His Story, His Words Part Six

More On Barrackpore With 2nd Battalion DLI

Becoming A Storeman

I was at Ishapore with our company and I was playing in a football match, it was the 12th of December 1933, just as I was going to shoot for goal a chap called Walter Hog charged at me and I went down heavily, my left leg went underneath me. I had a broken knee cap and so I went to hospital within the barracks, I can't remember the name of the doctor that saw me but he put a Scots dressing on my leg and I had a dislocated knee cap of my left leg, it was very serious and it used to fill up with fluid. When I used to go on route marches my knee cap would come out and I used to push it back in. Actually, I should have been discharged from the army, it was very serious and my ankle went as well.

I used to do marching and Sergeant Major Metcalfe, as I was marching 140 to the minute my left ankle used to swing backwards and forwards and he used to laugh at me and say "look at Miller's bloody legs, look at his feet" and it was very embarrassing to me. This occurred when I had come out of hospital but I kept going into hospital with fluid on my leg.

One morning I was called into the company office, I was asked to write and count and all that and I did not know what it was for, I can't remember who the company commander was but he said "how would you like to be a storeman Miller", "what do you mean sir" I said, "work in the quartermasters store as storekeeper" he said and I said "OK it will be a change".

So, I went into the stores, it's all in my records the time I went in. The Quarter Master was called lieutenant Pearson and he used to be the Regimental Sergeant Major, he took a commission. I have a large photograph of all the men that were in the store, there was the Quarter Master himself lieutenant Pearson, RQMS Bewick (Tommy Bewick), Corporal Wilson, Sammy MacDonald, Sammy Golten and a Sergeant whose name I cannot remember who was known as the Ration Corporal, I was the Storekeeper and there was also a runner who did odd jobs, I can't remember his name either. Then there were the followers, Bobajees, Beasties who were Indians, there were Ghurkas as well. The Indians wore the North West Frontier Medal.

Colaba Barracks James Miller Front Row, Second From Left And  Next To Him His is Boot Boy Badeshi

I was in charge of all the clothing, all the implements, ammunition, the lot, that was my job. Every month we would have a clothing parade, the chaps wanted shorts, shirts, blouses, anything, shoes and that and I used to issue them with them. I got that used to the chaps I could say he wants a size 5 or 4 or something like that. It was a hectic job and the Quarter Master would be sitting there and the RQMS writing down the names of the lads and what they had had.

Things would be replaced because they were dirty or worn out, clothing had to be replaced, I am not sure how it was funded, there must have been some money in the regiment. If something was lost like a mess tin or a water bottle the man would be charged for it but if things were just worn out then it was given to him.

I used to arrange everything neatly just like in a big store. We had two kinds of Topees, there was the Bombay Topee and the proper Topee, this was a khaki helmet with a neck protector at the back, you had to wear it during the hot part of the day, if a man was found to be not wearing it during this time then he would be on a charge. You had to be smart in the army, soldiers had worn their helmets in India for a long long time so it was a tradition. The Bombay Topee was flat and was worn everyday where as the proper one was worn on parades. Most of the uniform was khaki drill, there was shorts and what we called hose tops which were green, this was not a full stocking, you put your ordinary stocking on then you put your hose top on and ours were green on the top because that was our colours, which were red and green.  The uniform was all khaki drill, shorts and short sleeved shirts, there were boots and socks, everything a soldier needed.

Example Hose Topee

I used to check the ammunition as you could only keep it for a certain time, then it would have to go back to the arsenal. Everything had to be checked, the rounds and I used to test the detonators for the hand grenades, this was done in a locked concrete room, I used to put the detonators into the hand grenade. I had to check the issue date on the ammunition as it could only be kept for so long, I am not sure how long.

When I was in Bombay I had to ride a bike to the railway stations, I would take or collect parcels from there, if there were any large quantities of stuff (goods) to be picked up from the station then I used to go with a team of horses and a cart and I used to go through Grant Road which was the prostitute area, there were girls there that used to sit behind cages, it was funny. I got on well with the Indians at the places I used to go to, Bori Bunder was the place I used to go to, this was to collect things for the battalion.

