High Explosive Bomb at Montrose Avenue
High Explosive Bomb :
Source: Aggregate Night Time Bomb Census 7th October 1940 to 6 June 1941
Fell between Oct. 7, 1940 and June 6, 1941
Montrose Avenue, Burnt Oak, London Borough of Barnet, London
56 20 SW - comment:
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Contributed originally by Holywood Arches Library (BBC WW2 People's War)
This story was submitted to the People's War site by A Scott of the Belfast Education & Library Board / Holywood Arches Library On behalf of Edward Cadden [ the author ] and has been added to the site with his permission.
The author fully understands the sites terms and conditions.
Preparation for War
My father was born in June 1902 and named Edward after the newly crowned King.
He joined the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles in 1921 and the Battalion was posted overseas. They sat in the troopship in Golden Horn Straits for 2 weeks waiting for politicians to decide whether to invade Turkey following Kemal Pasha’s expulsion of Greek occupation troops.
Then to Egypt for 2 years in support of the civil power with a successful spell of ceremonial duties at the coronation of King Faud.
To Poona in India where in 1927 the regiment became the Royal Ulster Rifles and with full military honours a coffin containing R.I.R. rubber stamps, headed paper and shoulder badges was laid to rest in Wellington Barracks with a headstone inscribed R.I.R. R.I.P. R.U.R.
A short leave to Belfast in 1928 were he married my mother Jane and my sister Jean was born in Poona in December 1929.
After an unpleasant stint in steamy Madras the Battalion sailed for home in 1932 but the men were disembarked in the Sudan to prevent Mussolini extending his ambitions after conquest of Abyssinia. The enforced tour lasted to 1934. Just over 2 years in the UK at Catterick and the Isle of Wight then off to Palestine in 1937 for active service against the ancestors of the 21st Century Palestine Freedom Fighters.
In the 16th Infantry Brigade under the command of Brigadier Bernard Law Montgomery the Battalion developed novel tactics in Galilee of highly mobile ground forces with close air support by RAF units commanded by Group Captain Arthur Harris all this was relevant to World War 2 for without the long tempering of experience for officers, N.C.O.S. and senior riflemen the unit could not have stood up to the campaigning of that war. On return to the UK in 1939 it was clear that war with Germany was coming and a massive refit was landed on the unit with my Dad as R.Q.M.S. (Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant) and experienced weapons instructor in the midst of it. The personal uniform and equipment which had remained virtually unchanged since 1908, with the addition of a steel helmet and gas respirator in WW1, was all changed. In came the short blouse battledress and a new pattern of webbing equipment.
Many new vehicles were added to the unit’s equipment including tracked Bren-gun carriers. New wireless equipment required new specialists and new operational methods. The light machine gun — the Lewis was replaced with a Czech weapon for which Enfield had got a production licence just before Hitler added the rest of Czechoslovakia to the Sudetenland.
The BRNO-Enfield — the Bren arrived in quantity but without instruction manuals. It was entirely different to the Lewis so Dad and other instructors had to teach themselves how it worked by rule of thumb and experience. A rather useless anti-tank weapon appeared also - the Boyes rifle. Supported by a bipod this had a magazine of 5 half-inch calibre steel bullets which in theory would penetrate a tank’s armour and ricochet around inside causing havoc to the crew.
Experienced men were posted off to help form new units and replacements had to be trained from scratch. Dad at one stage had to teach the laying of barbed wire entanglements with balls of twine bought in Woolworth.
The Phoney War
The newly promoted Major General Montgomery managed to get most of the units from his 16 infantry brigade incorporated in his new command — 3rd Division. The main defensive problem was spotted as soon as the division arrived in France. The gap from the end of the Maginot Line to the coast along the Belgian border the Rifles were based in Tourcoing and like the rest of the Division busied themselves with training and with construction of prepared positions of trenches, sangars, barbed wire and mines to oppose any advance from Belgium.
My Dad’s hard work was lightened (I hope) by my birth on 7 January 1940 in Belfast. Their commander’s puritanical, even Cromwellian style of command led to 3rd Division’s proudly borne nickname of “Monties Ironsides” my dad received leave to inspect his new son in late spring and headed back to France just in time for the German offensive.
Just before the crucial moment Montgomery was moved off to command a new division and hand-over take-over added to the confusion.
The rapid collapse of Dutch and Belgian armed forces caused the Division to be moved out of the prepared positions and rushed forward to hold the Eastern border of Belgium. The German tactics were on a much grander scale those practiced by 16 Infantry Brigade in Palestine. Before fresh troops could replace 3rd Division the German armour punched through Tourcoing and did not stop before reaching Bayonne and a French surrender. The rifles and their Scots and other comrades found themselves not part of a coordinated defence but a lonely rearguard to slow the Germans and permit evacuation of the B.E.F. from Dunkirk and adjacent areas.
R.U.R. were defending Louvain, or more properly since it is a Flemish area Leuven.
Fortunately German armour was engaged elsewhere but the infantry fighting was fierce. At one stage opposite platforms of the railway terminal were occupied by Germans and by the Rifles. An enterprising Bren-gunner to make the Germans believe defence was heavier would fire a magazine then run along the pedestrian subway and fire a second magazine.
Ammunition ran low and at nightfall Dad set off with transport to fetch supplies from the rear depot. Arriving there he found R.Q.M.S.’s from other units in frustration because the depot had decamped. Dad asked an impolite major where supplies could be found and was told the coast. A conference with the other unit reps. and Dad decided to lead a dash to the coast. The major butted in to remark that it was thought the Germans had cut the road to the coast. “How can we get there?” asked Dad “fight your way through” snapped the major Dad thought this comic as his detachment had one Bren and an anti-tank rifle with only 2 rounds of armour piercing. However Dad and the Rifles in the lead they reached the coast overloaded with ammo and headed back. The ammunition was delivered safely to Leuven and some years later Dad found one of the W.O.s who had followed his lead from another unit had got a M.B.E. for the effort. The Rifles regarded such action as Dad’s as par for the course in their outfit.
It became clear that the holding action might result in the destruction of the Battalion so Dad was given a party of specialists and long-service N.C.O.s essential to the creation of new unit and told to get them to G.B..
They reached the beaches at Bray dunes near Dunkirk where some troops had abandoned their personal weapons and 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft guns sat unmanned. Dad got every rifleman to collect a second rifle and the Bren-gunner to pick up a second Bren. He acquired a service Smith and Wesson revolver which he had for the rest of the war.
They were lifted off safely by the Ramsgate Lifeboat with their feet dry and taken to a “Sword” class destroyer off-shore which took them to England.
The 2nd R.U.R. was not destroyed but with other units of 3 Division fought back to the coast and were evacuated depleted but unbroken.
