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L/Cpl. Jimmy Kelly .     British Army 8th Btn. C Coy. Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders

My grandfather, L/Cpl Jimmy Kelly, was in the 8th Btn Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, `C' Coy and was taken prisoner at St Valery in France. He was taken to Stalag IXc and spent some time in the salt mines.




Sgt. John Verdun Kelly .     Army

The following extracts are from the YMCA Wartime Log Book supplied to Sgt John Verdun Kelley. Captured at Tobruk he passed through various Camps- Derna, Benghazi, PG60 Lucca, PG70, Stalag IVB and Stalag 357. Some of the entries are by Kelley others by "guest" writers.

Benghazi

Barren wastes of stony sand

Dry infertile desert land,

Spiked wire on every hand.

Prisoners of War

Ill clad ,unkempt and underfed,

Trading watches and rings for bread,,

With chilly concrete floors for beds,

Prisoners of War

Queueing for hours in blistering heat,

Receiving a morsal of bread and meat,

Glad, even of scraps to eat,

Prisoners of War.

Crowded together like flocks of sheep,

Bullied and driven from dawn to sleep,

Hearts are filled with hatred deep,

Prisoners of War

Cut off from the news of the outside world,

Sifting truth from taunts that are hurled,

Slightly keeping the flag unfurled,

Prisoners of War.

Striving to keep alive their hope.

Finding at times 'tis beyond their scope,

Drugging themselves with rumour dope

Prisoners of War

Setting new values ion trivial things,

The smell of a flower, a skylark that sings

The beauty,the grace of a butterfly's wing

Prisoners of War

Finding life without freedom is vain

'Tis better to die than live ever in chain,

Thank God! For hope of relief once again,

Prisoners of War

Seeing new meaning in higher things,

In life in Christ and the hope He brings

Thus did they treat the King of Kings

Prisoners of War

Finding at last, if you've the eyes to see

This glorious truth fixed by God's decree,

As long as the soul's unchained you're free.

Prisoners of War

June 23 .We awoke after a cold hungry night. The compound larger than Derna and as we were about 1000 more room to move about .In a separate cage near the gate were a party of Indian troops, used in fatigue work for strengthening the wire .In the other corner was a 40ft tower with machine guns.. Each corner had a water tank (empty) and guards patrolled all sides. We were ordered to form groups of 50 and we became N0o 22. Nothing else happened-it got hotter, more rings etc swapped across the wire for water. Someone paid £2 for a quart. Around 2pm the tanks were filled and after queueing for hours we were given a quart each., a groundsheet and 2 short poles . Rations arrived at 5pm - a tin of bully each and 2 small loaves between 3 men. Eat it all or save some? We had begun the trek down Starvation Road.

More new faces arrived and we hoped to move on- we entered hungry men and left weeks later starving wrecks. More searches-this time anything sharp. A few kept back their jackknives or we would have had no way to open the bully cans. Water ration was increased to 3 pint per day, usual ration arrived at 4pm. The cigarette supply started running out!!! Profiteering took over and cigarettes that were selling for 50 piastres for 50 rose to 10piastres each. The guards realized the opportunity and were soon exchanging cigarettes for clothes etc. Sanitary arrangements were just a row of trenches and the smell would become unbearable. Empty day followed empty day ,bored, dirty ad unshaven the main conversation was about food. At the end of the month the Italians issued cigarettes-2 between 6 men!! By rerolling the dogends we made 2 more.

By July 3 morale was low and sickness high , the MO visited but had nothing to teat anyone. Great excitement on July 6 -the RAF bombed the harbour and again on the 9th , lots of shrapnel falling on the camp but no injuries. Now we were so organised that we could make hot meals at night by soaking dry bread ,adding bully and boiling it up. Fuel was the problem, the guards became unhappy about us ripping pieces off the fence posts. The Indian fatigue troops had plenty but at a cost- 2 cigarettes for a small piece and the price of cigarettes was 5 piastres or a shilling each. Another bombing raid on the 11th and a ship hit in the harbour.

Sunday 12th and a service from a South African Padre, though it must have helped it brought everyone back to thinking of home as they took part in a service knowing family at home were doing the same. We were all given Red Cross Cards to fill in, they were handed in but to this day I never heard of any arriving. By now health was getting poor, walking an effort and dizziness when standing. We were dirty, unshaven and lice started to appear. One by one those who had kept rings etc swapped them with the guards for food-tempted by guards holding up loaves of bread The minds of the guards needed understanding, a good watch worth £5 would get maybe 2 loaves but a cheap ring from the Souk costing pennies would get 5 loaves easily Cigarettes became THE currency and money was used for card games until we found the guards would sell 40 cigarettes for £1 Egyptian. Ersatz coffee was added to our rations but what was it? A Cookhouse was also built but could only feed one compound a hot meal per day so we hot meals every third day.