If things need replacing at the store my Quartermaster would come and check with me and I would say "we need so many of of this and that" and more stuff would be got from the big depots that was in India, it was his job but I used to help him. I used to say "there is only half a dozen of these sir or two of these and we want some more size 7 boots" (which was a popular size), I had a cushy job and I liked it.  Apart from ammunition and clothes we also supplied knives and forks and cutlery.

I was like a manager, my work day was organised by getting up at six with my boot boy Badeshi, he was a nice little old fellow, I would get a cup of tea, he would say "morning Sahib" we were all called Sahib and I would say "morning Badeshi "and he would have everything ready for me, my boots polished and all of that.  I would just stroll across to the stores and check around, it was a pretty easy life. While there I learned how to type, in fact I have a sister in Sunderland and she has a letter from me that I typed in 1933, I have a copy of it somewhere in the house as well.  There was not much admin for me to do all I had to do was keep a check on the stores i.e. what went out and what came in.

On the question of security, there was no problem of any of the staff taking anything. I got well in with the Quartermasters and Colour Sergeants of the different companies, if there was anything missing, they used to say "Dusty, any chance of", you know, so anything that was buckshee or left over and they would want it then they could have it. This was stuff that had been signed for and left behind or stuff that no one knew who it belonged to and they never came back to say they had left stuff.

When we moved from Bombay to go the The Sudan, there was a lot of stuff extra after we had checked up on the inventory, there was bales of socks with about 500 pairs of socks in a bale, we took them with us to Khartoum, there was no point leaving them behind for the other regiments as long as everything else was checked as OK. So this stuff could be used if any of the lads were in trouble, if they had lost stuff. I took nothing for myself, I just did it to help people out, I used to help the lads, this stuff was not accounted for so it made no odds. There was loads of stuff in the category of of Buckshee, sometimes other regiments could have left stuff behind when interchanging.

Going back to my knee, it has never really got better, it kept coming out and I would knock it back in, it would dislocate itself and fluid used to come in it, sinovitis of the knee it was called. The Medical Officer said I must not play any kind of sport, nothing at all not even boxing, nothing. I missed my sport, I was just nothing, I used to watch the lads playing this and that. I still had to go on parade and do route marches, I couldn't understand that, I should have been sent home but they would not send me home I would have to wait until the trooping season, some lads when they were abroad they had to wait maybe another ten months or so after they had done their seven years, waiting for the trooping season. 

All the ships were called HT (Hired Transport), The Bibby Line, that was the name of it, The Bibby Line, I can remember that. Names of some of these ships were The Lancashire, The Nevassa, I can't remember all of the names

The Trooping Season - Extract Taken from WW2 Peoples War- An Archive Of World War 2 Memories - Written By The Public, Gathered By The BBChttp://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/stories/76/a8543676.shtml

Trooping season in India commenced in September each year and finished in March - no trooping during the summer months at all. The reason given was that troops needed to be landed in India during the cool season so that when the summer arrived they would be acclimatised (what a load of cobblers!). The fact of the matter was that hundreds of troops, packed in the various holds of a pre-war troopship would probably have expired before they reached Aden! .
Let us assume that an Infantryman on a normal 7 years with the Colours and 5 on Reserve engagement, enlisted in April (of any year) and was sent to India after his recruit training, say with six to nine months service, he would do the remaining part of his 7 years in India - or did he? Remember, he enlisted in April, thus he was time-expired in April but the trooping season was over and he had to wait until that re-commenced in September; this extra time he did, (over and above his contract, i.e., seven years) was cunningly written into his enlistment contract so the powers-that-be could retain his services for a further year, subject to the exigencies of the Service. Many a soldier went away 18½ years old, a mere stripling, and came home aged 25 to 26. An iniquitous system, which was changed post-war to a maximum of 3 years overseas.

I was in the stores in Bombay and also when I went to Khartoum.  I moved to Bombay about 1935.  Bombay was a little better, it was a lovely city, I still remember the names of the roads.  Hornby Road was the main street, we used to walk there from Colaba Barracks and go to the cinema, I remember Victoria Station, it's still there and also the Gateway Of India, I used to like that, I have a photograph of when the Durham's 2nd battalion did a guard for the Viceroy coming in, I did not see it though because I was in the stores and not on parade.

