around the world helped the world to be a better place right now.Hugh James
Dvr. Frederick James Pollard 329 T.C. Coy Royal Army Service CorpsMy Dad, Frederick James Pollard, served as a driver with the R.A.S.C in Italy and North Africa in WW2. My Mother died a few hours after I was born in December 1943 while my Dad was in North Africa. My Dad didn't get the news of this until February 1944. The shock of this news caused him to develop a stammer that stayed with him until he was killed in an accident in 1959, while helping a friend with his harvesting.
I would dearly like to hear from any one who may have known him during his time in North Africa or Italy. In anticipation.Maurice Pollard
Dvr. Jack Robinson 585 Coy Royal Army Service CorpsMy relative Dvr. Jack Robinson, served with 585 Coy RASC. The company was known as 585 RASC Wales, as, almost without exception, it was made up of local Welshmen. It was formed in 1943, in Risca, and moved to Raglan Barracks, Newport, Mons. for the last couple of years of WWII.
If anyone has any information about Jack I would be most keen to learn of it.Trevor Jennings
Dvr. James William CodlingMy Great Granddad, James William Codling was a driver for the Royal Army Service Corps. I have been told that he went to Africa during the war and that is all I know.
George "Geordie" Braithwaite Royal Army Service CorpsMy father, George Braithwaite was a driver in the RASC. He was attached to the West Kents at Dunkirk. He was captured in the town of Albert after six weeks on the run from the Jerrys. He was questioned and sent into Germany by rail. Where he and many others were forced to march through Bavaria into Checeslovakia and into Poland where he was put in the camp Stalag 8b Lamsdorf. George was a bricklayer by trade so was put on a work party in the town of Gliwitz building manholes along the river side. My father was a great man and never told us of the bad times until we were a lot older and able to understand. He told me of the time he and a mate made hooch from turnips. He saved a couple of bottles. On Xmas Eve all the boys in the billet were really down, so he got out the hooch and within an hour they were all singing.
Many years later he took the family to a local caravan park for a week. My brother and I met two lads of similair age as us. George being a good father asked their names, lo and behold their dad was in the same camp as ours. The two met and a three day drinking spree took place. I don't think my dad saw Skipper Dodds again. Unfortunately my Dad had a stroke in 1998 when he was seventy. He died five years later but always said he had a good life, and he did with my Mother and his two sons.Philip Braithwaite
Lt-Col George Banks OBE . Royal Army Service CorpsMy step brother, George Banks, served with the RASC during WW2. He was present during the liberation of Belsen Concentration Camp in April 1945. He was in charge of feeding former inmates and was awarded the OBE for his work. Can anyone fill in more details of his Army service?Peter Banks
Dvr. Jack Symonds Royal Army Service CorpsMy father, Jack Symonds, was a prisoner of war in Stalag XXB. Unfortunately, he passed away on 30th December last year aged 96 and it is only recently that I began to do some further research on his wartime experiences. I guess this was prompted by the recent release of detailed information on British Army Prisoners of War 1939-1945. From this information, which confirmed his prison camp as Stalag XXB, on the Wartime Memories website there is a photograph of Harry Daniels, in which I am as certain as I can be also has a picture of my father. He is second from the right as you look at the photograph. I sent an email to Patricia Daniels (daughter of Harry). Unfortunately, the email has been returned to me as 'undeliverable', if Patricia reads this I would love to hear from you
His prison number was 15626 and he had been captured at St. Valery in France when the whole of the 51st Highland Division was captured. Father was a driver in the Royal Army Service Corps. He always told us that they were relatively well looked after and was eternally grateful for the tremendous work of the Red Cross. He also told us that the reason for their reasonable treatment was that the Germans wished to have some 'model' prisons that could be inspected by the Red Cross and others in order to divert attention away from the extermination camps, which as you will know were not very far away. You can imagine how much I wish I had this information to hand when father was still alive and to be able to show him the photographs and to be able to expand what we already knew. Dad was born in Liverpool and lived there all his life.David Symonds
Maj. Alexander Robert Clifford "Brasco" Hewer-Hewitt Royal Army Service CorpsMy father Alexander Hewer-Hewitt served in the Royal Army Service Corps I have a photo of him and he is in army uniform as a captain, what I don't understand is the fact that he also has full wings like the RAF pilots have on the left front of his jacket just above his medal ribbons. If anyone has information about him please email me as my children would like some information about their grand father, who left the family in 1941.Frank Hewer-Hewitt
Dvr. Robert Beck Royal Army Service CorpsMy father, Robert Beck was held in POW camp Stalag XXB. He was a driver in the RASC and captured in the rearguard around Dunkirk. We know that he worked on surrounding farms. He was among those that escaped before the evacuation of the camp in 1945 and taken in by the Russians. My understanding is that he was not happy with his treatment by the Russians and he was actually only repatriated many months after his colleagues who were marched back into Germany and liberated by the Americans. He was from Glasgow and emigrated to Australia in 1958 only to drown unfortunately in 1962.David Beck
Pte. Cyril George Atkinson 10 Coy. Royal Army Service CorpsMy Father, Cyril Atkinson, died January 2011. After his death I found many photos of him during the war. Also paper work to show that he was in 10 Coy RASC. He was a dispatch rider, lorry driver and later a batman. He was at Nijmegen, Breda, Douvres, Hook of Holland, Caen. I have been trying to find out a bit about where he was, what he did, as he never spoke much of his time in the war. I wondered if anyone could remember Cyril, or if anyone seen his name mentioned. I have put on a group photo of Cyril's regiment, hoping someone may recognise someone.Dean Atkinson
Pte. Robert Henry Bethell 2/4 HRC Workshops Royal Army Service CorpsMy Dad, Bob Bethell joined the R A S C as a vehicle electrician did basic training at Bulford camp and later was transferred to Paddington Tec College for an update course before going to Bradford for embarkation allocation. He embarked from Liverpool to Port Suez via Durban and worked in 2/4 HRC workshops and transferred to R E M E in 1942. He went up the desert with the lines of communication company on vehicle repair and recovery. He also served in Cairo, Alexandria, Tabuk, Tel-al-kahabier, Derna, Benghazi, Tripoly. He was detached from duty to undergo minor surgery in the 4th General Hospital Barce. After discharge from hospital he was attached to the British Army Administration as a general electrician working on the Barce wheat scheme. He later returned to AD Bramley and after De-mob joined the army fire service and ended a 50 year career as a divisional officer.John Bethell
Sgt. Charles Arthur Denness 797 Water Transport Coy. RASCMy Father, Charlie Denness served in Italy during or before the invasion of Sicily by the allies. His job for the Allied Services, was to be the Sergeant Skipper of a Tea Clipper ship, to deliver guns and ammunition for the use of our army in the invasion. I have seen photo's of my dad standing on the deck of his Tea Clipper with some of his crew. Dad told us some stories of what he did in Italy and on one occasion, when he had returned from one of the 'trips', Dad and his first officer left the ship in harbour to report to his HQ. On his return he found his ship at the bottom of the harbour, a German E-Boat had got into the harbour and sunk the Tea Clipper, with some of the crew still aboard, which include one of his pals 'Mac' who lost some fingers in the action, but some of the crew died and their bodies could be seen in the clear water, tangled in the rigging.
I have tried to find out more about Dad's 'adventure' in Italy during the Second World War, but even though I produced all the information necessary, Enlistment Notice, Grade card, Registration Certificate, Soldiers Service and Pay Book, 3 Soldiers Pay Books, Soldiers Release Book and Transfer certificate to the Army Reserve. But even with all this information, I have found nothing, it's as if my Dad didn't exist. Is there anyone out there, still alive, who remembers Charlie Denness and his adventures in Italy in the Second World War.David J. Denness
Sgt. William Griffith James R.A.S.CMy Dad, Bill James, like many who caught by the Japanese never spoke much of their nightmare as FEPOWS. He was in the Tank regiment at first, I've shown his photos to a Tank expert and they say he was involved in Burma, North Africa, El Alamein and Tobruk then Singapore where he was taken by the Japs. I've sent away to the MOD for his war records, still waiting, patiently. So I was wondering if anyone might have info on my father's FEPOW nightmare?Hugh James
Pte. Arthur Sidney "Taffy" Pascoe 73 G.T.Coy R.A.S.CMy father left England at the end of 1942 aboard the "Windsor Castle " and served in Algeria, Sicily, Italy and Palestine. He left a journal and diary relating his war time experiences. I am transcribing them and would love to get in touch with any family of the following people mentioned by my Dad: Les Herman, Charles Brewer ( died in Sicily ), John Bragg ( died in Italy), John Vaughan, "Taffy" Evans, "Jock" Read and "Hank" Stockton.
I have photographs and stories they may be interested in. My Dad was the company sign writer and later a vehicle mechanic. His journals tell of the conditions they endured in North Africa in detail, but unfortunately the details of Sicily and Italy are not as good. I would love to complete his work to give to the Grandchildren he never knew. His company was the 73rd Transport which was with the 8th Army and also the American 5th.Dianne Mortimer
Pte. Ronald Robert Broadway 35th Searchlight Regiment, 342nd Battery Royal ArtilleryOn the 18th of April 1939, Ron Broadway, my Dad, enlists in the Territorial Army, Royal Engineers. He signs up for 4 years. His Attestation (enlistment) took place at Highwood Barracks, Lordship Lane, Dulwich. He was declared fit and assigned to 342 AA Company, 35th AA Battalion RE (TA). At the time of enlistment Dad was: 25 years and 8 months. He stood 5’ 6” tall, weighed 145lbs, his girth when fully expanded was 38.5”. He was of fresh complexion with blue eyes and fair hair. He was assigned as Sapper R R Broadway No. 2085852. His address at the time was given as 37 Playdell Avenue, Stockwell, SE19 and he was a Decorator by Trade.