Our first meal was 17 july a pint stodge of rice peas flavoured with olive oil . this cost us half a tin of bully each. The cooks found the dry rice a valuable trade item and were soon exchanging it for cigarettes. Dysentry broke out amongst the weakest but only the worst cases went to hospital I reckon about 60 died. Daily routine- get up when you felt like it, pass the time somehow until rations were drawn at noon, go to bed early to escape the day. Meals were 9am and 5.30pm and a brew of coffee in between (no milk or sugar)..

July 25 the reality of how weak we had become hit home. New latrines were needed to be dug The labour divided up and each man had 2 minutes of digging to do. Mainy were unable to complete even this.. An escape attempt was made by a couple of guys hanging onto the underside of the rubbish truck, unfortunately this went into the next compound where native SA troops saw the guys and crowding round bending down to look resulted in the 2 heroes retuning in chains for 48 hrs.

On July 27 groups from the next cage started to be moved out . July 31 we were given English bully 1 tin between 2 . We knew we would be soon and had started pooling our food to sustain us on the journey. We eat as much as we could and for the first time since capture I felt full. We paraded at 0330 next day, we had our food and 2 gallons of water why go hungry and thirsty? We were marched to the docks, the water weighed a ton but it was good to see the bombing damage that had been done We embarked on the Rosalino Pilo , although modern she soon took on the look of a slave ship as we were crammed into the holds helped by the Libyans standing on anyones fingers if they were slow on the ladders. More fun was had by throwing buckets of sea water at us through the gratings . The heat was stifling and we dreaded the night, a meal of cold fried bread,bully and water arrived at 11am and we sailed at noon.

Next days rationed were lowered in a bucket at 4pm, tin of bully and a pack of biscuits. We were told next stop was Tripoli then across to Naples. The dysentery cases became so bad that in the end they were allowed on deck. We tried to sleep in the heat with the smell of engine oil and engine noise. It was a long night but as dawn approached the hold was silent save for a few groans and moans when I heard an unknown person playing "solitude" on a mouth organ- knowing my feelings and thoughts I could sympathise with him. We were allowed up on deck at 8am and managed to stay there all day, one man was hauled up unconscious and his body was taken off at Tripoli.. Our 11am meal of biscuits and bully seemed good until we saw the meals being taken to the gun crews who were German even though it was an Iti ship. We reached Tripoli at noon

Sgt John Verdun Kelley

Names in the log book from Benghazi:

  • Sgt Taylor
  • John Toole
  • Dougie Herrage
  • Charlie Peace
  • Stitch Taylor
  • Dodger Green
  • Bill Fyfe
  • RQMS Bone
  • CSM Muldowney
  • Sgt Graham
  • Sgt Mc Dermott
  • Gdsman Hall
  • Gdsman Simpson




PO Stwd John Charles Kelly .     Royal Navy HMS Acheron   from Portsmouth)

(d.24th Aug 1940)

John Kelly was my uncle, he was one of the three casualties when HMS Acheron was bombed whilst in Portsmouth Harbour. John was an orphan at birth having been abandoned by his mother. His wife was Dorothy Kelly (nee Mellor). He had four children, John, Keith, Joan and "Dinks" who lives in New Zealand and is about 85 years young. I am researching the family tree so any info would be appreciated.




Seaman John "Jack" Kelly .    




John Kelly .     British Army 8th Army

Ny grandfather John Kelly fought in the 8th Army in North Africa and Italy and was involved in the Battle of Monte Cassino. He stayed in Austria for a month after the end of the war before coming home. He told me that he was known as `Two mine Kelly' because he had stood on two land mines and managed to survive both. He was friends with a man nicknamed `Lofty'.




Sgt. John Kelly .     Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve 419 (Moose) Squadron   from Lancashire)

(d.23rd Sep 1943)

John Kelly was my uncle-in-law. He was shot down and killed in a raid over Mannheim, Germany. He joined the RCAF and did all of his training in Canada. His brother, Laurence and his wife have been living in Sunderland for many years. A few weeks ago Laurence died. His wife is still living in High , Sunderland who we visit every week. His wife has John's medals. John came from a large family, about 8 or 9. They live all over the place, a sister married a US airman from Burtonwood Airfield during the war and is living in the States.




Pte. John Kelly .     British Army 8th Btn Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders

John Kelly joined the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in 1937 and served with the 9th Battalion from 1937 to 1939 then with the London Scottish until 1942, when he transferred to the 8th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and served in North Africa and Italy. He was awarded the 1939/45 Star, Africa Star, Italy Star, Defence Medal, War Medal, Coronation Medal, TA Efficiency Medal (with 2 clasps) and was promoted to Corporal in 1958, being discharged on the 15th of January 1962.




