- Royal Northumberland Fusiliers during the Second World War -
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Royal Northumberland Fusiliers
- Royal Northumberland Fusiliers 1st Btn
- Royal Northumberland Fusiliers 2nd Btn
- 2nd Battalion, Royal Northumberland Fusiliers
- Royal Northumberland Fusiliers 4th Btn
- Royal Northumberland Fusiliers 7th Btn
- Royal Northumberland Fusiliers 8th Btn
- Royal Northumberland Fusiliers 9th Btn
- Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, 10th Btn
- Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, 11th Btn
- 30th Battalion, Royal Northumberland Fusiliers
- Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, 70th (Young Soldiers) Btn
At the outbreak of War the 1st Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers were in the Middle East. They were part of the Desert Rats as machine gunners and saw action at Tobruk, where they were attached to the 18th Brigade of the 7th Australian Division. In September 1943 they were sent to Italy, They returned to the Middle East in 1945.
2nd Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers served in France with the BEF and were evacuated from Dunkirk. They became part of the 4 Inf Division Home forces. In July 1943 they were sent to Tunisia and in March 1944 to Italy and then in January 1945 they were sent to Greece.
9th Btn, Northumberland Fusiliers was formed as an offshoot of the 7th Battalion in early 1939. They saw action in France with the BEF, upon returning to Britain they were re-equiped with Vickers machine guns moved to Crown Hill Barracks in Plymouth engaing in the defense of the Devon coast. In August the Battalion 1940 the 9th became part of the 18th Division and moved to Norfolk to defend the coast line from Wells to Great Yarmouth. The Battalion moved to the Scottish Borders in January 1941 for intensive training, with the HQ was at Bowhill House. In June 1941 they transferred to Cheshire, Desert Kit was issued and the vehicles repainted in desert sand colours. Following embarkation leave, on the 24th October,the 9th Btn. sailed for Halifax aboard the 'Warwick Castle' from Liverpool. Arriving in Halifax they re-embarked on the American troopship the 'USS Orizaba' After a long hot journey via the Port of Spain in Trinidad and Capetown they arrived in Bombay for training before setting sail again for Singapore in late January 1942 to join the 11th Indian Division.
4th Battalion, Royal Northumberland Fusiliers was converted to a motorcycle battalion in 1938, they served with 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division which was a Motor Division. They proceeded to France in January 1940 and saw action in France and Belgium, including the action on the Ypres-Comines Canal. They were evacuated from Dunkirk in June 1940 and came under command of Home Forces until the 30 April 1941 when the battalion was redesignated as 50th Battalion, Reconnaissance Corps and rejoined 50th Division. In June 1941 they were sent to North Africa via a stay in Cyprus from July to November 1941 and in Iraq from November to December 1941. 50 Recce was attached to 150th Infantry Brigade but from February to June 1942 it was assigned to 22nd Armoured Brigade. They returned home in June 1942. On the 6th of June 1942 the battalion was renamed 50th Regiment, Reconnaissance Corps, but in March 1943 they reverted to being 4th Battalion, Royal Northumberland Fusiliers. The battalion was placed in suspended animation on the 25th of April 1944, when the personnel formed three independent machine gun companies for 21st Army Group: 1st Independent Machine Gun Company assigned to the Guards Armoured Division, 2nd Independent Machine Gun Company assigned to the 11th Armoured Division and 3rd Independent Machine Gun Company assigned to the 7th Armoured Division. All three served throughout the North-West Europe Campaign. They variously saw action at Odon, Bourguébus Ridge, Mont Pinçon, The Nederrijn, The Rhineland, and The Rhine.
The 7th Battalion, Royal Northumberland Fusiliers was a machine gun battalion serving with Northumbrian Area, Northern Command, when war broke out in September 1939. They proceeded to France in October 1939 to join the BEF and was assigned to III Corps, attached to the 51st (Highland) Division. The Division was stationed at the Maginot Line and escaped being encircled with the rest of the BEF at Dunkirk. They were pulled back to the west of Northern France and were attached to the French 10th Army, holding a line four times longer than that which would normally be expected of a division. They were were trapped at Saint-Valery-en-Caux, and surrendered on the 12th of June 1940 with many spending the rest of the conflict as prisoners of war
The 7th Battalion was reconstituted in Britain. On the 12th of October 1940 they were assigned to 206th Independent Infantry Brigade. On the 18th of November 1941, they transferred to 59th (Staffordshire) Infantry Division and were engaged in training and preparing for D-Day. They landed with the division in Normandy on the 27th of June 1944, and were in action at Caen and Mont Pinçon. Due to a manpower shortage, the division was disbanded on the 19th of October 1944 and the battalion was placed in suspended animation, with the personnel transferring to other units.
The 8th Battalion, Royal Northumberland Fusiliers was formed on the 18th of June 1939 as a motorcycle battalion. On the 2nd of October 1939 they joined 23rd (Northumbrian) Division. They proceeded to France on the 22nd of April 1940. The Division was to be engaged in labour and training duties, and embarked without their artillery and with few of their signals and administration units. The division suffered heavy casualties on the 20th of May 1940, in an attempt to delay the German advance at Arras. They were evacuated from Dunkirk. The 23rd Division was then disbanded due to the heavy losses. The 7th Northumberlands came under command of Home Forces until November 1940 when they joined 3rd Infantry Division as a motorcycle battalion. On 30 April 1941 they transferred to the Reconnaissance Corps and were redesignated 3rd Battalion, Reconnaissance Corps, on 6 June 1942 they were renamed 3rd Regiment, Reconnaissance Corps. 3rd Infantry Division landed on Sword Beach on the 6th of June 1944 and fought through the Battle of Normandy (Caen, Bourguébus Ridge, Mont Pinçon), the Netherlands (The Nederrijn) and on through the Rhineland and the Rhine, at the end of the conflict they were in Bremen.
The 10th (Home Defence) Battalion, Royal Northumberland Fusiliers was formed in December 1939 by the redesignation of No. 40 Group, National Defence Companies, which had been formed in September 1936. On the 25th of September 1940, it was split to form 1/10th (Home Defence) Battalion and 2/10th (Home Defence) Battalion. Both battalions were redesignated on the 24th of November as 10th (Home Defence) Battalion and 11th (Home Defence) Battalion. The 10th Battalion then absorbed the 11th Battalion on the 23rd of June 1941. On the 24th of December 1941, the battalion was converted to normal infantry and redesignated, once again, as 30th Battalion.
30th Battalion, Royal Northumberland Fusiliers was a training unit early in the Second World War, on the 19th September 1940, the yound solider companies were withdrawn to form 70th (Young Soldier) Battalion, Royal Northumberland Fusiliers at Newcastle. 30th Battalion, Royal Northumberland Fusiliers was reformed on the 24th of December 1941, when the 10th Battalion converted to normal infantry and was redesignated. In August 1943, they moved to North Africa to join 42nd Infantry Brigade. The brigade was redesignated 57th Division as a deception, and the 30th Battalion became "170th Brigade" until the 30th of April 1944. On the 14th of May 1944, they were posted to 233rd Brigade on Malta were it remained until the end of the war, being disbanded there in 1945.
The 70th (Young Soldier) Battalion, Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, a training unit, was formed at Newcastle on the 19th September 1940 from the Young Soldier companies of the 30th Battalion, Northumberlands, the 30th Battalion, Green Howards, and the 30th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry. On the 12th of November 1942 it was redesignated as No. 98 Primary Training Centre
23rd Nov 1939 Bridges
10th May 1940 Advance
13th May 1940 Guard
21st May 1940 On the Move
22nd May 1940 Recce
23rd May 1940 In Defence
24th May 1940 In Defence
25th May 1940 Situation Unclear
26th May 1940 Recce
27th May 1940 Enemy Active
28th May 1940 Withdrawal
29th May 1940 In Support
31st May 1940 In Action
4th Jun 1940 In Camp
8th Jun 1940 Reorganisation
9th Jun 1940 Reorganisation
10th Jun 1940 Leave
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
Royal Northumberland Fusiliers
during the Second World War 1939-1945.
- Cain Robert Henry. Maj.
- Clark Thomas. Pte. (d.1st Aug 1943)
- Collins Martin.
- Cone George. Sgt.
- Dawson Robert.
- Dawson Thomas.
