Williams, Walter Edward (Oral history)

Catalogue number
  • 9754
Production date
Subject period
  • whole: Duration 150, Number Of Items 5
Alternative names
  • object name: Oral history
  • object category: IWM interview


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Object description

British NCO served as driver with 14th Motor Ambulance Convoy, Army Service Corp on Western Front, 1915-1916; served with 905 Motor Transport Coy, Army Service Corps in Egypt and Palestine, 1916-1919. Survivor of sinking of SS Transylvania in Mediterranean, 4/5/1917

Content description

REEL 1: Background in Weston-Super-Mare, 1895-1914: family; story of learning to drive; memory of outbreak of war and question of patriotic atmosphere; story of responding to advertisement for Army Service Corps drivers and enlistment with 14th Motor Ambulance Company, Army Service Corps. Recollections of period as driver with 14th Motor Ambulance Company, Army Service Corps in GB and on Western Front, 1915: organisation of Coy and personnel; question of training and uniform; posted to Grove Park and opinion of accommodation; use of Red Cross markings on ambulances and number of patients carried; question of medical training; description of journey to France and arrival at Bailleux, 29/Sep/1915; role in taking casualties from Casualty Clearing Stations to hospitals and description of various stages of medical care; problem of lice; attitude to conditions experienced by infantry; problem of poor road conditions; question of parking ambulances in front of church; memory of French peasant women going to church; religious beliefs; returned to GB on health grounds, 1916. Aspects of period with Army Service Corps in GB, 1916-1917: description of duties at Army Service Corps depot, Catford, period as bandsman, Sydenham, and general duties, Bulford; promoted sergeant and posted to 905 Motor Transport Coy, 3/1917; organisation of Coy and personnel; opinion of Peerless vehicles; mobilized for Egypt Expeditionary Force, 5/1917; role in charge of lorries. REEL 2 Continues: Recollections of sinking of SS Transylvania in Mediterranean, 4/May/1917: description of journey to Marseilles and embarkation aboard SS Transylvania, 5/1917; description of ship and accommodation; question of lifesaving drill; memory of first torpedo striking ship and question of saving nurses first; problem of launching lifeboats; role of escorting Japanese destroyers in rescue; memory of second torpedo striking ship and jumping aboard Japanese destroyer; memory of approaching Italian coastline; question of confusion and behaviour of crew and captain; casualties and loss of property; description of jumping aboard Japanese destroyer and opinion of Japanese crew; memory of SS Transylvania sinking; question of accuracy of casualty figures; memory of arrival at Savona, Italy and help from Italian civilians; returned to camp in Carcasonne, France for refitting; memory of remembrance and thanksgiving service in camp; embarked aboard SS Menominee, 5/1917 and sings song about ship; description of conditions aboard ship and memory of Indian troops and Chinese Labour Corps; problem of rats; opinion of food; question of lifesaving drill. REEL 3 Continues: Recollections of operations with 905 Motor Transport Coy, Army Service Corps in Egypt and Palestine, 1917-1918: description of arrival in Alexandria, Egypt, 6/1917; description of Alexandria and daily duties in docks; opinion of Egyptian Labour Corps; posted to Beersheba, Palestine and role supplying ammunition and other supplies to 20th Army Corps, 74th and 52nd Divs; problem of lorries driving over sand and use of wire road; opinion of Ford vehicles; question of destruction of wells and opinion of Turks; role in supplying advancing troops; opinion of General Allenby and strategy; question of obtaining water supplies; memory of Allenby entering Jerusalem; description of Jerusalem and importance; story of 905 Coy taking supplies to Jericho and Allenby's deception plan against Turks; attached to 5th Australian Cavalry and operations around Haifa, Nazareth and Damascus; story of running out of petrol; description of living conditions in Damascus; comparison of driving in wet and dry seasons; memory of Christmas, 1917; question of petrol supplies and story of fire caused by leaking petrol cans. REEL 4 Continues: description of debris left by retreating Turks and conditions in Damascus; memory of conversation with Turkish POW; reaction of civilians in Damascus to British troops; posted to Beirut and problem of driving on mountain roads; memory of celebrating Armistice, 11/Nov/1918; demobilized in GB, 2/May/1919; further description of organisation and personnel in Army Service Corps and Egypt Expeditionary Force; role of Camel Corps and problem of camels in wet weather; memory of villagers eating dead camels; description of horse and motor transport; question of effectiveness of motor transport and type of vehicles; memory of T E Lawrence in Arab dress in Rolls Royce and on camel; memory of tank in Alexandria; description of tyres and problem of breakdowns and repair of vehicles; daily routine and duties in Palestine; state of health and problem of malaria and dysentery; comparison of conditions on Western Front and in Palestine; memory of visiting holy sites in Jerusalem. REEL 5 Continues: further comments on supply chain during advance in Palestine; opinion of Australian troops; memory of Desert Mounted Force; opinion of Arabs and Jews; question of relations between officers and other ranks in Army Service Corps; attitude to morality; opinion of rations; memory of eating Jaffa oranges; story of leave in Cairo; communications with home. Aspects of post-war life and employment: reflections on period of military service and influence on later career with Salvation Army; attitude to pacifism and religious beliefs; description of role of Salvation Army during First and Second World Wars.

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