Pte. Joseph Kelly .     British Army Black Watch   from Blackhill, Co Durham)

I know very little about my great uncle, Joseph Kelly, although I do remember him being a funny old man who always seemed a bit of a character. I used to listen to some of the funny war stories he would tell me. This was probably a factor in me joining the British Army. I remember telling him I was joining the army and he seemed very happy for me. He sadly died before he got the chance to see me in uniform. Although I joined the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers and had a successful 11 years in this regiment I always had a fondness for the Black Watch and was lucky to serve alongside them in Northern Ireland.

I do know that my great uncle was taken POW during the war, 24-26th March 1943, I still have the document that was sent back to his parents informing them that he was missing, albeit in not very good condition, along with his war medal. I cherish this family bit of history and look back at his efforts in the war with pride. I am not sure which Battalion he served with I seem to think it may of been the 5th but can't be sure. Would love to find any more information on his service.




Pte. Len Kelly .     British Army Northumberland Fusiliers   from Co. Durham)

(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.




Able Seaman. Peter Kelly .     Royal Navy HMS Forfar   from Placentia Bay, Newfoundland)

(d.2nd Dec 1940)

I had a brother whom I never met who died with the sinking of the HMS Forfar. Peter Kelly, son of Clement and Bridget Kelly of Freshwater, Placentia Bay, Newfoundland. He was born July 21, 1919 and died 2nd December 1940 when the Forfar was lost.

I have often wondered how he died, did he drown or was he killed by the explosions.




Pte. Robert Kelly .     British Army East Lancashire Regiment   from Oswaldtwistle)

Like many survivors my Dad never really wanted to talk about his time in the war. It was only when he passed that I found a few photos and the newspaper cutting. I inherited his Football plaque on the passing of his Uncle who had clearly treasured it since my Dads return. He had been part of the "Long March" and when he finally arrived home he weighed less than seven stone and according to my Grandma he would still scavenge for food that had been thrown to the hens in their neighbourhood for several months. Despite this terrible period in his life he eventually became the most positive and optimistic person I have ever known.

Robert Kelly served with the East Lancashire Regiment during WW2 and was captured at Dunkirk in 1940. Released by the advancing Russian forces in Upper Silesia.

1st and 4th Battalions East Lancashire Regiment who joined the 42nd Division in 1940 prior to Dunkirk. It is not clear which battalion Robert served with however it is more probable that it was the 1st Battalion which formed part of the final defence force around the Dunkirk beaches.

Shortly after the outbreak of war with Germany the 1st South Lancashires and 1st Loyals crossed to France with, respectively, the 4th and 1st Divisions of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). By early October 1939 both battalions were in position on the Belgian frontier, where they were joined in April 1940 by the 1st and 4th East Lancashires, both of 42nd Division.

On 10th May 1940 the ‘Phoney War’ came to an abrupt end when Germany invaded Belgium and Holland. The BEF advanced into Belgium but the Allied front rapidly collapsed before the German ‘blitzkrieg’ and the British force, with its flanks exposed and its rear increasingly threatened, was obliged to make a succession of withdrawals. Ordered back from one defensive line to the next, amid scenes of growing chaos, the four Lancashire battalions fought a number of delaying actions, most notably at Tournai on the Escaut, at Lannoy and at Rousbrugge, before reaching Dunkirk.

Dunkirk 1940

All three of the 1st Battalions then took up defensive positions to cover the evacuation of the BEF. The South Lancashires held the far left of the British line, west of Nieuport, the Loyals occupied the fortified town of Bergues on the right, while the East Lancashires plugged a gap in the centre of the line along the Bergues Canal. All three units held their positions, under constant attack, until ordered to withdraw. On 1st June a determined enemy attack on the Dunkirk perimeter was halted by the gallant stand of B Company, 1st East Lancashires, for which Captain Marcus Ervine-Andrews was awarded the Victoria Cross (the only one at Dunkirk), assisted by a counter-attack by the Loyals. The three Lancashire battalions were among the last British troops to embark on the night 2nd/3rd June.

E3 Blechhammer was a working party area part of the overall Stalag 8b Complex. The prefix E referred to English although other national were included. The Room 42 on the football plaque could refer to a room containing mainly POWs from the 42nd Division.

The whole camp covered the area of 230m x 290m. The crematorium where 1500 bodies were burnt was in the south-east part of the camp. The camp was commanded by SS-Hauptsturmfuhrer Otto Brossmann. During winter 1944/45, as the Red Army was closing fast, the Germans decided to evacute the camp (which became a transfer point for the prisoners from Auschwitz and other camps) and forced the prisoners into columns of 500 men each. They were ordered to march to the West. During the "Death March" people who were suffering from cold (marched barefoot, without proper winter clothing) soon started to die of exhaustion. Those who were unable to march were killed with the butts of the guns by the so-called Nachkommando which followed the columns. The camp was liberated by the Red Army on the 26th of January 1945. There were less than 200 survivors found.




