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Cpt. Arthur Wellesley "Bill" Parry . British Army 113 Field Regiment Royal Artillery from Herne Bay)
(d.16th Dec 1943)
The story of my father's death during the advance to the Gustav Line is long and complicated. I have written an account based on information given to me over fifty years ago by a fellow officer who was with him at the end.
What Really Happened?
The accepted version of events leading up to father’s death was straight-forward and in a way comforting. For Mama they were established facts and not worthy of further examination or discussion. Her husband had gone to the aid of a group of wounded sappers, had stepped on a mine and was killed instantly. I’m not altogether sure where these ‘facts’ came from, but obviously his Colonel had written to the family - maybe to my Grandfather Parry Williams in Wales - and told the tale that we all accepted as a true record of the death of Captain the Reverend Arthur Wellesley Parry Williams BA in Italy on 16th December, 1943.
Father had been with the 8th Army from the reverses in Egypt right through El Alamein to victory in Tunisia. Initially, before embarkation, his regiment was up in arms against being saddled with a God-Botherer who was expected to cramp their style, but as Father turned out to have been a reserve in Oxford’s pre-war XV as well as winning a Blue for hockey and tennis, and had a trial as a flank forward for Wales, he was grudgingly accepted. There exists a yellowing cutting from the Sunday Express of an article written by a fellow officer after father’s death. This paean of praise to their padre tells in detail of his acceptance by his soldiers and the grief they all felt when, after nearly eighteen months continuously fighting, he should be killed in an act of loving impetuosity which defined the man.
This might be the primary text for the version I had accepted until one Founder’s Day at St. Edmunds in the ‘fifties, when I met Ken Anderson I was friendly with Bruce Anderson, a contemporary in Walker House who must have mentioned my name to his father. Mr. Anderson sought me out. “Are you Parry-Williams?” he asked. “Any relation to Bill Parry-Williams?” “No, sir,” I said. “Not a ‘Bill’. Afraid not.” “Oh,” he said. “Sorry.” And turned away. Later in the day, he returned. “Look,” he said. “You didn’t have a relative in the 8th Army? A padre?” Then I remembered that ‘Bill’ was the name Father had been called in the article in the Sunday Express. “Yes, sir. My father, sir.” He regarded this callow thirteen year old for some time and then said. “All right, Nigel, I’ll tell you about your father. I was with him all through North Africa and I was there when he was killed.” I remember him squeezing my arm, a gesture of familiarity altogether alien to my generation. He looked me straight in the eye. “You’re too young, now. We’ll meet up when you’re a bit older. Maybe after you leave school”
And that was that. I quizzed Bruce who had no further information. So in the manner of all teenagers I got on with the things I felt to be important. I never saw Mr. Anderson again until I was nineteen. I’d failed to get into Oxford and was too young to have been called up for National Service so a spell in uniform seemed a reasonable way to pretend to be ‘doing my bit’; even then I had to make do with a General List Commission in the Territorial Army, initially training cadets, and later with the KKRC which transmogrified into the Royal Green Jackets . By a strange coincidence, Father and I were both in 56th Division and his first attachment was a Reconnaissance Battalion, a similar outfit to the one to which I was posted.
Kenneth Anderson was Night News Editor on the Daily Mirror and as I was still a chum of his son’s, I felt I ought to fulfil the arrangement Kenneth and I had made four years before. Not knowing what to expect and in some trepidation, I rang the Mirror and asked to speak to Kenneth Anderson. He was a somewhat abrupt man, his clipped responses probably exacerbated by the job and I have to admit I didn’t warm to him. We arranged to have lunch at the Devonshire Club in St. James’s where, incidentally, I had met an uncle by marriage who advised me against ‘going for a soldier’ and suggested instead a job with him in Lentherique, which he owned. Anyway, after my previous visit to a gentleman’s club I knew enough of the protocol to enter and ask the porter for Mr. Anderson, rather than hang around in the street, expecting him to be late. I was duly ushered into an ante-room and Kenneth rose to greet me. We did the small talk thing and went in to lunch. I don’t remember anything of the meal except that it was nursery food and there was a great deal of wine, but even after almost fifty years I can remember the conversation. Actually it was more of a monologue from Kenneth. I had suspected he was the author of the piece in the Sunday Express but it turned out I was wrong. The writer was another officer in the battery and he was killed less than a year later. To my shame I’ve forgotten his name.
