- Duke of Cornwalls Light Infantry during the Second World War -
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Duke of Cornwalls Light Infantry
- Duke of Cornwalls Light Infantry 1st Btn
- Duke of Cornwalls Light Infantry 2nd Btn
- Duke of Cornwalls Light Infantry 4th Btn
- Duke of Cornwalls Light Infantry 5th Btn
- Duke of Cornwalls Light Infantry 6th Btn
The Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry was formed in 1881, the regiments history can be traced back to 1702 when the third marine regiment was raised by Colonel Edward Fox.
During World War Two, the regiment saw action in Defence of Escaut, Cheux, Hill 112, Mon Pincon, Noireau Crossing, Nederrijn, Opheusden, Geilenkirchen, Rhineland, Goch, North-West Europe, Gazala, Medjez Plain, St. Abdallah, North Africa 1942-43, Cassino II, Trasimene Line, Advance to Florence, Incontro, Rimini Line and throughout Italy.
2nd Battalion, Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, served with 10th Brigade, 4th Division and proceeded to France with the British Expeditionary Force in autumn 1939. In the spring of 1940 they were heavily engaged in the rearguard action during the retreat to Dunkirk, notably during defence of the River Escaut. Those evacuated from the beaches went on to see action in 1942 in North Africa, then Italy including the attacks on Monte Cassino, the Battle of Incontro Monastery and the Gothic Line. They moved to Greece in 1944.
1st Battalion, Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry were serving in India when war broke out in September 1939. They remained at their post in the India until 1941 when they were ordered to Iraq to face a potential threat to the Middle East. In May 1942 they were sent to Egypt and went into action in Battle of Gazala, suffering huge losses. Some 150 survivors regrouped and covered the withdrawal, but only eleven men returned to England. The 1st Battalion was reformed from men of the 6th Battalion. They took part in the preparations for D-Day, but remained on home duty throughout the conflict.
5th Battalion, Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry was a unit of the Territorial Army. They were engaged in home defence duties from the out break of the war until 1944, when they landed in Normandy with 43rd (Wessex) Division.
6th Battalion, Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry was a unit of the Territorial Army. They were engaged in home defence duties throughout the Second World war.
If you can provide any additional information, especially on actions and locations at specific dates, please add it here.
Those known to have served with
Duke of Cornwalls Light Infantry
during the Second World War 1939-1945.
- Boden Edward Stanley . Pte.
- Brazier John Albert. L/Cpl.
- Clarke Alfred Henry.
- Coles Edward John. Pte.
- Connell Patrick. Pte.
- Everall John Clifford. L/Cpl.
- Ferguson John Henry. Cpl. (d.16th Jul 1944)
- Gray James William.
- Hewison Albert Edward.
- Horton Thomas Luther. Pte.
- Hurt Joseph Alexander.
- Hurt Joseph Alexander. Cpl
- King Thomas Henry.
- Latham Leonard Cecil. Pte. (d.25th Dec 1944)
- Monk William. Cpl.
- Phillips Melville Wallace Rupert O?Connor . Major
- Press Victor. Sgt.
- Ray Thomas Wilfred. Pte.
- Rowarth David Armentieres. L/Cpl.
- Sandalls George Gaston. L/Cpl
- Smith William Ernest. Pte.
- Smythe James. Pte. (d.13th Aug 1944)
- Smythe James. (d.13th Aug 1944)
- Smythe James. (d.Aug 1944)
- Trevethan Joseph William. Corporal
- Trevethan Joseph. Sgt.
- West Richard Eric. Pte.
- Whitton Alfred James. Sgt.
The names on this list have been submitted by relatives, friends, neighbours and others who wish to remember them, if you have any names to add or any recollections or photos of those listed, please Add a Name to this List
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There are 4 pages in our library tagged Duke of Cornwalls Light Infantry These include information on officers service records, letters, diaries, personal accounts and information about actions during the Second World War.
