Swinton, Albert (Oral history)

Catalogue number
  • 15104
Production date
Subject period
  • whole: Duration 570, Number Of Items 19
Alternative names
  • object name: Oral history
  • object category: IWM interview

Object description

British NCO served with 426 Bty, 107th Regt, Royal Artillery in GB, Palestine and North Africa, 1939-1942; served with 107 Bty, 7th Medium Regt, RA in North Africa, Sicily and GB, 1942-1944; served with 425 Bty, 426 Bty and Headquarters, 107th Medium Regt, RA in GB and North West Europe, 1944-1946

Content description

REEL 1 Background in Nottingham, 1920-1939: education; work as machinists at Players Cigarette Factory; friendship with Clifford Smedley; attempt to join RAF. Recruitment and training with 150th Field Regt, Royal Artillery at Derby Road Drill Hall, Nottingham, ca 5/1939-9/1939: reasons; declaration; medical; 18pdr gun drill; weekend practise in dropping into action; attending Bridlington Camp, 8/1939. Mobilisation and posting to D Troop, 426 Bty, 107th Regt, , RA, 9/1939: initial garage billets; story of helping civilian with air raid precautions; reception on posting; opinion of various officers and NCOs including Captain Charles Laborde and Troop Sergeant Major Charles Beardall; work and pay as batman to Lieutenant Shoesmith; send off on leaving Nottingham. REEL 2 Periods at Knapton Hall and Panton Hall, 9/1939-1/1940: billets; supplementing food rations from officers' mess; posting as storeman to 426 Bty Headquarters; opinion of Battery Quartermaster Sergeant Court; stories of ghosts at Panton Hall; effects of inoculations; relationship with civilians; stencilling regimental identifications onto stores boxes; embarkation leave and reactions to overseas posting. Journey to Palestine, 1/1940: train journey across France; posting on anti-submarine gun aboard HMT Devonshire; false announcement in German propaganda broadcast by William Joyce of sinking of Devonshire; deaths of horses; isolation due to meningitis outbreak. Recollections of periods at Sarafand, Gedera and Hadera Camps in Palestine, 1/1940-6/1940: uniforms; work moving stores; question of Arab civilians stealing; relationship with Arab and Jewish civilians; stealing oranges; learning to drive and old fashioned trucks used on exercise; opinion of Captain Colin Barber and Major William Barber; sea swimming; background to promotion to lance bombardier. REEL 3 Continues: background to promotion to lance bombardier; pre-war interest in boxing; account of boxing competition at Hadera Camp, Easter Monday, 1940 including role of Gunner Albert Ellis and Lieutenant H Clark, impetigo attack and winning light heavyweight bout; reports of stampede of horses over cliffs; news of reactions to news of German successes in North West Europe, 5/1940; re-equipment; search for missing Boyes anti-tank round, 1/1940. Train journey to Mersa Matruh, Egypt, 6/1940: money stolen by Egyptian egg seller; high level Italian air raid on arrival and opinion of NCO who was evacuated with loss of morale. Recollections of conditions of service and lifestyle during period at Mersa Matruh, 6/1940-1/1941: layout of 426 Battery Headquarters and stores by Lido Hotel; stores dugout; digging in vehicles; duties as rations clerk. REEL 4 Continues: composition, division and distribution of food rations; story of being wrongly arrested for shooting rifle at harbour buoy; Italian high level bombing including story of close escapes and state of morale; state of health; uniform and pith helmets; effects of sun; canteen truck; beginning smoking after close escape from bomb; sea swimming and effect of bomb in water; singing during impromptu concert parties; relationship with NCOs and officers including Battery Quartermaster Sergeant Orange; leave in Cairo. REEL 5 Period in Suez Canal area, 1/1941-4/1941: method of mine spotting from canal bank and story of explosion of mine; issuing rations; leave in Port Tewfik; landing training based at Kabrit. Drive to Tobruk, Libya, 4/1941: prior emergency re-equipment to establishment standard; retreating troops; accident. Recollections of conditions of service, lifestyle and daily routine in Tobruk, 4/1941-12/1941: initial positions near El Adem road; appointment as Battery Captain Colin Barber's observation post specialist assistant; layout of battery and neighbouring artillery units; sandstorms; stealing ammunition from dump; role at Hucknall OP during initial German attacks, ca 11/4/1941-13/4/1941, tactic of isolating German tanks from infantry, emergency evacuation of OP due to approach of German tanks; duties as OP assistant including construction of 60ft scaffolding OP poles, fear of heights, nature of targets. REEL 6 Continues: duties as OP assistant including shortage of ammunition, fire orders to gun positions, registration of targets and method of ranging, heat haze, supporting infantry night raids, inaccuracy of German shell fire on OP poles, Stuka dive bombing raids and food rations; failure as layer at Mersa Matruh, 1940; posting to Sergeant William Barker's No1 Gun team, D Troop; opinion of Barker; 25pdr gun drill; qualification as layer; story of accidentally mislaying gun; gun pits and slit trenches. REEL 7 Continues: recreations including marbles and reading; troop news sheet; story of rescuing wounded Lieutenant Yeomans and his post-war attitude; use of captured Italian artillery by SNH and Australian gun teams; shooting from forward positions; Stuka dive bombing raids and