- Douglass Matthew McLeod. Pte.
- Douglass Matthew McLeod.
- Fay John Joseph. L/Sgt. (d.13th Sep 1943)
- Fay John Joseph. L/Sgt. (d.13th Sep 1943)
- Fullard Charles Frederick. Pte.
- Gillan Frederick George. Fus. (d.27th March 1945)
- Goodwin James George. Fus.
- Huckle Percy. Tpr.
- Hurst Terence. Fus.
- Hutchinson John. Cpl.
- Inglis James Thomas. Pte.
- Jackson Dick.
- Jackson George.
- Jamieson Robert Andrew. Fus.
- Kelly Len. Pte. (d.1945)
- McLauchlan Thomas Edward. Fus.
- Megginson John.
- Murrell W. A.M..
- Naisbitt John. Fus.
- Percy John Robert. Cpl.
- Pike William Alfred.
- Randall Richard John. Lt.
- Rochester Bruce. Fus.
- Rollinson Ernest Arthur John. Cpl.
- Rosemurgey Norman. Staff Sgt. (d.21st December 1941)
- Rutherford John James Stuart. Fus.
- Savage James.
- Slater John. Fus.
- Smith Fred.
- Tait Norman Leslie Mcallum. Lt.
- Tarmey Tom. Lt.
- Thompson Frederick Charles.
- Walker Joseph Arthur. Fuslr. (d.5th January 1944)
- Walton Aaron Bamford. Cpl.
- Wood Charles Leslie. Fus.
- Wood Charles Leslie.
- Wood Jack. Sgt.
- Wooll Frederick William. RSM.
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 6 pages in our library tagged Royal Northumberland Fusiliers These include information on officers service records, letters, diaries, personal accounts and information about actions during the Second World War.
Pte. Matthew McLeod DouglassMy father Matt Douglas, died when I was fifteen, he talked very little about his time as a POW in WW2, so any info I have is scanty. He was wounded and captured just outside Dunkirk in 1940 and spent the rest of the war in a POW camp. When liberation came, he refused to go to a hospital for assessment choosing to return home as his father was dying, so he never received a war pension or his medals. Talking to local old comrades at his funeral, they say my Dad decided to stop for a cigarette and some chocolate on a bridge and they were all captured there!Ivy Purdom
Fus. John Naisbitt 7th Btn Royal Northumberland FusiliersMy father Jackie Nasibitt was taken prisoner at Rouen, France on 09/06/1940 and was taken to Stalag 21b on 04/07/1940 where he was held until 11/01/1941 and then transferred to Stalag 24c where he spent the rest of the war. I believe they were liberated by the Russians in January 1945 and returned home where he served for a time in the Royal Enginneers clearing mines from the beaches in the south of England. He never spoke much about the war. I know he had a very difficult time as when he came home both of his parents were dead and he came to live in Newcastle where he married my mother. I have a photo of 8 POWs taken at Stalag 4c with 7 other soldiers. Any information about any of these camps would be appreciated.George W Naisbitt
Matthew McLeod Douglass Northumberland FusiliersMy Dad, Matt Douglass, was a POW at Stalag V111B/344 at Lamsdorf, He was a Northumberland Fusilier captured at Dunkirk His POW No was 36812. He died when I was 15 so I knew very little about his military time.
The little I knew was he was wounded in his head and legs, captured and interred until the end of the War. I recently received a copy of a letter my grandmother wrote to family in Australia dated February 18th 1945, in which she wrote that my father's camp had been relieved by the Russians and they were awaiting his return home.
My dad was small man only 5' 2" born in Northumberland, at home he was always known as little Matty or Matt. I would love to hear from anyone who knew him.Ivy
Cpl. John Robert "Breck" Percy 9th Battalion Royal Northumberland FusiliersMy Father, John Robert Percy, never gave me much detail of his time in the Northumberland Fusiliers and never told me which actual unit he was in so there are many gaps in my knowledge which I would like to fill if possible.
I am assuming he was in the 9th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers because that fits with the stories I have. For a long time as a child I was told that he was wounded at Dunkirk but in the 1970's he finally told me, (citing the 30 year rule as by then he was a civil servant in the MOD and a signatory to the Official Secrets act) that he was actually wounded in a friendly fire accident in England while the unit was dug in on the south coast. Because of this he was in hospital when they were sent to Singapore and he fortunately missed becoming a POW
His tale is that he joined the Territorial Army prior to the war because as a coal miner he got no holidays and this was a way for himself and his mates to get a paid holiday away from the pit. When he was called up in 1938 (Munich Crisis) at the age of 19 he had actually moved away to the south taking his whole family with him but his call up papers took some time to catch him up as they went to the old address in Bedlington. By the time he did report to his unit he had been posted AWOL and was promptly jailed. Fortunately his unit passed the hat round and collected his fine to get him out again.
He also said that before going to France the they were all given the option of going back to the pit. They all turned it down preferring the Army. He said that when they arrived in France they had no firing pins for the machine guns. Looking at other information it seems they were light on lots of other equipment too. Stories of France are very thin, almost non existent and the only one I can recite completely is of his unit being in Arras where they had been told there were no Germans. So, they went sightseeing having left all their equipment in a cul de sac. In the process they met a group of Germans doing the same thing. While the Brits ran back to their guns, the Germans went to their tanks and were entering the Cul de sac as the Brits were moving up the road. My Father said the Commanding Officer was killed in this action and actually said it was the Duke of Northumberland!? The 9th Duke is on record as having died in 1940 but i have no other information.
He never said anything about Dunkirk itself and that is all I have, apart from his cap badge. I would be grateful if anybody can fill the gaps. He died in 1998 and would be 90 now.John Percy
Pte. James Thomas Inglis Royal Northumberland FusiliersMy Grandfather died before I was born and I Know that his family came from Gretna in Dumfrieshire, have been searching his army records for several years. Recently I have found that he joined the Blackwatch in 1939 and was then transferred to the Royal Fusiliers with whom he was sent on the British Expedition to France, he was posted from there back to England and then to Iceland where he was posted for two years before being sent back to Kingston in the UK for a further two years before being posted on the British North African Force.
My grandfather was in the army for a total 7 years. In 1952 he emigrated to America and settled in New Jersey where he passed away in 1964 aged just 46. I would love to hear first hand accounts from anyone who may have served in the same Regiments or who served in the same places as my grandfatherSharon Meek
Fus. Terence "Sonny" Hurst 2nd Battalion Royal Northumberland FusiliersMy grandfather, Terence Hurst, was a fusilier in the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, 2nd battalion. My grandfather wasn't with the Battalion at Dunkirk. I believe he joined them as they went to Tunisia in July 1943. He then went to Italy in 1944, then on to Greece in 1945. My grandfather is now deceased but was a great man who always talked of his time with the Battalion with pride.
While in Italy in Capri, he told a story of Gracie Fields putting on a performance for them. She asked if any soldiers were from Rochdale, my Grandad spoke up, and Gracie claimed all men from Littleborough (near Rochdale) were as good looking as my Grandad, this was his favourite tale to tell anyone(can't imagine why?).