Pte. Leonard Cecil Latham 1st Btn. Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry (d.25th Dec 1944)I'm trying to find out as much as possible about my great great uncle, Leonard Cecil Latham. Uncle Len was a private in the Duke Of Cornwall's Light Infantry (1st Battalion), which saw heavy losses in Italy; we think he was eventually sent to Stalag IVB, although we have no firm evidence to confirm this (all paperwork being lost). We do know that he was killed on Christmas Day 1944 after the camp he was in was bombed by allied planes, and is now buried in the Prague War Cemetary. If anyone can shed any further light on Uncle Len, or help confirm details, my family would be so very grateful.Sarah Bailey
Major Melville Wallace Rupert O?Connor Phillips MIDI am looking for information regarding my father Melville Phillips, who served in the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry during WW2. As far as I can gather he was seconded into the British Army after signing up here in South Africa. I know he was mentioned in despatches and was wounded during the war. He was eventually a Major in the DCLI. Is there some place where I can get copies of his military records and service certificates, what medals he received and why. Unfortunately all the records that we has and the newspaper clippings etc, have either been lost or destroyed when we had two severe floods a couple of years back.Averil Knox
L/Cpl. David Armentieres Rowarth Duke of Cornwall's Light InfantryMy father, David Rowarth, joined the DCLI in 1938 and was in India when WW2 broke out. He was also in Baghdad and in North Africa and was captured by the Italians then later transferred to the care of the Germans. I have some diaries kept by my father while captured. These include programmes and photographs of plays and pantomimes the prisoners put on.Kate Cole
Pte. Thomas Wilfred Ray 1st Btn. Duke of Corwall's Light InfantryMy father, Thomas Ray, joined the DCLI in 1935 and was stationed in India when the war broke out. He volunteered as a signaler for detached duty in Eritrea during 1940 and rejoined his unit in time to be stationed in Iraq. In 1942 the 1st Battalion joined with the forces defending Egypt and my father was captured in June 1942. As a POW he was sent t0 Italy where he escaped and was on the run for six months. By that time he spoke fluent Italian but was picked up by the Germans who thought he was an Italian deserter. He was sent to Germany where he was put into a straffe lager, or punishment camp. Eventually he was imprisoned in Stalag 11B and was liberated by American forces in April 1945.Chris Ray
Corporal Joseph William Trevethan Duke of Cornwall's Light InfantryI have found a war diary of my late father, Joseph Trevethan who was in the Duke of Cornwall's and I know I have some photos of him in uniform as well as playing in a small dance band.Judith Friend
Alfred Henry "Curly " Clarke Duke of Cornwalls Light InfantryAlfred Clark was a Bren Gunner in the DCLI.Roland Clarke
Cpl. John Henry Ferguson The Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry (d.16th Jul 1944)My grandfather, John H Ferguson served in the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry until his death 16/7/1944. He is buried in Italy. He was born in Durham county but lived in Plymouth where my mother was born. Sadly, I don't have much information at all. My grandmother was pregnant with her second child, Jacqueline and my mother was aged 6 when he died. They moved to South Africa after the war.Heather
Albert Edward Hewison Duke of Cornwall's Light InfantryMy Grandad, Albert Hewison, never spoke about the war and war films upset him too. His brother pawned his medals so the family never got them to hand on and his records went up in the fire. I cannot find anything on him. Did anyone know him? Where did he go and what medals did he have? I would like to get copies as I believe he had`about 13. All I know is that he was evacuated at Dunkirk and was in India with the Indian Army so guessing he was in Burma and France campaigns. Can anyone help?Clive Stanton
L/Cpl. John Albert Brazier Duke of Cornwall's Light InfantryLike so many others, John Brazier never really talked much about his time as a soldier, particularly as a prisoner of war. He was wounded in North Africa, captured by the Italians and shipped out of Libya to Italy and interned there at P.G.68 P.M.3300. Subsequently transshipped up into Germany when Italy capitulated. John was Prisoner No. 247072 at Stalag 4B for the duration until walking out of the camp one morning as the guards had fled. They met an American patrol and were subsequently repatriated. It is believed he was finally demobbed in 1946.
Subsequently John re-entered the manufacturing ophthalmic industry in which he had served before the war, finally becoming the first non-Japanese Director of Hoya Lens Company in the world. He passed away in 1986 and sadly missed by all his family and friends. His war-time letters and photographs have been donated to the DCLI Museum at Bodmin, Cornwall.Paul John Herve-Brazier
Sgt. Joseph Trevethan Duke of Cornwall's Light InfantryI found a diary of my dad's following him landing day after D-Day, fighting and making his way through France then over to Belgium and Holland. He was in an intelligence unit. Before he went he was in and around Plymouth and the Isles of Scilly, he rode an army motorbike and played in a small army band.Judith Friend
L/Cpl George Gaston Sandalls 5th Battalion Duke of Cornwall's Light InfantryMy Dad George Sandalls, joined the 4th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regt on the outbreak of war and went to France with the BEF. Dunkirk was the only time in his life he swam. Back in the UK he transferred to 5DCLI, going back to France on D-Day +2, I believe. He then stayed on active service (as a Signaller) through to the end of the War, in N Germany, finally discharging via Shornecliffe in April 1946. I'd love to hear from anyone who can fill in the bits of the story I don't know.Bill Sandalls
Joseph Alexander Hurt 5th Btn. Duke of Cornwall's Light InfantryJoseph was with the DCLI. He was injured in some way early in the war and spent some time in hospital having burns and shrapnel in his back, it led to the loss of his hearing also. By the time he returned to the fighting there were very few people left from those he originally served with. He moved through France and the low countries and on into Germany where he appears to have remained after the war's end. He was stationed in Hamburg at one point and we have photos of him boxing at the 43rd Wessex Divison army boxing championships when his team were the winners.