Becoming a Gentleman by Royal Commission
Montgomery instead of taking a break came back and assisted with the resurrection his “Ironsides” and then headed off to a new command.
Apart from replacement of equipment lost in Belgium some new items arrived including some Thompson sub machine guns from the U.S.A.. Efforts had to be made to create command structures and defensive positions to deal with the anticipated invasion. Dad got some leave to visit us in Belfast but was kept busy through late summer and early autumn.
Then he was commissioned as a Lieutenant. A W.O.I. when commissioned skipped 2nd lieutenant otherwise he would be paid less than his existing grade when promoted.
A course at O.T.U. to teach Dad techniques of command, traditions and military law and manners of which he knew more than his instructors.
His first posting was as Lieutenant Quartermaster to a training depot for the Auxiliary Territorial Service, the predecessor of the Womens Royal Army Corps. These young women did not go into the front-line like their 21st century descendants but did mechanical, signalling and admin tasks to free up men for front-line service.
We joined him in the depot’s base town Dorchester in an underoccupied home requisitioned in part as married quarters in 1942 we experienced our first bombing as a united family.
When we arrived in late 1942 at our requisitioned quarters in Edgware shared with the Jewish owners, the Roes, the great blitz was in a lull. The Luftwaffe needed all the bombers it could get in Russia and the North African campaigns called for even more. The pattern was isolated “nuisance raids” by high altitude bombers or low-level sorties on the south-east by single or handfuls of fighter-bombers. The RAF as well as night-raids by heavy bombers was attacking targets in France and the Low Countries by day with fighters and light bombers. The USAAC was also testing the water with increasing strength there were municipal air raid shelters, the tube doubled as an air raid shelter and schools had mass shelters for pupils homeowners could get two types of prefab shelter. The Morrison for use in a well braced indoor area or the Anderson to be inserted in a hole in the garden. Surplus Andersons became coal-houses for post war prefab houses Dad was promoted captain and posted as Q.M. of the London Irish Rifles. This was a T.A. Battalion affiliated to the R.U.R. and drawing recruits from expatriates living in London. It like other T.A. units was supposed to provide an immediate war reserve for regular units. Over 3 years of war and the London Irish had not been got into action. My Dad and a batch of “old sweat” N.C.O.s and officers were posted in to give a kick start.
The main trouble was the shared experiences of members of the regular units with hard oversea postings and awkward operational contexts did not apply to the re-cycled civilians of the T.A.. There was no espirit de corps. One sample may illustrate the symptoms of a general malaise. On a kit inspection Dad found that a “rifleman” had sold off all negotiable items of his personal kit. Worn-out uniform items were commonly used as cleaning materials or waste containers. The miscreant presented a plausible assembly of spare clothing made from washed and ironed cleaning rags and cardboard. He had sold all the brass fittings for scrap and substituted dummies made of tin foil.
The Battalion got sorted out and was lined up for service in North Africa. Near departure a company commander developed an illness diagnosed as Plumbum Ostillendum. My Dad was about to be made Acting Company Commander and posted out when the authorising office pointed out that he was past the age-limit for active front-line service. Despite the false starts the unit stood the horrid pace well in North Africa and Italy.
Mum, my sister and I were posted back to Belfast when the London Irish Rifles departed because Dad was posted as a Q.M. of a secret base at Westward Ho near Bideford in Devon — the combined operations experimental establishment. The beaches there were similar to those in Normandy and tidal conditions, sea-levels and cliff features were also similar. A mixture of technical experts from all 3 services was gathered there with representation of the U.S.A. and other allies.
Much of the supply of specialised landing craft was tied up in the U.S. Pacific campaigns. The intended stockpile for Normandy was to be further depleted for landings in Italy.
Devices experimented with at Westward Ho were amphibious versions of Sherman and Churchill tanks, rocket firing landing craft, a DUKW amphibious lorry fitted with a fire brigade extending ladder to scale shoreline cliffs. A total disaster (fortunately without causalities) a huge rocket propelled wheel to explode minefields. The rockets fired out of sequence, the brute tipped over and proceeded to whirl towards the rapidly scattering spectators.
More mundane but successful machines were amphibious cable layers, Bailey Bridge carriers and bulldozers. A scale trial was made along the coast of the Mulberry Harbour. One of Dad’s missions involved a flight in an R.A.F. Proctor liaison aircraft from Chivenor to Pembrey to check the functioning of a trial laying of P.L.U.T.O. the pipeline under the ocean. This in full scale service would pump fuel from England to Normandy. The Q.M. of such a unit had to find often at short notice a myriad of components — some of them in no military inventory.
One of the engineering experts was Lieutenant Commander Neville Shute Norway. He had created the Airspeed Aircraft Company which had supplied the King’s flight with its first aircraft. The company’s Oxford twin engined trainer was one of the mainstays of R.A.F. wartime training systems, his company had been taken over by De Havilland. He was an author of Novels already by 1944 using his first two names Neville Shute. In a famous post-war novel “No Highway” he foreshadowed the Comet Airliner disasters with a fictional airliner plagued by metal fatigue. The inventiveness of the elite personnel was shown in more mundane ways. Childrens toys were almost unobtainable in 1944 and my Dad’s sergeant produced toys from scrap packaging and other materials.
I received a model of the French Battleship “Richelieu” usable on a wheeled frame or to float in the bath. There was a model also of a seep, and amphibious jeep and a long-lived Sherman tank model. Scrap packaging celluloid, .303 rifle chargers, washers and tail ends of brass and iron rods were incorporated and painting came from the dregs of paint left from finishing touches to the amphibious equipment.
A major pre D-Day disaster happened near the combined operations experimental establishment at Westward Ho when US troops practising amphibious landings were intercepted by E-Boats and suffered heavy causalities. The unit did not close with the success of D-Day for many rivers needed to be crossed before V.E. Day and Seaborne and Riverborne operations were necessary in the Far East.
With war’s end Dad decided that our family had been separated too often and a peacetime career even as a major would not help the development of a teenage daughter and a six year old son with postings to foreign parts. He decided to retire, take his pension and supplement it with a civilian job.
In 1946 a special job centre was established in Belfast for demobilising servicemen. Dad was delighted to find his neighbour in the queue was an N.C.O. who had served under his command. They chatted of times gone by and recent developments until they reached the parting of the ways. One lane was signed “Officers’ Posts” and the other “Other Ranks’ Posts”. They both emerged from their respective lanes as temporary Clerical Assistants Grade II in the N.I. Civil Service.