Kenneth verified that the sentiments in the article about the 113th Field Regiment’s initial suspicion of the new padre were correctly reported, as was the swift way that Father - with no sign of trying to ingratiate himself - became important to each and every soldier. He was known as ‘Bill’ and ‘Uncle’ by officers and men, never ‘Sir’ nor even ‘Padre’, except by the Adjutant who was a bit of a stickler. Being aged 37 he was considered positively ancient and he was expected not to able to keep up with the fit young soldiers he looked after. But to everybody’s amazement, he shone in all sports and appeared as tireless on route marches as in his pastoral duties. That he had a pretty wife at home was the source of much innuendo and it was a sure-fire way of making him go scarlet and writhe with embarrassment. The fact he had a son was triumphantly used as further proof of a lack of ascetic celibacy. Although this was rather more information than I needed, it helped to develop a picture of a man whom I’d not known next to nothing about. And everything I’d heard from the family had been far more anodyne and respectful. Kenneth’s account was an example of the tough-love unique amongst soldiers on active service who found it hard to commit themselves to new arrivals; men who might be taken from them tomorrow. Nonetheless many went on to forge the deepest, most enduring and loving friendships there can be between men. This was something I would spend the rest of my life regretting I never got to share.
There’s absolutely no doubt that ‘Bill’ was loved by his flock. He was the butt of jokes, yet he was deeply respected. He could be goaded into giggling embarrass- ment, but could also be relied upon to come up trumps in every emergency. Kenneth told me Church Parades had been poorly attended until ‘Bill’ came along but developed into regular congregations which included devout atheists, all the left-footers in the Regiment and a couple of Jews. It should come a no surprise that the longer and further the unit advanced across the desert, the better attended my Father’s services became.
He told of the occasion when ‘Bill’ was conducting Holy Communion from the back of the three-quarter ton Dodge which Father apparently referred to as ‘St. Jude on Wheels’ - St. Jude being the patron saint of lost causes - when the Luftwaffe gate-crashed proceedings in the form of a strafing Me 110. The Liturgy was temporarily forgotten and everybody, Father included, buried themselves in the sand. As the fighter roared back to base accompanied by very un-Christian sentiments, the Dodge suddenly ignited. Father’s batman/driver leapt on board and chucked out Father’s wooden cross, chalice, paten and bible - w3hich I still possess - but was too late to save himself as the truck burst into flames. Before anyone else had time to move, the Padre jumped on board, picked up his driver - Kenneth said he weighed considerably more than Father - and jumped to the ground with him in his arms. He remembered how tenderly Father held the man so no sand got into the terrible burns which covered every inch of the mortally wounded driver’s head, legs and arms, but he died within minutes. This was the first of scores of dead bodies Father prayed over and buried as the 8th Army chased Rommel back the way he had come to Tripoli.
Italy was worse. Father’s letters home, although still witty and warm, began to reflect the terrible attrition of fighting up from the toe of Italy to the heavily defended Gustav Line which had Monte Cassino as its hub. Early on there appeared to be a brittleness in the relations between the British forces and the newly-arrived and pugnacious Americans who considered their allies to be ‘fought out’. Kenneth remembered well the antipathy between Montgomery and Patton in Sicily and that these attitudes percolated down through the chain of command to officers, NCOs and private soldiers. However, General Mark Clark was roundly detested by everybody, American and British. Paradoxically, this helped to unite Yanks and Limeys in common cause. During this time of grinding toil day after day in vile conditions with torrential rain and deep mud over difficult terrain, ‘Bill’ was ever his cheerful, ebullient self, always and unlawfully up at the front of the column; caring for the injured and the dying; praying over the already dead and swapping insults with the dog-tired but still lippy gunners.
One duty of every officer was to write letters of condolence to the families of those killed and Father’s input was gratefully accepted, although he often wrote separately if he had anything extra which he felt could ease the relatives’ pain. He also helped the gunners with their own letters home if they were tongue-tied or plain illiterate. Some bold souls baited the padre by expecting him to write down verbatim the utter filth they solemnly dictated for girlfriends and wives. Any soldier in an aid station or forward hospital could expect a visit from ‘Bill’ in his torn battledress and grimy dog collar. Strangely, it was the soldiers themselves who were most likely to bring up matters spiritual. Kenneth himself was wounded and awoke to find ‘Bill’ praying beside his cot, which made him think these were his Last Rites and complained croakily that dying was the last thing he intended to do. The Padre giggled, insisting he was just investing in a spot of insurance on Kenneth’s behalf.
When Kenneth returned to the front, the Division was battling its way past Monte Camino twenty miles north of Naples towards the Mignano Gap, less than ten miles from Monte Cassino itself. He was shocked to find many unfamiliar faces while searching in vain for many he’d known in North Africa. However ‘Bill’ was there “bouncing like Tigger” although there was a sadness Kenneth hadn’t seen before in his old friend, a quiet stoicism which was never far below the surface.