I would be grateful if anyone who knows of him or any mention of him could let me know.Carol Walsh
Cpl Joseph Alexander Hurt 5th Btn. A Coy. Duke of Cornwall's Light InfantryJust received my dad's service record and it states that he was wounded in action and suffered GSW (mortar) to the face and was evacuated to UK on 28 June 1944 before being sent back to NWE in March 1945. His name was Joe Hurt. He was promoted first L/Cpl then Cpl before being discharged on 27 December 1946. He was also a member of the Battalion Boxing Team who won a championship whilst in Germany with 43rd Wessex, BOAR.Carol Walsh
Pte. Patrick Connell Duke of Cornwall's Light InfantryPaddy Connell joined the DCLI in 1932. He was taken prisoner in 1940 in Belgium. I think he was sent to Stalag XXb. Prior to this he was in India and boxed for the RE.Peter Connell
James William Gray Duke of Cornwall's Light InfantryI am trying to discover more about my Uncle Jimmy Gray's wartime experiences. I understand that he was taken POW at Monte Cassino (a place I have now visited twice) I think he may have been in Oflag Eichstatt V11B/b. Camp 0.7B POW no: 5770. I would appreciate any info about him. Thank youAngela Marriage
James Smythe Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry (d.13th Aug 1944)James Smythe served with the Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry. Anyone who has a photograph of him as we don't have any or any information about him wold love to hear from you.M
James Smythe Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry (d.Aug 1944)Looking for information on James Smythe who served with the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry. He died in Normandy in August 1944. Do you have a photograph of him or do you know anyone who served with him?Lisa
Sgt. Victor Press DCM. Duke of Cornwalls Light InfantryMy dad Victor Press, served with the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry and was shot in the leg in Normandy, he received the DCM. He was hospitalised in Scotland, he then transferred to the Army Educational Corps and dealt with National Library cataloguing in Scotland. Can anyone provide more information?Lynda Wilson
Pte. Thomas Luther Horton 5th Btn. Duke of Cornwall's Light InfantryMy father, Lew Horton was captured at Hill 112 and was injured by shrapnel when being transported by train with red crosses on top from British and American planes. The third time the planes straffed the train, my father was hit. The train stopped, and the German guards ordered everyone off the train. A colleague of my father, Jack Foster, said as he saw my father being helped off the train, he didn't think he would survive it. A German officer started walking towards my father and got his pistol out of the holster ready to shoot him dead. Apparently, he was greatly distressed as his wife had been killed on the train. Fortunately, another German officer came over and put his arm around the distressed fellow officer,and guided him away. The German people had not much food themselves. They lived on a diet of cabbage soup, potatoes and black bread. Some of the younger German guards were a bit sadistic and would knock crutches away from injured English. My father was blonde and blue-eyed, and with a name like Luther we felt it must have helped him.
My father was freed in May 1945 when I was 8 months old. He always said that he thought the Germans did what they could for him, even though his Achilles tendon was cut in an operation. He never talked about it much, but he was captured when laying communication lines in the 5th Battalion 43rd Wessex Division, in Hoven Woods, and were surrounded by Panzers.
He died in 1990 aged 69, bits of shrapnel having surfaced from time to time, some lodged in his stomach. The old comrades association kept him and his comrades in touch all through his life, which was a great joy.Pamela Smith
Pte. Edward Stanley "Blondie" Boden Duke of Cornwall's Light InfantryFascinating and moving to read accounts from ex-POW's in Stalag VII-A Moosburg. My dad, Stan Boden (known as "Blondie") must have been in that same camp. He never told me its name and, like so many men, would rarely talk about those times. Today, they'd be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder but for them, as soon as they were shipped home, it was back to the regiment to prepare for the Far East! No help whatsoever! Yet he'd been through Dunkirk, the Middle East, North Africa, Italian POW camp and spent six months on the run in the Italian mountains before being sent to Germany.
I've deduced that Stalag VII Moosburg was his camp from his stories of going into Munich to work on bomb-damaged buildings after air-raids. When he was captured he was asked what his civilian job had been. He answered, "Dressler Placer" - he loaded tiles onto the trucks that went into the kilns for firing (it was a tile-making company). The Germans took this to mean he was a tiler - on roofs! Consequently, he was considered useful on bomb-damaged buildings!
After the war, like others, he kept in touch with at least one of the Germans he'd worked with and vouched for him when the man wanted to emigrate to Canada. Dad had a standing invitation to take his family on a visit but we couldn't afford to do so in the years after the war and then contact was lost. Would Dad have enjoyed reading these accounts? Maybe, maybe not. So hard to know.G. Boden
Pte. William Ernest Smith 11th Battalion Royal Scots FusiliersChildhood can be good or it can be miserable, fortunately mine was to all counts quite enjoyable, considering what we had to go through. To begin with the year I was born (1926) was the start of the big depression, which lasted for about four years. I was only four years old when it ended so it is very hard to remember what happened during the depression. All I can go by is what Mam and Dad told us later on in life. It must have been very hard to bring up children in those days, what with no work to speak of for the men and having to live off welfare. As far as I can gather, Dad found a job driving a grocery van but the wages where that low he would have been better off on the welfare. He didn’t seem to mind, or so he said, the mere fact that he was working kept up his self esteem. This I learned from him when I was old enough to understand.