Regardless of any rank he may achieve subsequently a Rifleman is always a Rifleman. He is part of an elite unit who taught the rest of the army how to make war. His full dress uniform is dark green and his badges and buttons are black. He marches at 120 paces a minute and does not change gear going up hill. Regardless of drill practices by mere infantry with whatever firearm is current a rifleman shoulders arms never slopes arms and he marches past with the weapon at the trail.
No matter what other units call it a Rifleman’s bayonet is a sword and he fixes swords and never fixes bayonets. He must never be mistaken for a Light Infantry man who is merely a copy of the French Tirailleurs. Each Rifleman is an individual fighting unit which will operate on its own whether support is near or not. Before commandos, parachute regiments or S.A.S. the Rifleman had broken away from the lumpen proletariat of infantry of the line.
Indeed in the Royal Ulster Rifles one Battalion went into action on D-Day as airborne troops and the other on foot in traditional style.
In ceremonial Rifles have no colours their battle honours are on the drums of the band. When the band displaying old sweats may be singing sotto voce
“You may talk about your Queen’s Guards
Scots greys and all
You may talk about your kilties and the
forty second TWA
But of all the world’s great heroes
under the Queen’s command
the Royal Ulster Rifles are the
terror of the Land!”
“Quis Seperabit” the motto of the Knights of St Patrick is completed in original by “From the Love of God”. For a rifleman the unwritten follow on is “From love of my regiment.”
Contributed originally by super-powton (BBC WW2 People's War)
As promised here is the first extract from Bob's Diary, covering January and February 1943.
At home with Dave. Came back in evening and visited “Royal George” in Tottenham Ct Road. Good pub!
A dance at Regent St Polytechnic. Met Winnie — unfortunately! She clings like a leech — will have to be firm.
Saw Mickey again, patched up quarrel. Not a bad kid, but a stupid temper.
Started off with good meal at Elephant and Castle, then decided on the “Swan”, at Jack’s recommendation.
Went to “Swan” at Stockwell with Dave, Mac and Jock. Got tight, but respectfully so!
Xmas Eve. “Swan” at Stockwell. A.F.S. named Betty Ashford. Very good evening.
Xmas Day at Bushey
Very quiet, but — well, restful!?
Boxing Day. Dance at Oxley Parish Hall.
Girl named Elsie Roberts. Engaged — No Date!
Came back to Borough. Xmas mail from Snooty, Yvonne, Deborah, Ida, Dorothy, Mrs Blythe, Mickey, Betty. Answered all mail and wrote to Elsie Roberts.
Back on the course — Valve Theory again — Mech Eng. Dance in evening at Regent St Polytechnic. Date tomorrow with Betty.
Saw Betty. Went to Balham saw Walt Disney’s “Bambi”. Letter from Mickey.
Looks like being an interesting course — in the evenings!
Another boring day in Laboratory. Went to YMCA for a shave in HOT water, then on to Salvation Army place in Guildford St — good place.
New Years Eve. Little or no work done in Laboratory. Theory was an excuse to sleep ready for a late night.
Went to Regent St Polytechnic with Betty, Dave, Joe, Wally. Went out to “Cock Tavern” and celebrated on Scotch Ale. Later on went to Piccadilly Circus and at midnight was on the Yank Station. Crawled into the billet at 2 o/c. Was not caught . Wonder where we’ll be this time next year.
Went to S.A. Russell Sq. and met Sandy there. Had the now famous steak and chip supper. Still learning nothing new about Radio!
Weekend pass. Went to Leicester Sq. with Betty, saw “Geo Washington slept here”. Very good. Got home by taxi about 2 o/c
Was home, and slept until 2 o/c! Dorothy and John came to see me. In the evening went for a walk with Betty. Quite a nice evening! P.T. tomorrow — wince!.
Saw Betty and went to Odeon. Saw “Pied Piper”. Very good film. To our disgust we had the old PT Instructor back. The swine! Radio course is a farce!
“Scrubber” got nasty and now we have extra pickets to do! Was on guard — caught smoking — so charged. Read Kitty Foyle. Letters from Betty and Mickey.
Wrote to Mickey, telling her it was no use continuing seriously . Another letter from Betty. Saw Betty in evening and went to “flicks” seeing “King Arthur was a Gentleman”. Awful film. Phoned up Mother. Broke again, pay parade just in time!
Bought “Foundations of Wireless”. Received membership card from Queensbury Club. Went to flicks and saw “A Yank at Eton”. Pretty poor film.
Practical dem. of Blocking Osc at Theory period, had use of logs and 2 during maths. Learnt something for a change! Letter from Ken at Grimsby. Final letter from Mickey! Saw Betty in evening.
Went to see “Rookies” at Leicester Sq Theatre with Dave. Met a chap named Mike O’Callaghan. Amusing chap. Got his Tel. No. On guard tomorrow!
Heard that Tom Melling was at Wandsworth. Got a great scheme for bringing Tom, Ida, Betty, Vera, Dave and Mike together at Stormont Road on Tuesday.
Went to “Majestic” at Clapham with Bettie. Saw “Big Street”, pretty poor film. Got back my autograph book. Phoned Mike and Mother. Letters from Sturge and Deborah.
Went to Stormont Road, Clapham, with Dave, Joe and Gary. Met Vera and Gladys again. Tom and Ida did not turn up. Left message asking them to be there on Thursday.
Went to Balham with Betty saw Noel Coward’s “In Which We Serve”, a really grand film. Wrote to Deborah. Jock and Mac put something in my autograph book. Was told I was more than £2 in credit, which is good news, but suspicious, as I was about £3 in debt when I came here. I won’t quibble however! Started on Cathode Follower in Theory!?
Went to “Stormont” and saw Tom and Ida, first time I’d seen Tom for a year, and Ida for seven months. We covered our activities during 1942 in odd snatches between dances. No letters.
Started our “Mid Term Break”, it consists of three days. In the afternoon during theory, we started on a crossword puzzle and Radio simply never entered into the question!
Spent the afternoon wandering around Charing Cross Road trying to stop myself buying books. I succeeded! Saw Betty in the evening.
Didn’t feel so well, so just lazed around and went to bed early. Was kept awake most of night by terrific gun barrage. Jerry was over as a reprisal for our raiding Berlin last night.
Saw a grand film, “My Sister Eileen” starring Rosalind Russell. Another air raid alert but nothing happened. People were obviously expecting an air raid the Underground was crowded. Yanks don’t like air raids!
Expt. In Lab. on Squezzing Oscillator. Went to Stormont in evening with Dave. Met Tom who gave me my autograph book back. He managed to get Eddie Bamborough’s autograph.
Another air raid midday. Jerry bombed a school killing 34 children, 26 kids are still trapped. 4 Radio Mechs killed at Lewisham. Tubes are crowded once again just like the London blitzes of 1940.
