British civilian served with Merchant Navy 1933-1934. Joined Army as trooper with 12th Royal Lancers in GB and Egypt 1935-1938; served with 11th Hussars in Palestine, Iran, Iraq, North Africa and North West Europe 1938-1945
REEL 1. Family background: father a small general business and mother a milliner. School until 13 & 6 months: left because father died. 2 - 3 years helping with the business. Tried to join expedition to arctic (or antarctic). Joined Pacific Steam Navigation Company on trip to South America, leaving from Hull. Sense of adventure. Board of Trade exams in Liverpool in order to enter merchant service: eye test a key factor. MV Lagarto: three masted cargo motor vessel. Officer cadet: one week on bridge, then three weeks on deck: little formal instruction. Start with a trial voyage then do four years apprenticeship. Nitrate and wool among cargo. Hull to Antwerp, then Liverpool via London, Swansea and Glasgow then off to Panama, through canal. Enjoys it but at Panama jumps ship to see his aunt in Connecticut, USA, because it did not look far on a small atlas. Picked up by police and eventually sent back to ship. Back aboard was threatened with being "put in irons". Two cadets in a cabin, total of four cadets. He enjoyed food: curried rice for breakfast. Eat in saloon, captain, officers and any passengers at one table, cadets at another. Crew eat in the poop. Description of heavy seas near Magellan Straits: not afraid. Assisting with taking sights with sextant. REEL 2 Age 16 when joined ship. Description of seaman who took him under his wing. 4 to 5 months voyage, returning to London where he jumped ship again: bored with it. They would still have taken him back but he did not go. Back in Accrington with guardian, an aunt, who got him a job at Howard & Bulloughs, a cotton machine factory. Tried to get away again, first trying to join trawlers at Fleetwood after six months at factory. Went to Manchester to join the Navy but was turned down on grounds of hammer toes. Went home and then straight off to Preston and joined Army at Fulwood Barracks where he stayed overnight and joined 12 Royal Lancers. After two weeks went to Tidworth and was disappointed to find they were in armoured cars and not horsed. Underage, just over 17, January 1935. No family resistance. Description of enlistment procedure. Tidworth: 5/- a week. About 12 - 15 men in a barrack room: hard case Corporal, with example of late night kit inspections to coincide with lights out. Discipline hard but coped with it. Marching, rifle drill, pistol drill, lance drill, whip drill: riding crop was part of the walking out dress. Lance drill: marching with the lance and moving it. Anecdote of sergeant throwing lance at a soldier on drill and having it thrown back. Accommodation: bunks and biscuits. School lessons part of the training. Weapons training on Vickers machine guns: "ease, pull, tap" a drill for a stoppage in the breach. Learned stoppages by numbers and aimed to make reactions automatic. REEL 3 Did .5 and .303 Vickers as these were the ones on the Lanchester armoured cars. Food adequate and he put on weight: plain, such as dumplings and meat but he enjoyed. Porridge in the mornings with milk and he liked salt. Two kinds of kit inspection, one from Barracks Corporal, one from Officer. Did live firing on ranges with Vickers and Lewis guns, from ground mounts. Guard duties: preparation for, and the "stick man". Method of cleaning boots: needed a special pair of boots several years old to get a proper shine. On joining, given history of regiment. The schoolteacher previously mentioned was a Corporal of the regiment. Limited sporting opportunities: he preferred running and swimming. Not much opportunity for socialising locally: tattooing was popular but not universal. NAAFI canteen. Introduced to armoured cars after basic training: one test by an officer in driving was to stand a penny on its edge to see how far one could drive without making it fall over. Taught to drive within regiment by regimental NCOs, and passed out as driver by an officer. Did a driving and maintenance course that was partly in theory in a classroom, supplemented by practical under supervision of experienced crews. Story of greasing up an armoured car in a sand storm where it was necessary to wear a gas mask. Joins C Sqn. only after fully trained. On the first move to Egypt they were wearing standard service dress: kd only issued later. They were at Almeya camp. Very hard work in getting cars ready and there was a "mutiny" in C Sqn. in the form of refusing to fall in for duty. REEL 4 Painting cars: from green to dark and light sandy brown. Some work on cars to prevent