Mind you the depression didn’t stop them from having kids. Two of my sisters where born during that time, Doris and Annie came along about then. At that time we where living with Grandma and Grandad along with Mam’s two brothers Hugh and Harry, who for a long time I thought where my older brothers. Being a two bedroom house, one could see we where rather overcrowded. I think I was about seven or eight when we moved to a bigger house. It was a new house on a new estate but we where only there for a short time because the rent was too high and I think Marie had come along and probably Helen was on the way. With the low wages that Dad wages was getting, there was no way Mam could keep going. What Mam managed to do was exchange houses. She got an older house with lower rent. The house had two large bedrooms and one smaller one, which was mine. Mam and Dad had one of the large bedrooms and the girls had the other. I was destined to have seven sisters and two brothers.
There was something that we didn’t know when we moved into the house and that was the house walls where home to horrible bugs, nasty little creatures that would come out of the walls after one had gone to sleep and crawl over you and feed off your blood. The mere thought of them nowadays sends a shiver through me. We tried everything available to us to get rid of them but no matter what we did to the walls they still kept coming out. It wasn’t until Annie and myself got diphtheria and the house was sealed up and fumigated for a couple of days that we finally got rid of them. Dad was then able to seal up all the holes and decorate properly. While all this was going on Annie and myself were in Crow Wood Isolation Hospital for just over a month, it was very unpleasant. We couldn’t have visitors, Mam and Dad had to stand outside the closed windows and just look at us, we could not hear a word that was said, it was all sign language. Annie was in the girl’s ward so our visitors where kept busy going between the wards.
When, finally we where cured and allowed home it was a great feeling to see Mam and Dad at the door of the hospital, waiting to take us home. I never realized just how much they meant to me until I saw them that day, I think that was the first time, that I can remember, I was crying in fact I think we all where. Going back to school, it was great seeing all my pals again but, as regards the lessons there was over a month to catch up on and that wasn’t going to be easy.
In those days one had to catch up as best they could, or be punished for not doing so. I lost count of the number of times I had to go in front of the headmaster and get six of the best. Still I don’t think the punishment did me any harm, I probably deserved half of it. I think the worst part was that we where never given any homework to do, so that too made it hard for anyone to catch up with their schooling, not that we minded not getting homework. It meant that we had more time to ourselves for playing about.
At the top of our street was a large open field which we used when the amusement fair came to town. We where only three houses from the top of the street and there was no way we could get to sleep until it shut down at about twelve midnight, so a gang of us just wandered around the fair looking for girls (we where getting to that age).
I would have been about thirteen when the War broke out and quite some time we waited for something to happen, but nothing seemed to be happening, except for the Germans invading some country in Europe. Then things started happening at home, the German bombers started coming over, heading for Liverpool, they got a pasting every night. When they came over during the day we used to go outside and watch the dog fights in the sky, quite a few times we would see a bomber coming down in flames. Only once did one come down anywhere near us and that was in a field about half a mile away from our house, we went to see if we could get any souvenirs but it was too well guarded (very disappointing).
It was about that time that I started working at Todd Bros, spray painting storage drums, which I stuck at for about eight months. I left because in those days there was no such thing as face masks and I knew that, seeing as we where working in a booth, that sooner or later my lungs would be affected by the fumes. Dad got me a job at the same place he was working at. It was the I.C.I. Muspratts plant and my job was to stencil the names and address’s of firms onto 44 gallon drums of Sodium Sulphide. It was a back breaking job because the drums where on the ground and I had to go along rows of them bent over, almost double. It wasn’t to bad in summer but winter was a different story. One couldn’t wear gloves to do the job, and after half an hour my fingers and hands where blue turning black and I had to go back inside to the furnace to get some life back into my fingers. I think I stuck at that job for about two and a half years until I got fed up with both the job and my home life.
Me being the only boy in the family I was always getting blamed for everything that happened, more than half the time it was my sister Doris that was doing things and blaming me. Well I was fed up with taking the punishment and there was still a war going on, so I decided, as I was still under age, to ask Dad if he would sign the papers to allow me to join the army. I think that really he was feeling sorry for me, so he agreed to sign the papers. That was the day that altered my life!
Whilst waiting for my call up, life still had to go on and I had my work to go to. All this time my mates at work where giving me encouragement but I was wondering whether I had done the right thing. After all I would be going away to war and after reading what was going on over the other side, also learning that Uncle Harry had been wounded at Anzio Beach Head, I was beginning to have a bit of a scared feeling.