In the evening saw Betty, who looked pretty tired having been up two nights on duty in air raids. I hope Joan is OK.
Saw two pretty good films, “Date With An Angel” and “Sin Town”. Newspapers were of Russian victories again.
Again to the flicks, this time with Sandi. Saw two awful films, top film being “Somewhere I’ll find you”. Theory is becoming increasingly boring — its crosswords for me now not Radio!.
“Flicks” again! Saw Betty and went and saw “The Major and the Minor”. This film was very good. Maxie and Maurice turned up amongst new chaps. Started Boxing Gym this morning.
Spent day with Dave and Sandi. AFT: Went over Houses of Parliament. EVE: Comedy Theatre. Saw play called “Murder Without Crime”. Very good. Finished up dancing at Queensbury Club. Very interesting and enjoyable day.
Went home in morning. Couldn’t get to Queensbury Club by 4.15 because of fog, so missed Dave and Sandi. Went into club with Bolton and Win, his girl friend. Saw broadcast of Geraldo, followed by a film. Finished up at the Gordon Club (WVS) Victoria.
Met two girls, Paula and Eileen, during afternoon break at College. In the evening met Betty and went to Odeon at Clapham and saw Diana Barrymore in “Nightmare”. A good film. More American, 8th Army and Russian victories.
Walked, via Waterloo Bridge, to British Columbia Club, with Maxie and Sandi. Walked from there to Queensbury Club, too crowded there, so we went into the “Tartan Dive” of the “SUSSEX” a Youngers pub just off Leicester Sq. Back by tube from C.G.
Was caught in bed after Reveille, fatigues in the evening resulted! Had a letter from Ken in Egypt, his brother is wounded, must visit his wife whilst I’m in London. Main item of news is that Churchill met Roosevelt in Monaco. End of the war in sight? Decided to apply for R.A. commission when I return to New Holland.
In evening after fatigues, Dave and I visited the “George Inn” near London Bridge, an historic pub frequented by Charles Dickens.
Saw Betty and went to the Curzon Mayfair to hear a performance of the Middx Regt. Band. A violin solo of “Intermezzo” was good, rest was poor. From there to Queensbury Club. Told Betty I couldn’t see her again.
Went out with Sandi, Dave, Maurice and Maxie, first to the “Clarence”, then on to the N.F.S. dance in Southwark Bridge Road. The only interesting part of the dance was obtaining a date with a girl named Bobby for next Tuesday.
With Maurice to central YMCA, from the L.Sq Theatre and saw “ARABIAN NIGHTS”. Very good film. From there to a hamburger meal at B.C. Club, from there to Queensbury Club where I met Diana and made a date for tomorrow at the Queensbury Club..
Went home in morning, had airgraph from Jim Kilpatrick. Missed Diana at Queensbury Club, so went in alone and saw Jack Payne and his band. From there to Covent Garden, where I met Stan Turner and finally found Diana and friend Joyce. Quite a good evening. Date Tuesday. Letter from Dorothy.
Dave was taken into hospital, probably with flu. In the evening went to Trocadero with Sandi and saw “Wake Island” a pretty realistic film, rather spoilt by too much Yankee ballyhoo. Feel pretty rotten, might report sick tomorrow.
Met Diana at Sloane Sq. and went to the Gaumont, Chelsea. Diana goes on leave tomorrow, made arrangement to ring her up when she comes back Monday week. After leaving Diana went to Stephens Club, Westminster. Got a hell of a stiff neck!
Went to Gordon’s Club and met a red-headed South African WAAF named Denyse — with a “y”! Made a date for Friday. The dance wasn’t bad but floor space was limited. Had a letter from Joan saying she’d fixed up with Foyles about my books. Good work! Wrote to Dorothy. Joe and Wally Brown contributed to my autograph book. News of the week: Stalingrad taken by Russians: Churchill in Turkey. U-boats still a menace for ships crossing Atlantic.
Was on guard at the billet. Read “Mr Norris Changes Trains” by Christopher Isherwood, a mediocre story of pre-war Berlin. Everybody talking of their post war plans as though the war is finished, me included!
Denyse had to go to Scotland on a driving job, so I went to the YWCA for the dance. Saw Charles, Maxie, Maurice and Joe there. Maxie and I met two ATS girls named Joan and Olwyn. Joan works at the War Office, comes from Sheffield. Made a date for Tuesday, Hyde Pk Cnr 7o/c with Joan.
Weekend pass. Dined at Gordons Club with Maxie and Maurice. To Victoria Cinema to see Judy Garland in “Me and my Gal”. In evening went dancing at Seymour Hall, Baker St. Then straight home. Dave came out of hospital.
Met Dave, Maxie and Maurice at Queensbury Club. Saw Rawicz and Landauer play “Warsaw Concerto”, also Pat Kirkwood, Geo. Formby, Jack Warner, Hal Monty, Gwen Catley, Geraldo, Maisie Weldon, Carol Gibbons. Smashing show. Finished up at Russell Sq. Canteen.
Phoned Denyse. Went with Dave and Maurice to E&C. ABC to see Errol Flynn in “Desperate Journey”, an impossible film, but quite entertaining. Finished up having supper in the YMCA on Waterloo Stn. Letter from Tom Melling.
Phoned Denyse and home. Air raid sirens early morning, another school bombed. In the evening met Joan at Hyde Pk Corner, walked to B.C. Club, then to Queensbuury Club, where we met Ted Fielding and Audrey, his sister in the WRENS, and Sid Bolton and Alvina his girl.
To Gordon’s Club with Sandi, Dave, Bolton and Fielding, had a really good meal, then went upstairs to the dance. Denyse wasn’t there, her Corporal told me she was on another three day drive. Air raid sirens around tea time. Question asked in the House by Emmanuel Shinwell about food supplies, Churchill’s answer was that we are now drawing on our emergency supplies. Apparently this U-boat menace is indeed a menace!
Dined at Gordon’s Club with Maxie. Maxie and I met Joan and Olwyn at Victoria and went to the dance at Streatham Locano. Quite a good dance hall, but much overrated. Joan’s a nice kid, seeing her again tomorrow. Wrote to Tom.
Letter - 15/- from Foyles. Answered mail. In evening met Joan and went to British Columbia Club, from there we walked to Queensbury Club. Saw Bolton and Winifred there. Dave, Maxie and Maurice were also there. Seeing Joan again Tuesday.
Dined with Maxie and Maurice at Gordon’s Club. Met Sandi & Dave in the Strand and went with Sandi to Wyndham’s so see the play “Quiet Weekend”. Marjorie Fielding was excellent. Finished up in the canteen in the Crypt of St Martins.