PO. Ronald James "Spike" Kelly .     Royal Navy HMS Manchester   from Castle Carey)

Ronald Kelly was a Petty Officer Marine Engineering Mechanic in the Royal Navy serving on HMS Manchester.




Samuel Albert Kelly .     British Army Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers   from London)

Does anyone remember my late father Samuel Albert Kelly from Bethnal Green in London? He served in Burma and died some 43 years ago when I was only 12.

I would love to be able to trace his war records but it seems that I need his Service number to do this, as we moved shortly after and it seems that as my mum decided not to keep any paperwork I am finding it really difficult to find out anything about his time in the war. In fact I have very little except a couple of photos (not taken during the war) to remember him by, sometimes it almost seems as if he never existed at all.




L/Cpl Thomas Kelly .     British Army Royal Army Service Corps   from Walton, Liverpool)

(d.11th Jun 1940)

Thomas was my Dad's uncle. He was born in 1918 so may only have been 21 when he died. He is buried in Fécamp, Normandy. The few pieces of information I have attempted to cobble together surrounding the circumstances of his death illustrate what a dire situation he and his fellow soldiers were left in after the evacuation. The only saving grace is that he did not suffer as a POW at the hands of the enemy.




L/Cpl. Thomas George Kelly .     British Army 48th Royal Tank Regiment Royal Armoured Corps (d.19th Sep 1944)

Thomas Kelly died aged 31, he was born in Kingston in 1913.

Thomas is buried in Gradara War Cemetery and is commemorated on the WW2 Roll of Honour Plaque in the entrance of Jarrow Town Hall.




William Kelly .     Royal Navy HMS Woolwich

I am looking for information or anyone who knew my grandad William (Bill) Kelly who was on board HMS Woolwich.




Cliff Kelly-Walley .     Royal Navy HMS Royal Arthur

I joined the Royal Navy in October 1943, Royal Arthur, where I trained as a telegraphist at Kelvin Park, Glasgow and HMS Scotia. I was then drafted to HMS Tyne and served on Manus Island at the wireless station.




2nd Lt. James M. Kelly. .     USAAF 327th Bomb Squadron




Sgt Harry Kelly. .     166 Sqd.




Joyce Kelsey .     Munitions Worker

I used to work in a munitions factory in St Mary Cray, Orpington Kent. One day the Siren had gone off - so we all went to the shelter. I used to hate going as some of the men and boys were a rough sort and being only 14 I did not like the bad language. After about an hour even though we had not had the "all clear" I decided to go and cycle home as I wanted to be there before dark. Some people told me to wait but being determined I got my bike and went. I started cycling up Sevenoaks way towards cray Avenue when I heard a plane sounding very close - I carried on but thought I had better take shelter. Suddenly there was a burst of gunfire and I heard the bullets whistle through the trees and then plough into the road about 100 yards ahead! I rode my bike as fast as I could and took shelter under the railway bridge at St Mary Cray. I was shaking and shocked to think that the enemy was trying to kill me! - there was other traffic on the road so this fighter must have seen me on the road and decided to take a pop shot. I will never forget it.




Edward J Kelso .     USAAF 96 Group 337 Squadron

I found my uncle Edward Kelso's photo on file as a POW at Stalag 17b about 18 months ago. Through his daughter I began the search for his discharge papers. I just got a copy of these and gave them to friend who has researched lost fliers. He found him last night with the 337th Squadron. As chance would have it he also had the 96th's Group Book.

We learned that he went down on June 22nd on a mission to Huls, Germany. The aircraft was 42-5877. The Pilot was Harold C Russell and Radioman Robert Clark is listed as KIA.

On behalf of my first cousin Pamela Kelso Winkler, we would like to inquire if anyone has any information about the crew and who may still be living and where the plane crashed after being shot down.




Edward J Kelso .     USAAF 96 Group 337 Squadron

I found my uncle Edward Kelso's photo on file as a POW at Stalag 17b about 18 months ago. Through his daughter I began the search for his discharge papers. I just got a copy of these and gave them to friend who has researched lost fliers. He found him last night with the 337th Squadron. As chance would have it he also had the 96th's Group Book.

We learned that he went down on June 22nd on a mission to Huls, Germany. The aircraft was 42-5877. The Pilot was Harold C Russell and Radioman Robert Clark is listed as KIA.

On behalf of my first cousin Pamela Kelso Winkler, we would like to inquire if anyone has any information about the crew and who may still be living and where the plane crashed after being shot down.




Flt.Sgt. Hubert Edward Kemball .     Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (d.11th July 1942)

Hubert Kemball was a rear gunner and was killed in Egypt.




Elsie Kemp .     Land Army   from Eastry)

My Grandma was a Land Army Girl, Based at Hammil, near Eastry in Kent. Her name was Elsie Gaunt, nee Kemp. I wondered if any one remembers her.




