His Story, His Words
It started on the 23rd of October 1910 and ended on the 25th September 2008. A life of some 97 years plus. I think it is a rather fascinating story.
It has taken many hours of my personal time to design and build this site as a hopeful lasting commemoration to someone I loved and admired very much. It is my wish to say it has been worth every minute. It has taken an incredible amount of research which has been most rewarding.
I hope you enjoy looking and reading as much as I have enjoyed compiling it.
It is in 12 parts, consisting of:
PART 1: Background in Sunderland, Co Durham, and St John's, Canada, 1910- 1931: areas of Sunderland where he lived; story of Zeppelin raid during First World War; education; memories of childhood including court appearance; family; effects of First World War; father's service during First World War; poverty of family following First World War; birth of sister; visits to slaughterhouse; work in café including song sung for money and further memories of childhood; suicide of employer; work with fishmonger and in Victoria Hall.
PART 2: leisure activities; time in boy scouts; sports played; memories of cousins; latrines; memories of childhood friends; work French polishing; reason for emigrating to Canada; application for Salvation Army work scheme and training for farm work; reactions to leaving home; journey to Canada; arrival in St John's; work on farm; return to GB; length of time in Canada; unemployment; story of joining army. Aspects of period as recruit with Durham Light Infantry Depot, 1/1931-11/1931: journey to and arrival at Fenham Barracks; squad posted in; uncle at depot; make-up of squad; story of breaking knuckles and hospitalisation at Catterick; wait for new squad; memories of Sergeant Flanagan; army education certificates; morning procedures; details and opinion of drill.
PART 3: Coping with pace of drill; importance of drill; bayonet training; rifle training at Fenham and Ponteland including proficiency with rifle and opinion of what makes a good shot; route marches; boxing; army education including learning of regimental history; pride in regiment; rations including cookhouse fatigues; preparation for kit inspections including polishing of boots and wearing of puttees; story of a kit inspection with and memories of Captain Weihe; cleaning of barrack room; story of reprimand and punishment following a route march to Jesmond Dene including formation of march; guardroom; standard of turnout before leaving barracks; story of saluting union flags and slipping over on return home; cane drill; evening activities; details of pay including story of refusing to cooperate with means test officer; reason for leaving home.
PART 4: Comradeship among recruits; opinion and memories of NCO instructors; story of saluting a Regimental Sergeant Major; staff at Fenham Barracks; passing out parade; settling in to army life. Aspects of period as private with 1st Bn Durham Light Infantry in GB, 1931-1932: description of barracks at Catterick; conditions in barrack room; posting in machine gun company; opinion of formation of machine gun battalions; relationship with older troops; roles of troops in Vickers gun crew; transportation of gun; opinion of Vickers gun; stoppages; stripping of Vickers gun; firing of gun; practice firing Vickers on range; opinion of revolver carried; learning of al roles in crew; opinion of Lewis gun and use of gun later in Belgium; practice putting gun into action; guard duties; reason for volunteering for service in India. Aspects of journey from GB to India aboard the Nevassa, 1932: promotion during voyage; guard duties; sleeping arrangements; storage of hammocks; rations; gambling and bingo; seasickness; policy towards passing Italian ships; dolphins seen from ship; availability of alcohol; arrival in Bombay. Aspects of period as private with 2nd Bn Durham Light Infantry in India, 1932-1935: first impressions of India; conditions on train journey to Barrackpore; troops in battalion; description of barracks; civilian workers in camp; use of false names when buying tea; sleeping arrangements; storage of equipment and rifles; church parades and reason for attending services with rifles.
PART 5: Morning procedures; rations including description of curry; mounting of guard and selection of stickman; stickman duties; items borrowed when first selected as stickman; story of Chalky White's return from visit to Calcutta; leisure activities; climate and afternoon naps; sports played; boxing competition in Lebong; evening activities; canteens; civil unrest training exercise in Calcutta; visits to Barrackpore and Calcutta; VD warnings; problems with VD; relationship with civilians including personal servant; time in bed; story of soldier who committed suicide; description of Deolali and explanation of ‘deolali tap’ mental disorder; duties at ammunition factory in Midnapore; description of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway; activities in Lebong; racetrack; assassination attempt on John Anderson; tea planters and local orphanage; problems with bed bugs in Lebong and Fort William.
PART 6: Problems with kneecap and with ankle; posting as storekeeper; staff of stores; duties as storekeeper; reasons for troops getting new clothes; topees worn; clothing worn; ammunition checks; visits to railway station when in Bombay; process of ordering goods; daily routine; relationship with Colour Sergeants; method of gaining extra materials for stores; ongoing problems with knee; reason for not being sent home; posting in Bombay; scenes and activities; guard mounted for new viceroy; story of riot in Bombay including own role; hospitalisation with dysentery; death of Corporal Wilson; stories of problems with wildlife; reactions to posting away from India; scenes in Darjeeling; handover of stores; journey to Port Sudan. Aspects of period as private with 2nd Bn Durham Light Infantry in Sudan, 1935-1937: train journey to Khartoum.
PART 7: First impressions of Khartoum; description of barracks; reason for not visiting Khartoum; duties; climate and sandstorms; memories of civilians; journey to GB and troops transferred to 1st Battalion. Aspects of period as private with 2nd Bn Durham Light Infantry in GB, 1937-1938: arrival in Woking; suits sold outside barracks; attempt to make him re-enlist while in Khartoum; reason for not re-enlisting; leave including means test incident and move to Walsall. Aspects of period as civilian in GB, 1938-1939: story of gaining work as doorman at cinema; meeting of wife; work in factory and on buses; reason for not re-enlisting; signs of approaching war; call-up as part of reserve; return to Woking. Aspects of period as private and NCO with 2nd Bn Durham Light Infantry in GB, 1939: reactions on return; opinion of Bren gun; testing of gas capes; route marches; attitude of civilians towards army; visits to Guildford; opinion of Boyes Anti-Tank Rifle; training with mortars; lecture of German mortars; opinion and summary of training; posting in D Company; opinion of Sergeant Major Metcalfe; return to civilian work with orders for return; call to report to Depot; journey to Fenham Barracks; outbreak of war and reaction to situation; journey to Woking; posting as infantryman; reasons for not mentioning knee to get out of war service; problems with knee; training; opinion of gas masks issued.