Dined at Gordon’s Club with Sandi. Met Dave, Maxie and Maurice at Queensbury Club. Show was compered by Helen Drew, Paramount Film Star. She’s great! Geraldo and his band were there as usual and several big stars. Show followed by “Who Done It” with Abbott and Costello. Very funny. Supper at St Martins.
Phoned Joan. Went with Dave and Sandi to Union Jack Club in a frantic effort to swot up 10 weeks work in ten minutes, because of our final Exam tomorrow. Studied 10 minutes, then fell asleep reading short stories!
Went with Sandi to see “Thunder Rock” starring Michael Redgrave. A finely acted film, which leaves something to think about. People in the Elephant & Castle obviously didn’t understand it, and so chatted throughout the film. Went to Waterloo YMCA for supper.
Went to Gordon’s Club with Maxie. Met Joan and Olwyn at Victoria and went to the dance at Rochester Hall, Bayswater. Prizes for fancy dress — has this war really been on 5 years!?
Heard results of the final examination taken yesterday. Ouch! I certainly paid for my 10 weeks of painting the town red. But it was worth it. Starting on 14 days leave tomorrow, during which I’m going to live every minute as I expect to go abroad.
Arrived home in temper after carting my kit through London and accidentally hitting 90% of the population with my steel helmet! Spent a restful day reading “The Barber of Putney” by Beachcomber and “The Bride wore black” by John Drummond.
Spent afternoon in Charing X Road, firstly buying “Mrs Miniver”. Met Joan at Hyde Pk. Corner, went to B.C. Club where we met Maxie, Maurice and Oliver. From there to Queensbury Club. Came home by way of Liverpool where I went to YMCA for supper.
Dined at Gordon’s Club with Maxie, Maurice and Oliver. Went with them to Metropole and saw “Happy Go Lucky”. In evening went with sister Joan, Ron and his family to a dance at Winchmore Hill. Bought book by H.G. Wells. Wrote to Ken and Dorothy.
Met Joan at Victoria. Dined at Gordon’s Club. Went to Broadcast show at Queensbury. This was followed by a better show by the Pioneer Band. Explained the “Mr Hyde side of my personality” to Joan who seemed rather shaken. Nicely though!
Visited Elsie, Ken’s wife, and took her to his mothers. Saw Albert who is now a Cpl in RAF, Peggy and Derek, now young man and woman, how time flies! Wrote off to Ken and told him of evening. Bought “How green was my Valley”.
Joan’s birthday. Went with her, Mother and Ron to Wood Green Empire and saw “The Gestapo” a show. Ernie Lotinga is not funny! Sorted out Joyce’s letters for salvage, they make interesting reading — now!
Dined at Gordons Cub, met Denyse who has injured her arm. Met Maxie, Joan and Olwyn at Victoria and went to Streatheam Locarno. Edhibition dance by Alex Moore and Pat Kirkpatrick. Supper at St Peter’s, Victoria. Goodbye Joan!
God knows what New Holland or at the best Grimsby will seem like after this course and leave. I shall apply for an RA Commission, volunteer to go abroad, all at once when I get back, if only to keep things moving!
Met Denyse at St James Park. Went to Gordons Club, from there to Tott. Ct. Rd to see “Squadron Leader X! a fine film with Eric Portman. Afterward went to Gordon’s Club for evening. Deny is rather an interesting conversationalist.
Met Albert at B.C. Club, went dancing at Paramount, Tea at American Eagle Club. In evening went with Albert and his family to dance at Hornsey Town Hall, Met Babs, a friend of Peggy’s. Made a date for tomorrow. Slept night at Mrs Guryones.
Met Babs at Wood Green. Went and saw “Nine Men” a really great film. Babs is only 16, but 16 with a difference! Good luck the girls of 16 didn’t know damn-all when I was 16, a matter of 6 years ago!!
Gran and Grandad came in morning. Joan was ill. Made a few bargains selling old books and pre-war stories. Read “Winter of Discontent” by Gilbert Fontane. In evening went down to see Mother at B.O.
Contributed originally by hemlibrary (BBC WW2 People's War)
This story was submitted to the Peoples War web site by Hertfordshire Libraries working in partnership with the Dacorum Heritage Trust on behalf of the author, John Greener. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.
I was born (1st June 1937) and grew up in Edgware, Middlesex (Queensbury, to be precise). Our address was 7 Millais Gardens, Mollison Way, Edgware. Edgware was right on the edge of London then - a sizeable sprawl of the mid-thirties house building explosion. Miles of, mostly terraced (Bauerhaus influenced) , wide windowed houses occupied by respectable upper working class families with aspirations. I think that most were quite happy in their brand new easy-to-run houses in the leafy suburbs - and then came the War.
My childhood memories consist mostly of always going to sleep with searchlights continously passing across the wall and the distant sound of bombs dropping and gun fire. During the day barrage balloons all across the sky and how nice and cosy and almost homely they looked. Air raid sirens and the feeling of dread they produced in your stomach. Of course, the legendary air raid wardens yelling “Put that light out” which infuriated my mother and she used to have angry rows with him. Funny green tape criss-crossed on the windows of underground trains (it was still there in the mid-50s). Air raid practise at school - this consisted of crouching under wash-hand basins until it all went away.My mother found out we were sheltering under these basins at the teacher’s direction and every time the air raid warning went off, she used to run round to the school and take me home.
I grew up in an extended family of extrovert and batty people - I was the only child in a family of eight of us - my sister was twelve when I was born so was almost grown-up. We had two adjoining mid-terrace houses - my Mum and Dad, my sister and I in one house and my mother’s two sisters and their husbands in the house next door. The women had bitter arguments and there was always one sister who was not speaking to another sister but they all had very strong loyalty to each other, bonded together by the horrors of growing up in the Camden Town slums at the beginning of the twentieth century. They all idolised me and whenever one of them found a treat in the shops - either over or under the counter - it would come my way.
When the air raid siren sounded we went en masse to the shelter in the street which was very damp and always flooded but Mum and her sisters decided that it wasn’t very healthy in there and the neighbours were doing unmentionable things to each other which they didn’t want me to see. Therefore we had three Morrison shelters - one for each family. I suppose by then it must have been about 1942.
My sister was eighteen in 1943 and was “called up”. She had the choice of going into the ATS, training to become a nurse or becoming a bus conductress or working in a factory. She chose to join the ATS. She hated the idea of being a nurse or going into a factory and Dad said he wouldn’t allow her to be a bus conductress because they were all tarts (he drove a no. 13 bus!) So then there were just Mum and Dad and I and the cat to sleep in the Morrison shelter.