Never the less the day of my call up arrived and I found myself starting my new life on a train heading for Scotland. I spent a day and a night at a transit camp in Stranraer and then boarded the ferry from there to Belfast in Northern Ireland. Apart from riding the ferry across the Mersey River, this was my first experience on a fairly big boat, on what was to be, up to then my worst journey on the water. I can honestly tell you that if someone had picked me up and threw me over the side I would have thanked them, yes I was that sea sick. I had, at that time, never been so glad to be on solid ground as when we landed at Belfast Quay. We had a short train ride to go, about twenty miles to reach our destination, that being the Barracks at Holywood (spelt with one L) That was to be our home for the next six months.
Our first day was one of non stop activity. We where examined from top to toe, stabbed with numerous needles, large and small, given haircuts that had no hair left on the head longer than half an inch. From then on it had to be kept that way, which meant one haircut every ten days. We where kitted out with enough clothing and gear for two men and had to carry it all while being marched back to our quarters. We could hardly see where we where going, it was piled up that high.
We had already been assigned our quarters, which was a hut large enough to hold thirty recruits and two instructors. Our first day of instruction was taken up on fitting our battle gear correctly. That was necessary as we would have to carry everywhere because it would contain everything that we would need to survive and if it was fitted correctly it would be very uncomfortable. The days after that, were very hectic from breakfast to dinner. We had forty minutes training then ten minutes to get back to the barracks room and get changed for the next period of our training. It was really hard times because non of us were fit enough to keep up the pace, we had to push ourselves hard.
Our instructors were of the old school and they knew how to keep us going, what is commonly known as a boot up the backside. It wasn’t too long, maybe a couple of weeks before we could say that the pushing we got was really paying dividends. We were beginning to feel fitter, if one looked around the rest of the squad, one could see a kind of healthy glow in their faces. We were even finding our training a lot easier and were starting to enjoy it. Our instructors were not wearing their boots out so much kicking our backsides. Once we were able to go out in the evenings things began to get a little more pleasant. We couldn’t go after the Irish colleens simply because we didn’t have enough pay to do so. Our pay was fourteen shillings a week, of which seven shillings was taken out and sent to my mother, two shillings was taken for my credits (a sort of bank account) which meant we only had five shillings with which to buy our cleaning materials, such as boot polish, blanco and brasso. Mind you we didn’t have to buy those every week so we could go to the movies now and then.
After six weeks training there was a general sort out in the intake. Those that were thought to be of lower standard were sent to their various Regiments and probably posted over to where the fighting was going on. The rest of us were to be kept on for a further four months for training as Infantry leaders. To fully describe the type of training we went through would take too long, but basically it consisted of learning how to handle men, the basics of all warfare, strategies of field tactics and being expert on all types of small arms used in infantry warfare. To say it was hard would be a gross understatement. We soon found out that our first six weeks was just to get us hardened up for what was to come. One could call those that where sent packing, the weakest link.
After the first three months we had our first seven day leave and what I had dreaded came along, it was the trip on the ferry from Belfast to Stranraer, but this time the waters of the Irish Sea were a lot calmer and we had quite a pleasant journey. We only hoped that it would be the same on the return journey. I had a very pleasant leave and being in uniform made me feel quite a bit important.
One thing I did find out was that whenever I met one my old friends, the first thing they would say was “when are you going back” that went on for my whole army life and, until I got used to it, it made me feel quite un welcome. Apparently all my army mates got asked the same question, which was a good talking point when we got together after our leave. Anyhow our seven day leave went all too quickly and we found ourselves once again on the ferry facing another rough crossing. There is one thing for sure and that is that I am really glad that I didn’t join the Navy. I am sure my life would have been very miserable, boy I sure do love dry land.
Our next three months consisted of harder training, but owing to our being a lot fitter it seemed easier than the first three months. Being Infantry we had to harden our feet because they were our only means of transport. That meant that we had to do a lot of route marches, each one at least twenty five miles. Needless to say, almost everyone of us had blisters on the bottom of our feet after every march. Apart from the marches there was the field exercises. Training in European warfare and Jungle warfare just in case needed and mock battles using the tactics that we had learned. Each one of us had to take turns being in command. When this was completed we where sent on for two weeks of Commando training in Wales and Northern Scotland. (BLOODY COLD). We often thought of those who didn’t make the second part of training and if they did go to the front and even if they were still alive as we had heard some horrific reports. We were then assigned to our own units.