death of Smedley; food and water rations; cigarettes and story of buying looted supply; parcels from GB; story of collecting rum ration. REEL 8 Continues: washing uniform; desert fauna including scorpions; latrines; fly problem; state of health and tooth extraction; stand to; gun maintenance; situation; opinion of Australian and Polish troops; rest camp; opinion of various officers and NCOs including Captain Ivor Birkin and Colonel William Seely; isolation from 425 Bty; state of morale. Recollections of breakout operations at Tobruk, 11/1941-12/1942: briefing; prior gun programme; ammunition supply; story illustrating informal relationship with officers. REEL 9 Continues: move to forward gun positions in south east sector; heat of guns; role timing programme using watch; situation; move into gun positions in corridor towards El Duda; German counter-battery fire and attitude of Padre H Parry under fire; role of religion; blast casualties; question of continuing to fire guns under fire; registered targets; arrival of relieving New Zealand troops; status of unrelieved units in Tobruk; move to western perimeter to support Polish attack; party drinking Italian wine. Period in Egypt, 1/1942-5/1942: belated Christmas party; opinion of 25pdr guns and story illustrating rate of fire; opinion of Quad gun towers; degreasing new guns; recreations and sporting activities; question of formation of 520 Bty and mobile training. Destruction of unit in Knightsbridge sector, Gazala area, 5/1942-6/1942: detachment to pick-up beer issue from Cairo; situation on return to unit; driving east under fire. REEL 10 Continues: driving east under fire; drinking beer; return to Almaza; state of morale. Recollections of promotion to sergeant in B Troop on formation of 107 Bty, 7th Medium Regt, RA during period at Royal Artillery Base Depot, Almaza, 6/1942-7/1942: opinion of Major Lewis-Jones; training in gun drill with newly issued 5.5in guns; adaptations to Matador gun towers; calibration of 5.5s; opinion of 5.5s; fight in NAAFI at Mena Camp during move up to El Alamein, 7/1942; question of Arabs stealing; opinion of various NCOs, ORs and officers. Recollections of period in coastal gun positions in El Alamein area, 7/1942-10/1942: relationship with 7th Medium Regt personnel illustrated by story of Regimental Sergeant Major Abbott's attitude during gun drill training; gun pits; death of Lance Sergeant Taylor; ineffectiveness of bulldozers in digging gun pits; position as right hand gun of Eighth Army; improvement of initially inadequate gunnery standards. REEL 11 Continues: story of knocking down German OP pole; meeting Sergeant Leslie Drewitt; counter-battery role. Move to support New Zealanders in Quattara Depression area, 8/1942: situation; story of dive bombing raid and direct hit on gun pit and Matador, 8/1941; false alarm on approach of German POWs; situation following dive bombing hit; fire programme to steady morale; return to coastal position. Recollections of period in coastal gun positions in El Alamein area, 7/1942-10/1942: 'family' nature of SNH; relationship with former NCOs on return as officers; bringing up ammunition for El Alamein offensive; visits by 'Movietone News' film crew and their reputation as 'jinxes'; story of acting as decoy to flush out German dive bombers to be attacked by RAF; briefing before offensive; gun programme issued; part-concreted gun pits. Recollections of Battle of Alamein, 10/1942-11/1942: firing initial bombardment, 23/10/1942; counter-battery role; lack of sleep. REEL 12 Continues: assistance on gun team from Australian troops; rainstorm. Recollections of advance through Libya and Tunisia, 11/1942-4/1943: view of Knightsbridge battlefield; opinion of Captains Norris and Laborde; opinion of Driver Hoggart; 'snap monster' method of dropping into action and ranging on air burst; story of receiving slight head wound during Stuka dive bombing raid at Bene Ulid, 19/1/1943; evacuation to hospital; interrogation as possible spy whilst trying to return to unit in Tripoli area; loss of kit; question of death of Seely, 1942; aspects of operations at Medenine, 3/1943 including successful OP work of Captain Alan Smith and first experience of Nebelwerfer mortar fire; aspects of operations at Wadi Akarit, 4/1942; story of accident to Matador; drive through Matmata Mountains and view of Gurkhas cooking fires; trying Gurkha food; arrival at Sfax, 4/1943. REEL 13 Continues: reception from civilians at Sfax. Recollections of rest period at Cheriba, 4/1942-5/1942: gambling; concert parties; story of whitening webbing in advance of colonel's orders; opinion of Colonel Stansfield; effects of lack of rest periods during North Africa campaign. Period in St Paul's Bay, Malta, ca 6/1943-7/1943: waterproofing vehicles; visits to Valetta; Driver C K Walker's speed during practice embarkation; loan of money to NCOs from Captain Ivor Birkin. Aspects of operations in Sicily, 7/1943-11/1943: drinking prior to landing; firing first artillery round on landing; move inland; story of rocket attack by US unit; terrain; question of presence of Italian civilians; attempt to trigger eruption of Mount Etna with shell; story of fight to establish authority as NCO with new ORs recently released from military prison. REEL 14 Continues: discovering section of blown up ammunition ship miles inland; reputation of US Air Force for bombing their own side; gun positions at Pesterino, 9/1943; damage to houses whilst firing