One night (I think perhaps in the Autumn of 1944) the air-raid siren sounded and we moved into the Morrison to sleep. We were fast asleep in the middle of the night when there was a terrible red flash and flames racing up the wall and I screamed “Mum, we’re on fire”. Immediately after the flash came the noise of the doodle-bug crashing into a house round the corner. It has always seemed as if the reflected flash of the fire came first and then the sound of the bomb. I think Dad must have called out “Is everybody allright” . My mother was screaming hysterically. I was crying because the cat wouldn’t come in that night and I was convinced he must have been killed in all the devastation that seemed to be going on outside. We were right under the window and all the glass from these wonderful wall-to-wall curved Bauerhaus windows blew in. A big lump was chipped out of the piano.
My Dad said “If I have to put up that bloody front door any more I will go mad”. Uncle Ern next door rushed out to see if everyone was allright and cut his bare feet to ribbons on all the glass on the floor. Then there was the sound of fire engines and water hoses and the fire seemed to be all round us. A man kept running up and down the street screaming “My wife is dead. My wife is dead”. I don’t remember any more about that night but I found our cat Sandy hiding in the garden the next morning quite unharmed. That day or maybe several days afterwards I can remember standing in the pouring rain holding the hand of one of my uncles and looking up at our two roofs with all the tiles missing. Some Irishmen were scrambling about trying to fix tarpaulins on the roof and I can remember asking “Will it be allright” and the uncle said “Oh yes I’m sure it will be quite soon now”.
My Dad drove a no.13 bus from Hendon, through Oxford Street and Piccadilly Circus and across (I think) Waterloo Bridge. He used to come home covered in soot from all the fires he had driven through and once stopped just before a huge bomb crater somewhere.
One night I couldn’t sleep. It must have been deep in the winter because I can remember feeling desperately cold. My dad was in the bathroom having a bath and when I heard the door open I called out “Dad, I can’t sleep. I’m so cold”. Dad’s hair was sticking up in spikes (like a punk) from being washed. He said that when he was in the trenches he used to wrap the blanket right round the back of his neck and tuck it in tight. I still do that now with a duvet and it does work.
My dad and Uncle Ern and Uncle Fred used to go fire watching in the flats across the road. They used to sit there all night playing cards and smoking and drinking brown ales. One night they must have all fallen asleep and one of them must have left a cigarette still burning - it set the flat alight and they had to run round to the ‘phone box and call for a fire engine!
My sister who was a good looking girl, came home on leave from time to time with various boyfriends who were in the Services. She also had several American boyfriends but they always seemed to be killed in Europe. She was also engaged to a boy called Frank Ritchie who was serving in the Navy - she used to work with him in a butcher’s shop in Burnt Oak before the war - I think he was the owner’s son. He was killed the day after the war finished. He was in a jeep with a gang of American soldiers - I guess they were celebrating the end of the war. The jeep crashed and he was killed. My sister was devastated and I don’t think she ever really got over it.
Uncle Ern’s sister Gwen was going up to Glasgow to join her sister. My mother was having a sort of nervous breakdown - it’s her nerves they used to say. They all decided I should go up to Glasgow to be away from the bombs and to give Mum a break. We had a nightmarish train journey up there. The train was tightly packed and I think we had to sit on our suitcases for the whole twelve hours it took to get there. The lights kept going out and the train kept stopping while the bombs were dropping. One of the soldiers on the train kept bringing us cups of tea.
I can remember when we got to Gwen’s sister’s house (the sisters had six children between them) she pointed to the Morrison shelter which was full of kids and said “You’ll have to sleep on the top. You can see there’s no more room in there!” I decided I wasn’t going to like it there. Then they made me take cod liver oil before I went to bed and also to drink Ovaltine made with water - Mum always made it with milk at home. So I thought I don’t like it here. I’m going to make such a pest of myself that they’ll send me home. So I kept crying and saying I was homesick and wanted to go home. I used to listen to them talking when I was supposed to be in bed and very soon they were saying “We’ll have to send her home. She’s a horrible child”.
I was there for a month so I did quite well really. I had a great time playing with the children though. I think I did the journey home on my own and the whole family was there (apart from Dad, who was driving his bus, I expect). I had in a month acquired a very strong Glaswegian accent and my mother burst into tears and said she couldn’t understand a word I said.
We used to have wonderful Christmasses. Somehow, between them all they used to produce some wonderful food and lots of drink, despite wartime privations. We always used to have a chicken - a real once a year luxury then. The men always used to do a “turn” for Christmas night - once they each had a sand covered tray which they danced on, doing what they imagined were Egyptian type gestures, copying a comic music hall team whose name I have forgotten. They also loved dressing in drag and larking about. It was their proud boast that we were always the last people to still be celebrating in the whole street and we used to take great delight in doing the conger down the street and all singing very loudly just to wake the neighbours.
When I was a bit older my sister and I rehearsed some duets ( the only song I can remember now is “Sentimental Journey” - I did the descant, I think) to sing at the family Christmas party. During all of this Aunty Vi would sit in the corner, occasionally sipping a small sherry, looking very disapproving, and knitting furiously!
We were always quite hungry - there just wasn’t enough food in the shops most of the time. I think it was during the war that my mother brought home some whale meat. She didn’t know what to do with it so I think she just fried it. It was quite disgusting. Like eating very dense, very fishy liver.
Early in the war Mum and Dad decided to keep chickens. I regarded them as my best friends and used to sit in the hen house talking to them for hours. My favourite one was always pecking me. The smell of potato peelings stewing for hours was quite horrible but we did get fresh eggs - worth their weight in gold then, although they always seemed to be going broody and we had to leave a china egg in the broody one’s nest, which was supposed to encourage it to lay. When one of them got too old to bother any more, Mum used to keep nagging my Dad to ring its neck which he hated because they kept running round the garden even though they were dead.
One day, amazingly, a duck flew into the garden. I fell in love with it immediately and christened it Donald, of course. On my birthday we had a special meal with this rather strange meat . I remember thinking that it was Donald but that I’d eat it anyway and then look for him in the hen house and if he wasn’t there, I’d make a big fuss and cry a lot to show how upset I was.
I can remember going to the Victory celebrations and being carried high above everybody else on Uncle Fred’s (he was quite tall) shoulders.
That’s about it. My Dad and my uncles died many years ago. My mother died aged 95 living in an almshouse in the Hertfordshire village where I now live. My two aunts are still alive and living in care homes in Clacton-on-Sea - they are now 99 and 97.
