Gent, Gordon (Oral history)

Catalogue number
  • 18255
Department
Sound
Production date
1999
Subject period
Dimensions
  • whole: Duration 420, Number Of Items 14
Alternative names
  • object name: Oral history
  • object category: IWM interview
Creator
Category
sound

© IWM

Purchase & License
Object description

British driver served with 16th Bn, Durham Light Infantry in GB, North Africa and Italy, 1940-1943 Austria, 1943-1945

Content description

REEL 1 Recollections of background in Aldborough St John, GB, 1910-1940: family circumstances; education; brothers service in First World War; sporting activities; education; work as butcher, 1916-1940; church attendance and singing in choir; marriage, 1934; outbreak of war, 3/9/1939; question of seeking reserved occupation status. REEL 2 Continues: reactions to outbreak of war, 3/9/1939; call up and case of illiterate conscript, 6/1940. Journey to Edinburgh, 6/1940. Recollections of conditions of service, lifestyle and daily routine during training with B Coy, 16th Bn Durham Light Infantry at Norton Hall Park Camp, Edinburgh, Dunfermline and Dalkeith, GB, 6/1940-1/1941: train journey; reception and first impression; kitting out; hair cut; reactions to swearing; opinion of NCOs including Company Sergeant Major Gates; relationship with recruits; question of effects of army regime of 'bullshit' and discipline; food rations; arrival of unit transport; route marches. REEL 3 Continues: story of selection as driver; move to Dunfermline, 8/1940; weapons training; gas masks; latrines; move to Dalkeith, 10/1940; relationship with civilians; disciplinary offenders; story of finding accommodation for visit by wife and baby; stories illustrating relationship with civilians. Recollections of periods at Thetford and North Walsham, 1/1941-12/1941: story of journey down with advance party; hospitalisation with attack of mumps. REEL 4 Continues: role as driver collecting stores on posting to Motor Transport Section attached to A Company and issue of 15 cwt Chevrolet lorries; organisation of unit transport; camouflaged trucks and question of drivers polishing trucks; routine maintenance; role of fitters; speed limit; billets at Shadwell Court, Thetford; opinion of various officers and NCOs; question of promotion; question of senior NCOs attitude to drivers; role carrying equipment as drivers and cooking arrangements during exercises; story of mistaking Captain Brown for soldier on exercise; use of transport rather than marching on active service; driver's mate. REEL 5 Continues: relationship with civilians; role driving soldiers by truck into Thetford; detachment to South Staffordshire Regiment during unit move to Yarmouth, 7/1941; German air raids; stories of problems with officers and other ranks of South Staffordshire Regiment; story of complaint over food rations; tent accommodation and effects of bad weather on rejoining unit at North Walsham, 8/1941. Period at Folkestone, Rye and Camberley, GB, 12/1941-3/1942: accommodation at Shorncliffe Barracks; detachment acting as guard company for Headquarters, South Eastern Command at Reigate; problems with drunken female personnel; question of VD; Christmas celebrations, 25/12/1941; Salvation Army canteens; coastal defence duties at Sandgate; drivers' role operating searchlight; story of NCOs caught asleep on guard. REEL 6 Continues: story of NCOs caught asleep on guard; bar on civilians on beach; move to Rye, 3/1942: relationship with civilians; patrols; German air raids; canteen; coastal patrols; mortar training and near accident with Canadian troops; assisting with hop picking; relationship with riflemen; story of pub fight between two soldiers and Canadian troops; story of lorry accident during exercise; convoy discipline; story of setting up road traffic directing signals during exercise. REEL 7 Continues: move to Camberley, 11/1942; signs of overseas service including suddenly defunct telephone boxes, issue of unditching sand mats and leave situation; journey in convoy to Liverpool and problems with wet blankets in tented camp at Birkenhead, 12/1942; personal morale; move into wired camp at Liverpool; cases of desertions and self inflicted wound; description of code used in letters to wife to beat censorship. Recollections of voyage aboard Staffordshire to Algiers, Algeria, 25/12/1942-1/1/1943: kit carried on embarkation; conditions on messdeck; seasickness. REEL 8 Continues: other units abroad; seasickness; eating arrangements; route; first impressions of Algiers; disembarkation. Recollections of conditions of service during initial period in Maison Caree sector, Algeria, 1/1943: march; farm billet; emergency rations; drinking wine; oranges; latrines; lectures; march back to pick up transport; conditions during journey driving in convoy through Atlas Mountains, including