Pte. Howard "Bill" Kemp .     British Army   from 7 Mount Pleasant, Llanaelhearn , Gwynedd, North Wales)

My father Howard Kemp, always known as Bill, joined the Army in London. That was his home and where he was born. He was stationed at RAF Llandwrog, now called Carnarfon Air world. He met and married my mother who is Welsh and she used to go down to the airfield dances they had there. My father was also in Egypt, North Africa, Burma, Korea and Italy. I would like to know if any one has any photographs of him or my mother. She was called Maggie Parry.




Gnr. John Reith "Jock" Kemp .     British Army 178th Medium Regiment Royal Artillery   from Glasgow)

22 June 1945 Rome

John Kemp was my Grandfather. He grew up in Glasgow and joined the Army there. He later moved to Derby, where he spent the majority of his life. His first deployment was in early 1942. He boarded a ship in Glasgow and had no idea where the regiment was headed. During the trip they were diverted to South Africa. He later found out he was bound for Singapore, but it fell before they arrived. He spent 1942 in Cape Town. He was a very fine violin player and I have a letter from the Cape Town Director of municipal arts, sent to John's superior, requesting that he be allowed to play with the orchestra whenever possible. I am currently unsure of his whereabouts in 1943. In 1944 and 1945 he fought in Italy, including at Anzio. I have several pictures of men in the regiment at Anzio bridgehead, standing in fox holes that they have dug.

I have the regiment's Christmas celebration pamphlet from 1944. Entertainment included singing, monologues, a violin solo from my Grandfather, and a Cinderalla Pantomime. Evidently a lot of effort went into the celebration. Other people mentioned in the photos are 'Mac' (short for MacDonald I think), Teddy Hunter, Pettifer, Hecky McIver and Dosvaldo Nelly. John Kemp died in 2012.


John Kemp.

In Rome, John Kemp on the left.

John Kemp performing Violin Solo possibly at Christmas show.

The NAAFI club in Solerno

1944 Teddy in middle, John Kemp, Mac bottom left.

Castel Luchich, Salerno 1944

Dosvaldo Nelly on Anzio Beachead, 1944.

Teddy Hunter at Anzio Bridge Head 1944.

Teddy Hunter and Geoff at Anzio 1944.

Hecky, 1945.

McDonald and Teddy Hunter

Teddy at leave camp May 1944.

Mac at Santa Maria Villiano April 1945

Lake Garda May 1945, VE Day Boys of RHQ 178th Medium Regiment RA.




Sgt. John Lawrence Kemp .     Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve 214 Sqdn.   from Lincolnshire)

(d.15th January 1943)

Stirling W7637 was lost on a bombing run on Lorient on 15th/16th January 1943. T/o 1826 Chedburgh and lost without trace. All the crew members are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial. They were:

  • S/L P.W.M. Carlyon DFC
  • Sgt C.E.C. Ransom
  • F/O D.K. O'Donnell RNZAF
  • Sgt J.L. Kemp
  • Sgt L. Carr
  • F/S J.N. Peck RCAF
  • P/O P.F. Pinder RCAF




  • Pat Kemp .     Land Army

    Pat Kemp driving the tractor during haymaking

    When I got to the age of 18 I told my stepfather I wanted to join the WAAF but he said he didn't want me to so I mentioned joining The Women's Land Army and he agreed to that. I had to write to the Labour Officer to get permission to leave the garage. I had a reply which stated that I couldn't leave the garage because the manager would not release me. Every week I asked for my "cards" In the end they said it was only fair to let me go. I had to go to my doctor to see if I was fit enough. He didn't examine me he just said "Do you want to join up? I told him I did. He signed the paper I needed and off I went.

    I enlisted in The Women's Land Army in 1943 just before my eighteenth birthday. The lady who was interviewing told me I couldn't wear my earrings I just glared at her (Typical 18 year old) and she quickly went on to tell me where I would be stationed which was a house at Totteridge which we were told belonged to Bassett's Liquorice Allsorts. When they were giving us our uniforms I told them I would not wear the corduroy breeches because they were baggy and hung down around the knees so they gave me a nice pair of olive green gabardine breeches. I was given a pair of boots like men's so I wouldn't be wearing those either. But I would wear the Wellingtons. The rest of the uniform was nice. We were given a Cream Shirt, Beige Socks, a Green Pullover and Tie, Tan Shoes and a Mid Brown Overcoat and Hat and of course the Boots which I never wore. We had to buy everything else and pay for our keep. The wages were so low that there was very little left. Lady Denham asked Winston Churchill to pay us more money_but he refused. We were called the Cinderellas of the forces.