Highwood Barracks was so named from the Dulwich Volunteers who fought in WW1 at Highwood on the Somme. Although the Barracks no longer exist a block of flats built there in recent years bears the name Highwood. Home to 35th (First Surrey Rifles) Anti-Aircraft Battalion, Royal Engineers (H.Q., 340th, 341st, 342nd & 343rd Anti-Aircraft Companies, Royal Engineers) The 21st Bn. The London Regiment was also converted into a searchlight unit of the Royal Engineers in 1935. It was affiliated to the East Surrey Regiment. The headquarters and all the companies were based at 4, Flodden Road, Camberwell, London. In January 1940 it was redesignated as the 35th Searchlight Regiment, Royal Artillery. In March 1942, it was converted into the 129th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery. The regiment served in the U.K. throughout the war.
On the 18th of June 1939 Dad was embodied (put on stand by) into the Regular Army. As Dad was in the TA his unit was embodied into the Army and prepared for duty in the UK. As a member of the TA he was not expected to serve abroad, but could volunteer for overseas service. On the 16th of July 1939 his unit was Disembodied (stood down) from the Regular Army the TA volunteers would have returned to their normal peacetime occupations.
On the 19th of August 1939 he married Dorothy Margaret Archer and on the 24th of August he was called out for actual Military Service and Reported to TA Barracks in Dulwich before being posted to 342nd Battery, 35th Searchlight Regiment at Wingham in Kent. On the 1st of September the 342nd/35 S/L Battery was embodied into British Army on the 3rd of September 1939 at 11.15am War declared with Germany
On the 1st of August 1940 Dad Transferred to Wingham in Kent with the 342/ 35th Searchlight Regt., Royal Artillery, having mustered as a Gunner On the 21st of August 1940 hereported sick on leave and failed to return to Wingham on expiration of his pass. On the 3rd of September he returned from sickness on leave to Wingham.
18th November 1940: 342nd S/L Battery vacated DG area, being relieved by 314th S/L Batt. The personnel concentrated at Herne Bay and billeted in town overnight. The following day the Battery moved by train to Seaton, Devon and were accommodated at Warner’s Holiday Camp, Seaton.
1st to 26th December 1940 was a period spent on squad drilling, PT, arms drill and route marches. In addition much entertainment during period as well including boxing tournaments, football and rugby matches against other units. On the 8th of December 1940 a Defence exercise was held against local Home Guard and on the 19th a warning order was received notifying movement to Leatherhead, this was confirmed on the 21st and on 27th December they moved by rail to Leatherhead to replace 460th S/L Battery
On the 10th of February 1941 Dad was admitted CBS Fetcham (this would have been through an injury received. CBS Fetcham was probably a casualty clearing station) He was discharged on the 18th.
On the 28th of May 1941 Dad was Classified as Class 2 (Non tradesman) Cook at Leatherhead. 342/35 S/L Regt. In July the Battery moved to Herstmonseux and in August to Storrington. On the 5th of September the Battery moved to Funtington Hall Hotel, Chichester then on the 24th to Midgley Lodge, Farnborough.
On the 28 March 1942 Dad was upgraded from Class 2 to Class 1 Non-tradesman cook wghilst stationed in Watford with 342/79 S/L Regt. On the 31st of May 1942 he became attached to London District School of Cookery from 31 May to 13 June. He undertook a Course of Kitchen Management, Organisation and Technical Control and achieved a pass rate of 88%. On the 25th of August 1942 he was Posted to 342(M) S/L Battery R.A. at Watford then on the 9th of December was Posted to 79th S/L Regt. RA Watford abd on the 11 December to 502 S/L Battery RA Field. On the 11th of February 1943 he transferred to the Army Catering Corp in the rank of Pte. as non-tradesman Class 1. Permanently attached to 79 S/L Regt. R.A. On the 29 May 1943 Dad Tested and Classified Gp. B Class 2 Tradesman Cook by Officer Commanding 502 S/L Bty. RA.
On the 22nd of April 1945 he was Taken on Strength of Admin Battalion, Army Catering Corp, Training Command until the 20th of May when he embarked for the Middle East, arriving on the 3rd of June 1945 where he was posted to Army Catering Corp. On the 10th of July 1945 Dad was posted to 922 Company RASC and on the 26th was appointed Acting Corporal. He seems to have suffered an accident on the 12 September 1945 and on the 4th of October he was admitted to 27 General Hospital, being relegated to Private on admission to hospital. He was discharged and returned tohis unit on the 17th of October.
I have his notification of impending release form dated 19th October 1945: Pte. Ronald Robert Broadway No. 2085852 of 922 Company Army Catering Corp (Cook Gp. 8 Class2). Military Conduct: Exemplary. Testimonial: Has proved himself a willing worker and has applied himself with zeal to his duties and carried them out efficiently, sober and well behaved. A sound reliable man with good organising ability. On the 20th of October 1945 Dad was Posted to X List, Sidi Bashr, Egypt (The X list was the register of those personnel awaiting repatriation and discharge to the UK and on the 25th was released for embarkation to UK. He was released to Territorial Army Reserves on 31st December 1945.Bob Broadway
Cpl. Douglas Phillip Oliver RASC.My father-in-law, Douglas Oliver has a photo of his wife, returned to sender. It was sent to him in Stalag 357 in June 44 his hut No was 91/5 and his prison No was 1257. He believes that it was returned, as he was marched along with 100s of other's POW's to Poland Malbork. He was captured at Dunkirk and spent the rest of the war in a POW camp.D Baker
Pte. Verdun Bramley Dilks Royal Army Service CorpsMy father, Verdun Dilks was one of the many taken prisoner at Tobruk. He was taken first to Italy, then -presumably on Italian capitulation taken to Stalag IVB Muhlberg where he spent the next two years. When the Russians liberated the camp in the spring of 1945, dad,despite now suffering from TB, made a long and hazardous journey to the American Lines in Czechoslovakia. (I still have his, by now, very fragile diary detailing this journey. He reached the Americans at Pilsen and was repatriated to England. When he arrived back home he told me that I was most disappointed that he hadn't brought me back a camel from Egypt!-I was four at the time!
After the war all dad wanted was his home, family, and garden - perfectly understandable after his experience. I doubt whether I would have possessed his quiet courage. Dad died in December 1989 aged 73. I miss him still.Roger Dilks
Cpl. Jack Lee 3 Car Ambulance coy RASCJack Lee served with the RASC 1939-1952 with the BEF
- 15/07/1939 125/217 SLTR Com searchlight training Statement of service RASC Statement of service
- 06/09/1939 Transfered Com - Statement of service
- 06/09/1939 Posted Com 4.Res.M.T.Coy RASC Statement of service 45/4/39
- 08/09/1939 Posted Driver 50 Coy Statement of service 121/1/39
- ? Posted Driver 50 Coy Military history sheet
- 30/09/1939 23/06/1940 Abroad BEF 50 Coy Statement of service 255/40
- 30/09/1939 Embarked Driver 4.Res.M.T.Coy RASC Statement of service France Service 1895
- 01/03/1940 11/03/1940 Leave,10 days to UK Driver 4.Res.M.T.Coy RASC Statement of service 427/1/40
- 12/03/1940 rejoined unit from leave Driver 4.Res.M.T.Coy RASC Statement of service
- 28/05/1940 02/06/1940 Dunkirk, Operation Dynamo
- 26 may - 3 June 1940 Lancastria 17th June
- 18/06/1940 24/07/1940 St Naizere, Operation Ariel
- 15-25 June 1940 Escape from France, (Ben my Chree?)
- 18/06/1940 Left port Lady of Mann? Lady of Mann?
- 21/06/1940 Arived Plymouth Lady of Mann?