It wasn’t long after he got back that the whole line moved up at speed in one of the few rapid advances during the campaign. In the pouring rain, they were temporarily halted on a single-track road through some olive orchards when they came across a group of sappers about one hundred yards off to the side, kneeling around a wounded comrade. Contrary to the report in the Sunday Express, the Engineers were alone and thus far no medical help had arrived. The sappers shouted that they had been clearing a mine-field and that one had gone off. It so happened that ‘Bill’s’ jeep was a few yards down the column and he came up to find out what was going on. Before being put totally in the picture he decided he was going in to help, but was told in no uncertain terms that this was the job for other sappers who would clear a path to the injured man for the medics. It was no place for some clumsy God-Botherer. This was too much for Father who pulled himself up to his full five feet eight and three-quarter inches and demanded to be granted passage. Fatally, someone told him to act his age. It was reported to Kenneth later that ‘Bill’ said something rather un-Godly and marched forward. He was immediately restrained which made matters even worse. The wing forward in him saw a gap and he went for it. Breaking clear he charged down the blind side, breaking tackles to left and right. Father hadn’t got more than a few yards before he stepped on the mine. There was a flash, and the appalling dull crump of the explosion. Then, from out of the smoke and the shocked silence came the sound of my Father laughing. He must have realised the stupidity of his actions. Soldiers from either ends of the column came rushing up when they heard ‘Bill’ was down, Kenneth amongst them. Some wouldn’t wait for the sappers to arrive and clear a path, but followed into the minefield, following their padre’s footsteps. (If only I‘d written it down at the time, but it wasn‘t appropriate and the chance never repeated itself so I don’t know the precise words he spoke to Kenneth - and which Kenneth relayed to me over that luncheon table but they were along the lines of “Sorry old chap. Made a bit of a mess of that, didn’t I?”)
They carried their grievously injured padre out of the mine-field and he was rushed to an aid station and thence to a field hospital near Naples. It was obvious to his surgeons that Father would not recover. I found out since that the anti-personnel mine he probably stepped on was particularly vicious. The initial explosion threw a box which contained the main charge to around waist height were it exploded. These mines are held in particular contempt because they were designed to maim and not to kill outright. The typically efficient German logic meant that for each grievously injured victim, stretcher bearers, medical orderlies, surgeons and nursing staff would all be involved, thus tying up far more soldiers than would be required to bury a corpse. Many members of the Regiment put in for permission to visit their dying Padre, but as they were involved in an advance, this was tactically impossible.
When the advance stalled some days later, everybody who could be spared made the journey southward. Kenneth got there in time. Most were too late and Father died on December 16th 1943. Ironically, the wounded sapper in the orchard was able to rejoin his unit after treatment at the aid station to which Father was originally sent. A group of the officers are said to have approached the Colonel with a view to putting their padre up for a decoration. Correctly, it was pointed out that ‘Bill’s’ act of courage would not satisfy the qualifying requirements. His actions were unnecessary, though unarguably gallant. The enemy was not involved, except insofar as they had laid the mine-field and anyway, he had saved no one - not even himself. And he’d disobeyed the orders of a senior officer, to whit the Major who had been hanging onto his leg. It was agreed that it was far better to remember ‘Bill’s’ actions in the context of the man they knew and loved rather than to send off a well-meaning but un-thought through recommendation which would inevitably be turned down. So that was that.
Kenneth’s war finished in 1946 when he went back to newspapers and tried to forget about the friends he’d made and lost. It was only his son’s chance mention of a boy in Baker House with the same surname as ‘Bill’ - albeit suddenly with a hyphen which the Padre for some egalitarian reason of his own, sometimes chose to eschew - that had spurred him into retelling the story. As I recall, Kenneth Anderson and I talked on into the evening. I eventually walked out into St James’s, glowing with pride and full of a respect I will never lose for soldiers, whatever uniform they wore.
Mama never wanted to meet any of her husband’s army colleagues and it was out of respect for her wishes that on her behalf I turned down a request from an old soldier who served with Father and had spotted her name in the membership list of the Friends of Lichfield Cathedral. I’ve often wondered whether she suspected the official version of events would not be corroborated by those who were actually there. She had decided, with typically steely resolve that her husband had died cleanly, and swiftly. The fact I’m putting down Kenneth Anderson’s version - or rather my memories of his memories - is only that there will now be a record of what probably happened. In no way does in invalidate what Mama chose to believe.
The Reverend Arthur Wellesley Parry Williams BA, 113th Field Regiment Royal Artillery, is buried in the British Military Cemetery, Minturno, just south of Monte Cassino. There is an epitaph on the stone: “Say not good night, but in some brighter clime wish me good morning.”
In the mail earlier on Christmas Eve 1943, the very day that the telegram arrived from the War Office, there was a letter, dated 10th November, from Arthur to Audrey, his youngest sister-in-law. She decided to open it later and show it to Mama on Christmas Day. Her intentions were, tragically, overtaken by events and on the grounds that it would be both tactless and inappropriate, Audrey never showed Mama the letter. Much later, when she thought the time was right, she decided to show it to her sister only to discover to her horror that she’d misplaced it. Mama died before the letter was eventually found
It was only after Audrey’s death, sixty-four years after it was sent, that I discovered it, wedged behind a drawer in her drop-front desk. It was the last letter he wrote before being mortally wounded and is the bleakest of all I’ve read. One section joshed Audrey that he’d been showing photographs of his wife’s younger sisters around the Mess, and that he could expect to be “…visited by many of them after the war with a particular purpose in view!!!” But he then the mood changes, “Some of them unfortunately have since died - a very terrible business, but war is like that and demands such sacrifice. The one thing is that we can never get used to it when it does happen. But I mustn’t keep on in this manner.” He had never before mentioned death, as I recall. However, the closing passage is a sublime reaffirmation of his love for my mother. “Tell Joan very quietly I simply adore her. Goodbye. Good night. Arthur.”
