British NCO served with 2nd Bn, Durham Light Infantry in GB, 1938-1939; served with 8th Bn, Durham Light Infantry in GB, France, Egypt, and Cyprus, 1939-1941; served with VIP Mess, Headquarters, Eighth Army in North Africa and Sicily, 1941-1943; served with 8th Bn, Durham Light Infantry in Sicily, GB and North West Europe, 1943-1946.
REEL 1 Recollections of background in Bridlington, Hull and Withernsea, GB, 1920-1937: education; work; recreations. Recruitment to Special Reserve at Hull Recruiting Office, 12/1937: reasons; procedure; circumstances of posting to Durham Light Infantry despite desire to join Tank Corps; family reaction. Recollections of conditions of service, lifestyle, daily routine and training with Salamanca Squad, Durham Light Infantry Depot, Fenham Barracks, Newcastle, 12/1937-2/1938: reception; barrack accommodation; food; basic drill and question of Light Infantry pace. REEL 2 Continues: rifle and weapons training; educational training; adequacy of training; unofficial kit inspections and relationship with Corporal Allbright; recreations limited by pay; relationship with recruits and NCOs; story of rejection by Tank Corps on grounds of height. REEL 3 Continues: reactions to rejection from Tank Corps and decision to sign on as regular with Durham Light Infantry, 10/2/1938. Recollections of period with D Coy, 2nd Bn, Durham Light Infantry at Inkerman Barracks, Woking, 5/1938-3/1939: relationship with time-served soldiers; standards of bugling; training; opinion of Bren gun; fatigues; fighting moor fires; guard duty; failure of application to join motor transport section; training exercises; cancellation of draft to China on promotion to lance corporal; duties in charge of reading room; physical training course; role as section leader; story illustrating Captain Richard Annand's inexperience; story of dispute with colour sergeant against background of pay deductions. REEL 4 Continues: story of dispute with colour sergeant against background of pay deductions and payment of backlog after officer's intervention; opinion of officers including Colonel Appleby; opinion of Catholic and Church of England padres; dislike of church parade; sporting activities; story of accident during guard duty. Posting as instructor to militia intakes at Durham Light Infantry Depot, Fenham Barracks, 3/1939-9/1939: reception; relationship with recruits and relaxed state of discipline; call up of reserves and demonstrations of new weapons, 8/1939; relationship with NCO reservists; story of dispute over warning shot after RAF officer ignored challenge whilst on guard duty at Acklington Airfield, 9/1939. REEL 5 Continues: story of dispute over warning shot after RAF officer ignored challenge whilst on guard duty at Acklington Airfield, 9/1939. Aspects of period as instructor to depot infantry training company at Durham Light Infantry Depot, Brancepeth Castle, Spennymoor and Usher Moor, 9/1939-2/1940: relationship with civilians: dispute over use of sergeants' mess whilst corporal: story of leave, simultaneous posting to Holding Bn, Durham Light Infantry at Hartlepool; immediate posting to take draft to France, 2/1940. Background to period with C Coy, 8th Bn, Durhm Light Infantry at Oissy, France, 2/1940-4/1940: position as regular in territorial unit: opinion of military efficiency; later integration into battalion. REEL 6 Continues: motor transport training. Period at Herrin in Gondecourt sector, 4/1940-51/1940: relationship with French civilians; anti tank ditches; inter-battalion football matches; recreations; buried band instruments. Move to Grammont, ca 16/5/1940-18/5/1940: First World War veterans' friendship with French estaminet owners; rumours of paratroopers and fifth columnists; view of retreating remnants of 2nd Bn, Durham Light Infantry. Move to Vimy sector, 18/5/1940-20/5/1940: rumours of paratroopers; care of feet; air attacks. Recollections of operations in Vimy sector, Arras area, 21/5/1940-23/5/1940: initial reserve role of C Company; opinion of effectiveness of steel helmet; action at Duisans cemetery and story of shooting wounded German soldiers following incident in which British soldier was shot in back; confused nature of situation. REEL 7 Continues: question of treatment of German POWs; being surrounded at Warlus; retreat to Vimy Ridge. Retreat to Dunkirk, 23/5/1940-31/5/1940: rations situation; refugees; case of shell shock; independent retreat following overrun of Dickesbusch position; fatigue. Evacuation on trawler from Dunkirk mole to Ramsgate: 31/5/1940: role of Royal Marines in preventing panic; reception and move to Cirencester. Aspects of operations in France, 5/1940: senior command; tactics employed; inadequacy of British anti-tank weapons and tanks; role of RAF and Royal Navy. REEL 8 Continues: performance of officers and NCOs; effect of fatigue. Reception at Cirencester and Knutsford, 6/1940. Recollections of special leave, 6/1940: reaction to reduction in length of leave and decision to take extra day; reaction to Italian declaration of war and attack on Italian ice cream parlour in Stanley; rejoining