Regiment was The Royal Scots Fusiliers and I was sent to Edinborough until there was a call for reinforcements. As my regiment was fighting in Europe I knew that we would not be going to the Far East (thank God). At last the call came and we where sent on two weeks embarkation leave, which came and went all too quickly. On our return we boarded a train for Tilbury then by ship to Belgium. Whilst we where waiting to move to the front line, we where given the task of clearing the coastal towns of booby traps and anti-personnel mines. There was a couple of accidents and those where our first taste of war. It isn’t very nice to have ones close friends with arms and legs blown away. I think we where purposely given those jobs to get us acclimatized to what it was going to be like up the front line. It sure did the trick, we were all scared as hell. Finally we moved further up to a town called Nijmegen, which is on the banks of the Rhine river, on the outer bank is Germany. The camp we were in was a large paddock with the town on one side and a large forest on the other. Sorry to say but the forest was full of blueberry bushes and they were delicious, except for the fact that half of the camp came down with dysentery, me included. As we were under canvas and the toilets were just a trench with a six inch by twelve foot pole across it (very uncomfortable) we still had no choice but to put up with it. To make matters worse a couple of German saboteurs had managed to cross the river and blow up the ammunition dump that was situated about half a mile away. In a sense it was sort of amusing to see our boys diving for cover into their tents with shells and bullets flying overhead. At the time my partner and myself were on patrol around the perimeter of the camp, we had just reached the main road when it went off, needless to say we also dove for cover until we heard people shouting “SABOTEUR” what we saw was a car screaming down the road heading towards the bridge, we both raised our rifles he took the left and I took the right, took aim and fired our first shot in anger, the car never made it to the bridge, it went over the bank and the saboteurs were thrown out, one hit in the head and the other in the chest (both deceased) this was an incident that was to stay with me for life. I know we were trained for this but we are human and we had just taken life from two other humans. It was an older more experienced soldier that changed my thoughts when he told me that it does not get any easier to take a life but in this bloody war is a case of “Kill or be Killed” A special squad of sappers were called in to clean up the mess and we were put on special patrols just in case of more trouble.
The Division that my Regiment belonged to was the 11th Polar Bear Division and they had called for reinforcements for mopping up operations, in other words there where still some of the enemy left behind to cause a lot of trouble. They were nearly all young Hitler Youth and old members of the Home Guard, they were expendable. We were mostly young fellows ourselves and it didn’t seem quite right to kill off the young and the old, but then came a familiar voice “remember lads it’s kill or be killed” The horrors of war is not a subject that I am not at peace writing or for that fact even taking about, but I will say that war is EVIL but if it means freedom or evil then I will fight to eliminate evil. The rest of my stay in Europe was quite frightening and horrific, so I shall finish this part simply by saying “the rest is History”.
Anyhow the war in Europe came to an end and what was left of our Division returned to Nijmegen. There were just enough of us left out of one Brigade of four Battalions to form one Battalion. What was left of our Regiments were flown back to Britain in converted Lancaster bombers, when I say converted I mean that everything was taken out except the toilet, which was a tube in the middle of the floor, that was the one and only seat. We landed somewhere in the south of England and then transported to Uckfield camp in Sussex . It was here that we re-formed the 1st Battalion, Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry. Let me explain “Light Infantry” These Regiments were formed in the old days to travel fast and light, to be first into action and hold the position until the heavy stuff arrived, then to move on quickly to another position.
Me being a regular soldier had the choice of going back to The Royal Scots Fusiliers or staying to help re-form the DCLI. My choice was quite easy as most of my mates from our European experience where staying to re-form the DCLI. The reason for re-forming the DCLI is, that while the DCLI was serving in the Egyptian desert in a battle against the Italians, they were almost totally wiped out, only one soldier survived the battle. That soldier was so depressed by what had happened that he took his own life. This incident happened when we were stationed in Cyprus, he put the barrel of his Sten into his mouth and pulled the trigger. I had to send some men in to clean up, one could only imagine how troubled this poor soldier was and what horrors he had experienced during that ill fated battle.
Anyhow back to were we where, I received my transfer to the DCLI and began more extensive jungle training as the war with Japan was far from over. One day a notice went up on the board asking for men to form a bugle platoon, of course I volunteered, I thought that my chance of getting in was as good as the next man, so my name went in. The reason for forming a bugle platoon was that they were getting ready to re-form the whole band. That made everyone feel good because we all had that feeling that we were going to become a peace time army before long. Well before we finished our training the Japanese had surrendered and of course that changed everything, we were able to concentrate on our training to be buglers. It wasn’t long before we realized that something big was in the wind, far too many things were going on which where out of place with our ordinary daily life. Still we carried out our bugle training and were soon becoming very proficient at it, in fact we were just about ready to join the rest of the band. We still had other duties such as training to be stretcher bearers as well as messengers in case communications broke down and other tasks of that nature. Of course there was a daily duty bugler who had to sound reveille, morning orderly sgts call, company calls, cookhouse calls for meals, defaulters for naughty boys, first post at 9.30am, last post at 10pm and lights out at 10.30pm. We had to sound those calls at four or five different positions around the barracks and our turnout had to be better than first class. We were there to set an example to the rest. As it was gradually converting to peace time there was more discipline as regards to turn out and stature. No more walking or slouching, one had to march about everywhere, OR ELSE. We were still not 100% sure of where we were going but we were preparing ourselves to go to Asia to have a go at the Japanese, that, we were not looking forward to. Fortunately because of the two atom bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki the Japanese surrendered. That was the start of fear of nuclear war, we wanted no part of it, plus we wanted to start our peace time army. Our bugle platoon was going great guns, the whole thirty two of us could march and play as one. We were told that we sounded great and that lifted our spirits a lot. By this time rumors were going around that we were going to be on the move. It was all spit and polish, so we had an idea that where we were going was very important to Britain. Everything we had was packed away and sent to Tilbury docks on the Thames, we followed close behind to get ready to board the SS Strathmore, to where, we didn’t know. When we came out of the sheds where our kits were stored we got the shock of our lives. Never had we seen such a large vessel so close up and actually sitting on the water. We had to strain our necks to see the top of the ship. We boarded the ship, all 750 of us along with the same number of the Green Howards Regiment, plus some odds and sods. I think there was a total of over 2000 men and women, not including the crew, that will give you an idea on the size of this ship.We said goodbye to the shores of England with us buglers sounding Retreat while the band played Auld Lang Sine, both were played in perfect harmony. We had rehearsed it for days, eight hours a day, bleeding hard work.