I wish now that she’d read it.Nigel Parry-Williams
C. F. Parry .
P/O Derrick J. Parry DFC . RAF 12sqd
Eric Frank Parry . Royal Air Force 100 Sqd. (d.27th Apr 1944)Lynne Darroch
Sgt. Eric Frank Parry . Royal Air Force 100 Squadron (d.27th Apr 1944)
My Grandad, Sergeant Eric Frank Parry was killed in WW2, he was a member of 100 Squadron and died on 27/04/1944. Unfortunately my Mum was so young, only two, when he died so she didn't get to know him and only recently when my nan died did she get to know some details about him. So far I have taken her to Kleve to see his War Grave, I have managed to obtain birth, marriage and death certificates for him and last year I had his medals issued to her which she has never seen before nor knows what happened to them. My Mum has asked for a picture of a Lancaster Bomber, (the plane he flew in) he was a gunner, and my husband suggested that whilst you can get hold of pictures of a Lancaster Bomber anywhere, wouldn't it be nice to get a picture of one with the correct initials on the side that he would have had on his plane. How I can obtain anymore details about where he was stationed, the flight he was on when killed but most importantly where I may be able to get hold of a picture with the correct initials on etc. it would be the missing piece of a rather difficult jigsaw.Lynne Darroch
Ginger Parry .
Thomas Raymond Parry . Royal Marines
My father served in the Royal Marines during the Second World War. He was Thomas Raymond Parry. He travelled on the SS Anselm and told me the story of the lowering of Padre Pugh into the hold. He was also aboard 'The Hood'.Sarah White
WO2 W. A. Parsley . Royal Canadian Air Force 97 Squadron (d.21st Jan 1944 )
My uncle Billy Parsley, was a air gunner with 97 Squadron RAF. He was killed along with the whole crew of their Lancaster JB299 OF-W, on 21st January 1944, all are buried in the Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery.
- F/L F.J.Roberts DFC /li>
- Sgt E.J.Devine href="http://www.wartimememories.co.uk/allied/royalairforce/97sqd-raf.html#Parsley">Read his Story
- F/S G.Young DFM
- Sgt F.Martin
- F/S P.A.Marsh RAAF
- WO2 W.A.Parsley RCAF
I believe the photo is of the air gunners at training. I m not sure when or where it was taken.John Potts
P/O Ernest M. Parsons . Royal Canadian Air Force nav. 419 Sqd. from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada)
(d.16th May 1944)
Fred Parsons . Royal Air Force air gunner. 9 Sqd.Eddie Sullivan
Sgt. Gordon N. Parsons . Royal Air Force 408 (Goose) Squadron from Hastings, East Sussex )
My father flew in Lancaster, Serial No DS731 on Operation Schweinfurt on 24th February and was shot down and taken POW. His number was 2191. Has any one any information or did they know him?Michael Parsons
Flying Officer J A Parsons . RAF VR 59 SquadronLorenzo del Mann
Sgt. J. Parsons . RAF 101 Sqd. (d.3rd Nov 1943)
Sgt J.Parsons died when Lancaster LM635 SR-H was shot down on the 3rd of Nov 1943, flying from Ludford Magna en-route to Dusseldoft was shot down. He is buried in the Rheinberg War cemetery.Adrian
G/C Keith R. G. Parsons DSO. DFC.. Royal Australian Air Force 460 Sqd.
Sub Lt. William Walter Parsons . Fleet Air Arm Observer 827 Albacore Squadron from Tirphil, Tredegar)
Will Parsons was my grandfather, he used to tell me tales of what he did in WWII - It was only when I saw his photo in a book 'From Coastal Command to Captivity' in Oflag XXIB with the author Jim Hunter, that I thought to research a bit more and come across this website. In the book he is in picture 11, 2nd right but he is not in picture 12, even though it has his name listed). So I thought I'd share some of his memories with you;
Will Parsons was shot down in the Kirkenes raid, during torpedo attack on ships anchored in Boksfjord on the 30th July 1941, they got caught up in flak from the ships, flak from the land and shot at by German fighters and eventually hit so badly that they had to ditch in the Fjords. Will told the pilot to make sure he hit the sea tail first, as he knew that if he hit nose first they'd flip over, it worked and they all got out safely.
They were picked up by a Norwegian fishing boat and were nearly shot as spies when the Germans boarded, but the Norwegian captain pointed to their uniforms hanging up to dry and saved their life! My grandfather corresponded with this chap for years after the war.