overheating. No acclimatization time. Had a hernia but did not report before leaving GB in order not to miss overseas posting: operated on after arrival at Almeya Camp. Went forward to Sollum: weather was better there, fewer sand storms. Matruh was bad for sand, being in a dip: sand gets into food and drink. Eat in a big marquee. Problems with scorpions: they nested in the sandbags surrounding the bell tents in the camp. MO says a year in Matruh is five years off life. Lanchesters were quite in the rocky ground around Sollum, but very little driving actually done, mostly parked. No active patrolling but they did march. At Sollum in barracks. Little to do. Bad case of boils. Regiment goes back to Abassia in Cairo. Trained to be a motor cycle despatch rider: anecdote about a training ride into desert in which he gets left behind and makes own way back to barracks. Again very little to do. Boxing match. "Change of air camp" for about a week to Alexandria, under canvas for r&r. On way out to Egypt had been on a cruise ship and they had waiter service. Anecdote about seeing a village on the Spanish shore ablaze, Civil War. On return to GB became DR and took on being an officer's servant. Escapade of using his officer's car without permission at behest of friend. REEL 5 He takes blame for use of car and gets 14 days in Aldershot glasshouse. Glasshouse experience: given a rusty bucket to clean with brickdust overnight: food, discipline, routine. Duties of an officer's servant: included serving in officers' mess, a "cushy number" as no extra duties or guards and had own quarters, 2 or 3 to a room, adjacent to officers' quarters. Change of regiment to 11 Hussars: request for volunteers and he and three friends volunteered, no particular reason. In end he took to 11 H more than 12 L. Sailed for Egypt in January 1938 and joined regiment at Helmieh Camp. Some basic training to inculcate 11 H methods: drill with the sword now, not lance. Assigned as driver to 4 Tp. C Sqn, Rolls Royce. Retrained for Rolls driving: much easier to drive, but important to get gears just right or would not engage. Regiment moved to Palestine early 1938, patrolling Nablus, Nazareth, Gaza areas. This first time they were keeping an eye on the Arabs but next time it was the Jews. Anecdote of an ambush near Beersheba, an emergency three-X call: description of being in a car during an ambush. Communication between car commander and driver: in Rolls commander could bend down and shout. Cannot remember any specific briefings about the job in Palestine. Anecdote about putting car over edge of a cliff: similar happening on another occasion - a "jinx car". Car pulled out with a truck with jib and winch, but not clear if regimental vehicle. REEL 6 Anecdote about a rat entering and staying in car on patrol. Description of a water "fantassie". Description of a driving guide on the mudguards. Bomb plates under cars. Basic vehicle maintenance on return from a patrol. Rolls Royce had problems with brakes and springs. Broken springs could sometimes be repaired by car crews. Rolls also used a lot of water. Trained as wireless operator by sergeant from R. Sigs., attached to 11 H: used No. 9 set, learning morse: about six weeks. Standard was 8 - 12 words a minute. They used morse in early days in desert: voice was available but they were not allowed to use. Standard reports sent by morse - eg: NMS = no movement seen. Recalls using morse as late as beginning of Compass. One wireless set per troop, in Morris troop leader's car: would not have fitted into a Rolls. Newly arrived Morris cars tested on a long run to Siwa, 1939. Morris a good car but the turrets were not armoured. Makes home made sun compass to help maintaining direction from driving position. Main problem with Morris was weak stub axles. Description of wireless position in Morris. REEL 7 Cramped interior of cars: one got used to it. Little chance of getting out of car if hit and wounded. Position of doors on Morris and Rolls. Domestic arrangements when living with cars. Stowage, standard kit per man of ground sheet, 2 - 3 blankets, pack. Primus for cooking: mainly bully stew, tinned McConnachie's stew, hard biscuits: box of rations in car. Tea was important. Traded tea for eggs with Bedouin, who would appear out of nowhere in the desert. Petrol can cooker: could not use at night because of visibility. Camouflage netting on car: description of use. Use of two tarpaulins between two cars to form a shelter for crews. Breakfasts frequently disturbed by shelling. Shell holes not very big. Attitude to declaration of war and BEF news. Way they heard about outbreak of war. Method of breaching frontier wire with hawser