Our first port of call was Gibraltar, We were not allowed to get off the ship, we just stood on deck and looked at the enormous rock. Next port was Malta, apart from the port itself the rest looked like the Australian outback. Once again we had to stay on board and be entertained by young boys in the bum boats diving for coins that we threw into the water from a great height. We then set sail for Port Said at the mouth of the Suez canal. We duly arrived there and disembarked, we headed for a transit camp at Port Tofick, fortunately we only stayed there for about a week until another ship arrived so we could board and head down the Suez. We made slow progress down but it was worth it to see the green of Egypt instead of the dry and arid desert that we expected to see. We were soon to be very disillusioned about the green when we landed. We then headed by train to a small town called El Kantara which was made up of small mud houses that blended in with the sand, which was all around us. We then proceeded to another camp which was situated between the Nile and the Suez in the Western desert. There we really saw sand, miles and miles of it. We were stuck in the bloody desert with just tents and an open air dining area. We could just about stand on the flies while we were eating, at least we could beat them off but no way could we beat of the hawks flying overhead when they dove down to steal the food from our plates, which was in very short supply. Food supplies were that short that when we ate our oranges we did so complete with peel. I can tell you it gave us a taste of what the boys went through when the war was on over here. Anyhow we were only there for just over a week, then we were on a train again, this time to Gaza then by truck to a camp about three miles from Acre (pronounced Akko). This port is mentioned in the Bible. Founded before 1500BC, conquered by the Arabs in 638AD then held by the Crusaders 1104AD until 1291AD. We spent our first Christmas there in comparative warmth, although it was winter the climate was quite pleasant. One of our first duties was a ceremonial march through the town along with a unit of the RAF and a unit from the Armoured Corps. The idea was to impress the population of our strength and smartness. The Lord Mayor of the town took the salute at the march past and it was a very proud moment for us Buglers to be leading the parade. Bringing up the rear, because their pace was the same as ours, was a unit of a Sikh Regiment, we were to some really great Hockey games with them.
We stayed at this camp for around six months during which time the Rifle companies would take it turn about patrolling the hills looking for trouble makers. They would stay out on patrol for a week at a time and it was our job to go out every night to keep up their supplies, we used to have one hell of a time finding our way in the dark and boy was it dark. While one company was on patrol the others were no being idle. Apart from our everyday training, about once a week we would be woken at 3am and taken to a Jewish settlement, there we would block off all entries and exits and wait until dawn. Led by officers, we would then go into the settlement and wake everyone and make them wait outside whilst we searched their home for hidden weapons and munitions. It was a rotten thing to do but it had to be done as some of the thing that we found would make your hair curl. Another very unpleasant task we had to do was when we received a message from the navy that there was an illegal immigrant ship in the area, we sat and we waited for it to beach itself, then we rounded those that came ashore. It wasn’t a very pleasant task but once again it had to be done. They were then taken to the port of Hafia, then across to Cyprus. Cyprus had a very large detention centre that could accommodate a few thousand, at least until they were processed. We didn’t realize it but we were to find out a lot more about those camps later on.
While in Gaza we got word that the King David hotel had been bombed by terrorists. Being Light Infantry we were able to be at the scene within an hour. We then set up camp at the Mount of Olives just outside of Jerusalem. Within a couple of hours of the message we had patrols out looking for signs of more trouble. We only found one man and he was dead, unfortunately for him he did not get out quick enough after setting the bomb.