unit and ruse to avoid punishment. Rebuilding of battalion during period at Rugeley, 6/1940. Recollections of period on coastal defence duties in Weymouth and Lyme Regis areas, 6/1940-5/1941: beach defences; promotion to sergeant; relationship with civilians and contrast with pre-war situation at Woking. REEL 9 Continues: question of lack of automatic weapons; invasion alarm; losing chance of promotion to platoon sergeant major on abolition of rank; changing attitude to officers; conditions during Exmoor training exercises; overcoming classification as unfit for overseas service. Voyage aboard Duchess of Richmond to Port Tewfiq, Egypt, 22/5/1941-9/7/1941: cleaning detail necessitated by seasickness; South African sugar planters' inducements to desert during stop at Durban; ditching of HMS Exeter's Walrus during aircraft attack exercise. Dysentery problem during period at El Qassaasin camp, 7/1941. Recollections of period at Cyprus, 7/1941-12/1941: preparing defensive positions at Nicosia airfield; story of training exercise. REEL 10 Continues: story of training exercise and dispute over lack of warning; circumstances of accident during grenade practice and wounds received; medical treatment at Nicosia civilian general hospital, 10/1941-12/1941; relationship with Cypriot civilians. REEL 11 Continues: relationship with Cypriot civilians. Move to Haifa convalescent camp, 12/1941. Recollections of period in Palestine, Iraq and Egypt, 1942: problems faced during journey in charge of military convoy to Baghdad; meeting 8th Bn, Durham Light Infantry; train crash as result of sabotage during journey to Genefa; medical grading as B7; period in Durham Light Infantry base camp at Genefa; court of inquiry into grenade incident held at Gazala; operation at Heliopolis Hospital, Cairo; German POWs and their attitude to Italians; continuation of medical grade B7. Posting to run officers' mess at Maidi Camp, Cairo, ca 1941: duties; relationship with Egyptian staff; desire to return to 8th Bn, Durham Light Infantry. REEL 12 Continues: Transfer to running sergeants' mess at Maidi Camp, ca 1941. Posting to quartermaster's group at General Headquarters, Cairo, ca 1942: refusal to participate in stealing stores to sell to Egyptian civilians; office duties. Recollections of period in charge of VIP officers' mess attached to Headquarters, Eighth Army in North Africa and Sicily, 10/1942-9/1943: contacts with Alexander, Montgomery and de Guingand; dispute with officer; meeting 8th Bn, Durham Light Infantry; failure of application for medical regrading and threat of court martial for wasting time; relationship between de Guingand and Montgomery; security; accommodation and food rations; story of mistaking Long Range Desert Patrol Group soldier for Arab; move to Sicily, 7/1943; dispute with officer. REEL 13 Continues: decision to leave VIP officers' mess following dispute with officer; story of driving injured soldier to hospital in Catania. Period in Catania transit camp, ca 8/1943: meeting 8th Bn, Durham Light Infantry: dispute with camp authorities over possible posting; ruse to secure medical regrading to A1 from medical officer; consequent success in securing posting to B Coy, 8th Bn, Durham Light Infantry. Period with B Coy, 8th Bn, Durham Light Infantry in Sicily, 8/1943-10/1943: medical officer's reaction to medical grade as A1 and state of wounds; question of changes in unit and state of morale; reactions to Montgomery's speech, 30/8/1943. Voyage on Sibajak to Gourock, Glasgow, 10/1943-11/1943: food; customs search on arrival; reception from civilians during train journey to Haverhill. Period at Haverhill and Southwold,, 11/1943-4/1944: training and effect on wounds; story of losing prospect of promotion through being late back from leave: visit from Montgomery, 15/2/1944. REEL 14 Continues: reaction to Montgomery's speech announcing role in invasion plans; troops' opinion of Montgomery; state of morale; introduction of new weapons and opinion of Sten gun and PIAT; invasion training and state of morale. Period at Toothill Camp, Romsey area, 4/1944-5/1944: invasion training exercise; off duty fights with US soldiers and inflammatory effect of Eisenhower's speech, 13/5/1944; sealing of camp; briefing on invasion. Embarkation in Landing Craft Infantry at Southampton, 3/6/1944: reactions to presence of Churchill and George V; state of morale; delay in sailing, 3/6/1944-5/6/1944. Recollections of Channel crossing and initial operations on landing with A Coy, 8th Bn, Durham Light Infantry at Gold Beach, Normandy, France, 6/6/1944: role of 1st Brigade; bicycles carried and wearing gas trousers; situation on beach; move inland; patrol to investigate abandoned German headquarters. REEL 15 Continues: patrol to investigate abandoned German Headquarters; rescue of captured brigade staff officers; advance carried by tanks to St Pierre; story of attack, taking up defensive positions and German counter attack at St Pierre, ca 9/6/1944-12/6/1944; rest period; A Company's reserve role during attack on Tilly-sur-Seulles. Recollections of conditions of service