and car. Typical patrol. REEL 8 Duties of wireless operator on patrol: start up wireless and commander would use mic himself. If morse, operator would send. Account of occasion when he reported himself on air when commander too busy. Differences in terrain: more desolate the further south and "sand sea" and salt flats near Wadi Natrun. Mirage. Italian fighter tactics: use of the sun and approaching with engines off. Defence was a small gun in turret or movement. Armour on cars fairly good, except on turrets of Morris cars. Saw very little of RAF. Liaison with Lysander recce aircraft by dropping message onto desert near cars. Description of an attack on Italian fighter and bomber group by three Gladiators. Tactic of withdrawing a mile or so from daytime observation position at night. Sometimes stayed out in enemy territory overnight, especially when attempting an ambush. Anecdote about an infantryman who often came up to their patrol position and disappeared again at night. The desert tracks, Trighs, were clearly visible on desert but could give away position because very dusty. On watch around camps as Italians began advance in September 1940. Description of car being used as an arty OP to harass Italian column, OP being Geoffrey Goschen [3 or 4 RHA]. Description of a night move by Italians when they used masses of Very lights. Italian columns on the move very bunched. REEL 9 Beginning of Compass offensive was thought at the time to be just a raid. Anecdote of how he came to be the Sqn. leader's driver (Payne Gallwey). Stayed in that job until El Agheila which is where they first saw Luftwaffe. Mention of having 40 Rhodesians with regiment. Description of attack by German aircraft. German air attacks cared less about finding the sun and tended just to attack head on, picking out individual vehicles. Anecdote about meeting Jock Campbell, before September 1940. Return to Cairo and refitted with Marmon Herringtons: description of car and distinctive whining noise of engine. Glad to be rid of them eventually. Anecdote about engine noise attracting artillery attack, subsequently found to be own guns. Radio position again behind driver and smaller. Goes with advance party to Mosul as driver to officer [May 1942]. Duke of Gloucester inspects rgt & 14/20H at Mosul. Mosul weather heavy: anecdote about swarm of locusts. REEL 10 Locusts. Anecdote about swimming in Tigris River. Move to Kermanshah. Hunting expedition with officers. There as rest, not aware of any regt. duties. Anecdote about loss of officers bedroll & gun on journey back to Cairo. Journey a mad dash, little sleep. Move to front near Quattara depression. Regimental HQ attacked regularly by aircraft. He moved to LAD, which was part of RHQ, but as driver again, not a mechanic. Driver and w/op in LAD AEC armoured car, apparently used to recover lighter a.cars. Not impressed with AEC. Anecdote about AEC breakdown. Build up to Alamein notable for the number of vehicles. MPs directing through gaps. Overall impression of battle perplexing. Job of LAD. Drove for an officer again, but no batman duties as such in the desert but cooked & dug slits. REEL 11 Driver for a REME (ex Ordnance) officer who had been made up from ranks. Crossing to Salerno via LST. Impressions of LST. Impressions of rubbled buildings on landing. Ends Italian campaign in Serrento: RHQ has easy time in comparison to sqns. Relations with locals. Sent on course about tanks to Scaffarti but officers disappeared after morning parade so soldiers went to a bar. Return GB from Naples on California, ex liner. Accommodation on board. Rubbish food but did not mind as on way home. On way back stopover at Oran, berthed between 2 sunk French ships. Docked Glasgow, disembarkation leave, about 4 - 5 weeks. He goes home to sister. Some impressions of home. After leave, Ashridge camp. REEL 12 Description of waterproofing: use of special teams not from rgt. but some did own vehicles. Encounter with previous CO. Anecdote about being charged with being asleep on guard, before active ops but after war declared. Description of field punishment. Offered a sergeants course but refused twice. Course did not mean that one would be made up directly to Sgt. Ref to rapid promotions after outbreak of war. No briefings for troopers about D-Day tasks. Embarkation leave to Accrington again. Sealed into camp 2 - 3 days before embarking. Description of move to docks & loading onto Liberty ship. RHQ lands dryshod at Arromanches: he is accidentally delivered onto dock sitting in his Dingo. REEL 13 Description of trip in Liberty ship. Meal aboard was probably emergency rations. De-waterproofing done by people unknown, not by