During daylight hours we saw lots of areas of interest, most impressionable was right next to our camp, it was the Garden of Gethsemane which was the scene of the agony and the arrest of Jesus, we were permitted to visit it when off duty. At night it was a totally different story altogether. We were lucky that our camp was at the foot of the mount as during the night hours machine guns would start firing from high points across into the old city of Jerusalem and the sky would be filled with tracer bullets, it was quite a sight. For that reason we Buglers could only sound off the calls during the daylight hours because we had to do sound off calls from the high tower of the Star of Greece monastery which was on the edge of our camp sites. Our patrols went out in search of the sites where the machine guns were firing from, without much success. We didn’t even know if it was Jews or Arabs that were doing the shooting. After about a month, when things had settled down a bit we were sent to a place called Megiddo, which in it’s Greek form means Armageddon, where according to “Revelations 16” a great battle of prophecy is fought. Exactly what we were there for, we didn’t know but while we were there we became attached to the Guards Brigade we were to find out later, why. The Battalion still had to send out patrols and go out on exercises in order to keep up our fitness and fighting strength. Megiddo was an important town in ancient Palestine in that it overlooked the Valley of Jezreel, another name for the Plain of Esdraelon which is supposed to be the site of the great battle of Prophecy, that would end mankind as we know it (Armageddon). Since 1918 when General Allenby defeated the Turks at Megiddo it had become a British outpost, until 1948 when it became part of Israel. From Megiddo we went out as an advance work party to Trans Jordan (now known as Jordan). We had to set up four sites, three for the Guard Battalions and one for our own Battalion.
These sites consisted of tents for living in, tents for dining in and tents for toilets which were twelve feet long by two and a half feet wide with eight feet deep holes (which we of course had to dig). These sites were assembled on the edge of the wilderness that Jesus wandered for forty days and nights. It was in this wilderness that the Guard Battalions did their exercises. The idea was that we Buglers were to be taken out to lonely spots with smoke canisters and wait until we saw one of the Battalions (I can tell you that it was an eerie and lonely wait). When we saw any movement we would set the smoke canisters off so as to indicate to advancing troops the position in which they were to attack, which was in itself a fearsome sight as seen from our point of view.
Unfortunately in March 2008 before Ernie had the chance to complete his writings, he passed away after a long illness and will always be sadly missed by us, his family. In order to keep Ernie’s story original I have completed it word for word as he wrote it.
After Ernie’s return from service in the Middle East he married a young Scottish lass named Nancy Milne, served until 1956 in Jamaica and after retiring from the DCLI he settled in Australia with wife Nancy, sons Billy, Robert, Terry, Leslie and daughter Nancy.Robert Smith
Cpl. William Monk MID. 2nd Btn. Duke of Cornwalls Light InfantryMy father was Corporal William Albert Ernest Monk DCLI. When I was born, I assume he would probably have been serving in North Africa with his Regiment. I was born in Looe in East Cornwall while Mr Hitler was bombing the life out of Plymouth where both my parents came from. So along with many other expectant mothers at that time they were evacuated to Cornwall.
Sadly my parents divorced in 1951 and I never saw my father after that. I recall seeing a notice in the local paper to say that he passed away about 10 years ago. I remembered that he had wartime medals and that my brother buried them in the back garden (don't ask me why). They were recovered as I recall. I know that he was a useful boxer and represented the Battalion. I know this because I later joined the Army and transferred to The Army Physical Training Corps and was told by the senior officer in the Corps at that time that he knew my father when attached to the Battalion as their PT instructor.
I researched his MID in the supplement to the London gazette on page 7188 dated 20th of December 1940 where he is listed along with Lt Col EGM Porcelli, presumably the CO; Major (Bt Lt Col) WKM Leader,MC; Major (A/Lt Col) EN Willyams DSO; Major JC Phillippo (listed as 'Since deceased'). There were two captains, two 2nd Lieutenants, a WO2, two Sergeants and a L.Cpl. The final two were privates at the time, my father and R Dalby. The Btn formed part of the BEF that was evacuated from Dunkirk. I have tried researching the action for their award but the MOD are less than helpful. The reason for the award of an MID is not recorded. Requests for dates and theatres of war are not available for some unknown reason.
I retired from the Army as a Major but sadly never had the opportunity to talk to my father about his wartime service. I joined the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment in Libya in 1961 and often wondered whether my father travelled the same areas of the desert I exercised over. It was difficult to imagine the stresses the young men at that time endured with little natural terrain for cover and minimal protection from the sun and sand storms. It was bad enough with no one trying to shoot at you so they deserve all the respect later generations sometimes fail give.Robin Monk
L/Cpl. John Clifford Everall Duke of Cornwall's Light InfantryMy father, L/Cpl Everall served with the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry. He is believed to have been captured in North Africa. He was a POW at Stalag 11B and his POW number was 140146. Can anyone help with information?John Everall
Sgt. Alfred James Whitton Duke of Cornwall's Light InfantryMy grandfather, Alfred James Whitton, was born in 1915. I never knew him but on my dad's birth certificate it shows Alfred was a Sergeant, Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry, Army No. W5436638. I would really like to know more about what he did during his Army life but don't know where to start. Does anyone remember him?Alison Whitton
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