- 23/06/1940 Statement of service Reported back with unit EX BEF 85th ???? Coy Statement of service 53/40
- 12/07/1940 Posted Driver 4, Res. MT Coy RASC Statement of service 14/57/40
- 05/08/1940 Present in unit H/R Driver Y list 28 days Statement of service 0/0/24/41
- 31/12/1940 Posted, Driver 1 Hl Bn Statement of service 0/0/24/41
- 28/01/1941 Posted to 1 HL Bn Driver (218) Coy 3 Amb, car coy Statement of service Tobruk Sortie,El Alamein, 1941-43 11/1/41
- 21/02/1941 Posted,from A coy 1(H)Bn Driver 3 Amb Car Coy RASC Statement of service Advance on Tripoli, Medenine, , 19/4/41
- 02/04/1941 appointed unpaid A/U/CPL 3 Amb Car Coy RASC Statement of service Zemlet el Lebene, Mareth 21/5/41
- 02/04/1941 Granted pay of appointment L/Cpl 3 Amb Car Coy RASC Statement of service Akarit, Wadi Akarit East, Djebel Roumana, 8/6/42
- 04/05/1942 22/05/1942 Passed PT Instructors course Passed B 3 Amb Car Coy RASC Postings and promotions Medjez Plain, Si Mediene, Tunis, North Africa 122/2.8.42
- 27/07/1942 Promotion A/U/Cpl 3 Amb Car Coy RASC Postings and promotions 130/20.8.42
- 27/07/1942 Established P/A/Cpl 3 Amb Car Coy RASC Postings and promotions 144/169.42
- 10/09/1942 Reliqueshes rank P/A/L/Cpl Drv 3 Amb Car Coy RASC Postings and promotions 148/259.42
- 10/09/1942 Reinstated P/A/CPL Cpl 3 Amb Car Coy RASC Postings and promotions 162/28.10.42
- 25/10/1942 Cpl W/S 3 Amb Car Coy RASC Statement of service 7/5/42 14/12/1942
- 19/12/1942 Cross country cycle course Passed 3 Amb Car Coy RASC Postings and promotions 11/1/2/40
- 01/02/1943 3 Amb Car Coy RASC 49 days Postings and promotions 0/0//81/43
- 12/02/1943 Y' list 'B' 3 Amb Car Coy RASC Postings and promotions Injured - 2 1/2 months ? 38/1/5/43
- 30/04/1943 3 Amb Car Coy RASC Statement of service CR/81
- 03/08/1943 Refused inoculation 3 Amb Car Coy RASC Statement of service
- 29/04/1944 married Cpl 3 Amb Car Coy RASC Married Sawbridgworth
- 06/06/1944 D-DAY 3 Amb Car Coy RASC Postings and promotions D-14 +- 3 Amb Car Coy RASC Mum's letter Landed in France, 2nd time 2IAG 10553/44
- 14/06/1944 Emb UK 3 Amb Car Coy RASC Statement of service 9581/1/44218
- 23/06/1944 wounded 3 Amb Car Coy RASC 3 1/2 months Postings and promotions wounded left forearm severe GSW. 0/0/63/44
- 27/06/1944 05/10/1944 Y' list 'A' wounded? 1 HLD BN Statement of service Stratford on Avon hostpital 248/44
- 05/10/1944 TOS From 'Y' List Ex BEF Cpl A Coy 1 Hld Btn Postings and promotions A Coy 1 H Bn 248/44
- 05/10/1944 A' class release insrtuctor 556 coy Inf. Div THS Postings and promotions Instructor, weapons. Seven Oaks, Kent 114/20.10.44
- 20/10/1944 Released to class 'Z' 557 coy Inf. Div THS 5 months Postings and promotions Eye wound? 19/12.3.45
- 12/03/1945 Y' list (B) 2 Hl Bn Postings and promotions Leave & made ME w3///
- 05/08/1945 Postings and promotions 556 coy 64/45
- 12/08/1945 556 Inf div 556 Coy Postings and promotions 556 coy 82/45
- 20/08/1945 Promoted A/U/SGT Postings and promotions 88/45.556/OT
- 12/10/1945 Surplus to War Establishment Com Postings and promotions 88/115/556//OT
- 12/10/1945 Appt cancelled U/A/L-Sgt 556 coy Postings and promotions 556 coy 118/45
- 19/12/1945 Y' list 'B' Cpl 580 Coy RASC Notice of impending release
- 20/02/1946 Discharged signed Bedford Cpl Postings and promotions
- 21/02/1946 Posted 'Y' list, (class 'A' Release) Statement of service
- 09/04/1946 Reference written Royal Army Res. Statement of service
- 27/04/1946 14/07/1952 Released to Class 'Z' 580 CMT.Coy W.3153 22/04/1946 519/(V)QR40
- 14/07/1952 Discharged
- 20/02/1946 release leave Cpl Arwen, Salisbury Road, Sawbridgworth
- 04/03/1946 Cpl 508 coy RASC 2 Tempory bungalows, bull feilds, sawbridgeworth, herts
- 22/04/1946 notice intended release leave Bedford
- 27/04/1946 A/Sgt Military history sheet
- 18/07/1939 29/09/1939 home Military history sheet
- 30/09/1939 23/06/1940 Abroad BEF Military history sheet
- 24/06/1940 13/06/1944 Home ?? 218 Coy NWE Military history sheet 10553/44/21RG 14/6//44 27/06/1944 Military history sheet
- 28/06/1944 26/04/1946 Home Military history sheet Authy WO Lett 19 Gen 9909 AG/C of 26/10/42 2' CT7 Res Military history sheet
- 27/04/1946 14/07/1952
- Total in uniform inc res 12y 363 days
- GSW (severe left forearm 9581/1/44218 Coy 23/6/44 001/63/10/44 RASC R2 Stamped Standard ?? November 1848
- 556 Inf Div Tps Coy PtII 30/45 Rec'd incidental injuries of a not serious nature on 19/2/1945 on duty, not to blamePeter Lee
Roy Hayward Burma star Chindits Royal Army Service CorpsMy grandad, Roy Hayward, never really spoke of the War in Burma. My information is limited. I knew he was with the Royal Army Service Corps and was based in North Africa (Egypt) around 1942/43. He was then sent to Singapore but en route the Japanese had captured Singapore so they were diverted to India. It was here that he was made a Chindit under Orde Wingates command and fought in Burma on Operation Longcloth. I believe it was part of his job to retrieve air dropped supplies successfully.
Unfortunatly, for him, his 4 year service came up and he was sent back to india while in Burma. I say unforunatly because he really wanted to carry on to Mandalay with his boys.
My Nan told me that before the mules made the journey with the troops on those long journeys by foot that they had their voice boxes surgically removed so as not to be detected by the Japanese. If anyone has any information on my grandad or his unit, I would love to hear about it. I really wish I had learnt more from him while he was alive. He sadly died last year aged 91. Burma starNeil Jeffs
Sgt. James Perkins 36 Coy. Royal Army Service CorpsMy father James Perkins was a driver with RASC 36 coy, I would like any information about his army days I believe that he was at some time a prisoner of war and would like to know where. My father never spoke about his war time years, but did mention a pal of his with the nickname 'Spitty'.
I was also like to find information of his army life between the years 1950-53/4 when he was stationed in Trieste Italy. I've very fond memories of my father and life in Trieste. I recall going to school by army truck over the border into Yugoslavia (now Serbia), also I would like to know the name of the castle that was used and patrolled by soldiers at the time. Sadly I can't ask my father as he passed away 1979. I am at the moment putting a family tree and story together, albeit after such a long period, but life was rather hectic back then. Now I've the time and motivation. If anyone can help me, I would very much appreciate it. Thank you.Judy Gifford
Cpl. Charles Henry Cowing C Section 14th Reserve MT CompanyMy late uncle served in the Middle East as a driver in the RASC in 1941. I only know that he drove some important people around during this time. Before he left England he was at a camp in Evesham. I would be very interested to hear from anyone who may have any info on him?Tom Cowing
Herbert John Hynds 20 DID Royal Army Service CorpsHerbert John Hynds, my Uncle Bert, was my mother's brother and sadly no-one of that generation is still alive. I know that my uncle was in the British Army during WWII and from the few photographs taken of him at that time I can see that he was in 20DID RASC.
After the war he gave me a bracelet made of a silver coloured material. It consists of eight linked segments, all slightly rounded, each about half-an inch square. Each segment is stamped with a place name - Livorno, Africa, Napali, Pisa, Naples, Roma, Siena and Sicily. A photograph taken during the war shows him and 42 colleagues standing in front of St Peter's, Rome, Italy. Another taken in Durban, South Africa, is of Bert and two friends, all wearing shorts, shirts and forage caps riding in a local "taxi"/ricksaw, which can best be described as an open- topped two-wheeled sawn-off carriage which is being pulled by a South African in native clothing and wearing a very elaborate headdress. Another treasure he gave me after the war was an oblong cocktail watch with a bevelled glass and a plaited silk strap which has been replaced many times since. Bert told my Mum that he gave 2lbs of sugar for it and it came from Italy. Finally I have his medals.Kathleen East
Dvr. Stanley Walter Boden 229 Coy Royal Army Service CorpsMy father, Stanley Walter Boden, was born on the 7th August 1923, to Walter William Boden and Lillian Kate Boden (nee Iggulden). Dad had three brothers, Cyril, Fred and Henry.
Stanley Walter Boden joined the army on the 18th February 1943 at the age of 19 years and 7 months, (having already served in the Home Guard) and after having been transferred to the Royal Army Service Corps (R.A.S.C) reported to number 2 training battalion at Heckfield, Maidstone on the 31st March 1943 with the rank of private and was immediately given the rank of driver and his service number was prefixed “T”. His next posting was to 229 Company R.A.S.C. on the 12th April 1943. Dad seems to have led a rather un-eventful life until 29th January 1944 when he was awarded 10 days F.P (Field Punishment) by the Commanding officer for refusing to obey an order and using obscene language to an NCO. 229 Coy RASC moved to Southgate House, Clowne, Derbyshire which was a Small country house owned by the Bowden family. It would appear that this is where he met my mother Iris as she lived in the village of Balborough which is a couple of miles away.
On the 1st May 1944 at 04:00hrs, the company moved from Southgate House, to Surrenden Dering in Kent, (Surrenden Dering was a manor house, located in Pluckley, Kent) having staged overnight in Stevenage where they arrived at 16:00hrs on the 1st May. Leaving Stevenage at 10:00hrs on the 2nd May they arrived at Surrenden Dering at 18:00hrs. From the 2nd May 1944 until the 11th May 1944 the company, under the command of Major H Shaw appears to have just waited for embarkation to North West Europe. On the 23rd May 1944 at 10:00hrs, the company embarked on a signals exercise called “Slasher” which concluded on the 24th May at 10:00hrs. On the 25th May 1944 at 10:00hrs the company commenced on signals exercise “Ramsey” which ended on the same day at 19:00hrs and the following day at 10:00hrs took part in signals exercise “Heinrich” which ended at 19:00hrs.
On the 30thMay 1944, 6 officers and 125 other ranks attended a “Service before battle” in Canterbury Cathedral. Coincidentally I believe that my Grandfather, Dad's dad, also attended a Service before battle at Canterbury Cathedral in August 1914 before going the France with the 9th (Queens Royal) Lancers.