    After a few weeks we were sent from Totteridge to Oaklands Agriculture College at St, Albans Hertfordshire. We were told we would be there for four weeks but it was changed to five weeks because of a proposed visit by the Duchess of Gloucester. We were taught a lot about farming also how to groom a horse. I was given a chicken to hold one day and I could feel it's bones and it made me feel sick and dropped it. Another time I was told to help put some piglets on to a cart by lifting them up by the ear and tail and when I tried it squealed so loud I screamed and dropped that too. On the day of the Duchess visited there was a Ploughing Match. All the men were lined upon their tractors and I had to be the learner on a Caterpillar tractor. The time came for our departure. We climbed onto the lorry. It seemed that we had travelled for so long and getting further and further from London. I looked out the back of the lorry and said "We are in the wilds I don't think I want to stay here". Other girls looked out and moaned too. At last we arrived and when I saw Rowney Priory. I loved it. We were told it was once a Nunnery.

    Rowney Priory

    Rowney Priory, nr. Ware, Hertfordshire.


    We had Bunk beds but later they were replaced with single iron framed beds. We also had a small wardrobe each. Among the girls with me at Rowney were, Mary Doyle (Mrs Mary Doidge of Buntingford,) Margaret Callaghan (the late Mrs Margaret Aylott of Buntingford , Eileen Parker ( Mrs Eileen Gordge of Oxford, May Robinson ( Mrs May Odegaard of USA), Joan Tiddeman ( Mrs Joan Nichols) of London) Peggy Knott (Mrs Peggy Bull of London.) Sandy Hensher (Mrs Rackstraw of Acton) Elsie Bell (Mrs Elsie Bartlett of High Cross) who was my best friend for 52 years. Sadly she died just before we moved to Buntingford. There were about fifty girls at Rowney Priory.

    Land girls at rowney Priory

    Pat Kemp (2nd from right on middle row) and friends, outside Rowney Priory.


    Every night we were told by the forewoman which farm we were to go to next day. We had to get up early and get on the lorry and the forewoman would drive us and drop us off at various farms. She would also pick us up at the end of the day. In the Summer time we worked until 9 pm or 9.30 pm. Hay Making or Harvesting, so because all the girls were spread around the countryside it took a long time to pick them all up so it was quite late when we all got back to Rowney. It was a rush then to get to the bathrooms to get a bath if you were lucky. We were only alowed 4 Inches of water for a bath like everybody else. Then we would get something to eat and get to bed. At Harvest time we had to stand the sheaves up in groups of six to dry then we would load them on to the cart and then take them off the field where the girls would pass them to the men and they would build a stack. The dirtiest job was Threshing. It was such a dirty job we wore scarves around our heads and across our faces. The dust would get in our eyes and ears and up our noses. When we were on the thresher feeding the wheat into the drum after a while it would draw you towards it so we took it in turns. Although it was very hard work and long hours I liked Haymaking and Harvest time very much but I used to get so mad if I couldn't get a bath right away when we got back "home" I was working with some new girls and we decided to go to a village pub at lunch time but we had to go across a field to get there. In the field were some cattle and the girls asked me if they were bulls. I said they were and to get across the field they would have to climb over the fence and run for their lives. I watched them running like mad then I walked leisurely across and they realised I had lied to them. They were not bulls they were cows. They swore at me but later saw the funny side of it. One of them said "It will give my mum a laugh when I write and tell her about it".

    One day I was going potato picking and when I got off the lorry I looked to see who was with me and I was shocked to see they were new girls. I felt very sorry for them as it was a very hard job to have on your first day. We had a strip each and we had to pick up all the potatoes before the digger came around again. After I had picked up all of mine I looked up to see the girls holding their backs in agony and I thought I would have to help them or their strips wouldn't be finished by the time the digger came around again and the farmer would be no doubt be angry. For the rest of the day I picked up the potatoes on my strip and then went and helped them to finish theirs. I was getting ready to go back to Rowney when the farmer came to me and said "I have been watching you and you have been working very hard" I grinned at him thinking to myself he must have been hiding somewhere because I hadn't seen him. He gave me some money which was very nice of him. He then asked me if I would work for him all the time. I said "Doing what" He said" Milking "And I laughed and told him I didn't want to milk cows and I didn't know how to. He said I will teach you, just give it a try. I said I would as I knew I could leave if I didn't like it. I got on alright, I got to like the lovely Friesian cows.

    There was an Italian prisoner of war working at the farm. I cycled to and from the farm, it wasn't very far. It was winter so very dark in the evenings so the farmer told the Italian to cycle back to Rowney with me every night. The trouble was the Italian resented me working at the farm. He moaned at me saying I should not be working there as the job was for men not for women. This continued day after day and one day I yelled at him to stop it. The farmer appeared and said "That's right girl stand up for your self. The Italian was quiet for a while but we were cleaning out the cowshed one day when he started being nasty to me again. He went on and on and he was working just behind me and I got so angry I swung around and punched him in the mouth which began to bleed. He lifted his shovel to hit me, I was scared but I glared at him and said "You dare" He threw his shovel down and walked out. I thought I would have to cycle back to Rowney on my own that night but as I got to the gate the Italian shouted to me to wait for him. Then I began to think he might hit me or kill me in one of the dark lanes. It was pouring with rain so I rode as fast as I could. By the time we arrived we were soaked. I was "home" but he had to cycle back to the farm.