themselves. Anecdote about burning hand: failure to use beret to douse flames as he was so used to wearing it he had forgotten it. Outline of treatment, from RAP, by ambulance to FDS (probably CCS) then via LST to GB. Says that Drs were operating on patients at stern of the cargo bay of the LST. Description of treatment in GB. Description of flying bomb falling nearby. Time period of wound treatment & subsequent care. REEL 14 Malaria attack. Sent to recuperation unit. No recollection of medical board to declare fit. Return to unit: very vague on detail but recalls as unpleasant experience. Returned to LAD, driving Dingo for the officer as before. Description of messing arrangements & life at RHQ. Attitude of civilians in Italy and NW Europe: no experience of being greeted as liberators. Played violin in Italy and Holland: story of playing as a boy and taking it up again on demobilisation with Gloucester Hussars and Warwickshire Yeomanry regimental bands. Leaves 11H before Rhine Crossing on PYTHON. Possible connection with PYTHON scheme through a letter to sister which she passed to the Accrington MP. Anecdote about seeing the CO about discontent at the amount of time spent overseas. REEL 15 Issue of time spent overseas raised in letter to sister was raised by MP in Parliament. Anecdote of failure to deal with his PYTHON draft on arrival in GB, resolved by an act of insubordination at Folkestone Barracks. By train to Catterick. Catterick a very mixed bunch: no-one appeared to know what they were there for. Reveille parade but thereafter no duties. Out to the pubs in evening. Whole 11H draft moved together back south to Crowborough. Waiting on attachment until demob group no (23) came up: whole draft demobbed together. They were attached to Gloucester Hussars, did not become part of rgt: kept 11H beret etc. Again no duties, simply attached: very pleasant interlude. Life as member of GH dance band & did dances in various local halls. The 11H draft moves to Warwickshire Yeo. near Newmarket: same arrangements as with GH: no duties. Again in dance band. Good life that they had earned. About 3 4 months with each of GH & WY. Brief & discrete anecdote about a romance with married woman with husband in India. Demob: ordered from WY to Northampton. Hutted camp & process took about 2 weeks. Selection of civvies. REEL 16 Demob clothes. Plans for life after Army. To continue with violin: other than driving and some wireless that was all he could do. Also thought about Rhodesian Police, based on his contacts with Rhodesians serving with 11H in desert. Also looked at fire service. Story of attempts to take up the violin. He did not know at the time when the War in Europe finished. Discussion about what to do on demob with a friend but no help from Army. They ran some trade courses but nothing else: he recalls only one general lecture, on the morning they were due to leave. Immediately on leaving Army he decided to do nothing until he was ready, & in fact did nothing for a year. Went to sister & her husband who ran a pub. Lived on Army gratuity of £63 and £200 legacy from father. Left sister's after six months due to difficulties getting on with sister: part of difficulty in settling down after Army. Anecdote about how he chose to settle in Wolverhampton: attracted as a busy little place. Takes up lorry driving then trolley buses. REEL 17 Anecdote about man who jumped in front of his bus & effect on him. Variety of Army driving was key element in civilian driving jobs but some additional tuition. Problems of trolley bus driving. Moved on again after about a year. Married November 1948: met wife in digs. Some digs bad so decided that better to settle. After another stint of lorry driving joined Ambulance Service in 1962. Anecdote about joining Ambulance, then joint Fire & Amb.: Chief takes him on on strength of seeing piece in newspaper cutting about 11H. In Amb. 19.5 yrs., driver & attendant. First aid training. Anecdote about a particular accident. When he started Fire & Amb joint and an ambulance on duty alongside fire engines: 4 mins usual time to reach call. All changed around 1974 when "Big Brother" Birmingham began to take over. Response times lengthened significantly. REEL 18 Anecdote about becoming Shift Leader, also called Sub Officer and later, under Birmingham, Station Officer. Duties of a Station Officer: disliked change to mainly desk work. Retired early. Visited sister in New Zealand on retirement: they had moved there on a whim on a return voyage from USA to GB: he would have done the same as there is nothing any more in the GB, something wrong with people today. Knew nothing about the 1945 election by way of Army information.