Contributed originally by Herts Libraries (BBC WW2 People's War)
MUNICH CRISIS — EFFECT ON COMMUNITY IN EDWARE
This is the story of a suburban street at about one year before the War; it’s the gathering storm. And this letter, which I found in my attic after my parents had died, gives you some idea of what it was like in those times. I should explain that my Mother was German and my Father was English. My Mother by the time the war had come had become neutralised, so she had given up her German nationality and was legally English, but she had been born in Spanda in Berlin. My Father had visited Germany before the war for Kodak to start up a factory. She was a secretary to the firm that Kodak was taking over. They got to know each other, fell in love and got married in 1929. I was born 1931 and my sister in 1937.
We lived in Edgware at the end of the Northern Line. Suburbia - streets of semi-detached mock Tudor houses. We had 2 ½ bedrooms, I say 2 ½ because the third bedroom was more of a box bedroom. I remember there was a grass verge with cherry trees. There was lovely cherry blossom in the spring. Our neighbours were a mixed bunch. We were very cosmopolitan, a lot of German Jews escaping Nazi Germany, opposite lived the Cohen’s, next door to us on the left was Mrs Zhouke who was Russian, opposite again a bit further down the road was the Kemp’s. Mrs Kemp was a Dutch lady who was widowed. She had three daughters. My Father in fact was their surrogate Father if you like, he gave them away at their weddings, and he walked down the isle with them. Next door from us were Bert and Winnie Richmond. Burt had been in the 1st World War. He had a collapsed lung from being gassed. He always looked slightly miserable to me as a boy at that time. And now of course I understand why. As I have said, my mother was German. She had a family in Berlin. So I had one uncle in the British Navy and one uncle in the German Navy. What I am going to read to you now is a letter which she wrote to my Father in September 28th 1938. She wrote:
My dearest love
I had your letter of the 15th this morning and want to assure you that we are all perfectly alright. I always disliked it intensely, the many political radio messages I had to listen to when you were here, but I can assure you that since then, I have done nothing else but hear politics and speeches. This last week has been a nightmare, still is for that matter, but when Chamberlain announced this afternoon that there will be a new conference in Munich tomorrow morning and that he is going to fly to Germany a third time, we all breathed a little bit more freely. Let us hope and pray to God that war can still be prevented.
Everybody has been most marvellous to me. Captain Taylor and his wife were both here yesterday to assure me that they will help me all they can. Yesterday McMaster (McMaster was my fathers boss at Kodak. He was an American) he rang me up. And this morning I had a long talk with Billi. (Billi was another German lady who lived in Britain and was a friend of my mothers). From Rose I got a very nice letter. (Rose I have to say, was my aunt. My father’s sister-in-law). Mr Tracey phoned early this morning as well to assure me of his health. (He was one of my dads colleagues at Kodak). All the neighbours are very nice. So you see I’m not alone, but I am miserable without you, naturally, but don’t let that worry you, I wont lose my head and I will do everything I can for the children’s sake. I thought that the best thing I could possibly do is to send the children with mother (that was her mother-in-law, my father’s mum) up to see Rose. They will be safe there. (They lived up in Scotland). I have not talked to the parents as yet, (By parents she means my fathers parents). but I am convinced that they will both agree that it will be best for them to clear out of their flat. (Which was in Cricklewood). I would suggest to you to have dad with me here, where we will be as safe as one could possibly be near London. If it should come to the worst I’m quite willing to let the children go if mother can see her way to go with them. I don’t for one moment think that there will be danger of life for them here, but I would like to spare the children the nerve racking experience of air raids. Gordon and I (that’s me, Gordon) have had gas masks fitted yesterday. But up to now there are no safety devises for children under four, (My sister was under that age of course, she was only one and a half) although we were assured by wireless that there were gas-bags for babies ready which will be distributed within the next few days. However that is the second reason why I would like the baby out of the way. Elfreda (I have to explain - we had, you wouldn’t believe it, but in a little suburban house with two bedrooms and a box room, a German maid. Her name was Elfreda. There was another house up the road where they also had a maid. I remember her well ‘Marie’, because I was used to going to the kitchen and used to get to lick the spoon whenever she was making a cake.)
Q. How old was you then?
A. I was seven and a half
Q. Where was your dad?
A. My dad was in America he was on a business trip to Kodak over in America.
Elfreda has her ticket back to Berlin and her bags are packed. She was actually leaving here tomorrow morning with Elise (that was her other German friend). After we heard the announcement about Chamberlain she is staying on and we will see what tomorrow brings. Billi told me this morning that I should let her go as I would take on a great responsibility in keeping her here. Anyway she will go as soon as we know that war is inevitable. Mr Faylor (Mr Faylor was a German industrialist and had a factory over here) got tickets yesterday for his wife and their children to go to Holland tomorrow night, now however they have postponed their departure. He was going to stay on as he has quite a number of German families in his factory dependant on him. Many people here in the road have left for the country. The Mortimer’s are leaving tonight, as he might be called away any moment for special service and then he does not want to leave his wife and children behind. The news was terribly disquieting till this afternoon but now there is hope and smiling faces again.
Many tube stations are closed, trenches are being dug day and night in the big parks and the wireless is booming on and on, recalling Chamberlain’s speech in the House of Commons in English first and then in German.
I’m worried too about father and mother knowing that they are so close to the aerodrome, (they lived in Temple doff In Berlin) but it helps such a lot to know they at least are still in ignorance of the great danger which might overcome all of us. Hitler’s speech, the night before yesterday, mades it quite clear that he keeps his beloved people so much in the dark so they can’t possibly realise the great danger.
If the meeting in Munich should fail tomorrow I will send a telegram to Dudley (that was my uncle, my father’s brother) asking him to have mother and the children. I will feel happier to know that they are out of the danger zone. It would worry me to be alone in the house with them especially at night although the Barrett’s and also Mrs Hill (the wife of the man who made the boots for the Prince of Wales) have offered to take us all in so that I would not be alone. And I will take very good care of myself until you are safely back with me again and I can always go somewhere else at night in order not to be alone. The Richmond’s and Mrs Zhouke (that is the Russian lady I mentioned) also will still be here and I dare say quite a lot of others.
Please, please, don’t worry about us, darling. By the time this letter reaches you, all our worries might be over and a thing of the past. I fervently pray that this may be so.
I am so sorry that this has turned out to be such a miserable letter, but I hope it will only reach you together with my next one which is so very much more cheerful.
I think of you day and night. All my love
Contributed originally by footslogger (BBC WW2 People's War)
Remembering the War
I have recently been told about this site initiated by the BBC.so that peoples memories of that great conflict can be recorded for posterity.
It is hard for me to know where to start being unused to doing this type of recording fro other people to read, and whether the items that I am writing about will be of interest to this web site.
First a brief introduction.: My name is Raymond and I was born in London England, but after being “Demobbed” couldn’t settle down and moved to Canada a few years later where I have lived ever since. My home is in a town in an area known as “The Greater Toronto Area” or GTA for short which is in the province of Ontario.