and lifestyle during period in Tilly-sur-Seulles and Villers Bocage sectors, 6/1944-7/1944: standing patrol and dispute with officer; story of officer's incompetence which lead to his patrol opening fire in error on Self's patrol, resulting casualty, Self's reaction and removal of officer concerned; terrain; nature of defensive positions; daily routine; food rations; latrines. REEL 16 Continues: water supply; story of dispute with officer over question of polishing equipment prior to attack; story illustrating officer's inexperience; story of officer drinking poisoned wine from looted chateau; opinion of Major Beattie and Major Ian English; opinion of German troops; state of morale. Recollections of advance to Belgium, 8/1944-9/1944: scene at Falaise; lorry mechanisation of battalion; reception from French civilians; patrolling from billets near Brussels; cancellation of leave. Recollections of operations during crossing of Albert Canal and attack on Gheel, 8/9/1944-12/9/1944: situation; crossing canal in canvas boats whilst under machine gun fire; actions on taking command of A Company in absence of officers; arrival of reinforcements; opinion that officer may have accidentally opened fire and caused casualties amongst British troops; treatment of minor facial wound. REEL 17 Continues: reporting to Battalion Headquarters and dispute with Colonel Oldman over his absence from front line; return to front line and handing command of A Company to Captain Ridealgh; advance to outskirts of Gheel; German counter attack with Tiger tanks and retreat on Ridealgh's orders; taking over as A Company commander and attachment to D Company as extra platoon; German night capture of standing patrol; assisting in evacuation of wounded Company Sergeant Major William Brown; advance into Gheel; question of absence of Oldman. Rest period at Pael, 9/1944: dispute with Oldman over initial retreat from Gheel; temporary disbanding of A Company; emphasis placed on value of experienced NCOs on introduction of new A Company officer. Reserve role during advance to Nijmegen, 9/1944. Recollections of attack on Elst, 10/1944: situation; refusal to advance until officer took action to stop British artillery barrage shells dropping short; shooting of German soldier who had assaulted Dutch civilians; stories illustrating inexperience of officers and necessity of guidance from senior NCOs; reconnaissance patrol. REEL 18 Period at Elst and rest period at Nijmegen, ca 10/1944-11/1944. Reactions to disbandment of 50th Division whilst in Ypres area and orders for return to GB, 12/1944. Aspects of operations in North West Europe, 1944: performance of officers including Oldman; question of deserters and shell shock cases; personal morale; news of award of DCM and story of receiving it from Montgomery at Ypres, 12/1944; comparison of British and German weapons including tanks, German 88mm gun and automatic weapons; personal weapons; hand grenades; German 'S' mines and booby traps; concentration required on active service. REEL 19 Continues: question of looting; booby traps; story of soldier killed by 'S' mine and subsequent controversy over him being under-aged; padres; medical officers; effect of Self's earlier wounds; quartermaster sergeants; regimental and military police; RAF support; battalion characters including Johnny Franklin, Sergeant Cutty, Provost Sergeant Burnhope and Sergeant Wallbank; separation from other companies on active service. Recollections of period acting as training battalion at Keighley, 12/1944-10/1945: adaptation to training role; story of investiture as DCM at Buckingham Palace, London, 5/1945. REEL 20 Continues: relationship with civilians and question of reactions to Self's DCM; VE Day celebrations, 8/5/1945; VJ Day celebrations, 8/1945; decline in training role. Recollections of period in Uniacke Barracks, Harrogate, 10/1945: civilian reaction to Montgomery's choice of Durham Light Infantry to provide guard of honour during his visit and Montgomery's speech on being granted freedom of Huddersfield; disbandment of battalion and role returning stores to Depot, 1/1946; background to securing medical grade A1 to avoid receiving any disability pension with consequent difficulty in securing adequate employment on demobilisation, 5/1946. Post war career: training as plasterer; dispute with employer over his attitude to DCM; problems securing employment; training as miner at Bear Park Colliery; confusion between National Health Service and War Office following aggravation of old wound injuries by accident at work; medical examination, award of disability pension and consequent restriction of work at colliery; further medical inspection and reduction in pension; dispute over deductions from payments. REEL 21 Continues: dispute over deductions from payments; work as conveyer maintenance man at Bear Park Colliery; handicap of disability pension in securing work; value of disability pension, 1988; background to securing residence and improvements in living conditions at 1, DLI Cottage, Durham via Durham Light Infantry Regimental Association, 1968-1988.