across Messina Straits and its subsequent repair; formation of church choir; calibration; story of accidentally burning ammunition whilst clearing out billets; story of using buffer oil which was in short supply on hair; reaction to speech by Montgomery announcing return to GB to take part in D Day; acting as regimental quartermaster sergeant whilst preparing for return to GB; unofficial fire engine used during period in desert, 1942-1943; visit to Termino; application for course to become assistant instructor of gunnery. Recollections of journey back to GB, 11/1943-12/1943: initially inadequate tent accommodation during period in Forest of Ferdinand, Algeria; reaction to being mistaken for newcomers to active service; voyage aboard Laconia to Liverpool, GB; removing insignia for security reasons during journey to Felixstowe; Period at Felixstowe, 12/1943: reception from advance party; billets; relationship with local WRNS. Period of leave in Eastwood, Nottingham, 12/1943: meeting step father; drinking; reception as returning veteran; story of meeting old girlfriend who had terminated relationship in 1941. REEL 15 Continues: girlfriend's reason for terminating relationship in 1941. Periods at Felixstowe, Brighton, Guisley, Dudsbury and Tilbury Docks, London, 12/1943-7/1944: Colonel Stansfield's speech to sergeants' mess; question of reaction to reformation of 107 Medium Regt RA by merger with 16th Medium Regt, RA at Brighton, 2/1944; reaction to promotion as battery quarter master sergeant with 426 Bty; story of officer complaining about ORs' bad language; question of home service 'bull'; exercises on Ilkley Moor illustrating differences between active and home service units; opinion of various officers; relationship with civilians; parade in Nottingham; background to demotion to gun sergeant with B Troop, 425 Bty; story of meeting friend's parents. Recollections of campaign in North West Europe, 7/1944-5/1945: landing, 14/7/1944; story of getting drunk and being unaware of German shelling of gun position; promotion to troop sergeant major of B Troop; story of falling off motorbike on reconnaissance. REEL 16 Continues: story of falling off motorbike on reconnaissance; assignment of jeep stolen from other unit to Swinton; story of close escape when being bombed by Allied aircraft in Quesnay Woods area, 14/8/1944; composite food rations and story of getting extra rations from supply dump; role as TSM at gun positions in action; opinion of various officers and stories illustrating lack of experience of some newly assigned officers; unofficial leave in Paris; operations in Pas de Calais area; move to Leopold Canal area, Belgium; opinion of German flame-throwers; story of Quartermaster Sergeant Helliwell falling into canal; drinking habits; story of falling off motorbike after getting drunk with French civilian; question of unit's efficiency and relationship with personnel formerly in 16th Medium Regt. REEL 17 Continues: calibration necessary due to shells dropping short on British troops during Walcheren operations, 10/1944; forced washing of dirty gunner; effects of first German 88mm shell fire in North Africa, ca 1941; caution required due to anti-personnel mines and booby traps illustrated by death of Sergeant McCall in North Africa, ca 1942; story of choosing billets at Geleen; stories illustrating relative importance, experience and qualities of NCOs, sergeant majors and officers; story of getting drunk during Christmas celebrations at Geleen, 25/12/1944; story of Sergeant Major Leslie Drewitt being wounded rescuing casualties from bombs dropped on D Troop by Allied aircraft; theft of Drewitt's kit; origins of Drewitt's nickname; premature shell explosion during last barrage; move to Ramsdorf, Germany; story of getting drunk with Russian POWs and ignoring orders not to move vehicles. REEL 18 Continues: story of getting drunk with Russian POWs and ignoring orders not to move vehicles. Recollections of period at Gescher, 5/1945: sergeant's mess; German civilians' reaction to compulsory screening of film of concentration camps; speaking against non-fraternisation policy in organised debate. Posting to Far East, 5/1945: reaction; failure of interviews with officers to get postings changed; return to Royal Artillery Base Depot, Woolwich, GB; family's success via local MP in getting posting changed during embarkation leave. Posting to anti-aircraft unit in Holtzminden, Germany, 1945: reaction; story of contact with SNH and Captain Ian Sinclair's success in organising return to Gescher. Period at Gescher, 1945-1946: duties in charge of wounded German SS POWs in Velan Hospital and story of breaking moat ice to prevent POWs escaping; story of crashing and writing off new armoured car; subsequent regret of refusal of course as assistant instructor of gunnery, ca 1946; demobilisation parties and story illustrating relationship with ORs. Recollections of demobilisation with Group 26, 1946: story of attempting to avoid period of delay at holding camp. REEL 19 Continues: story of minor accident; issue of demob suit. Post-war career: reaction to returning to work as machinist at Players Cigarette Factory; joining Nottingham Police Force; background to recruitment as sergeant major with 426 Bty, 307th Field Regt, RA on their re-formation and forced resignation on joining police, 1946; question of joining regular army; question of effects of war service.

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