I'm aware that he ended up in various camps, including Oflag XIB and Stalag Luft III East, he told me that he was one of the PT fellows who got people to jump over the wooden horse, he dug tunnels and also made compasses with the magnet in the base of his razor, which he had won in a swimming competition
One story he told me was how Douglas Bader used to throw snow balls at the German's in the middle of the parade ground, but they couldn't touch him as he was too much of a prized asset, however the German's took reprisals on the other POW's, Bader wasn't a popular figure...
Finally he mentioned about the long forced march from Sagan, through that harsh winter, where he said he'd pushed a wheel barrow for hundreds of miles. He had a ring that he always wore which became bent due to the wheel barrow and kept it ever since, until it was stolen by burglars a few years back.
Will Parsons became a Teacher after the war and died in 2002 aged 83 I would be interested in hearing from anyone who knew Will Parsons from his Squadron or POW camps. I am trying to find out which other camps he was held in.Paul Hewitt
Audrey Parton . Women's Land Army from Castleford, Yorks.)
My mother Audrey Parton and her sister Joyce Parton were in the Land Army.I believe they were both based together around Syerston. Mum often speaks of her great days in the Army, and all her pals.
The lovely dances she would go to, though many unofficial, as she and her sister would shimmy down drain pipes to go out and climb back in through small windows, before the farmer caught them.
Mum speaks of her friends Olive and Betty, sorry don't know their surnames. I'm sure Mum would love to catch up with old pals if you have any contacts, before time runs out.I hope you can help, as Mum is not aware I am trying to locate her pals.What a suprise! Joyce died in the late 1970s. She was the outgoing one and had no fear; often getting mum into trouble! Or so Mum says, ha ha.Linda Colquhoun-Scoffield
Dvr. John Henry Parton . British Army 677 Artisan Works Coy. Royal Engineers from Hadley, Shropshire)
In February 1941, at the age of 20, I received my 'calling up' papers and had to report to the Royal Engineers Training Camp at Gresford, Wales. After three months of training I passed out as a Driver.
From the training I had to report to a Bailey Bridge Company, the 247 Field Park Company in Crawley, Sussex, and soon after the Company moved to Billingshurst. Another move took us to Bournemouth, and here we were billeted in houses commandeered by the Army for their use. I was in Tower House in the Canford Cliffs area. One night at about ll.00 p.m. we heard the sirens and a single bomber dropped a time bomb in the garden. We were told to evacuate the house but before we could do so the bomber came round again, dropped a further bomb which again landed in the garden but nearer to the house destroying a large portion of it. Some of the soldiers sustained cuts and bruises but no one was killed. The next day three of us were told to locate the unexploded bomb to put a cordon around it. We searched for a while to no avail and came to the conclusion it was buried under the house rubble. As we were about to move the rubble the tea wagon arrived and we went to get a drink. As we sat on some grass to drink the tea suddenly there was a tremendous bang from the unexploded bomb – it must have been our lucky day! Had the tea wagon not arrived at that moment we would have been moving the rubble. That night we all dispersed to several different billets used by the other lads until a more suitable place was found for us near Branksome Park.
Whilst in Bournemouth the Banns were posted for my marriage to my fiancée Kathleen and we married in August 1942 in our home village of Hadley in Shropshire. We will celebrate our 72nd Anniversary this coming August 2014.
About a month after the move to Branksome Park another move took place, this time taking us to Shroton. As we were no longer known as a Bridging Company our wagons were left there for use by other companies.
Following this we went to Street, Somerset, where our task was to do maintenance work for other companies until we were shipped abroad. Before we moved from Street, I was downgraded because of an eye defect, and was posted to a holding unit at Halifax before being taken on by the 677 Artisan Works Company Royal Engineers who were stationed at Hull. I was put into H.Q. Platoon and there were four other platoons to make up the Company. I had an interview with Major Witton and one question he asked me was “What did you do in civvy life?” I replied that I was a barber. He asked me if I had any tools at home and if so to send for them. This I did, and from then on I was the Company barber and would be sent out to whichever platoon needed a trim.
From Hull we went to Seaview on the Isle of Wight to be trained for the kind of work that we would be carrying out once we moved abroad. This was construction of petrol installations, ship to shore lines, pipe lines and large tank farms. After our six weeks training here we were sent to Woodhouse Eaves, again for six weeks. Our next move was to Tenby and here the Company’s task was to carry out the same type of installations we practiced on the Isle of Wight. Another move was this time to Saundersfoot, where we slept in bivouacs. Here petrol was brought in by large barges, two of which grounded and cracked causing thousands of gallons of petrol to be lost; some we were able to save.