On the 16th July 1944 the company moved to the marshalling area in London, arriving at 08:15 hrs. and 2 OR’s were dispatched to hospital. On the 17th July at 07:00hrs half of the company embarked from the London docks and on the following day the remainder of the company embarked and the arrived at Arromanches on the 21st July, half of the company disembarking at “Gold Beach” and a detachment took up positions at Sommervieu, which is 13.5 Km (9 miles) from Cully where the mystery photo was taken and I think adds weight to mum's claim.
On the 23rd July the remainder of the company disembarked on Juno Beach. On the 24th July the remaining elements of the company arrived and on the 28th July moved location to Cahagnolles, arriving on the 29th July 1944. On the 30th July the company reached Les Mesnil where it set up forward ammunition and petrol point and 1 OR was wounded and evacuated to 34 CCS (Casualty Clearing Station).
On the 1st August the forward ammunition and petrol point which was near Caumont was shelled with 1 OR wounded and on the 4th August the Coy moved to St. Martin des Besaces to set up an ammunition and petrol point, and on the 9th August Dvr W Price was declared a deserter. By the 11th August the company had moved to Tinchebray where it absorbed the rear point on route and one OR was admitted to 11 light field ambulance. On the 20th August the company moved forward to a location given as 724287 where a detachment was sent to Beny Bocage to assist in forming the Falaise cushion.Eric Boden
Albert Henry Emery Royal Army Service CorpsMy father, Albert Emery, joined the Royal Army Service Corps in 1934 and served with them for 14 years. His first posting was to Jerusalem and later he served in Egypt, Malta and Gibraltar.
In 1940 his company returned to England where they formed a new company attached to the Royal Engineers for building airstrips. They went to Helencourt, but when the German tanks went through the Maginot Line, Albert and his company were caught between Dunkirk and Boulogne. After many adventures and lucky escapes, he ended up in a prisoner of war camp in Torun, the old capital of Poland. Albert spent many years in Stalag XXa, from which camp I have several copies of "Prisoner's Pie", a small magazine which the prisoners used to compile and have printed in Thorn, Germany. I also have some concert programmes from Stalag XXa, with names of cast characters. Maybe someone will recognize a relative's name:
- John Westcott,
- Tommy Bagley,
- L. Pritchard,
- A. Smith,
- T. Hicks,
- H. Churchill,
- L. Rusby,
- James Patrick O'Keefe,
- P. Joughin,
- L. Jennings,
- M.A. Dean,
- J. Chambers,
- J. Foster,
- Sgt. Maj. Curtis,
- A. Smith
- Jimmy James who played Cinderella in the pantomime of the same name
My father passed away in 2001, and like many other prisoners of war did not talk much about the war years. Fortunately in 1974, a local newspaper printed Dad's story over a 5-week period and I learned more from that than he ever wished to disclose to the family. They were trying times, but the prisoners managed to retain their sense of humour and make the most of a bad situation. God bless them all!Sue Schmidt
Pte. Frank "Sparks" Farmer 580 Company Royal Army Service CorpsAfter initial trainingg at Blenheim Camp, Bury St. Edmunds I was put in the Royal Signals at Catterick and completed a course to be an Operator Keyboard and Line [morse & teleprinter] but on completion after about 6 months I was sent to Colchester to 578 Company RASC at Reed Hall Camp.
Apparently not wanted there I was sent to The Hutted Camp, Halfway Avenue between Luton and Dunstable but I was not wanted there either. My next move, believe or not, was to The Drill Hall in Ashburnham Road, Bedford. This was 580 Company RASC and CSM Weekes promptly unregaled me of my Royal Signals badge and shoulder ribbons stating I was a driver now. I asked for a sleeping out pass and promptly denied with the usual expletives. After showing me where I was to sleep he departed and a scruffy corporal came in and asked if I was the new "sparks" and if so let's get out of here quick. We loaded my kit onto a lorry and proceeded to my intended billet in the High St. over Grimbly Hughes Grocery Shop. At the bottom of the stairs was a note book and the corporal told me sign in when going out and sign out when going in, which I did not query. On informing the corp. that my home was in Bedford he said well go home at nights and report for duty at The Swan Hotel where workshops had bays for different tradesmen.
I had 2 bays, one for repairs and one for battery charging. We marched over The Town Bridge to our cookhouse for meals [double rations]. These old buildings have now been replaced by The Park Inn, Hotel a very high building. After 3 months I found we had detachments at Old Welwyn and Cambridge. The workshop officer, Captain Walliker, sent me to Cambridge together with the newly promoted corporal. As he had a girlfriend in Bedford he used to drive in what vehicle was available to Bedford every evening and was kind enough to have me on board. Our billet in Cambridge was The House of Mercy, Home for Wayward Girls. Our workshop was a large depot at the end of Fitzroy St. After a few months the detachments were called in together with the Bedford Headquarters to a camp near St. Neots. Duloe Hill Camp, Eaton Ford to be precise. I still used to get home with a weekly bus ticket by leaving the camp via a farm yard in the corner of our main car park.
The new workshop officer, Captain Harvey, got wheeze of this and when he could get a car he would go into Bedford where his lady friend was and on occasions his corporal driver would give me a lift as well. When a car was not available he would travel on the bus with me. Some time towards the end of 1947 577 company was amalgamated with 580 and another chap was from Bedford, Private Max Irwin.
Another Driver was Dai Jones and he lived within a stones throw of my home and I never knew him before, he lived at 46 Cavendish St. and I lived at 43 Canning St. He returned to Bridgend when demobbed.
All good things come to an end and I was demobbed in May 1948. Although I was very lucky there were times when I was away for long periods like when we had to collect rifles from Weedon, Northants to deliver to a ship in Southampton [The Queen Mary!] which went to Greece [Greek Uprising],and Operation King Coal when that awful winter of 1946-47 prevented coal getting out of the mines and we had to go to the rescue, billeted in freezing conditions at Wollaton Hall near Nottingham.
Soldiers I can remember are:-
- CSM Weekes,
- Sergeant Noller,
- Corporal Dick Bishop [married a St.Neots girl, worked for local electrical firm but died before I could contact him],
- L/Cpl "Darkie" Roe,
- L/Cpl Brown,
- Drver "Lofty" Farr [lived at Shooters Hill, London],
- Sergeant Percy Froud [a wonderful man on the breakdown lorry and piano-accordionist which he surprised me with when we called into a Kent Hop Camp on one of our "tours".
- ATS Girl Doris Tofield later married Sergt.Ray Lane but they divorced and she went to the StatesFrank Farmer
Dvr. Frederick John Gilbert Royal Army Service CorpsI do not know very much about my Uncle Fred Gilbert except that he was a driver in the Royal Army Service Corps. He was captured during the Battle of Crete and spent much of the rest of the war at Stalag VIIIA in or near the town of Gorlitz. He never spoke about his time there very much except that he worked for quite some time in a quarry near the town.Pete Gilbert
Richard George Tossell Royal Army Medical CorpsRichard George Tossell born 1911 Barnstaple, North Devon. Occupation pre-war was as a Double Decker Bus Driver on the Barnstaple to Ilfracombe route. He Joined up in 1940 and served with the R.A.M.C, R.A.S.C. as an Ambulance Driver in Egypt and after POW stint was a Tank Transport Driver to the front lines in Germany. He was held as a POW from April of 1941 - April 1943 P.G.78 Sulmona Italy after being taken prisoner during the The Western Desert Campaign, Operation Compass and German General Erwin Rommel's Africa Corp's first offensive Operation Sonnenblume April 1941 He was transported to Italy by boat crammed in the lower deck on mattresses under RAF bombing.
While in captivity Dick took advantage of other soldiers sharing their expertise, teaching classes. He especially enjoyed the classes by electricians and used those skills rewiring his home after the war. He took every advantage he could to learn and read books. He always spoke very highly of the International Red Cross and the packages sent and swears that's what kept him alive. Occasionally a name would be called, the man, never to be seen again. They didn't know the fate of those being called, whether they were beaten, tortured, executed or released.
Early in April 1943 after two years as a prisoner,the POW's were told they would be going home the following week during a prisoner exchange with Italian prisoners. On 13/14th Apr 1943 during transit home POW trains hid under a tunnel while 211 RAF planes bombed for 8 hrs. The harbor of La Spezia, Italy, especially the naval base with three battleships in port. Four Lancaster bombers shot down. The battleships were unharmed. When the POW's emerged the mountainside seemed to be ablaze with incendiaries and a big tanker was ‘going up in smoke’. While they waited in the tunnel the railway behind them was blown up. They continued by train through Milan and Southern France arriving Lisbon 18 Apr 1943. Dick was repatriated via Lisbon on H.M.H.S. Newfoundland Hospital Ship and arrived Avonmouth, England, on Good Friday 23 April 1943, when they were allowed to telegraph home. Dick arrived home in Woolacombe to his wife and two daughters May 4th 1943. An article "Grand to be back" appeared in the North Devon Journal Herald on the 6th of May 1943. Not long afterwards he was called back up as drivers with his skills were needed to drive tank transports to the front lines in Germany.
He returned to Double Decker bus driving after the war and lived in Ilfracombe until his retirement. Dick died 7 Dec 2003 at the age of 93 proud of his service for his country.Mary Tossell
Pte. Leslie Arthur Smith Royal Army Service CorpsMy father Leslie Smith was a driver in the RASC. I understand he drove ammunition trucks, but also was put into the RAMC as a Ambulance driver, with the 14th Field Ambulance. I know he was in Africa, Sicily & Italy, he would never talk about the war, and I would like to know more of what happened during his time out there. I am his last surviving daughter, and I am coming up for 80 yrs, so if there is anyone who can give me any information or even photos, I would be more than grateful. Thank you in anticipationLilian Knightley
Dvr. Arthur SaundersI recently went on holiday to Croatia and whilst I was there I met a lovely old gentleman who related to me the story of how he was was evacuated to Italy in 1945 where a soldier called Arthur Saunders showed him great kindness.