It would be great to hear from anybody who knew my Grandad, or even just any details about the 2nd Battalion, as I am trying to write down all details to pass on to my children. Thank you for taking the time to read this.Justine Clegg
James Savage Northumberland FusiliersMy father served in the Northumberland Fusiliers from about 1940 until 1945 seeing action in the desert and Italy. He may have used my mother's Newcastle-upon-Tyne address, 5 Harehills Ave or St., Blakelaw Any information is greatly appreciated.Brian Savage
John Megginson Royal Northumberland FusiliersMy Grandfather, John Megginson, was 16-18 when he joined the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers. He served in World War 2 not sure where but would love to find out. After the war he served in Korea, Hong Kong, Germany, Bahrain and many other places I'm sure he told me but I cannot remember. Any information on where he served or served with would be greatly appreciated.John Hepworth
Fred Smith Royal Northumberland FusiliersI never knew my dad, Fred Smith. I have searched for him for years then found he had died many years ago. Dad served in the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers and was a prisoner of war for many years. All I would like is a picture of him to see what he looked like and maybe some background of the Dad I never met but am so proud of.Coral McNulty
Fus. Charles Leslie "Timber" Wood Northumberland FusiliersMy father, Charles Wood, was a member of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers and was a prisoner of war for 5 years. The camp was Detachment 794 Stalag 344 (Formerly Bau Und Arbeits Battalion 20) he didn't talk much about his time there, things he did talk about were his dislike of sauerkraut and lice. A friend from the camp contacted years later I only know that his nick name was Tarten. Before he was captured he swapped his overcoat with another soldier (I don't know why). That solider was later killed and because he was wearing my dad's coat my grandmother was told my dad had been killed.Lynn Carter
Maj. Robert Henry Cain VC. att. 2nd South Staffs. Royal Northumberland FusiliersRobert Henry Cain grew up on the Isle of Man and joined the Territorial Army in 1928. After working overseas he was given an emergency commission into the Army in 1940. He transferred to the South Staffordshire Regiment in 1942, and joined the 2nd Battalion, part of the British 1st Airborne Division. He saw action during the Invasion of Sicily in 1943 and again during the Battle of Arnhem the following year. During the battle Major Cain's company was closely engaged with enemy tanks, self-propelled guns and infantry. Cain continually exposed himself to danger while leading his men and personally dispatched as much enemy armour as possible. Despite sustaining several injuries he refused medical attention and for his gallantry he was awarded the Victoria Cross.
The 2nd Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment was part of 1st Airlanding Brigade which landed in Sicily in July 1943 as part of Operation Ladbroke. In the same month, Cain took command of the battalion's B Company.
Battle of Arnhem
The Battle of Arnhem was part of Operation Market Garden, an attempt to secure a string of bridges through the Netherlands. At Arnhem the British 1st Airborne Division and Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade were tasked with securing bridges across the Lower Rhine, the final objectives of the operation. However, the airborne forces that dropped on 17 September were not aware that the 9th SS and 10th SS Panzer divisions were also near Arnhem for rest and refit. Their presence added a substantial number of Panzergrenadiers, tanks and self-propelled guns to the German defenses and the Allies suffered heavily in the ensuing battle. Only a small force managed to hold one end of the Arnhem road bridge before being overrun on the 21st. The rest of the division became trapped in a small pocket west of the bridge and had to be evacuated on the 25th. The Allies failed to cross the Rhine, which remained under German control until Allied offensives in March 1945.
Advance into Arnhem
The Allies planned to fly the British and Polish to Arnhem in three separate lifts over three days. Major General Roy Urquhart decided to deploy the 1st Airlanding Brigade first, as glider troops could assemble more quickly than parachute infantry and secure the landing areas. Cain took off with the first lift along with two companies of the South Staffords but only five minutes after departing from RAF Manston the tow rope connecting the Albemarle tug to his Horsa glider pulled out of the leading aircraft. After landing safely the glider's occupants were able to fly out the following day with the second lift.
Two Airborne soldiers demonstrate the PIAT anti tank gun
In Arnhem the Allied plan quickly unravelled. Only a small group of the 1st Parachute Brigade, mainly elements of Lieutenant Colonel John Frost's 2nd Battalion, were able to reach the bridge. The 1st and 3rd Battalions were unable to penetrate the outer suburbs of the city and their advance stalled, so in order to support them the first lift of the South Staffords were sent forward on the morning of the 18th. When Cain arrived with the second lift they too were sent forward, arriving at the outskirts of Arnhem on the night of the 18th. Lieutenant Colonel David Dobie of the 1st Battalion proposed a concentrated attack on a narrow front between the Lower Rhine and the Arnhem railway line. The South Staffords would advance toward the bridge, with the remnants of the 1st and 3rd Battalions on their right flank, while the 11th Parachute Battalion, remained in reserve.The Staffords moved forward at 4.30am with D Company in the lead, followed by B and A Companies with C Company in reserve. In the area around St Elizabeth Hospital, the lead company met heavy resistance clearing houses and B Company took the lead, getting as far as a dell near the Arnhem City Museum. Here Cain and his men encountered enemy armour for the first time. The company was only armed with PIATs and mortars and although Cain and several of his company opened fire on the tanks and guns, they did not manage to disable any. By 11:30 they had run out of PIAT ammunition and the tanks now dominated the area. Their position was clearly hopeless and so Lieutenant Colonel McCardie, the commanding officer (CO) of 2nd Battalion, The South Staffordshire Regiment, ordered them to withdraw from the dell. Cain fell back with several of his men but few of them were able to escape, while the men of the other companies were forced to surrender in their droves. Cain was the only senior officer of the battalion to escape in what he later described as the "South Staff's Waterloo". As the surviving men fell back through the 11th Battalion's positions, Major Gilchrist (A Company, 11th Battalion) met Cain, who told him that "The tanks are coming, give me a PIAT". Gilchrist was unable to oblige and so the Staffords regrouped behind the 11th Battalion's positions; roughly 100 surviving men forming into five small platoons under Cain's command. Lieutenant Colonel George Lea, commander of the 11th Battalion, ordered them to capture a piece of wooded high ground known as Den Brink to cover a fresh advance, and a bayonet charge quickly cleared the enemy there.However, the thick tree roots on the hill made it impossible to dig in, and after suffering severe casualties, Cain took the decision to withdraw back to Oosterbeek
Oosterbeek perimeter, A German StuG III at Arnhem.
The remnants of the four battalions fell back in disarray to the main divisional positions at Oosterbeek. Here they were gathered into defensive units by Lieutenant Colonel Sheriff Thompson, CO 1st Airlanding Light Artillery Regiment, who forcibly stopped many of the panicked troops. Alarmed that the many retreating units would soon leave his own 75 Millimetre Howitzers undefended, he sought out Cain, the most senior officer, and ordered him to form the men into a defensive screen ahead of the gun positions. Thompson later sent Major Richard Lonsdale to take command of these outlying troops, and throughout Wednesday 20 they weathered strong German attacks before falling back to the main divisional perimeter. The sector was designated "Thompson Force", but was renamed "Lonsdale Force" when Thompson was wounded the following day. To the north and west of Oosterbeek other units fell back in the face of strong German resistance and over the next few days a thumb shaped perimeter formed around the town, with the Rhine at its base.
Lonsdale Force's sector covered the southern end of the eastern perimeter, and Cain was one of three Majors defending this sector of the line. As the battle progressed he became determined to destroy as much enemy armour as possible and sited himself in a laundry's garden, much to the chagrin of the Dutch owner. Over the coming days Cain was everywhere, dealing with armour and snipers and encouraging his men. On the afternoon of Thursday 21st two tanks approached Cain's position. Guided by a colleague in a building above him, Cain waited in a trench until the first tankï¿½actually a StuG III self-propelled gun (SPG)was close enough to engage. The SPG fired at the building, killing Cain's colleague and showering him with masonry but despite this, Cain kept his position. Staff Sergeant Richard Long of the Glider Pilot Regiment remembered that through the clouds of dust, Cain fired round after round from his PIAT until the SPG was disabled, but whilst engaging the second tank a round exploded in the PIAT with a bright flash and Cain was thrown backwards. Cain recalled thinking he was blind and "shouting like a hooligan. I shouted to somebody to get onto the PIAT because there was another tank behind. I blubbered and yelled and used some very colourful language. They dragged me off to the aid post." The British brought forward one of the Light Regiment's 75mm guns which blew the tank apart.
Witnesses believed that Cain was incapacitated, but within half an hour his sight returned. He refused morphia and against all advice returned to the front lines, deciding that he "wasn't wounded enough to stay where [he] was". On the following day his eardrums burst from the constant firing and barrage, but he was content to stuff his ears with bandages and continue fighting. On Sunday 24th, shortly after a truce to allow the evacuation of casualties, Cain was alerted to the approach of a Tiger tank. Together with a Royal Artillery gunner he raced for a 6 pounder anti-tank gun, manoeuvred it into position, fired and disabled the tank. He wanted to continue using the gun, but the recoil mechanism was destroyed.
By 25 September, the area occupied by the Lonsdale Force saw heavy fighting against self-propelled guns, flame thrower tanks, and infantry. There were no PIATs available to the force by now; instead Cain armed himself with a two inch mortar. Mortars are muzzle-loading indirect fire weapons but Cain was forced to fire it on an almost horizontal plane due to the enemy's proximity. His citation states that his leadership ensured that the South Staffordshire gave no ground and drove the enemy off in complete disorder. By the end of the Battle, Cain had been reportedly responsible for the destruction or disabling of six tanks, four of which were Tigers, as well as a number of self-propelled guns.