    I had three small calves to look after and I was weaning them by getting a bucket of milk and putting my hand in it and then the calf would learn to drink by sucking my finger. I went on leave for two weeks and when I returned to the farm the farmer asked me if I was going to see to my calves. When I got to the shed I saw three big cows. I went back to them and with a look of disdain I said "Where are they then? The farmer was laughing and said to the Italian "I told you she would know they weren't her calves. He told me where they really were I just looked at the Italian with disgust.

    At another farm I worked with Mary Doyle. The farmer was very good to us. At harvest time at 5 pm he would bring us tea and sandwiches and every week he would give us a tip. We were there a long time because he had more than one farm and we worked on all of them. I had to go ploughing with one of the men and the plough was to be drawn by a horse. It was a young horse which had not done any work before. I was told I would have to hold him back or he would tear away. It was very hard trying to hold him back as the horse was very strong. He was pulling so hard and his eyes were wild and bulging he was foaming at the mouth. I was so exhausted and relieved when the day was over. My hands were sore and my legs ached so much. Mary became a Ganger which meant if there were 4 girls or more going to Work at a farm she would have to go and work with them and be in charge.

    We were hoeing on a farm there were German prisoners of war were hoeing on the other side of the field. It began raining and when it started pouring down hard we rain into the woods at the top of the field and so did the Germans but they ran to where we were. The girls wanted me to say the German words I knew which was only "Ich lebadich mien lielbing" Which someone had told me it me it meant "Kiss me my darling" I said no but they kept on to me so I said it and a German said "Yes please" He then took a book from his pocket and said "Come and sit here with me and I will teach you German" but I wouldn't. I was not going to make friends with any Germans. We should not have spoken to them at all as we had been told not to fraternizse. A long time after we could speak to them as we were working with them. We were threshing one day and there was a German and an Italian. I went to lift a bale of straw but the German stopped me and said "No don't lift anything. We will do it" I was pleased about that as the bales were very heavy.

    There were a lot of Americans stationed in the area and we were often invited to the dances at their camps. The dances were held in a hanger and they would put some chalky stuff on the floor and so as we danced it flew all over the place. They would send a lorry for us and would bring us back. When it was time to leave the camp the lorry was stopped at the gate and the military guards would shine their torches and ask if there were any GI's on board and we everybody chorused "No" and when we were out of the gates the GI's would come out from under the seats. There was so much food at the camp and when the women came in form the village to take some of it the GI's would help them pack the food in their carrier bags.

    There were some GI's in Hertford and we invited them to Rowney. On the day of the dance they telephoned to ask if someone could go to Hertford and show them the way to Rowney. The girls asked me to go but I said I would not go on my own so Joan Tiddiman said she would come with me. Joan sat with the driver in the Command Car and I sat with the officer in the back and there was a lorry full of GI's following. As we got to Ware crossing we were stopped by a Dewdrop (U.S Military Police) and he told the Officer that they were not allowed to have civilians in a Command Car. The officer told him we were not civilians but he didn't believe him so the officer told him he could ride along with us. The Dewdrop after much bickering let us go. A few weeks later the same Dewdrop came into Ware Drill Hall where the dances were held every Saturday night and asked me for a date. I went out with him for a while and he asked me to write a letter to his mother. I received a reply from her and she said her daughter would like to me to write to her too. That was too close for me. I didn't want to go out with him anymore. I went out with several Americans but I didn't want to get serious with anyone. About eight of us met some Americans and we went out with them most nights. We used to go to a pub named The Green Man at Dane End and we had many good times with them and they always got us back to Rowney by 10.30. They were waiting to go abroad but they didn't know when or where so when they didn't arrive on time one night we thought they had gone and we were very quiet and sad. We got our bikes out to go to the pub and just as we started off we heard the lorry, they had arrived. A few weeks later however they didn't arrive at all. That night there we were very sad and there were tears .We felt so sorry for them and scared fort them. It was D day. The American Military Police were called Dewdrops because their helmets were white.

    When the war ended we all put on our uniforms and decided to go to London and celebrate with everybody else but we had to wait for permission. We went and stayed all night singing and dancing. It was such a relief it was great. We went back to Rowney and next day went to work as usual but with a more relaxed feeling.