Our next move was to Tow Law, County Durham. This journey was to take two days as we were to stay at a staging camp in Shropshire for the night before leaving early next morning for the remainder of the journey. We had reached Bridgnorth (about 15 miles from my home) when the convoy was halted and someone came to tell me that the Major wanted to speak to me. He said “You live in Shropshire, do you know where Apley Park is?”, I replied “Yes Sir, it is near to where I live”. I then had to sit in the Staff car and lead the way for the rest of the convoy. On arrival I asked if I could go home for the night and he answered “Yes but be back here for 6.00 a.m. tomorrow morning."
We started on the rest of our journey and arrived at Tow Law in County Durham where the weather was terrible. We were under canvas once again and the water just ran through the tents but fortunately our stay here was a short one. We then moved to Staindrop, where we were to have three weeks physical training but after two days we had orders to go back to Tow Law and thankfully this was only for one week. Our next move was to Grimsby, quite a pleasant place, and from there to Chandlers Ford before going to Scarborough for further training on petrol pipe lines. Here we stayed with civilians in their homes.
Early in June 1944 we moved to Berrys Green near to Sevenoaks to prepare to go abroad and this is where we saw the first flying bombs. Our wagons were taken to the docks in London, and the rest of us moved to a tented park in Southampton awaiting orders. When these came through it was to go to the docks ready to sail for France. We boarded the Empire Spearhead on the 28th June, and dropped anchor a mile from the French coast. We then had to climb down netting thrown over the side of the ship to landing craft which were to land us on the beach near to Arromanches.
From there we walked to an area a short distance away where we stayed the night. We had no cover as our kitbags were left on the beach. Unfortunately there were two terrific thunderstorms that night and we were all drenched. Next morning, a wagon was sent out to search for us. Having located us the driver informed the R.A.S.C. who came to collect us to take us to Escures, where we met up with our own transport. Bivouacs were erected and the Company settled down to our first permanent location in Normandy. Here we could hear the gun fire at Caen which was still held by the Germans, and where fierce fighting was still ongoing. The following morning orders came to report to Port en Bessin to construct petrol installations and pipe lines for petrol that was to be brought into Cherbourg and Port en Bessen. Another pipe line was erected between Port en Bessen and Bayeux. Cherbourg was still in German hands.
Once Cherbourg had fallen we moved from Escures to Juvigny near to Tilly. This move came about because Caen had fallen and the Germans were in full retreat. Recent heavy fighting had taken place here, the smell of death was everywhere, dead cattle were lying in the fields and men had been buried in very shallow graves and the road had been heavily shelled. Our bivouac area was by the side of a church and large chateau; both had been heavily shelled. The weather was very hot and I remember having a parcel from home which, among other items, included insect repellent; we were plagued by flies and wasps which carried disease and we all had a form of dysentery. Our first job was to burn the carcasses of the dead cattle around the camp and unfortunately one of my mates was blown up by a booby trap and seriously injured.
At Juvigny we were to erect more petrol storage tanks and several miles of pipe line as well as felling trees which were in the path of the pipe lines. On completion of this task we moved again further up the line to Aunay, which was a terrible place as all the houses had been shelled and there were no people, only dogs, cats, and cows, and these were all starving. From here we moved further up the line to another village where we slept in the open, it was pouring with rain all night but we were given a rum ration to cheer us up. Our task here was to erect more storage tanks and on completion of this job all platoons were sent to various places, where I had to follow to keep the lads in “trim!”
At Escures we lost two of the lads as their vehicle was involved in an accident with a civilian truck. Moving from Escures further up the line to Rouen we passed abandoned German vehicles and other military equipment.The port of Ostend had now been opened and tankers were able to offload petrol there, so the company moved there to build further storage tanks. Unfortunately, a valve burst on one of the tanks and petrol was lost, some running into a small bunker. About two days later there was a loud explosion followed by a fire. After the fire had been put out, the body of a British sailor was found. We reckoned he had gone into the bunker to have a look around and had probably struck a match causing the explosion.
Work continued on various pipe lines and as it was late December it was bitterly cold. I was outside cutting hair because all the buildings had been booby trapped. A tanker was unloading petrol when I heard someone shout from the deck asking “Could you come on board to cut hair?” I answered “Yes, if I could get permission”. This was granted, so I went aboard and tidied them up before they sailed.
We had our Christmas dinner in Ostend, and in mid-January we moved to a village called Leke and here we were billeted in civilian homes. I was with a family named Del Rue. There was Mr & Mrs Del Rue, two sons and one daughter named Madeleine. They were very kind to us, and in the evenings invited us to sit around their kitchen fires with them. Whilst we were at Leke the whole village was covered with snow. It was here that some of us were to be sent on our first leave since D-Day and to decide who would be lucky enough to get a leave pass, all names were put into a hat and I was told that my name had been drawn out. I was to sail from Calais, but the weather was so bad that the ship was delayed for a day. When I did arrive home my wife presented me with a daughter, born on February 5th, the day I should have arrived had the boat not been delayed.