He had some contact once he was shipped out and I have a photocopy of a letter which I will attach. I am just 50 years old so I obviously have no recollections of any conflict but I was so moved by this gentleman's deep recollection, his eyes were filling up as he told me of the kindness that this young soldier showed to him so many years ago. I think this is shown by the document I have attached, he has saved this one letter for so many years in the hope that someone could track down his 'mate' Arthur Saunders.
I am going to continue to research this soldier on the web and I think I have found a photo of D Platoon, 430 General Transport Company RASC, Central Mediterranean Force (CMF) D3/0822 Jan 1944 but this is held in Catterick which is quite a way away from me in Brighton.
If anyone could help me out I'd be really grateful, it is quite a story I think!!Neil Acford
Pte. Leonard Henry Taylor Royal Army Service CorpsMy late father-in-law, Pte.Leonard Henry Taylor of the RASC was captured at St Valery in June 1940 after having made the trek from the Dunkirk area. He eventually reached Lamsdorf after a long walk and barge ride. If anyone remembers him, his widow and I would be interested in talking to them.Glen Davies
Pte. Harry "Sonny" Walker Royal Army Service CorpsMy Grandfather was in Stalag VIIIB. He was Private Harry "Sonny" Walker and was in the RASC, from Rawcliffe (nr.Goole). He was captured around the battle of Tobruk and was sent to Italy. When Italy capitulated he escaped for 8 weeks before been recaptured. Then he was sent to Stalag VIIIB. If anyone has any more information I would love to hear from you.Stephen Walker
L/Cpl Cyril Tracy "Ginger" Cheesman 613 C(M)T Coy Royal Army Service CorpsMy dad, Cyril Tracy Cheesman, nicknamed ''Ginger'' was in 613 C(M)T Coy RASC. He was in the Eighth Army. He wrote down on the back of a photo to my mum all the places he visited during his time during the North African conflict.
I assume due to German activity in the Med, his convoy went to Cape Town first. I'll now mention some of the places on his very comprehensive list:
- Port Taufuq,
- Port Said,
- Tel Aviv,
- El Alamein,
- El Dhba,
- Sidi Barrani,
- El Adem,
- Marble Arch,
I've noticed on various sites that its very difficult to find details about soldiers that served in the RASC. I cannot find any reference to his company, I'm assuming that C(M)T stands for Corps of Military Transport??Andy Cheesman
Dvr. Leslie Claude Drake 196th Field Ambulance Royal Army Service CorpsLeslie C Drake was held in POW Camp Fukuoka 17 Japan. He was born in 1917 and enlisted on 15/3/1940. He was captured in Singapore on 15/2/1942 and held in Changi River Valley, Singapore and Thailand.S B Flynn
James Edward Ellis RASCJames Edward Ellis was held in Stalag 8B in Lambinowice, Poland.
Dvr. Harry Usher Royal Army Service Corps (d.31st Mar 1945)Harry Usher, son of William James Usher and Matilda Usher of Jarrow, County Durham, died aged 29 in Germany on 31st March 1945. He is buried at Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery and is commemorated on the WW2 Roll of Honour Plaque in the entrance to Jarrow Town Hall.Vin Mullen
Harold Davis Royal Army Service CorpsHarold Davis was a POW and was one of many POWs who were on a train on 28 January 1944 having been evacuated in anticipation of the Allied advance. They had mainly come from Camp P.G. 54, Fara in Sabina, 35 kilometres to the north of Rome. The Orvieto North railway bridge at Allerona, Italy, became the site of the inadvertent bombing by the American 320th Bombardment Group. One of the men on the train, Richard Morris of the U.S. Army, wrote that the train was halted on the bridge over the river when the Allied bombs started to fall, and that the German guards fled the train, leaving the prisoners locked inside. Many escaped, Morris included, through holes in the boxcars caused by the bombing, and jumped into the river below. Historian Iris Origo wrote that 450 were killed when the cars ultimately tumbled into the river.
He survived the wreck with a slight calf wound and was sent to Stalag 344 Lamsdorf.S Flynn
Patrick Mahoney Royal Army Service CorpsMy Dad, Patrick Mahoney served in the RASC. Here are his words from a piece he wrote for a computer course he did when he was 80 years old. My Dad is now 92 and has just gone into a nursing home. I so hope this may be of interest to people finding out information from the whereabouts of the RASC.
'In 1938 got my first driving licence and with the threat of war with Germany, joined the Territorial Army giving a false age. Called up in 1939 I found myself for a short time riding a bike commandeered from my firm. Being too young(even with my false age) to be sent abroad, was posted to another transport unit and was in Manchester until 1941 including the blitz when we were supplying the gun-sites with ammunition and other supplies. After the Battle of Britain most of our unit were posted to the Middle East, where I was sent to an independent transport company. With this unit I was to travel many miles and do a variety of jobs. These included twice crossing the Arabian Desert, first from Suez to the Iraqi oil wells at Kirkuk in winter, lots of snow and bitterly cold, second to Persia (now Iran) in summer in extreme heat. This trip saw us bringing back Polish women refugees who had crossed the Caspian Sea and were en route to Palestine. Soon after this Tobruk had fallen and we arrived in the Western Desert, where we carried troops, ammunition and all manner of supplies in preparation for the well known Battle of El Alamein. When this was won we followed the Axis troops across North Africa to Tunis, again doing a variety of jobs from carrying front line infantry to a field bakery. After this all our vehicles were given to other units for the invasion of Sicily and we had to take a load of worn out lorries to Egypt for repair. We made tow bars from railway lines, anything that would run towed those that would not and from Tunis to Suez was a long long way!! We then went to Italy, landed in Taranto but our repaired vehicles went to Naples from where we eventually sailed home to prepare for D-day. From D day + 10 until demobilisation in 1946 it was service across Europe from France to Germany, the main job being a shuttle run carrying coal from the Ruhr to Hamburg'.
I truly hope this gives some history to people tracing the foot steps of relatives and of interest to others. My dad is a remarkable man and I wish him a happy and long stay in his new home.Amanda Hayes
Pte. William P. K. Wightman Royal Army Service Corps (d.28th Jan 1947)William Wightman was the son of William Stuart and Sarah Wightman of Jarrow, and husband of Hannah Pollock Wightman of Jarrow. He served with the Royal Army Service Corps and died in January 1947 aged 20. he is buried in Tel El Kebir War Memorial Cemetery in Egypt. He is also commemorated on the WW2 Roll of Honour Plaque in the entrance of Jarrow Town Hall.Vin Mullen
Dvr. William Buckley Royal Army Service CorpsMy Dad, William Buckley was a driver in the RASC 1942 until 1947, then again during the Suez crisis. I don't have much information about the time he served as he was very quiet about what happened. I do know he served in Sicily, Italy and far East. He was awarded the general service medal, Italy star, Palestine 1945-48 and Arabian peninsula. Although we don't have his papers and medals due to Dad marring a second time and his wife disposing of them, the MOD sent me this information when I contacted them. I would love to find out some information if any one can help me.Margaret Buckley
Dvr. Thomas Patrick Ireland Royal Army Service Corps (d.11th Aug 1944)Thomas Ireland served in the Royal Ulster Rifles 1920-1927. He rejoined in 1940 for home service and immediately volunteered to be posted to the Royal Army Service Corps at the age of 40. He was killed shortly after D day in an explosion, aged 44 he is buried in Beaux war cemetery close to the Normandy beachesCharles Ireland
Pte. Jack Percival Sheppard Royal Army Service CorpsJack Shepherd was my Papa (grandfather). He served with the Royal Army Service Corps, and was a POW in WWII caught in Dunkirk. I am desperately seeking information on him. He was a quiet gentle man and a wonderful grandfather. I would love to find out more about his service and time as a POW. He met my Gran in Orpington hospital after release with a heart condition to my knowledge. Any information would be terrific! Thank youCaroline Logan
Dvr. James Fletcher 290 Coy. Royal Army Service CorpsMy great grandad James Fletcher served with 290 Coy of the R.A.S.C in Africa but that's all I know of them. In some of his army documents it looks like he served with other Coy units as well as there is 286 Coy listed and also says 33s/TT/Coy R.A.S.C and on another part it says A&S Group - 16/C what does this mean? I think he was injured but he did survive the war. Any help is much appreciated.Dan Fletcher
I just got my father's pay book, medals and some photographs from my Mum and I am keen to find out more about Dad's Service in the RASC in WWII in North Africa and Italy, he was Driver Glen Oram. Sadly Dad has now passed away without giving too much away. Any scrap however small would be appreciated
I have some memories of my father's RASC Days. He died 10 years ago and some of the details may be a little imprecise. His name was George Derrick Hunt, often known as Dink. He joined in 1939 having been apprenticed to the grocers Kearley and Tong in Hythe, Kent. He was sent to France and travelled across France to be evacuated from St Nazaire in an Austin Seven pickup. He said it was the first time he'd had a rifle in his hands with a bullet up the spout, he never liked guns. He boarded the Lancastria and there is so much written about the tragedy. He said his life was saved by being on deck when it left port. It was the only fatherly advice he ever gave me. "Always be on deck when a ship leaves harbour, it saved my life". He remembered taking off his boots and throwing them overboard to cries of "Watch out". When the Lancastria sunk he was in the water for 4 hours before being picked up by a French fishing boat. He inhaled a lot of oil. He refused to be taken back to France and was transferred to a British destroyer and taken back to Portsmouth where he spent 6 months in hospital. He then spent time in Egpyt and Ceylon. I have pictures of him on camels by the Pyramids and him on his service motorbike. He told me of going to the Temple of the Prophet's footprint in Candy. In the meantime, my mother was flying Barrage Balloons over Tilbury Docks and living in Southwark. After the war he joined NAAFI and audited Naval ships at Chatham, Garrisons at Dover and Deal and SHAPE HQ at Fontainbleau. He then went to Germany for a long time, in Celle and eventually Berlin where he retired. He never spoke very much about his war. The Lancastria obviously had had a tremendous impact on him I hate to think of the things he saw.