    I had a telephone call from head office asking me to go on a Forewoman's Course. I told them I didn't want to be a Forewoman. The woman talked me into it by telling me I would be paid more money and I would work in the mornings but there were lectures in the afternoon. There were six of us there and we had a great time. I must say though, at the lectures I used to nod off while being told about the rotation of crops and so forth. I went from there to Reed nr Royston. I had to tell the girls which farms they were going to and do the Time Sheets every week and keep everything in check. An elderly man was the lorry driver. I met a few nice chaps there and had some nice times but I didn't want anyone too serious. I had a telephone from Head Office asking me if I would go to a bigger house at Ayot St. Lawrence. I declined and I told them I wanted to go back to Rowney. They said "If you go back there you will be an ordinary land girl again" I told them I didn't care about that and I didn't want to be a Forewoman in the first place. To my delight they told me I could go back to Rowney. It was great to be back.

    My eldest sister was married to an American and she wrote to me to tell me they would be home on leave and they had arranged for me to go back with them to the American Zone in Germany for a month but my leave was only for two weeks. I didn't think they would give me two weeks extra but then I was asked to be Forewoman at Rowney. I didn't want to but I said I would if I could have a month's leave. They said yes I could.

    My sister, her husband, their little girl and I went across the channel on a cargo boat. They also had the car so we drove through France to Germany. It was very eerie as it was very quiet and dark as we drove all night and I was a bit scared in case we saw any ghosts of soldiers who had been killed in the fields we were passing in the countryside. The Americans had a club there and one day two of the German girls who worked at the club said they were going to Stuttgart and would I like to go with them. I was devastated by what I saw. It had been crushed to the ground. What I saw next shocked me. I saw two soldiers with only stubs left of their legs and they were on pieces of wood and were sort of rowing themselves along. I know our men suffered too but this was the first time I had seen anybody so damaged.

    It was time for me to return to England and to Rowney Priory. As we got into the car to go to the station my sister told me all the soldiers in the American club would be on the steps there to wave me Goodbye. I laughed but she said "You wait and see." As we got near the club she told me to stand up with my head through the Sunroof so I did and there they were waving and shouting "Have a good journey Pat and give our love to little old London" My sister told me to get off the train at Paris and go to the bank in the station to get my money changed and then go to another station and get on another train. I got on the train and there were two American girls in the compartment also an English Officer in Tropical uniform. We were chatting and he told me he was going to Turkey. I told him my mother was Turkish. (My father had met my mother in Turkey in the first world war.) When we arrived in Paris he said "Come with me and he took me to the bank in the station and he spoke to them in French and then told me that they didn't change money there. He told me to wait there with the luggage (his and mine) and he would go and fetch his car. When he returned he took me to the other station and I waited in his car while he changed my money. When he came back he said "I have changed your money and booked you a seat on the train so let us go and have some breakfast" We sat outside the cafe and I ate the roll but I didn't know what the thing on the table that looked like one cup on top of another and I just kept on looking at it and feeling embarrassed. He realised I didn't know what to do so he did it for me. I felt so silly but I had never seen anything like it before. After a while he said it was time to go to the station. When we got there we stood on the station platform and I thanked him for all he had done for me and I didn't know what I would have done without him. He put his arms around me and kissed me. We said goodbye and I didn't know his name and nor he mine. I have never forgotten him. He was a gentleman.

    I returned to Rowney and as I was to be a forewoman again I had to learn how to drive the lorry. I would have to take the girls to and from work every day. The time came when I thought I had better leave and get a job and somewhere to live as the houses would be closing and I didn't want to go home. Anything would do for a start. I worked in the Feathers Inn for a while. One of the girls boyfriend's was the son of the owner and told me to go there so that I would have somewhere to live too until something else came along. Later on I got a job as a Dental Nurse. I didn't know anything about Dentistry but the Dentist said he would teach me. After a while I was quite pleased when he told me I had learned everything in three months what it took girls two years to learn at the hospital. If I had to do in for an exam though I would never pass as I get too nervous. Once a week we had to go to a Farm where there were "First Offenders" and each time we arrived there they would whistle at me. I always had to wear my "Nurses Uniform" The headmaster would shout at them to help carry the implements that were needed and they scared me sometimes when they would rush to help me.

    I had been in the Women's Land Army for 6 years. Although it was very hard work we had lots of laughs and I still have my arm bands also release certificate and the personal message from the Queen signed Elizabeth R. I also still have my Ration Book and Identity Card.

    There are families living at Rowney now and I'm sure they must love it there as much as we did.




    Pat Kemp .     Women's Land Army

    It was very hard work and long hours in the Women's Land Army, but we had lots of laughs, no matter how tired we were at the end of the day.




    T/5 William Webb Kemp .     United States Army   from USA)

    My father, T/5 William Webb Kemp, was a POW in Stalag 4B. The only thing handed down from him about this place was that liberation was the day after FDR's death. Timely, too, as he nearly died of pneumonia and suffered frostbite problems for the rest of his life. I still have his POW dogtags.





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