Teenage war years

MY TEENAGE WAR YEARS

by A.G.Bowtell.

In June 1939 I became a teenager, at that time war clouds were gathering over Europe, but to a thirteen year old this did not mean a great deal to me. Most of the boys of my age were still wearing short trousers and did not go into long ones until the magical age of fourteen. When the school that I was attending at the time, John Harvard Senior Boys School in Southwark, London, broke up for the Summer holiday I was looking forward to spending two weeks away at the seaside. The early part of the school holiday period was spent playing with my friends in and around the area we lived.

My two brothers and I lived with our parents in a three-storey house in Great Suffolk Street, Southwark, London. The house was within walking distance of Blackfriars, Southwark and London bridges. and the City of London. lay on the other side of the river. On the ground floor of our house was a newsagent shop with a room behind which served as a place to eat when the shop was open and a work room for carrying out the tasks required to run the shop. My father was the newsagent and my mother helped in the shop in addition to running the home. The first floor consisted of our lounge or ‘front room’ as we called it and the room behind was a living / dining room. Between the two rooms there was a double door that we opened when we had a party to make one large room. On the top floor there were two bedrooms, my parents used the front room and my brothers and I occupied the back room. In addition to these rooms there were two rooms below ground level, the basement we called it. One corner of the back basement room was occupied by a brick built solid fuel boiler or ‘copper.’ The floor in both rooms were made of cement paving slabs. There were two main purposes for the back room, a place for my mother to do the clothes washing and our bathroom. The clothes washing had to be done by hand in a tub using a scrubbing board and boiling in the copper. In those days there were no washing machines in general use as there are now. With regard to the days when a bath was required, this had its own ritual. First the water had to be heated in the copper, then ladled out into a galvanized iron bath that measured about 4.5 ft [1.37 m] long. When we had finished our bath we had to step out on to a towel which covered the cold floor. The only consolation was the fire burning under the copper which took the chill off the room. Normally when not in use the bath hung on a nail hammered into the wall. In the front basement room my father kept this as a store room for the items to be sold in the shop. The front part of the room was used as a coal store, which was filled through a hole in the pavement in front of the shop. On the ground level at the back of the house was a yard measuring about 25 ft [7.75m] x 20 ft [6m] surrounded by brick walls. In the corner of the yard was our only toilet, this was a very cold place to be in the Winter.

On the 3 September 1939 the Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain announced on the wireless or radio, that the Country was at war with Germany, my father and I were on holiday at Weston super Mare in Somerset. At this time my mother was looking after my two brothers and the shop in London. Because my father thought it would be too dangerous to take me back to London with him, he arranged for me to stay with a family in Worlebury, Weston super Mare. This was to be my first day as an evacuee. Meanwhile my two brothers, Raymond aged 9 years and Derek 6 years, were evacuated with the rest of their school, Charles Dickens Junior, to Hove in Sussex. This unhappy situation caused our family to be split up for a period of time with many miles between us.

The man and his wife who were to be my foster parents lived in a semi-bungalow. Upstairs there were two bedrooms and the bedroom I was to use had a window overlooking the bay where I had been staying during my holiday. In addition to my foster mother and father, the family consisted of three sons who were serving in the Army as regular soldiers and three daughters, a school teacher, a nurse, and the third one was working for a family who lived close by. One of the first things my foster parents had to do was to find a suitable school for me to attend, because my London school had been evacuated to another part of the country. The school which they decided would suit my needs was in the centre of the town, it was called Walliscote Road School. To get there I had to travel by bus, a journey of 4 to 5 miles from where I was living. It was strange at first as all my classmates were local children and most of them spoke with a Somerset accent, this I found a little difficult to understand at times. Before long I soon lost some of my London way of speaking and began using the local dialect like them.