My father, Danny Hampton, a driver with the Royal Army Service Corps was involved in the war from 1942. He trained in southern England, Wales and Northern Ireland. On D Day he drove a DUKW on the Normandy beaches and moved through France into Belgium and the Netherlands arriving in Northern Germany. He was demobbed in 1947. He spoke of many people during his time on the continent, including Stan Jarrett, Les Attwood and "Dinger Bell". I have read a diary he wrote whilst he was in Belgium and Holland (around the Nijmegen area). If anyone remembers my Dad I'd love to hear more stories. Unfortunately he died a few years ago, but his memories live in me.
My Grandad, Bernard Lyde who has just celebrated his 91st birthday. He and my Nan, Margaret, have been married for over 66 years. Nan & Gramp have lived for nearly all their lives in Weymouth, Dorset. Gramp was called up and enlisted at Sutton-on-Trent on 27 June 1940. He spent the war in N Africa and Italy before being demobbed in January 1946.
This picture was taken in the North African desert in 1941/42 and is of 384 Company Royal Army Service Corps (RASC).
My Gramp is sat at the back on the left in the white vest. Gramp is especially keen to make contact with his mate, Bob Lee or his family. Bob is in the back row behind Staff Sergeant Skinner (in the peaked cap).
In late 1946 Bob was on holiday with his wife in Burton Bradstock, Dorset. Nan & Gramp met up with them in the Dove Inn at Burton Bradstock. Intending to keep in touch, Gramp made a note of Bob’s details on the back of a packet of cigarettes but subsequently lost it and they never made contact again. Gramp believes that Bob was originally from the London area.
It would be fantastic if Gramp heard from Bob, or any of the other lads in the photo.
I am trying to find information on Pte. Harry William May (my late father) who I believe became separated from his unit during the evacuation of Dunkirk and made his own way back to England. He may have been wounded or taken ill as I have a letter that was sent to him at Wooboton Infirmary, Newport, South Wales. The letter reads:
SUBJECT: B.E.F Personnel
42239 Pte. H.W. May
Notification has just been received that you are at the above address. In view of the fact that we thought you were missing, please write and let us know how you are progressing. Please also state what the possibilities are of you rejoining this unit in the future.
Commanding 2 Corps Troops Supply Column
Baydon Farm Camp
11th July 1940
My father rarely spoke of these events, so it would be interesting to fill in the missing parts of his life. Any information would be useful in tracing his journey back from France.
My father, William Jenkins has always been extraordinarily private about his wartime experinces, although he has always conveyed to his children an exteme pride in the achievements of the RASC. He joined the TA in 1938, after the Munich Crisis, was rescued from Brest after Dunkirk and served throughout the North Africa campaign, then into Italy and finally home in 1946. Throughout this time he served in the same unit as his older brother, at one time even being demoted to do so.
Unfortunately he has lost all of his campaign medals and now, the twilight of his years, this is causing him increasing consternation. Is there any way that our family would be able to replace them for him before it is too late? I would be grateful if someone could at least steer me in the right direction.
UPDATE: Replacement Medals can be obtained from the the following websites :- http://www.veteransagency.mod.uk/medals/replace.html or http://www.militaria.co.uk/bm_lists/replcmed.htm
Recently my father, Stan Rogers, now nearly 78, rediscovered some memorabilia he had brought back from Egypt in 1946 - a fantastic cigarette case and a trinket box made from scrap mess tins.
He had blagged his way into the army, being too young to legitamately enrol at the age of 17. He was sent to Egypt but arrived there I think, very near the end of the war. He spent some time getting supplies to the front line in a big lorry, then, in 1946, after the war, there was a big clean up operatrion in Egypt. He drove a breakdown truck, with a big winch on the back, around and through the Sinai desert in order to collect wrecks from the desert and take them to the Tel al Kabir vehicle-dump near Cairo.
Before the end of the war, German Prisoners of War were allowed to help but were not allowed out of the camp. When it ended, they began to be repatriated, but before they were given their instructions some were allowed to volunteer to help outside the camp in return for extra privileges. Stan, now 18, was assigned two POW's, Helmut and his friend (name not known), each of them around 30 - 35, and an Arab guide, Mahmood. Mahmood knew the desert and would sit in the back while the three sat in the cab.
It transpired that they were jewellers in their earlier life or something like it, and, to fill in their time, the two POW's had taken to creating items from old mess tins. As my father had treated the men with respect, and often bought cigarettes for them, when they left, they gave him the trinket box and cigarette case that they had made especially for him.
Stan Rogers regiment was the RASC (Royal Army Service Corp) and was based in Moasca barracks near the River Nile. He rembers his friend Norman Keep, who was about 19 or 20 then, and his Captain was Capt Paterson.
I would love to try and find these German men and get them to meet my father again.
My Dad, Ralph Allison Brown, served with the RASC in France and Egypt
Can anyone remember my grandfather Charles Alexander McQuillin (Driver) 286 Coy, R.A.S.C. ( Bluebirds ). He was a driving instructor at Ripley for the last two and a half years of the European WW2. He then went to Camp Amarea near Alexandria, Egypt as a driver until he demobbed near Crewe in 1946.
This account has been written from memory, about things which happened some 63 years ago. I had to report to Staveley Drill Hall on the first of December 1939. On arrival I was issued with a pay book, army number 121542 Royal Army Service Corps, a great coat, battledress, a kit bag, billy can, knife, fork ,spoon, one blanket, two pairs of socks, two vests, two pairs of pants, two shirts and a pair of boots. We were then taken to the Crown Hotel Clubroom. There we found a bale of straw which each man used to fill his paliasse. About twenty of us slept on the floor here and fed at the Drill Hall.
There were about 200 men and only six of us could drive. A group of London Bus Drivers were brought in to teach the learners whilst we who could drive had to do drills. After about a week we were moved into civilian digs and this carried on until about the 20th December when we were moved to Moreton In Marsh. On arrival we were given a paliasse to fill with straw and we were to stay in a barn for the next few weeks.
The barn was approached by a flight of brick steps on the outside of the building. Cows were mooing in the stalls below. Our large room had no fire and was lit with two hurricane lamps. After about four days we were given an injection which rendered our arms useless for days. It was at this point that we were sent home for three days Christmas leave, having to report back on December 27th.
By this time it was snowing hard. Daily, we had to walk and drill, in the snow, returning to our billet in the evening with clothes and boots which were wet through. We of course, had no heat either to warm ourselves or dry out our sodden outfits. We slept in our boots, wearing our great coat and covering ourselves with our one issue blanket. We never washed because the ablution block was permanently frozen solid. At the United Dairies Depot men rigged up a tin shelter with some showers. We had a shower each week, but just imagine emerging from washing and then going out in six inches of snow.
In early February we were informed that some lorries were waiting for us in France. We boarded a troop ship at Southampton and were transported to Le Havre. On arrival we found a row of wood fired coppers on the quayside full of tins of Maconochie meat and vegetables. Every man had a tin plus a Billy can of tea and a piece of bread. Then we were moved to an old mill at Nantes , where again we slept on straw. There was a fleet of Bedford lorries waiting for us under the trees in a park. The army took over a garage at the side of the River Erdre where we could maintain the fleet. Many lads had only driven a few miles in England and were now sent out driving these lorries in France! Next came a few brief lessons in looking after the vehicles. One weekend they had to change the oil in their lorries. I remember one lad filling his engine up with khaki paint which resulted in complete engine seizure. A corporal with three lorries went into a village in northern France only to meet up face to face with a lot of German soldiers. He was captured and remained a prisoner for most of the war. (He came from my home town of Ilkeston and told me all about this after the war.)
We carried on our army life as normal. Being in the Service Corps our job was to take food and supplies to the infantry and artillery in Northern France. In May we moved out of Nantes and slept in the lorry body. In the day we seemed to be roaming aimlessly around northern France. In June we moved on into Normandy and on June 18th we were instructed to head for St Nazaire. Waiting to evacuate us was a large ship. On June 20th we were told to head for St Malo where a fishing boat was waiting for us. We made our way into the town and lined our lorries on the quayside. We put our lorries in gear and allowed them to go over the quay and into the water. We then boarded the fishing boat, a small craft where many of us were sitting on the sides. Under cover of darkness we left St Malo and arrived at Portsmouth at daybreak. These fishermen were brave men who left England to journey across the Channel to pick us up. The waters around here at this time were full of German U-boats and other enemy craft. The ship waiting at St Nazaire turned out to be the Liner Lancastria and was bombed by Dornier aircraft. Over 3000 men were killed making it the largest single catastrophe of the war.
On arrival at Portsmouth we were put on a train and taken to Matlock Bath. Our living quarters were the worst yet. It was a disused dance hall called 'the glasshouse' in the woods above Matlock Bath. Many of the glass windows were broken and so some men spent time patching up the holes with felt. This made the local bats and owls very unhappy because they were used to having the place to themselves. The toilet was a large outside open trench with a pole across on which to sit. The authorities expected the Germans to invade so we had frequent night guard duties of four hours off and two hours on. Imagine walking around in the lonely woods above Matlock at two o'clock in the morning carrying a rifle you had never fired! After a couple of months in various billets at Matlock Bath we were moved into tents at Darley Dale. There we had a fleet of three ton Bedfords and three workshop vehicles. During the next few months we messed about route marching, map reading and even had a day at a rifle range.