After my leave we moved to a place near Calais, and here the lads were sent to various sites to do a variety of jobs, one of which was to build a large Parcel Depot for the Army Post Office in the docks. As usual I followed, still cutting hair, and one of my sites was the Calais Lighthouse. We went from Calais to Bourg Leopold where we were erecting POW camps. It was here we received orders to “cease fire” but this did not affect our work.
We moved again to Eindhoven in Holland where the lads carried out some work on civilian properties that had been bombed. The Phillips Radio Factory was also situated in Eindhoven. We next heard that we were to move close to the German border to a place near to Venlo and from here to Bonn before going to our final destination of Mehlem on the River Rhine. Company Headquarters was in a large mansion which had belonged to a Baron and we were billeted in a smaller house in the grounds. The mansion fronted the River Rhine with magnificent views of the Drachenfels on the other side of the river. Someone cut down a large tree and the trunk was used as a flag pole on which the Union Jack was very quickly hoisted for the first time on German territory. It was at Mehlem where the Company split up and I was posted to Bad Oeynhausen to await my demobilisation in July 1946.
On arrival home my wife had secured a rented shop for me and I was able to start my own hairdressing business. In time another shop a few yards away was for sale and so I left the rented shop and bought a double fronted shop, remaining there for 40 years until I retired.
I could not end this article without saying that some ten years ago when my daughter and her husband were on holiday in York, they met a Belgian couple with whom they spent some time. They were telling them about me being stationed with the Del Rue family, and when they returned to their home they went to Leke to take a photo of the house to send to me. They discovered that daughter Madeleine was still living there with her husband and they welcomed them into their home. Unbelievably, they still had a photo of my wife and I that I had given them in 1945. Sadly Madeleine and her husband have passed away, but on the odd occasion and always around Christmas time we still correspond with Madeleine’s daughter Carine. Whilst our daughter and husband were on holiday in Belgium in 2008 they were able to meet up with Carine and talk of my time spent in Leke.I am now in my 94th year and I often wonder if any of the lads from 677 A.W. Company, Royal Engineers are still alive today?John Parton
W/O D. G. Partos DFM.. 97 Squadron
Pte Frank John Partridge VC. Australian Army 8th Battalion from Australia)
Able Sea. Robert "Ginger" Partridge . Royal Navy HMS Penelope from Great Yarmouth)
Robert Partridge is my Dad, he is now 85 and alive and kicking. He was part of the crew who nicknamed her "Pepperpot" with Force K.Amanda Thompson
PO. Robert "Ginger" Partridge . Royal Navy HMS Penelope from Lancaster)
My father will be 90 in April, 2013. He was part of Force K and hopes that The Malta story will one day be told in more detail. A recent documentary leads viewers to believe that the ships in Force K were sunk, still fully loaded. In actual fact my father was one of the crew who blew the bottom out of one of the ammunition ships to save the ammunition from bombing raids. This was successful. Food had also been unloaded in time before the ships were sunk.
My father has many facts and is not (thankfully) suffering from memory loss, in fact you would think he was 60. It's hard to get him to talk of the War but if anyone could, his facts would be crystal clear. Vine was a Captain he admired.Kalki
Sgt. Thomas Partridge . British Army 8th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment
My grandfather, Sgt Thomas Partridge, was at Stalag 8A and 8b. He died when I was 14 and I have very little information about his wartime experiences. I found his POW release and a couple of other documents. I know he was captured nr Dunkirk on 29/5/1940 and was released on 1/5/1945 and I think spent most of the war at Stalag 8b. If any one has any information, photos or documents it would be greatly appreciated.Craig Oakes
Pte. Arthur Sidney "Taffy" Pascoe . British Army 73 G.T.Coy R.A.S.C from Birmingham)
My father left England at the end of 1942 aboard the "Windsor Castle " and served in Algeria, Sicily, Italy and Palestine. He left a journal and diary relating his war time experiences. I am transcribing them and would love to get in touch with any family of the following people mentioned by my Dad: Les Herman, Charles Brewer ( died in Sicily ), John Bragg ( died in Italy), John Vaughan, "Taffy" Evans, "Jock" Read and "Hank" Stockton.
I have photographs and stories they may be interested in. My Dad was the company sign writer and later a vehicle mechanic. His journals tell of the conditions they endured in North Africa in detail, but unfortunately the details of Sicily and Italy are not as good. I would love to complete his work to give to the Grandchildren he never knew. His company was the 73rd Transport which was with the 8th Army and also the American 5th.Dianne Mortimer
Stan Pascoe . Royal Air Force 82 Squadron
I am a survivor of a Blenheim V6445 which crash landed in Northumberland 20th August 1941. My Pilot was F/Lt Dennis Gibbs and our Observer was Laurie Cash. The aircraft was damaged during an attack on shipping and the Observer was seriously wounded bearing the brunt of the nose damage that occurred. Dennis Gibbs and I went on to continue our operational flying until I was admitted into Ely Hospital with suspect lung damage. I was grounded for a number of months, the Squadron moved on to the Far East and Dennis survived to become an Administrator of Montserrat. He died from a brain haemorrhage in 1985. I am now 91 and reasonably fit. I would like to hear from anyone who may remember us from those days at RAF Bodney.Stan Pascoe
F/Sgt Stan Pascoe . Royal Air Force 82 Squadron
This is a photo of Pilot Officer Dennis Gibbs and myself, F/Sgt Stan Pascoe after we returned to Bodney airfield after the raid on power stations near Cologne in 1941. Losses were 12 aircraft out of 56. Our Observer, Laurie Cash died of wounds when we crash landed near Acklington, Northumberland. Dennis eventually became Administrator of the Island of Montserrat and passed away suffering a brain haemorrhage.