That night the Division began to withdraw in Operation Berlin. Many men shaved and blackened their faces and Cain removed a week's growth of beard from his face, drying himself on his dirty, blood-soaked Denison smock. After successfully crossing the Rhine, this led Brigadier 'Pip' Hicks to comment "there's one officer, at least, who's shaved". Cain made sure all of his men were over the river by dawn, before he himself crossed in an old boat
"War Office, 2nd November, 1944. The King has been graciously pleased to approve awards of the Victoria Cross to Captain (temporary Major) Robert Henry Cain (129484), The Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, (attd. The South Staffordshire Regiment, I Airborne Division).
In Holland on 19th September, 1944, Major Cain was commanding a rifle company of the South Staffordshire Regiment during the Battle of Arnhem when his company was cut off from the rest of the battalion and during the next six days was closely engaged with enemy tanks, self-propelled guns and infantry. The Germans made repeated attempts to break into the company position by infiltration and had they succeeded in doing so the whole situation of the Airborne Troops would have been jeopardised.
Major Cain, by his outstanding devotion to duty and remarkable powers of leadership, was to a large extent personally responsible for saving a vital sector from falling into the hands of the enemy. On 20th September a Tiger tank approached the area held by his company and Major Cain went out alone to deal with it armed with a Piat. Taking up a position he held his fire until the tank was only 20 yards away when he opened up. The tank immediately halted and turned its guns on him, shooting away a corner of the house near where this officer was lying. Although wounded by machine gun bullets and falling masonry, Major Cain continued firing until he had scored several direct hits, immobilised the tank and supervised the bringing up of a 75 mm. howitzer which completely destroyed it. Only then would he consent to have his wounds dressed.
In the next morning this officer drove off three more tanks by the fearless use of his Piat, on each occasion leaving cover and taking up position in open ground with complete disregard for his personal safety. During the following days, Major Cain was everywhere where danger threatened, moving amongst his men and encouraging them by his fearless example to hold out. He refused rest and medical attention in spite of the fact that his hearing had been seriously impaired because of a perforated eardrum and he was suffering from multiple wounds. On 25th of September the enemy made a concerted attack on Major Cain's position, using self-propelled guns, flame throwers and infantry. By this time the last Piat had been put out of action and Major Cain was armed with only a light 2" mortar. However, by a skilful use of this weapon and his daring leadership of the few men still under his command, he completely demoralized the enemy who, after an engagement lasting more than three hours, withdrew in disorder.
Throughout the whole course of the Battle of Arnhem, Major Cain showed superb gallantry. His powers of endurance and leadership were the admiration of all his fellow officers and stories of his valour were being constantly exchanged amongst the troops. His coolness and courage under incessant fire could not be surpassed."
Later in the war he took part in Operation Doomsday, where the 1st Airborne Division oversaw the German surrender in Norway Operation Doomsday, Cain travelled to Oslo, Norway, with the 1st Airlanding Brigade on 11 May 1945. Working with Milorg (the Norwegian resistance), the British took the surrender of German troops in Norway without incident, before returning to the UK on 25 August 1945.S. Flynn
Lt. Norman Leslie Mcallum Tait Royal Northumberland FusiliersMy grandfather, Norman Tait was imprisoned in Oflag 7B have a case in my loft with the camp address written on the inside of the lid. My grandfather was also a barber in the camp I believe and I have his manual clipper set along with his parade cane and a German haversack with cowhide covering. I remember him telling me a story about leaving the camp and being shot at by an American plane.David Lilburn
Pte. Len Kelly Northumberland Fusiliers (d.1945)Len Kelly was captured at St. Valery, France in 1940 and held as a POW in Stalag XX-A at Thorn, Poland. He was repatriated in 1944 or 45 via the Red Cross in an exchange of seriously ill prisoners, but died within a few months of being repatriated to England in 1945.M.Foster
William Alfred Pike 7th Btn Royal Northumberland FusiliersFusilier William Alfred Pike was taken prisoner at St Valery in June 1940 and was part of the 51st Highland Division. He was a prisoner in Stalag 8b/E344 and also E344/E3 Blechammer.Ken Beavington
Cpl. John Hutchinson 2nd Btn. Northumberland FusiliersJohn Hutchinson is my grandfather's brother and he was born in Throckley, Northumberland in 1913. He worked in the mines from leaving school about 1928 then joined the 2nd Bn Northumberland Fusiliers about 1932 aged 18years old. He did 16 weeks training at Fenham Barracks in Newcastle and was allowed home every weekend. He claims his Drill Sargeant from Walbottle and Corporal Cook from Throckley gave him bus fare home in exchange to drop letters off at home for them. His other Drill Sargeants were "Paddy" Cogan (Irish) and Martin (Monty) Bartlett from Hull. The P.E. Instructor was Mick Muldoon. Three of the most sadistic men he had the pleasure of enduring. Others he mentions there were L/Cpl David Allen from Cork and Cook Sgt Taffy Evans from Tonypandy Wales. After basic training he was posted to Fulford Barracks in York. Here the Battlion changed from a rifle battalion to a Machine Gun Battalion. They trained on the .303 Vickers water cooled machine gun in 4 man squads. No.1 carried the gun, No.2 the tripod. No.3 the ammunition and water can and No.4 more ammo boxes. He palled up with another Geordie, Taffy Watson who was the Battalion Butcher. Only 5'5" he fought Fly-Bantam Weight. They spent weeknights in the NAAFI and weekends in the White Swan (Mucky Duck) and a cafe called Jocks run by a scotsman who had left the Fusiliers and stayed in York. They went on Manouvres in Rippon and the Dales and were camped in tents in Rippon in June and woke up to snow. At this time they were horse transport. The MG was in a cart with one of the crew riding the lead horse. Sgt Bell was the Platoon sgt and also ran the company football team who were very successful againt the Yorks & Lancs and the West Yorks regiments. He got his 1st stripe and became Batman to Lt Dudley Smith. Lt Smith came from a landed family in Hessle and L/Cpl Hutchinson would go to shoots on the estatenbabout once a month and sometimes attended the hunts. He was later (1935)transferred to Borden Camp in Hampshire where Lt Smith and his wife Penelope (nee Hill)rented a large house outside the Barracks. Here they became a Motorised Battalion with 15cwt trucks with MG mountings and a 30cwt truck for rations and gear. They were backed up with 2 Tracked Bren Carriers. In 1935 L/Cpl Hutchinson was selected with 49 other soldiers to represent the Company at the Coronation of King George V at Westminster. They were camped in Kensington Gardens. He went off to train for 10 weeks on the new vehicles Driving and Maintenance with the Army Service Corps. In 1936 he had been recommended as Batman to Lt Maurice Lynch a French-Canadian Surgeon in the Medical Corps. They travelled together on the SS Dillwara on its maiden voyage from Southampton to Haifa. They were attached to Company HQ and billeted in a school in Beit-Jalla north of Haifa with a Rabbi and his family. All the post was censored but one of his friends wrote home "Dear Mum, I cant tell you where I am though Im in the land where Christ was born, wishing to Christ I was in the land where I was born". The return trip home was 1st Class on the good ship Athenia where they landed in early 1937 and parted from the good Doctor. For this campaign he recieves the Medal No.2 Blake Capp Palestine. Late in 1937 he is posted to Abbrasia Barracks in Egypt to support the 1st Btn with about 150 others. They were the 1st motorised vehicles to travel on the Great Western Desert Road past the Sphinx and Pyramids. His commander was Captain Jackman who later won the VC.