At the beginning of December 1940 we were told one night to be ready to move on at first light. It was snowing hard as the drivers clambered into the cabs of their Bedford lorries. The cabs had windows but there were no heaters at this time. I drove a 1920 Thorneycroft six wheel breakdown truck which had a canvas hood, no windscreen and no doors. It was bitterly cold and I was just like a snowman as we journeyed for about eight hours all the way to Barrow in Furness. A corporal and myself were put in private digs for two weeks whilst our job was to load the lorries onto a boat. We then reported back to our unit who had moved to Brook Mill, a large disused mill at Kirkham near Preston. We spent Christmas there and early in the new year we boarded a troop ship at Barrow in Furness. There was little to do on the boat and we just lay in our bunks or walked around in the limited space. As the days went by the weather got colder instead of warmer as we thought it should do. We had not been told where we were going but we had assumed that it was Egypt.. The boat's crew said we were just off Greenland. There were forty ships in our convoy and the German battleship Scharnhorst was somewhere in the North Sea. This ship was the pride of the German Fleet but was sunk by the British Navy in December 1943.After that we were now able to continue our journey until we reached Freetown after some twelve weeks at sea. We stayed in Freetown Harbour for a few days whilst stocking up with yellow fish. We ate this fish daily until we arrived at Durban. We left our ship, which I believe was called the Rangitata, and had to stay in tents on Durban racecourse. Our ships were required to evacuate troops from Crete. About two weeks later we boarded another boat, possibly the Costa Rica, stocking up this time with tripe. Once again our diet consisted of the latest stock-up and we ate it daily until we arrived at Alexandria. The trip through the Red Sea was uneventful. However the Germans had sunk many ships in the Suez canal. We had to travel with care and at one point our boat nearly keeled over as we passed over one of these sunken ships. Finally after a journey lasting about twelve weeks we reached Alexandria.
We were sent to Tahag, a desert camp, by the Sweet Water Canal. The Canal had dead donkeys floating in it, next to this men were bathing and women were filling their pitchers-all from the same water. Tahag was a large settlement which contained many troops. There were about six cinemas here which all belonged to the same man. They were wooden buildings with large wooden roofs which rolled back on iron runners so that the building could be cooled as necessary. After a few weeks we were sent to a Vehicle Reserve depot in the desert on the Suez Road outside Heliopolis. There our job was to check all lorries as they came from the docks. My job was to test these lorries and park them in groups of four. These groups were scattered over an area about three miles square so that they would be more difficult to bomb. One afternoon I parked a group of four lorries. The next morning I went to take the lorries for delivery to a unit. To my horror I discovered that the lorries had been stripped of their batteries, starters, dynamos, distributors and carburettors. I happened to be on guard duty that night with a mate but we didn't hear a thing. Two of us had walked around the three mile square during the night but with the area being so great and our numbers so few it had been an easy target for the local criminals. We were called up in front of the C.O. for questioning but we had nothing more to say. There must have been at least twenty people who said that no vehicles had come into the camp that night.
Whilst staying here I went to the great Pyramid on my day off. It was a marvellous experience as we entered the narrow passage to the room where the empty stone coffins were. We also visited the Sphinx and the markets and mosques of Cairo. After a couple of months we started our trek up the desert through the Hellfire (Halfaya) Pass into Lybia.
We didn't see the coast road for months. At one stretch we didn't have a wash or shave for four or five months. Our daily water ration was one bottle (a Quart). We had one mug of tea in the morning and one at night. The rest of the day we had to survive with our bottle of warm water working all day in the hot dusty desert. Our lorries were transporting supplies from the railhead, which was at Mersa Matruh to various units. Sometimes when a lorry broke down it could take some time to fix. The rest of the convoy would go on ahead so we then had to find our own way. If conditions were calm and there was no wind to disturb the convoy's wheel tracks we could follow easily. However if the sand had filled up the tracks it was sometimes difficult to find our way.
We spent Christmas Day 1941 near Fort Merchili. After Christmas we made our way to the coast road and on to Derna which was a fertile town. The Italians had left their houses and we moved in for a few days near to the football pitch. The Libyans had plenty of Italian jam to sell us. We lit a fire in the stoves and had a bath. The water at Derna was beautiful to drink. After a couple of weeks we moved to a wadi just outside Tobruk. The Italians had built bunkers with loose stone walls and put an old lorry body on the top for a roof. The hollow walls were full of desert rats who came out at night running across us as we slept. There was an Italian desalination plant at Tobruk so we had plenty of water although it still turned our Carnation milk sour. We didn't realise it, but this was to be our final camp.
Our lorries were once again carting supplies from the docks to units. I had to go to Cairo on the desert railway from Mersa Matruh to collect some lorries, which as things turned out didn't happen to be there. The steam train travelled along the track which wandered along through the desert. We travelled in freight wagons and after about half an hour the train came to a sudden halt. Two messerschmidts fired anti tank missiles straight through the engine boiler. There was steam everywhere . We quickly dismounted and lay on the floor. The two planes strafed us, flying so low that we could clearly see the pilots out the corner of our eyes, about the height of a railway truck. They came down the line twice and the bullets were hitting the sand all around us. Miraculously they didn't hit a man. When the attack was over and the planes had gone away we climbed back into the wagons. After about an hour another engine came along the track to move the train. However the Messerschmidts were back and again destroyed this engines boiler. As before, we lay on the sand as bullets hit the ground around us. Yet again when all was clear, we got in the wagons and waited. After dark another engine came and successfully pulled the train on to Cairo. We returned to Mersa Matruh and then on to the wadi at Tobruk.
On the morning of the 20th June 1942 we were ordered to take our vehicles to the bottom of the Wadi. As we looked up at the top of the escarpment we could see dozens of German soldiers. They began firing at us. Our officers told us to destroy our vehicles. We spiked the end of the petrol tanks with a pointed pick and as the fuel spurted out we threw a match into it. All the time we were doing this the Germans continued to fire at us. Our officers instructed us to take cover in the bunkers which we had slept in and make our way to the docks after dark to try and get on a boat. We knew that escape by boat was impossible because the last hospital ship had left the day before with one of our drivers on board. His lorry had been loaded with small bombs and a Stuka scored a direct hit. The driver was hit by shrapnel as he fled from his bombed lorry. His name was Sisson and he came from Nottingham. Years after the war I met him working in a garage stores in Nottingham and heard about his escape. Within about thirty minutes the Germans came down the Wadi shouting at the entrance of each bunker. Occasionally they threw a grenade into a bunker. When they reached our bunker, which only contained the two of us, I quickly came out to face them for I was not going to be blown to bits by a grenade. I was followed by my companion, a boasting Yorkshire poacher who had entertained us with his previous escapades with gamekeepers. At this however he was shaking and very pale. It didn't bother me because I was happy to be alive. The German officer was a very young gentleman and spoke very good English.
We had expected to be captured because for the last few weeks the coast road had been full of non stop traffic (guns, tanks and lorries) all making their way to El Alemain. By now most troops had cleared out from the area but our small group had to stay behind captured because we were attached to a heavy Anti Aircraft Regiment who were left to defend Tobruk.
We were taken in vehicles to a beach between Tobruk and Derna. This was a flat sandy plateau where we stayed for a couple of days and nights. We just sat around in the sun all day unable to move anywhere. During this time we had no food or water and we had burnt our food rations in the lorries. We drank water from pools in holes dug by the Bedouins about 50 yards from the sea where they had tried to obtain less salty water. These holes were full of camel dung which we had to push to one side, quickly cup our hands and drink. The water was very salty and we had no choice but to keep drinking the camel dung flavoured water. After a couple of days still without food, we were taken to Derna by lorry driven by the Italians and put in a cemetery. This was the only place available with a wall around it. I spent my 23rd birthday lying between the graves in Derna cemetery. One good thing was that a water tanker came daily with fresh water. After two or three days with some food rations we were loaded into lorries. A four wheeled lorry pulled two four wheeled open topped short sided trailers. As the mad Italian drivers went round the sharp hairpin bends on the escarpments the front corners of the trailers touched the rear corner of the lorries, causing them to keel over giving all of us compulsory travellers a nasty sensation. However a worse journey was to follow.We arrived at Benghazi and were packed like sardines into the deep hold of a large Italian supply ship. We were praying that none of our submarines would see this ship because we did not know if we were carrying a white flag. We sailed to Brindisi, about a day's journey and then we got into railway freight vans and travelled to a large new camp at Carpi in the Po Valley. This journey took much longer as we travelled almost the full length of Italy. The camp was called PG73 and consisted of brick buildings with wooden bunks two-man high. There were plenty of good clean washing facilities-large troughs with fresh cold water. We passed the time away walking around the perimeter fence. Our rations were one small bread roll and one bowl of soup each per day.
When Red Cross food parcels were available they helped us a lot. Sometimes there was one parcel between four or even six of us, One between two if we were lucky! My friend Harry Brooks smoked a pipe so he had the two ounces of tobacco and I had the small bar of chocolate. Sometimes if no one wanted the tobacco you could exchange it for bread.