PART 8: Journey to Cherbourg; Aspects of period as NCO with 2nd Bn Durham Light Infantry in France, 9/1939-5/1940: posting at Le Mans racecourse; accommodation; rations and activities; posting in Chantenay; leave; promotion to lance corporal; posting in 16 Platoon; memories of Richard Annand; boredom of time in France; relationship with civilians; trouble in cafés; bombing of Douai; accommodation; Junkers JU 87 Stuka attack including reactions to noise. Aspects of operations as NCO with 2nd Bn Durham Light Infantry in France and Belgium, 5/1940: journey into Belgium; greeting from civilians positions taken on River Dyle at La Tombe; position of platoon; first meeting with and first impressions of Richard Annand; reconnaissance across river; story of Martin Douglas forgetting password on return to lines; return to C Company with news of tanks approaching; Alsatian on reconnaissance mission; destruction of bridge; arrival of and help given to refugees crossing river; Allied artillery barrage; return fire from Germans; wounding from shrapnel; German attempts to cross river; scenes during night; reactions to situation; grenades given to and actions of Richard Annand; orders for withdrawal; activities of Terry O'Neill; roll call during withdrawal; return of Richard Annand for batman Joe Hunter; death of Joe Hunter; fire faced during withdrawal; march towards Brussels; soup eaten; orders from Lieutenant Colonel Simpson; scenes on arrival in Tournai; positions taken at Grammont; death of Sergeant Pearson; story of Private Fitch killed by sniper and Miller's reaction; German spies killed.
PART 9: Lack of artillery support; German paratroopers dropped; accidental firing on Berkshire Regiment; order to fend for themselves; withdrawal to canal with Lieutenant Rudd; boat journey along canal; reunion with 2nd Battalion NCOs; talk with Sergeant Metcalfe and realisation Miller was wounded; initial treatment received; wait for ambulance; decision to walk away and walk into forest occupied by Royal West Kent Regiment; artillery barrage seen fired; journey on truck and Junkers JU 87 Stuka attack; capture. Aspects of period as POW in transit, 5/1940-8/1940: treatment from Germans and order to walk; wounds received from paratrooper; growth of column and march; POWs with bicycles; climate; rations and sleeping arrangements; item taken from house; French POWs in column; forced run through a town; conditions during truck journey; state of wounds; arrival at Stalag VIII B; water left out by civilians during journey; state of water drunk from pond; rumour about invasion of Britain; wounded POWs shot; length of journey. Aspects of period as POW in Germany, 1940-1945: delousing at Stalag VIII B; clothes gained from boiler; sleeping arrangements; opinion of camp guard American Joe; escape of RAF pilots; description of barrack blocks; fights among POWs; call for farm workers; camp hospital; accommodation in Grunfleiss; rations; potatoes stolen and method of cooking them; story of first day working and role of work; stopping for bad weather; story of apple stolen from small girl; lunch; wooden clogs worn.
PART 10: Problems with lice; story of using latrine one night in accommodation; emptying of latrine; visit from guards' wives; washing of clothes; health of POWs; treatment from guards; treatment for ill health in Stalag VIII B; reunion with George Blackburn; details of working party at sawmill in Hof including burning down of sawmill; building of new mill; problems with leg and posting as cook; arrival and contents of Red Cross parcels; German tampering with parcels; sharing out of Red Cross parcels; food given from parcels to cook; cooking equipment; relationship with guards shopping for food; tricks played during parades; stoves made by POWs; swapping Red Cross food with Jewish POWs; enjoyment of working parties; length of time as cook; relationship with civilians; mail; concern for family; gramophone; description of accommodation; story of building on roof; ANZAC POWs; radio and news from war; air raids; concern civilians may turn on POWs; reasons for not attempting to escape; signs war was coming to an end; packing up of possessions. Aspects of period as POW in transit, 1945: start of march; news from female civilians; desertion of guards; size of group; splitting-up of group; period travelling with refugees; treatment from Russian army; meal eaten in house with Russian officers; reception from civilians; separation from Russian unit; dances at night and traffic control.
PART 11: Opinion of Russians; arrival in Prague; Germans in Prague; money given and stay in hotel; story of Sonja Nyedla and stay with her family; activities with Sonja in Prague; Germans mourning Hitler; VE Day celebrations; events in Prague following end of German occupation; story of walks with Sonja; journey to Pilsen; flights to Brussels and on to GB; reception on arrival in Oxford; telegram sent to wife; journey from Walsall station to home; story of arrival home; Czech money given to children; journey to Sunderland; relationship with son; time in Wolverhampton rehabilitation centre; reason for not reporting Sergeant Major Metcalfe; news of Lieutenant Rudd; time in Washington rehabilitation centre; opinion of centres; hospitalisation in Chester; demobilisation. Aspects of period as civilian in GB from 1946: return to bus work and problems with knee; work in Sunderland Post Office; medical and reason for sacking; reaction to sacking; work gained in Walsall; pension; ongoing problems with shoulder wound.
PART 12: This part is told in brief by the author with reference to life after the army, working in Walall, two more sons (Peter and Anthony), retirement, Dunkirk Veterans Association, a trip to Australia to see a sister not seen for approx 50 years.............................etc, etc, The End