The Gateway of India was built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Bombay, prior to the Delhi Durbar, in December 1911. it is still there and it is a lovely building.  For the Guard Of Honour the Indian Navy was on parade as well, the Viceroy's wife spoke to one or two of our lads, well that is what I was told of course.  There was a lot of monuments in Bombay, I remember the Queen Victoria Monument.

                  Jim Miller Calcutta 1933                                               Jim Miller Bombay 1935                  

Arrival Of Lord And Lady Linlithgow Bombay 1937

Departure Of Lord And lady Willingdon Bombay 1937

Gateway Of India Bombay

Hornby Road Bombay

Victoria Railway Station Bombay

Victoria Statue Bombay

                   Indian Barber Bombay                                          Indian Carpenter Bombay                    

              Indian Knife Grinder Bombay                                         Indian Traffic Cop Bombay               

Dhobi Ghat Bombay (Click On Photo For Explanation)

There was a riot there once, the alarm sounded and our lads went in trucks wired in with a machine gun on the back, it was the Hindus having a row with the Muslims, there was the Hindu Temple and The Muslim Mosque and one would complain about the other about not being able to do their services on account of the noise.  It would start with knives and my job was to send the rockets up, great big rockets, they were mounted for the riot and when you lit them they went ZIP up and then boom, I had to count five, one, two, three, four, five, light this one then whoosh, there were three rockets.  the rockets were a signal or an alarm to notify of a riot.  There were Indian troops there as well.  The Quarter Master would stand with me, he was the one who gave me the job to release the rockets.

After The Riot

I used to go to Bombay in my white patrols, I would get a taxi there.  I got a dose of dysentery there, it was from a cafe, the military asked me where about it was and they put it out of bounds.  One good thing when I was getting better and convalescing was that I used to get chicken and jellies and things like that to eat.  When I had this dysentery all I thought I had was diarrhoea, I was passing blood and I must of passed out because the next thing I knew I was in a hospital bed in Bombay near the barracks.  I was well looked after.

Then there was Corporal Wilson, he died after being bitten by a Cobra, I went to his funeral.  Snakes were a problem, there was Sergeant Major Metcalfe, he was out on the range (before I was a storekeeper) shooting, he was organising the shooting and somebody suddenly yelled "look out sir behind you there is a snake" he shot it, he just pulled his revolver out and shot it, it was a Cobra.

There was Hyenas and Jackals, oh! dear those Jackals WHOOOOOooooo they went.  we were once on manoeuvres (I should not say this I might get in trouble with the Muslims), well we wee on manoeuvres and it was dark and we were told just to pack in for the night, two or three of us jumped in a trench, well actually it was a Muslim Burial Ground, there were lots of skeletons, heads and skulls.

Well what used to happen was the Muslims used to bury their dead, they used to put grass sods and all kinds on top.  A Hyena used to lead the Jackals, he smelled the body out and the Jackals would dig the body out and eat it, then the Vultures would come and then the Kite Hawks would come, we had another name for them (laughing).  If we were outside getting our meals, we would line up and get served our meals, well if there was meat there as soon as you had it on your dish you had to keep waving your hand over the top to scare them away.  Well what we used to do was get some string and tie some paper around it just like the strings on a kite, then we would fasten this onto a bit of meat, the Kite Hawk would come and swoop it off and there were all these things flying around with the tails on, it passed the time away.

Once we were at an open cinema, no roof on and we were watching a film and these Fruit bats would fly straight into the light, there were all these Fruit Bats hanging there, then there were Monkey's and these were sacred, there were many Monkeys.  The Hindus they believe in afterlife, even a little flea had been reincarnated.  I remember I was down in the market in Bombay, I saw this insect on the counter, I swiped it and killed it and then "OOH! Sahib you have killed somebody" and I said "well if I was to come back as a flea, I would like to come back as a flea on Mary Pickford or someone like that" ah! dear it was funny, we had our little laughs and jokes in them days.


The next move was to The Sudan which was when we were on our way home, I was not necessarily looking forward to going home, it was all part of the usual of going somewhere else.

Before we move on I just want to say something about The Himalayas in Lebong, they were beautiful, there was Everest and Kanchenjunga next to it and Darjeeling was a beautiful place.

When we left Bombay we handed the stores over to the incoming regiment, I think it was the Lancashire Fusiliers, there was no problem with the hand over, all the documents were in order and laid up nice for them to come into.

Part Seven