We idled our time away for what must have been a year until our troops were established in Southern Italy. Then we were moved by train in cattle trucks through Austria via the Brenner Pass to Northern Germany to Stalag 4B. The journey took a couple of days and we were given some rations to keep us going. Stalag 4B, near Bitterfeld, was a large dirty camp, so many of us were sent each day to pick up rubbish from around the camp. Some of our men were so weak that when they bent down to pick up the paper they fell to the floor. I stayed at Stalag 4B for about four or five weeks. Each day the German soldiers came round asking for volunteers to make work parties. I soon volunteered along with my friend Harry. About a hundred of us were sent to a factory at Zschornowitz. The work was very heavy, breaking hard stone ingots to go in a 9 inch crusher. I worked at this for a month or two but was then sent into the blacksmiths shop as a striker. This was much more interesting than stone breaking. We had to fire weld large chains with links of one inch thick iron. Due to an international agreement with the Red Cross we had to work the same hours as the German local work force . We lived in two huts, each of which had a large stove in the middle, where we could keep warm when we were not working. We had two small bread rolls each day instead of one at the other camp, and the usual soup cooked by a man daily. Conditions were better here than in Stalag 4B, although the camp still responsible for us. Our huts were close to the factory and we were allowed a shower weekly. The factory was called Electrosmeltz (I may have spelt that incorrectly), and had an end product of emery powder and grinding wheels.
On 30th March 1945 we were moved to work in a large opencast site next to the factory even though we continued to live in the same two huts on the factory site. Here there were twenty feet thick seams of immature coal which when you walked on them seemed like sponge. Large excavators ran on four sets of railway lines with a line up the middle for a train to run on. Our job here was to keep following these machines and dragging the electric cables to and fro. When the trucks were full, the train would drive straight into the power station boiler house. We went to work on Friday April 13th and at 10-30 am we were sent back to camp and told to pack what few belongings we had. Some Red Cross parcels had just arrived so we divided them between us so we had a selection of food to take on the march with us. The Germans gave us a 2 kilogram loaf of black bread. On Saturday 14th April our working group of around a hundred men left Zschornowitz escorted by a few soldiers. The first day we walked 25 kilometres through woods and lanes arriving at a railway goods shed by 7-30pm. We slept there and the next day we were up at 6.00 am and walked about 16 kilometres more. We saw lots of strafing from American planes.
We again slept in a barn and were up at 6.00am leaving by 9.30 and heading for Schona where we arrived at 6.00pm. Yet again a barn was to be our resting place. The German people seemed to be going about their business as normal and were very friendly towards us. We saw the biggest strafing and bombing display by light bombers and fighters that day. On Tuesday 17th we got up at 6 and started walking by 9.00am. Through woods we walked for about 18 kilometres, eating what we could, and then slept in the open in a large dirty camp full of all nationalities. It seemed as if many groups of prisoners were being brought to this particular camp from the surrounding areas. The Russians arriving here were starving. All American , Serb and French prisoners were given a Red Cross parcel, We didn't have one because one had arrived at the factory camp before we left. There was a heavy bomber raid during the night. We remained in the camp for the 18th, 19th and 20th. On the 22nd April I saw the M.O. with severe stomach pains from eating raw potatoes. We were still at the camp and on the 23rd April we drew a ration meal of dried potatoes, tinned meat, sugar and jam. On Monday 23rd April at noon we were told to standby to move at 2 pm. Later we were informed that the Americans were at Vermar and the next day we would be moving into their lines. Tuesday 24th still saw us in the camp. Reveille sounded at 2.45am and we moved out at 5.00 am without an escort. The Russians left in the opposite direction with escorts. At 11.15am we reached Wurzen. The Americans had entered the town at 3.00am that morning. All the houses had white flags hanging outside in the streets. To get to the Americans we had to cross a very wide river on a railway bridge. The bridge however had been blown up and only one girder remained out of the water. The Americans were on the other side shouting through loud hailers for us all to cross the bridge. After crossing we were taken in a lorry about 10 miles to a billet with a bed and a stove. This was the American base depot of the 69th Infantry Division. We stayed in various camps over the next few days being moved by American lorries. On 28th April I sent a letter home telling everyone I was free. On May 2nd we at last caught a plane at 10:30, a Dakota and flew from Nuamberg to Brussels. The flight was not good as we kept hitting air pockets after arriving at 12:45 but not landing until 2pm.
The Belgian city was flattened and the roads were full of deep craters. We had a meal with white bread and were paid ten shillings and 800 Belgian francs. We walked around Brussels for a few hours. We were able to have a warm bath. On the 13th May we had a hearty breakfast with plenty of good tea and cakes. At 4.00 pm we were told to be ready to move off to a hostel. However after a walk around we returned at 7-45pm to find all our kit and souvenirs gone as some people had just cleared everything from the room. We moved to a hotel and slept between white sheets-the first time for many a year. However such luxury was only to last a few hours. Reveille was at 2.20am, breakfast at 2.45am on the 14th May. We left Brussels by train at 5.30am and arrived at Lille by 10.30am . We left Lille in a Lancaster at 4.30pm. We had to move forward into the bomb racks for landing because the Lancasters were not used to landing with so much weight still on them.
We landed at Horsham at 5.45pm and had a short ride to Guildford, where we drew £11, had all new kit and were told of our planned departure at 1.30 the next day.
On 16th May We drew a pass and ration cards for 42 days. We left Horsham station at 2.00pm and I arrived back home at 7.00pm.
I can still see my dad now walking across the living room to shake hands.
I had to report back to Oulton Park, a large army camp in Cheshire. We drilled for a few weeks then we were sent home for a month and then back to the camp again. This pattern continued many times until demob about a year later.
Thomas Edward Hopkins
I have been interested in the War for a long time. My Father often told me stories of what he did when he was in Palestine. (He died in July 2000) He once went to an army reunion but did not see anyone he knew, he was quite disappointed.
I am hopeful that someone will remember him. He was in the R.A.S.C. number S/144033 with the 8th Army in Palestine until about 1945. His name was John Little, he was 21 in 1939, married to Stella, they lived in South Norwood, London. Prior to going to Palestine, some of his training was done in North Walsham, Norfolk, and Herne Bay in Kent, and possibly in Hastings, Sussex.
For a time he was a medical orderly. (I believe after he had had his appendix removed). I do have an Egyptian newspaper cutting with a photo of him with other medical staff taken at this time. I believe he also did administration work.
For a while he was seconded to a regiment(?) from New Zealand. He became friends with an Australian who gave him a wooden napkin ring for his daughter (me) who was born in July 1946. He was a guard in Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Mikado" (presumably put on by soldiers) at the Cairo Royal Opera House.
He played piano in the officers' mess. He also played accordian and clarinet. He returned to England and was then sent to Norway. I never thought to ask why or for how long.
I hope there is someone who may remember. I feel that time is running out now and I am very sorry that I did not question him further. Thank you.
George Burton and Frank Sumsion joined the army on the 1st June 1944 for our 8 week basic training at Winston Bks. Lanark, then for 8 more weeks driver training, R.A.S.C. Hadrians Camp Carlisle. We then were posted to 611 coy. Welbeck College Worksop, Tranporting amunition, PoWs, Personnel,and other supplies. My best buddy Frank came from Bath, I George came from London, where we would sometimes spend our W/E. I got posted overseas with 21st. Army Group,seeing the end of the war in Europe, then to Nigeria West Africa, finally back to London, was with 20coy.MT.at Regents Pk. Bks. Where I drove C in Cs at the War Office untill demob in 52. Unknown to me Frank followed to our overseas posting depot,going on to serve in Palestine, then on to Kenya and Mombassa, arriving back in the UK. as a Sgt. Instructor at a training Batt. in Somerset, geting demobbed the same day in 52. We met again on the Internet before we realised we only live 20miles appart after two weeks short of 60yrs we met up
My father Alfred Elliott is trying to find out more about what happened to his brother Bill who was in the RASC and was at Sandhurst. He said he won the OBE and believes he was in an airbourne unit in or around Arnhem. Does anyone remember him?
I am helping my father who served in the RASC from 1940-1947. His name is Charlie Corden. If anybody has any information please contact me. He especially remembers Harry Vera and Freddie Mills
I urgently need your help in tracing, Robert Taylor, my husbands biological father. To help you understand the urgency of our position, and why our search is so late in commencing, please read the following.
It is less than one year since we have been made aware as to the name of my husbands father, at first we tried to gain further information through maternal family contacts, sadly, with very limited success, unfortunately they had all believed, we already knew about father, regrettably details regarding him had either been discarded or lost over the long period of intervening years, including a UK address provided by father, the only part of which they remembered; it was north of London somewhere in the middle. No notification of my husbands birth had been forwarded to Robert Taylor, my husbands father, due to relative's reticence, combined with their limited ability to communicate in English. Additional information provided; he was a transport driver, had a curved badge on his sleeve with the letters RASC. With another insignia not as clearly remembered but thought to be blue and gold. He was stationed in Roosendaal (The Netherlands) in a school in the Nieuwstraat, during / before and after the period of July 1945. Roosendaal was liberated by the Polar Bears in October 1944.
My husbands mother's maiden name was Dora van Iersel; my father met her through his friendship with my uncle Jan van Iersel. My husband was born in Breda, Holland, 19 April 1946 and registered as Robert van Iersel (name of his mother). Some years later his mother married and moved to Antwerp. He was given my stepfathers surname.
At the moment we are lost as to where or how to proceed. To trace Robert Taylor via a geographic search I require a starting point such as the address he provided to the maternal family. Any assistance you can provide will be greatly appreciated, as it is now fifty-nine years since my husbands father and his late mother met, fathers age and the possibility of ill health, alarms me as to the urgency of my search.
Kind regards Mia van Gestel
My late father James Mackie Fowler served with the RASC in France and Egypt and whilst in Egypt transferred to the Army Catering Corps. This attached photo was found in an old album after he died and although he does not feature in the photo I thought others might be interested if only because it demonstrates that even in wartime some things went on as normal.
If you have any Photographs you would like to share please get in touch.
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