The vehicles required a lot of maintenance due to the sand blocking the carbs. They were sent to the Egyptian-Lybian border and Italian troops had infiltrated into Egypt and made a push towards Alexandria and Cairo. The Btn was placed with the ANZAC force under Gen Archibald Wavel. This combined force was known as "Wavels 30,000". They went up against 150,000 Italian troops. This group consisted of artillery, Long Range Desert Group, Australian and Kiwi forces. He was at Haffaya Pass nicknamed "Hellfire Pass". The only route to the plateau to Libya. The Italians suffered heavy losses and surrendered in their thousands to a handful of Allied troops. Some Italians made it to Bardia Garrison and held out for a while but were no match for the desert rats. After Bardia he went to Derna then Tobruk. He describes hundreds of Italian POWS being escorted by 3 or 4 allied soldiers. They were glad to be out of the war. He escorted a an Italian POW General Bergorzili of the Alpine Corps after his plane was shot down trying to leave the airfield at Tripoli. Soon after he became Corporal Hutchinson responsible for the Vickers, 2 trucks and 4 gun crew. His crew were Jimmy Bell, gunner from Nth Shields, Tripod was Willie Armstrong from Sth Shields, No3 was Joe Smith from Heaton and No4 Tommy Bell from Gateshead.
Their next encounter was against the Panzers of Erwin Rommel. The Afrika Korps gave then a run for their money until they reached the Salt Flats that held them up. The 7th Armoured Division got little sleep. They made their way back to Tobruk where they held out for 9 months under the Australian General Moreshead. He recalls the Easter weekend of 1941 as particularly heavy bombardment from Stukas.
The Northumberlad Fusiliers had been in Egypt so long the other regiments had nicknamed them King Farouks Bodyguard and Queen Feridas Own. The Btn then joined Aukinlecks forces outside Tobruk and the Germans threw everything at them. Whilst defending the airfield west of Tobruk the Germans broke through their lines and Cpl Hutchinson was knocked out waking up to German Panzer Lieutanant saying in perfect English "Your war is over Georgie lad" Lt Hans Seckel was the Grandson of Joe Seckel who was a respected gentleman from Scotswood Road near Scotswood Bridge who owned a pork butchers shop. Hans had spent a lot of time in Newcastle and had attended Newcastle Technical School but returned to Bavaria when old Joe died. He was conscripted when Germany invaded Poland. Security around the POW's was lax and he was able to escape met up with some Australians who guided them through the minefields back to Allied lines. Only to be captured a 2nd time.
As a POW he was shipped to Brindisi. From here to Bari, Capua, Mazarata, Benebanto and Gravino where he was seriously ill with jaundice. After 12 months in Italy the Germans moved them through Genoa, Turin, Milan, Lombardy, through the Brenner Pass into Austria. Then to Linz in Czechoslvakia to Prague and on to Dresden then Liepzig on to East Prussia, Stalag 7B Lamsdorf. At the end of 1944 with Russian Forces moving ever closer they were moved again ending up in Memingen in Bavaria for about 4 months before being liberated by American forces. Within days they were trained to Lille then flown home and billeted at an army camp in Aylesbury. Cpl Hutchinson was posted to the REME Depot at Siddles Road, Derby on guard duty. After 13 years service he was discharged and went back into the mines but struggled to find work and became a £10 pom.Alan Barnes
Pte. Thomas Clark 9th Btn. (Machine Gun) Y company Northumberland Fusiliers (d.1st Aug 1943)This is some information I found out about my grandfather's brother who joined up and went off to war. He was in the 9th Machine Gun Regiment in the Northumberland Fusiliers. He came from a small village called Coney Garth, Bothal, near town of Morpeth. I have found out a lot of information from relatives about my great uncle and this has increased my admiration of what he did. I have also read letters he wrote home during basic training and while serving overseas. Regrettably he died a POW after the fall of Singapore. I have also received a photo of his grave from the commonwealth war graves, which was a fantastic surprise. I was purely wanting to share my findings with yourselves and anyone else researching into military ancestors. For me the following was very relevant.
He trained in the UK, then was shipped to numerous areas until finally docking in Singapore, he saw action for weeks and was also injured while manning a Lewis Machine gun, from records I have found, he manned the gun until orders were given to fall back. When I found out he died a POW and under the conditions it was an emotional experience for me, even though I've never seen pictures of him as a man, (only as a child) I felt, by digging through and finding out what he went through, an emotional connection. I also lay a wreath every year at Bothal Village church (next to the War Memorial) in honour of his memory. He gave his life today for our tomorrow, and I can never imagine what he went through as a young man. He is buried ay Chungkai in Siam.
I have total admiration and feel proud of what he did during the war. Information i would love to find out is, when was he injured, where was e injured and what was happening at the time. Not sure if anyone can help point me in the right direction to get this kind of information, anything would be much appreciatedG Scott
Charles Leslie "Timber" Wood 9th Btn. Royal Northumberland FusiliersThese are notes written by my father for school work for his grandson. We found them recently:
It was June 1939, I had to sign on as a Militia Man which was compulsory and in October 1939 I was called up, the war having begun Sept 3rd 1939. I boarded the train at Middlesbrough Station to Darlington and after an arduous day ended at Alnwick in the 9th Battalion Royal Northumberland Fusiliers. I was billeted with 80 others in the Drill Hall at Alnwick and slept on a palliasse (a thin straw mattress) on the floor of the drill hall. The following morning after a succession of interviews name, home address etc. I ended the day being Fusilier C L Wood 4275280. Then followed the training to make us all first class soldiers if that was possible.
In December we moved from Alnwick to Gosforth Park Racecourse near Newcastle and about the same time a few NCOs and Officers were drafted to us from the 1st Battalion stationed in Egypt. How smart they were compared to us rookies – we had a long way to be as good as they were! We were a machine gun battalion, and practised on what was called DPguns (Demonstration Purposes), and it was with these guns we went into action. They were serviced by RAOC but never tried until May 23rd 1940. At Gosforth Park we were given, but never got embarkation leave. We left there about April 21st arriving in Southampton on April 22nd. The following morning we embarked on a ship called the Fenella, with a red and white Rose in everybody's tin hat because April 23rd is St Georges day. That day is the Regimental Day, because the regimental cap badge depicted St George killing the dragon.
So off we went to France and we landed at Cherbourg (The Fenella was attacked by Aircraft and sunk 29 May 1940). Moving from the docks in cattle trucks made for horses, we arrived at a tiny village called Monchy Breton eventually ending up at St Omer on the 23rd May 1940. What a surprise was waiting for us. The serviced DP gun jammed after firing one round and to complicate matters we came up against General Rommel’s Army and I became a P.O.W on May 23rd.
What a dejected lot we were being forced to march across France. The water placed at the side of the road in enamel buckets by the French people was kicked over by the German soldiers before anyone could get a drink. It was this behaviour that led me and a companion to escape which wasn't difficult. The danger was being shot if the guard saw you. At least you would be able to get a drink of water whenever you wanted Hope of getting back to England was limited, we were on the loose in a foreign country, with no idea what was happening, and no way of communicating with anyone. It was inevitable we would be recaptured. After four attempts to escape, I was finally caught near Sedan behind the Maginot Line and where the Germans had broken through the Ardennes. It was from here I was taken to Beau Châteaux in Belgium. I was put to work for several weeks for the German Luftwaffe (German Air-force) as a skivvy, washing dishes etc. I was given food leftover in the cook-house to take back to the camp. There was another 7 British soldiers with whom I shared grub. They had built a partial grass hut to sleep in with pine branches laid on the roof to keep the rain out.
Our next camp was Trier in Germany which was placed on a hill. It had wooden barrack huts and it was in this camp I was arrested for watching the French roast potatoes on an open space in front of the hut. When I asked the French interpreter what I had done wrong all he said to me was “you go to prison twice”. It wasn’t until the early hour early hours that I realised what he was trying to tell me. I was in a cell in one of the barracks and therefore I was in a prison in a prison camp. Next morning after swilling my cell out, I was brought to the entrance of the barracks and my gaoler asked what had to be done with me? The answer I found out in the next minute for I was turned towards the doors and given a hefty kick up the backside which propelled me me through the doors. I ended up sprawled flat on my face in the prison camp. I picked myself up and hurried back to my own billet. We had still not been officially recognised as prisoners of war. It was only after travelling another two days and three nights on a train to the next camp Stalag X11A Limburg that we were.
I became Krugsgefangener (Prisoner of war) No 21556 and got my first taste of the most revolting dish I had ever tasted in my life, and to make matters worse it was cooked by British P.O.Ws. It was supposed to be a German delicacy, Sauerkraut! How on earth could they mess sour cabbage up. Well I’ll tell you they were too lazy to take it out of the barrel and wash it in cold water. Instead they just tipped out the barrels of cabbage vinegar and all and added few potatoes.