I live in Australia just South of Brisbane in Queensland, and have just passed my 91st birthday. If anyone seeing this maybe remembers us, I would love to hear from them. A picture at the time may help my fading memory.Stan Pascoe
Fay Passman . Women's Land Army from Manchester)
My Mother, who has sadly now passed away, worked during the War as a Land Army girl at Mentmore Towers in Leighton Buzzard. Owned I think at that time by Lord Rosebury. I do not have any further info but would like to hear from any one who knew her. Her name was Fay Passman. She came originally from North Manchester.Avril Levinson
Alfred Joseph William "Micky" Pate . Royal Air Force 50 Squadron from Exeter, Devon)
My Father served with 50 Squadron somewhere between 1940 and 1945. I remember when I was young he used to tell me about the crew of his Lancaster (Q Queenie), which was piloted by an officer from Canada or New Zealand, going out to the aircraft for missions piled on a convertible sports car, which had so many crew on it that whoever was seated on the front would shout directions and use their arms to direct the driver to the aircraft. I would love to hear from anyone who can tell me more about my father's time on the Lancasters as he died very suddenly at age 59 (in 1980). His birthday was 26th October 1941 and I am not sure if he had his nickname in the RAF or after it. He was a very good footballer and cricketer and I believe he played for the RAF or station team in football, which he carried on playing after his RAF discharge.
Unfortunately none of his information from his RAF days has survived him. I have recorded his rank above as A/E as I remeber seeing this on a book of some description he had from his RAF days when I was very young, and the job Aeronautical Engineer is also very familiar to me. (I followed my father's footsteps into the RAF, serving from 1970 - 1974 as an Assistant Air Traffic Controller at Northolt and Bruggen. They proved to be 4 of the happiest years of my life.)
I have a photo which I will scan and forward later, of my father in uniform. Head and shoulders only. Many thanksSusan Bricknell-Sproston
WO Alfred Pate . Royal Air Force 50 Squadron from Exeter)
My father Alfred Pate flew wth 50 Squadron, at the latter end of WW2. I would love to know who his crew was and where they flew from. I have vague memories of him mentioning being on the Ark Royal at one stage. I have found very little in the archives and I wonder whether because of the vast numbers involved in the bombing raids, and the turnover of crews and planes, there are records missing. I would be grateful for any information at all on my dad's time as I know that for all they were scary, he loved his time in the service.Susan Bricknell-Sproston
Doris Paterson . Land Army
When the war broke out I was 18, and a year later I joined the Land Army in 1940. I loved the open air, and so decided to go into the Women's Land Army rather than the forces or factory work. I was based at Buckhold, which had a huge garden and we supplied St Andrew's School with food. We grew mainly fruit and vegetables, but we were allowed to keep a couple of pigs as well, which were fed the remains of the meals from the school.
I didn't have any particular job, we did everything from sawing down trees, to picking brussel sprouts that had ice on them in the winter! One of the hardest jobs was helping the farmers when they harvested the corn. We would be out 'threshing' the corn, and we get covered in dust and the roughage. We were constantly hungary because we were always on rations, and we couldn't get a decent bath either. I worked with one other girl, called Kathleen and we became very good friends (I recently tracked her down after 53 years!) I also worked with a gardener called Mr Brooker and a couple of other lads.
Buckhold was surround by American forces in Pangbourne, Caversham, Aldermast and Greenham Common. Whenever I went to a dance there were always lots of American soliders! The American Red Cross wanted volunteers to help with the breakfasts for the troops in the early morning. Kathleen and I both volunteered as it meant that we got free passes to the dances! We must have been mad, because after being up late the night before, we would have to get up early to help clear tables at the old St. Lawrences Hall in Reading! But we were young and had no ties and we were very lucky really, as all the gentlemen were very nice.
I worked at Buckhold for about three years, and although there were times when I felt that the rationing was harsh, I couldn't even afford a dress for the dances, because I didn't have enough coupons left after buying pyjamas! It was time of great freedom and it was wonderful to be able to walk freely and accept lifts from people because there was a great deal of goodwill and trust as we were all in the same boat.Doris Paterson
Mary "Pat" Paterson . WAAF
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