So where should I start with my reminiscing? How about this as a beginning?
In August 1939 I went on holiday to Herne Bay in Kent and one day walking along the front I heard the sound of aircraft engines and being interested in aircraft I looked up and saw what I identified as a Lufthansa Junkers tri motor passenger plane coming in over the coast it was quite low all silver in the sunlight and I noticed the red background with the big black swastika on the tail fin, and seeing it I thought (which I suppose at the time a strange thought for a fifteen year old boy though again maybe not with all the talk of war going on) I wonder how soon the pilot of that plane would be over England again but this time dropping bombs.
I watched until it disappeared in land then I forgot about and went to the local cinema and saw maybe appropriately a film called“Fire over England” with Laurence Olivier though the action took place in Elizabethan times
September 3rd 1939 : Living in Finchley in north London I was with my friend (also named Raymond) who lived on the same road as me but at the opposite end of it; and for some reason I was at his home instead of my own listening to Mr Chamberlain’s speech declaring “That Britain was now at war with Germany“.
At the end of the speech not be sure what to do as his family were in a sombre mood we left the house and decided to walk down to the end of the road back to my home to see how my family were taking the news, and I suppose also to see if anything was going to happen that we had been warned about, we just reached the end of the road and the sirens started to sound, we both stood stock still for a moment and then did a mad dash back to his house ,I swear we covered that distance in less than 30 seconds and it is a long road, at his house we both suddenly stopped and then strolled very nonchalantly inside only to find all his family sitting in a cupboard under the stairs.
Of course the “All clear” sounded soon afterwards. We again went outside Ray’s house and outside several houses people were standing and looking up and wondering most likely like us what the warning was all about, and I am not sure how long after the All Clear sounded this event happened, that we heard this loud explosion, naturally we wondered what it was and whether bombs had fallen.It was rather a mystery and it
wasn’t until some months later that I heard a rumour that an RAF plane had crashed,
I was told at Hendon aerodrome which was not far from us, but at the time this was never confirmed.
When I was in London on a visit a couple of years ago I went to the RAF museum at Colindale the site of the old aerodrome and was looking through its history records and there I did find an entry which confirmed that rumour of a plane crash Apparantly a student pilot on a training flight was coming into land, miscalculated his approach and crashed into a house in Colindale, unfortunately killing not only himself but several people who were in that house.
Naturally as a young boy all that was happening was very novel and exciting for me, although my parents did not think the same, especially my father who served the Middlesex Regt. in the first war.
He became an Air Raid Warden, so I thought I would the same but would only be accepted as a messenger which was fine for me, I was issued with a steel helmet and a respirator, and was told my duties would be relaying messages from the District Wardens office to the various Wardens Posts in the district.
At the beginning my job was rather quiet until the raids on London started and the things started to happen. and I felt a bit apprehensive riding around on a bike with messages especially during a raid with the ack-ack firing away and bits of shell coming down, I could hear the pieces hitting the ground. One time I heard some splinters came down and I think one must have hit my front wheel while I was riding as all of a sudden I had a flat tire which gave me a scare..
One of my most chilling experiences happened one night while I was out delivering messages during a raid. I heard this strange whistling and shushing sound that seemed to be coming down, the sound eventually stopped but I couldn’t see anything and it obviously was not a bomb, no explosion.
I continued cycling up the high road to point where there was a boulevard with some very high trees, and I saw something white hanging from one of them naturally I stopped to look and saw it was a parachute with something very large and black hanging from it I immediately had a good idea what it was A Land Mine ! Luckily it got snagged in the trees as I hate to think what would have happened if it had landed on the ground.
,I didn’t wait to look any closer but took off like the wind back to the local police station that I had passed, when I got there it took me a couple of minutes to calm down and then I managed to tell the police what I had just found. They got in touch with the army bomb disposal squad and in short time the area was evacuated and roped off. The army I was told later defused the mine and took it away.
Apparently this strange noise had also been heard by someone nobody was sure what it was and if it was some sort of bomb that had come down where it had landed, but everyone was very pleased that I saw the mine and reported it. I was quite excited about what had happened and told my parents afterwards, my father said you did a good job, but my mother naturally was horrified
A Home Guard experience
As soon as I was old enough I joined the Home Guard and went through all the training in what we were expected to do should the Germans invade Britain.
One exercise I went on was to do with house to house fighting, which we were doing in a partly finished housing site in Mill Hill, I was detailed to give covering fire with a grenade firing rifle and had to camouflage myself, there was a grass ditch at side of the road so I dived in there and as there was a lot of loose grass I decided to cover myself with just my head showing, a perfect covering I thought.
While I was lying there the local milkman came by with his horse and cart and stopped in front of me to deliver his milk (he could not have noticed me lying there for which I was pleased about) while he was gone the horse decided it was hungry and started to eat the grass that was covering me, not only that he also relieved himself at the same time which splashed all over me, I gave a yell and jumped up scaring the horse which took off at a great speed down the road with the cart , all the bottles rattling, some falling off, and. with the milkman who had just returned after his delivery, running after it calling the horse all sorts of names to stop which he eventually managed to make it do, then coming back to me to say some rather nasty things at what I had caused..
My platoon sergeant who came by to see what the ruckus was about and saw me rather wet and smelling not too good into the bargain, couldn‘t stop laughing neither could the rest of the platoon when they found out what happened and saw me all wet with bits of grass stuck to my uniform.
My mother told me to keep out of the house when I returned home until I changed in fresh clothing. The odour would not go away and I had to get a new uniform from the QM stores where again to my embarrassment I had to explain what happened to me. It took a long time for me to live this episode down! .
1942 I was still studying to be a mechanical engineer at and was possibly in theory exempt from military service, but on turning eighteen I decided to volunteer for the RAF. I was accepted and soon after orders came for me to report to Euston House to collect my travel documents for Penarth in South Wales for Primary Training , When I reported in with the rest of the intake we were told we were being put on Deferred Service as the RAF now had too many volunteers to cope with
So after all that excitement I was back in “Civvy Street” waiting for a recall which I hoped would not be too long in coming.
What I did get a few months later much to my annoyance was my call up for the army ,I immediately went to the RAF recruiting station at Euston House to complain and found some others like me there. We were told too bad that although we were on deferred service technically we not in the RAF so into the army you go!
Reluctantly I went to Canterbury and did my 6 weeks basic training again ,then posted to the East Surrey regiment for my Corps Training after which I posted to my battalion in the 3‘mortor platoon of “S“ company.
Until I went overseas it was the usual round of training, route marches, schemes etc
When we received our overseas postings we were issued with tropical kit including Solar Topees, so we all thought it’s the far east