I was glad to leave StalagX11A. We travelled across Germany for another 3 days and 3 nights, 80-100 in each cattle truck. We ended up in Thorn near Danzig on the river Vistula. Did I say I was glad to leave Limburg? Well, I would go back - at least it was clean. This was the Balloonhalle Fort X11A, Stalag XXA Thorn Poland and it was here I was introduced to the louse. On entering the camp we were searched and were told only one shirt or one pullover, not both. During this search any excess clothing was taken. However this did not affect me. I had only a thin German shirt given to me in Limburg. I eagerly accepted a French Army pullover from one of the lads with excess clothing.
After finding my billet which was a marquee tent I wandered around the camp and came across a sergeant with his shirt off delousing. On asking what he was doing, he said “Have you just come in today?" To which I said "Yes!" "Well you'll be here tomorrow!” and I was. Those lice were to become a pest to all P.O.Ws. in Stalag XXA for the next 18 months. Thorn or Stalag XXA consisted of 7 forts built by East Prussians in the nineteenth century. Of these, Fort 19, was the Laundry, Fort 12 was the showers and Fort 14 the Hospital Forts. 11,13, 15, and 17 housed all P.O.W,s with tempory camps added to Fort 11 became 11A. Similarly Fort 13 became 13A and we were overun with lice, nobody escaped, everybody had them and I mean everybody! The German Authority delighted in this I'm sure, by moving prisoners with lice from one camp to another where prisoners were clear of lice.
During this period of 1940/41 I moved from Fort 12A to Fort 15 and it was there everybody got rid of lice one room at a time. Clothes were deloused in a steam engine and fresh straw put in all palliasses. This was short lived however because we were moved to Fort 13A and awoke the following morning crawling with lice again. Later in 1940 we moved to Fort 11 and once again got rid of the lice only to be transferred shortly after to 11A and became once again lousy. Off again to Fort 13 we were to became stationary for a few months so getting once again comparatively clean
Red Cross parcels were by now beginning to filter through and we were receiving one parcel and 50 cigarettes per man each week. When Germany declared war on Russia we were being given two parcels a week. I'll give you an idea of the content of a parcel although some varied depending on which in town they were packed. On average there were 16-20 items a parcel such as: Packet Tea, Tinned Margarine, Tinned Jam/Marmite, Salt and Pepper, Tinned Pilchards, Dairylea Cheese (which was nearly always mouldy), Packet Hard Jack, Bar of Soap, Bar of Chocolate, Tin of Cocoa, packet of Greens Yorkshire Pudding Mix, Jelly Crystals and Custard Powder, Tinned Bacon and Tin of Powdered Eggs, Packet Sugar and Tinned Nestles Milk. This would last the whole week especially if you “mucked in” with someone. This meant only opening one article, like a meat loaf for instance, which you shared with your mucker . This meant your parcel would last much longer.
Propaganda was rife in the camps, sometime true and sometimes totally untrue. A smattering of truth mixed with a load of codswallop. By now things were beginning to pick up. Clothing parcels and letters were always welcome. As time went on news came through on special days and we could only assume someone had a radio and was picking up the BBC. Long before Germany declared war on Russia we knew there was something going on because troops were continually moving east through Poland. A never ending cry from one working party to another was “Joe's on the Border”.
Working parties worked mainly with a shovel, and each day the majority of P.O.Ws took something out of the camp to “flog” to the Poles. It meant asking to go the toilet thereby meeting a Pole who had something to sell, which was mainly bread for cocoa chocolate or underwear from your Red Cross parcel. All this was illegal and we were forever watching the guards to keep out of their way until we had sealed our bargain. You would then go back to the trench or wherever you where working with a loaf or two concealed in your battle dress. This meant sometimes the loaf had to be cut in half or even quarters to distribute round your body, and I became quite adept at this although many a time had a “bread rash” where the loaf chafed on my body. .
Alas we were on our way again, but this time to leave Poland. We spent another 2 nights and days on the train. The reason for the longevity of the journey was we were shunted into sidings to allow troop trains to pass. We arrived at our destination which was Reigersfield Upper Silesia. By now the Germans were getting organised and we became Bau und Arbeits Battalion 20 BAB20 for short. This camp was all section huts, and the usual barbed wire round the perimeter. Hot and Cold water was available in the wash room which had showers for about 20 at a time. It was thirteen weeks before we received another parcel from the Red Cross because it took them that long to catch up with us at the new address. In the meantime everybody went to work unless you were excused by the RAMC Lt Col. I was put on a party supposedly of joiners erecting section huts in a camp over the road from ours. It was to house Italians rounded up by the Germans in Italy to work for the Deutsches Reich (the German National State). This job didn't last long with the erection of the section huts coming to a close. I was 1 of 10 from the working party of 20 to be picked to work for a firm called Duclek. They had been contracted to build houses for key workers of a Chemical Plant called I G Farben. This only lasted for 6 months and again I was 1 of 6 from the 10 chosen to go and work for the same firm who had a small building site in Heydebreck. This meant travelling by train from Reigersfield to Heydebreck about 10 miles up the line. The guard who had been to the Russian front had been wounded in the arm and ended up in BAB20. This job lasted a considerable period and we had via the Red Cross new battle dress, greatcoat and boots. I sent a letter home asking for a metal cap badge of the Regiment.
Oh what a difference! We went to the station with our button and cap badges highly polished in our battledress and we were aware of the discussions on the platform by the civilian population regarding the difference between the British and German uniforms. There were times when we really went over the top by washing our gaiters in the wash room putting on German toothpaste which made a very good white. The job was coming to an end and so was the war.
In June 44 I got a job with a firm called Beringer of Mannheim, Central Heating Specialists as a welders helper, putting the welding gear together and then watching the welder do the work. Then it happened American bombers flew over from Italy, bombing the factory, and putting it out of action for a week or so. On the day the factory started working again the Americans were back again and this continued even on Christmas day.
By Jan 25th 1945 the Russians were only 50-70 miles away and were firing over the camp into Cosel, about 7 kilometres away. At 5 o’clock that night all Red cross parcels were issued and we left camp to cross The Oder at midnight. After being forced to march all night we were only 13 Kilometres from the camp but we were across the river where the Russians were pulled up and resting, while we trudged further away in a couple of feet of snow. The following 3 months were hazardous We would march approx 30km(18.6 miles) a day, sleeping in barns in villages chosen by the German Authority. After two weeks all our Red Cross and rations were gone and we could only rely on the farmer into which barn we were billeted for any food he could spare. At this stage in the war there was very little and we often went hungry. The weather didn't help either - often 15º to 20º below zero
It was about this time that Maurice and I decided to look(scrounge) for food after each days march. (But first I must tell you about Maurice, who I have just met again in Bournemouth after not seeing each other for 42 years). Maurice was a matelot on the HMS Glowworm patrolling off Norway when it was trapped by a German cruiser and a destroyer. After a fierce battle it was sunk in the North Sea, as related to me by Maurice I have since read an account of the battle, so I know what Maurice told me at the time was true. His Captain decided to take on the Cruiser Von Hipper and destroyer, hoping to sink the Von Hipper and then deal with the destroyer. Drawing a circle with a smoke screen the Glowworm kept hoping to be in range of the Von Hipper and sink it reversing engines to come back into the smoke screen. At one stage it crept out of the smoke screen and the Von Hipper was dead ahead. It was inevitable they would hit the cruiser but with not enough speed to damage it . Their location now known it was at the mercy of the Von Hipper and was sunk with 500 crew on board. Only 28 were picked up by the Von Hipper. The gallant captain was awarded the VC posthumously - he had gone down with the Glowworm.
Maurice and I decided to try our luck going out each night (the guards were tucked up beside the fire in the farmers house). So our ventures began. We always made a point of finding out if there was a village near the one we were staying in. It was obvious that we couldn't knock on doors in the village in which we were staying as we might have been confronted by one of our guards. So off we would go scrounging each night and one night Maurice and I knocked on a door and asked for food. We were asked to come in and were given a couple of slices of bread. But one particular German visiting this family asked us quite a number of questions about why we were out without a guard. I stalled him by saying we were allowed out until 10 o'clock just as the French were. He seemed satisfied, so Maurice and I left to look for somewhere else. Then a voice shouted HALT! It was the German who had questioned us in the house. He said he was the Burgermeister of the village and didn't believe our story and was going to take us back to our own village. We didn't want this so I said to Maurice when I count to 3 you run one way and I’ll run the other. He won't be able to catch both of us. At the count of 3 Maurice was off one way, me the other, with the Burgermeister after me. He caught me and took me back to the Farmhouse I said I was from, and knocked on the door . The door was opened by the farmer and after a discussion he let us in. The guards who had been sitting round the fire all stood up. One asked me if I came from that farm. I said “yes”. Well, all hell broke out, one of the guards took me to the door, and gave me a smart kick up the backside, and I was off to the barn.