adaptation to lorries to recycle radiator water, story of driver's mate buying from Arab civilians and problems with Bren carrier brakes. REEL 9 Period in Sedjenane sector, Algeria, 1/1943-3/1943: laager in woods and problems with mud; situation; nightly convoy from B Echelon to A Company positions in Green Hill sector; composition food rations; cooking arrangements; night driving conditions; German air superiority and attacks on B Echelon positions in wood; story of ditched lorries; withdrawal of unit to Sedjenane sector; absence of Colonel Ware and senior officers during initial German attack, 1/3/1943; priming hand grenades in preparation for counter-attack; view of counter-attack at dawn, 1/3/1943; subsequent retreat and state of unit; removal of Colonel Ware and story of subsequent meeting as brigadier; opinion of Colonel Johnny Preston. Period detached as driver with 1st Bn, Paratroops Regiment, 3/1943: role; attitude of German POWs; amusing story of Polish interpreter; use of hand grenades by paratroopers; situation of headquarters; German shellfire whilst evacuating headquarters. REEL 10 Continues: infantry tactics of paratroopers; rejoining unit; story of paratroopers shooting Arabs suspected of passing on intelligence to Germans. Advance on Tunis, Tunisia, 4/1943-5/1943: story of getting lost driving through artillery positions during preliminary bombardment; Welsh draft; story of tanks coming up; question of air support; opinion of US forces. Recollections of period in Tunisia and Algeria, 5/1943-9/1945: German POWs; rest period at Hamman Lif; driving troops into Tunis and necessity of staying with lorries to prevent Arab stealing; reaction of troops long wait lining roads for Churchill and Eden; move to Blida, 6/1943; cases of soldiers drunk on wine; training; story of local leave with Sergeant Major Tug Wilson; move to camp at Bizerta, 8/1943; German air raids; dangerous petrol dumps. REEL 11 Continues: ENSA concerts; German air raids; practice in embarking lorries on to Landing Ship Tanks; water proofing lorries; awareness of invasion of Italy; subsequent reports from Italian civilians of German awareness of invasion plans; loading of LST. Voyage to Salerno, Italy, 9/1943: officers' sand tables; Italian surrender; story of being trapped below decks during German air raid in Bizerta harbour; volunteering for galley duties; opinion of US food rations; view of invasion fleet; German shellfire; landing, 10/9/1943. Initial period in Salerno area, Italy, 10/1943-12/1943: confused situation; reception from Italian civilians; joining A Company in foothills; cutting officers' hair; view of British troop movements; move to Hospital Hill sector. Recollections of period on Hospital Hill, Italy, 11/9/1943-19/9/1943: terraces. REEL 12 Continues: lorry park below hill; NCO's loss of nerve; situation; ammunition carried on lorry; visiting Salerno supply dump; reaction to NCO going sick with loss of nerve; distribution of cigarettes from wounded officers; loss of contact with A Company; explosion of lorry after direct hit by German shell at battalion headquarters; personal morale; question of religious beliefs; effects of explosion of lorry at battalion headquarters; collection of replacement truck from B Echelon. REEL 13 Continues: movement of battalion headquarters and collection of replacement truck from B Echelon; German shellfire on reinforcement troops arriving in Salerno; replacement A Company truck; story of close escape from German shelling of wagon line in Salerno. Aspects of period in Italy, 9/1943-10/1943: story of road congestion caused by 7th Armoured Div and delays whilst carrying emergency bread ration up to unit through Vietri defile; move through Naples to River Volturno area; attack of jaundice and evacuation. Period in hospital and at Philippeville, Tunisia, 10/1943-11/1943: fat free diet; unnecessary armed guard on severely wounded German POW patients; women Auxiliary Territorial Service survivors from sunk ship; story illustrating weakened state of health. REEL 14 Continues: reaction to first normal meal. Various aspects of postings in North Africa and Italy, 1943-1945: poor conditions of service in convalescent camps; failure of attempt to rejoin unit; various postings; period as guard with German POW Camp in Philippeville sector; relationship with Glaswegian guards and German POWs; story of allowing German POWs out to steal apples; guarding Italian civilian fascist prisoners; various postings; period as driver with North African Headquarters in Algiers area; various postings in Italy; GB leave. Reception on return to GB and demobilisation, 4/1946. Opinion of various officers, NCOs and ORs. Intended suspension of 16th Bn Durham Light Infantry Regimental Association, 9/1999.

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