This did not suit the Burgermeister and he came into the barn looking for me, and I could see his dilemma - he couldn't tell one prisoner from another, “Where is the prisoner who has just come in” but nobody answered and without being able to identify me, he couldn't take it any further and so he went out of the barn mumbling something about prisoners wandering about the village, they could be killed in their beds. He reprimanded the guards for allowing us to get out, and so we settled down for the night, ready to march again the next day. We left behind a very exasperated Burgermeister (Mayor).
On another occasion Maurice and I were stood in a back-alley, deciding whether to go across the road and knock on a door. Suddenly 2 of our blokes came from out of the blue, they knocked on the door and were welcomed in. While we were watching the door someone else was watching us. It was a lady and after talking to us for a while, she told us to wait there while she went and got us some food. I didn't like it and knowing our lads were still in the house, I said to Maurice to go and knock on the door and I would wait for the lady to come back. If she brought anyone back I would be the only one caught. I was so intent on watching the door opposite that I didn't see her come back, until she said where's your comrade. She had 2 parcels of sandwiches in her hand. I said if she gave me the sandwiches I would give them to Maurice. This was not satisfactory she wanted to give them to Maurice herself. We both went over and knocked on the door, the people that answered the door knew the lady so we were invited in and she gave Maurice his sandwiches. The other 2 men were drinking and listening to the radio. After a chat the lady left. Maurice and I were beginning to enjoy ourselves, when there was a knock on the door, It was a fellow who seemed to be in evening dress, all dressed up like a tailors dummy. He said he had come for me and Maurice and would we follow him. We knew the lady had sent him so we duly obliged. He took us to a building not far away, and down a passage and marched us across the floor. There was our lady waving us over. It was a restaurant packed with Germans solders having a meal. Taking a deep breath Maurice and I walked across the room. She gave us a glass of some sort of spirit, then Maurice and I snuck out the back door and legged it back to camp, having enough of German soldiers for one night.
Passing through the corner of Czechoslovakia we were given bread galore and went to bed with a full belly. Spring had broken and our boots were absolutely wringing wet and nearly as uncomfortable as they were when they were frozen We continued putting straw in them to dry them out. The weather was starting to pick up the warmer winds clearing the snow and ice and there was water everywhere.
The war was coming to a close and several R.A.F. sorties had fired on us. This led to the German Camp Kommandant issuing an instruction for us to wave a towel or anything white. Three RAF fighters came out of the clouds, and cut right across our column firing in the air, this caused part of the column to halt, the front part moving forward still waving towels. The RAF came back around and it was then I noticed 2 German lorries at the side of the road in the space we had just left, with the German drivers and their mates heading for the woods on foot. This was too easy for the RAF but made good target practice for them. As they flew off leaving the 2 wagons on fire, ammunition bursting all over, they tipped their wings in acknowledgement. It was sometime before we got going again.
It was now April and we found ourselves marching through the woods from the small village where we had been billeted and into Bayreuth (I believe it was the home of Wagner). We were put to work, well half of us the other half going on to the next billet The intention being we would work in the morning and change over in the afternoon. We were put to work filling in bomb holes at the station in Bayreuth and the keen nose of the P.O.Ws led them to a wagon stationary on its own in the railway sidings, No wonder, it was full of black bread and at midday whoever unloaded that wagon would find it missing. On the changeover while waiting on the platform one of the prisoners opened a crate that was stood there. It was full of cheese, before you could blink there was nothing left and 4 of the cheeses were smuggled into the special pockets of my greatcoat tail which were sewn in by me to carry a loaf in each. Panic ensued as an Alsation dog was brought in and sniffed the empty crate. The Railway Police were called. Hearts pounding the dog went from one to the other ending up sniffing a haversack placed against the wall. “Whose haversack is this?" shouted the guard and one of the lads stepped forward, the Alsation taking a bite at his backside. An air raid warning began and we were quickly lined up and began to walk back to our billet which was a brickyard. We had hardly got moving when the siren started wailing at a fast rate, which meant the planes were overhead. The bombs were falling. I slipped off my haversack and coat and threw them against the wall and dived under a tree, behind a prominent hotel on the main road. It became extremely uncomfortable. Sat under the tree I felt exposed to danger. Several others felt the same. One by one we dived into the cellar of the hotel and minutes later thought it was the end. Flames shot up the length of the cellar and the iron doors were rattling like hell. Several minutes latter the all clear was sounded and we came out to one hell of a mess. The wall were I had left my greatcoat and haversack was under about 10 feet of rubble and at least 3 storeys were missing from the hotel. As I made my way up the main street the Chief of Police was pointing up in the air shouting “your comrades”. Who cared, all I wanted was to get out of Bayreuth, which eventually I did. I met some of the afternoon shift who showed me the way. That night we were on the move and marched back through Bayreuth which was in flames. I think by now we were going round in circles. Nurenburg had been taken and we were on our way back it seemed to the Russian Front
Five days later we were in a small village called Winklarn and the Camp Kommandant who was quite a good chap really kept us in that village 3 days. On the third day we were paraded in the village square. The bells of the church were ringing and we were marched to the main road which was still only a country road. Being last in the column, I felt something extraordinary was happening and was tempted to fall back but a red haired guard made us close up to the rest. Looking back I saw a massive armoured column miles long coming along the same way and I said to Maurice “don’t look now but the whole German Army is retreating”. Far from it being the German Army it was General Patton's American Army. The day was April 23rd 1945 Five long years exactly since since I left Southampton.
The Americans were Magnificent. “K” rations galore and cigarettes by the carton. Free at last! Events startd to move fast, we were driven to Nuremburg by lorry and met Marlene Dietrich serving coffee on Nuremburg airfield. I was given an autographed photo of her after having finished her duty of dishing out coffee to the American Forces. Oh how hard it is to break the habit of queueing and coming round again for “buckshees”! Goodbye Marlene as we boarded the plane to land again at Frankfurt The next morning we took off to land at Rheims and in great style commanded the German POWs to polish our boots, a tailor to alter our uniform to fit, our hairdresser and an artist to draw us. This is how the Army should be!
But alas we had to move on and Lancaster bombers were used to ship us out of Rheims. The crew of the Lancaster bomber allowed us one at a time to see the approaching white cliffs of England. We were home and landed at wing near Berkhamstead and guess who was there to meet us -The Salvation Army. It was the 1st May 1945 and on each bed a telegram saying something like “Arrived in England will be home shortly,” all you had to do was sign it
Going through the formalities of being kitted out in British Uniform took two days and on 3rd May I boarded a train at King Cross and into the welcome arms of my mother, father and sisters Doreen and Moria at Middlesbrough Station.
After several weeks leave I reported back to the Army and started training all over again at Otley. After 3 weeks or so we had an interview and I asked to go back to my old regiment and was drafted to Blackpool Squires Gate, next on to North Wales, Treadder Bay and Beaumaris, from there I was demobbed at York.Lynn Carter
Cpl. Aaron Bamford "Wally" Walton 13th Btn. Parachute RegimentMy father Aaron Walton joined the Northumberland Fusiliers in September 1943. In September 1943 he moved to the South Lanc's and the newly formed Parachute Regiment 13th Battalion under Peter Luard 'Luard's Own'. He saw heavy fighting in the Ardennes during '44-'45. Took part in Operation Varsity, capturing the town of Ranville. Also involved in the 3 day battle for the village of Bure which saw one third of the battalion lost during hand to hand fighting. He then joined the Scout Platoon as a Corporal [sometimes acting Sergeant] Dog Handler. The O.I.C. was Peter Downward. He had two 'paradogs' - Monty and Bing. Bing was awarded the Dickin Medal [Animal V.C.] after the war. He talked very little about the war other than to mention Monty and Bing who, in his opinion, saved many lives.Jack Walton
Frederick Charles Thompson Royal Northumberland FusiliersMy grandfather Fred Thompson was called up on his 21st birthday in 1939 and served with the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers. He went to Italy, North Africa, fought at Dunkirk and many other places, he was awarded the Italy star Africa star, 1939/45 star, the Dunkirk medal, 1939/45 medal, and the Defence medal 1939/45. He was proud to have fought for his country, but his medals were stolen a few years ago at my late uncles house and been told I can't get replacements as he didn't have a crime number, such a shame.Debbie Hill
Dick Jackson Northumberland FusiliersDick Jackson served with the Northumberland Fusiliers
Fus. John James Stuart Rutherford Northumberland FusiliersJack Rutherford of the Northumberland Fusiliers, was a pow at Hohenstein Hesse Stalag 1vA.John Scott Edge
L/Sgt. John Joseph Fay 2nd Btn. Royal Northumberland Fusiliers (d.13th Sep 1943)Lance Sergeant John Joseph Fay was born in 1917 in Liverpool, the son of William and Margaret Fay and brother to Bernard, Joseph, James and Patrick. He was posted to Italy in the Allied push of 1943 at Salerno with the 2nd Battalion Royal Northumberland Fusiliers on the 3rd September.
He paid the ultimate price on 13th September and is buried in the Allied War Graves Cemetery in Salerno Grave. The family legend says that he was killed by being decapitated whilst in action. He was survived by brothers Patrick and Bernard who also fought across Europe and who both lived out their lives back in the UK, passing in their sleep many years later.Phillip Hanlon
Fus. Robert Andrew Jamieson Northumberland FusiliersRobert Andrew Jamieson was a prisoner of war in Stalag 20b Marienburg Poland. His POW number was 5815 and his service number was 4268101. A Northumberland Fusilier, he originated from Alnwick Northumberland, where he died aged 38 while playing football.
We know very little about him, as he died so young. His children were too young to remember him and have never seen a photograph of him. If anyone can recall anything about him or happens to have a photo with him we would love to hear from you.
Cpl. Ernest Arthur John "Barry" Rollinson Royal Northumberland FusiliersAlthough my father, Ernest Rollinson would not talk to me about his captivity, mum told me about a couple of failed escape attempts he made in Italy which resulted in him being held in chains on the journey to Germany. It was there he was forced to work in salt mines and treated so cruelly as a result. Later on in life we would go on our holidays and dad would never go swimming with us and would never be seen in shorts. When I asked why this was, mum said that due to the cruelty suffered in the hands of the Nazi soldiers where he had his shin smashed open by a rifle butt and the scars of the chains, although faded, could still be seen. He never wanted to present the opportunity to anyone to ask questions about these scars, he just wanted to forget.
Pte. Charles Frederick Fullard Northumberland FusliersI am, at time of writing 72 years of age, and never knew my Father, Charles Fullard who is the subject of my search. I would like to know whether he survived WW2, and if there is any other information available. I have no other known source of information, as my Mother and Sister are, sadly, both deceased.Barrie Fullard
RSM. Frederick William Wooll MM. Royal Northumberland FusiliersFrederick Wooll served with the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers.Beatrice Dees
Lt. Tom TarmeyMy great uncle Tom Tarney took part in D-Day, leading his men off the landing craft onto Sword Beach. He landed with the Northumberland Fusiliers. I don't know much more about Tom, but I do know he got to the Reichstag in Berlin in 1945 and actually found a piece of paper with Adolf Hitler's signature on it, which we have at home.James Thwaite
W. A.M. "Alec" Murrell Northumberland FusiliersMy father served in the Northumberland Fusiliers and was a POW for all the war. He was in Stalag XXB. Like everyone else he never spoke about it. Any information or photos would be welcome.Linda E.
Martin "Marky" Collins Northumberland FusiliersDoes anyone have information regarding my dad, Martin `Marky' Collins from East London, who served with the Northumberland Fusiliers/Durham Light Infantry during WWII? My dad was captured at Arras in 1940 during the fall of Dunkrik and was imprisoned in (I think() Stalag XXB in East Prussia. Sadly, my dad is no longer alive, but I would be grateful for any information about him and life in the camp.Tracy Sturgess
Thomas Dawson Northumberland FusiliersI have two uncles who were in the Northumberland Fusiliers during WWII. They were both captured at St Valery. Thomas was interned in Stalag 5, Poland, and Robert in Stalag 8b.Colin
Robert Dawson Northumberland FusiliersI have two uncles who were in the Northumberland Fusiliers during WWII. They were both captured at St Valery. Robert was interned in Stalag 8b and Thomas was in Stalag 5, Poland,Colin
George Jackson 7th Btn. Northumberland FusiliersMy grandfather, George Jackson, appears on a photo with about ten other POWs that was posted home to my gran in March 1942 from Stammlager IX-C before he was transferred to Stalag 383. I also have a photo of my grandad and his brother Ralph taken at the annual camp in 1954 with about 30 other officers and sergeants.Keith Jackson
Fus. Frederick George Gillan 1st Battalion Royal Northumberland Fusiliers (d.27th March 1945)Two weeks ago I lost my last uncle. When he died a few papers and information came to me about the first uncle who died and the first to die in W.W.2 in Italy. I have been trying to find out when and where he died and visit his grave as both my parents, when they were alive, wanted to go and pay their respects. Going by my mother's information, my Uncle Freddy, as my mum call him, died and was buried at Monte Cassino.
When I checked with the War Graves Commission they checked their records and could not find him. I only had his name and that he had died in Italy, was all the information my mother had. The papers that my uncle had showed that Uncle Freddy died on the 27th March 1945 and was buried and the reburied in Bologna Commonwealth War Cemetery in 1947 and that my uncle, unknown to my parents, had visited the cemetery in Bologna. I contacted the C.W.G.C. who gave the information as to the name of the cemetery and his date of death, with his service number. I am trying to find out when my uncle joined up and where he served where and how he died. Any information you can provide will be gratefully received.Michael Evans
Sgt. Jack Wood Lancashire FusiliersMy wife's father, Jack Wood, was a sergeant in WW2. We have different pictures of him during the war. In one he is in the Lancashire Fusiliers, in another he is with the 1st Battalion 'E'Coy RNF, which is a picture of their football team in 1941, we think this is likely to be the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers but are not sure.
The reason we are writing for help is we know that he was in the Paras as a Sergeant and was badly injured near Caen, Northern France. We have a newspaper clipping of him in a hospital bed being fed using a baby's cup telling his story, he was in a hospital in Wakefield.
Was it normal to keep changing regiment? What do the badges signify on his uniform - there are two strips saying 'Airborne' presumably for the top of each arm, a small purple badge with a parachute on and a small oval badge with a plane on.
Any help would be appreciated and, although he is now deceased, my wife would love to fill in the missing pieces of his WW2 life. (The story in the newspaper told of a pretty French girl from the French Resistance who led my wife's father and his men along a secret path through some marshes in France to avoid capture by the Germans).L Gosling
Fus. James George Goodwin Royal Northumberland FusiliersJimmy Goodwin was my maternal grandfather. He was a coalminer before the war. The story goes that he was taken prisoner after his unit were surrounded by Rommel in North Africa. He was imprisoned in at least one POW camp (Wolfsberg) though he may have been at others. He spent his 21st birthday in a POW camp. He also had his finger nails pulled out because they were damaged due to the heavy work he was doing there. He survived the war, but it broke his health and he died young, in 1971.Heather Thompson
Fuslr. Joseph Arthur Walker 2nd Btn. Royal Northumberland Fusiliers (d.5th January 1944)My uncle, Joseph Arthur Walker, lost his life in the Second World War age 22. He died in the Battle for Cassino which saw some of the fiercest fighting of the Italian campaign.
Fus. Thomas Edward McLauchlan Royal Northumberland FusiliersTommy McLauchlan is my father who was captured at St Valery, France during World War 2. My father spent 5 years in German POW camps in Poland, including Stalag XXb. He was liberated after a forced march from Malbork to Germany as Russians advanced from the East. I am my father's eldest son and would like any information on my father during his imprisonment.Stuart E.McLauchlan
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