During my stay in Weston I joined the local Scout group and as the Scout Leader had a large garden he encouraged me to attempt to pass the gardening badge. This was something I would have had great difficulty in doing in my London group as the largest garden anyone had in that area was a window box. In addition to belonging to the scouts I joined the St. John Ambulance Brigade cadets. As there was always a chance that an air raid could occur and people injured, we were taught first aid especially for those injuries most likely to be caused by bombing. On one occasion a full scale air raid exercise was carried out with the cadets acting as casualties. Labels were pinned to our clothing indicating the type of injuries we were supposed to have. These mock injuries were attended to by the adult members of the St. Johns or the Civil Defence workers. We then had the experience of being taken at great speed to the hospital in a ‘utility’ ambulance. These ambulances had been built as an addition to the normal ones, for use when the need arose in times of emergency. They were about the size of a large car but had a canvas covered back and fitted out to carry four stretchers inside. Being a casualty on the top stretcher was like sailing in a small boat on a choppy sea and we were very glad when we reached the hospital with only our mock injuries. On our arrival the doctors and nursing staff were waiting to check the handiwork of the people who had attended to the injuries mentioned on the labels.

Another way in which the war affected the people, was the introduction of food rationing in January 1940. After school and on Saturdays I used to help at the General Store at the end of the road. One of my jobs was to make up the small quantities of butter, tea, sugar, etc., then deliver the groceries on a bicycle made for this type of work. The bicycle had a large box on the front with a small wheel underneath and a normal size wheel at the back. It was a little difficult to ride at first until I got used to it. The front wheel seemed to have a mind of its own when the box was loaded. The wheel wobbled from side to side like a mad thing and made it hard to steer. This job provided me with some pocket money that I saved to buy my first bicycle, a second hand one, of which I was very proud. It cost me ten shillings that is fifty pence in present day money.

You will remember my bedroom overlooked a bay, this was called Sand Bay. On the far side of the bay there was a strip of land jutting out into the sea, the tip of this piece of land was called Sand Point. In peace time people were allowed to walk on this headland which was a favourite spot for bird watchers. Now it was a restricted area because the Royal Air Force was using it as a firing range for machine gun practice. The aircraft they used at that time was the Gloucester Gladiator fighter. These aeroplanes were very slow compared with todays aircraft. However, it was quite an experience to see them dive down at full throttle, with their machine guns chattering away at the targets on the ground.

During the first year of the war there was very little enemy air activity over London or the rest of the country, as a result of this unexpected period of quiet it has often been called the ‘phoney war’. Many people had been lulled into a false sense of security during this period, this included my parents. They decided when the Summer holidays in 1940 came along it would be safe for me to return to my home in London for the holiday. We did not realize that this hot and sunny Summer was going to be the start of what is now called the ‘The Battle of Britain’ and of course ‘The Blitz’.

In the month of June I reached the age of 14 years and like most boys of that age and younger I used to wear short trousers. After the holiday I was due to return to Exeter in Devon because I was going to join a school from my part of London called the Borough Polytechnic. This meant having a new school uniform which included my first pair of long trousers. All these clothes were neatly folded and put on the lounge table ready to go into my case when I was due to set off for Exeter. Unfortunately it was not going to be as simple as that, because the German Air Force had other ideas.

At the early part of August 1940 the Luftwaffe started bombing our aerodromes, to make them unserviceable as a prelude to an invasion of England. This was the start of the Battle of Britain. As these attacks on the R.A.F. bases were not having the desired effect they left those targets and on the 7 September the ‘Blitz’ on London started. On this day the sirens sounded and shortly after I could hear the drone of a large number of aircraft. From the outside of my house I was able to see wave upon wave of German bombers heading for the East End of London. On reaching their target they dropped hundreds of high explosive and incendiary bombs on the docks and buildings around the dock area. When the raid ended great pillars of smoke could be seen and the sky a bright red caused by the raging fires. The air was filled with a strong sickly smell which gave a clammy feeling of evil in the atmosphere. At first when the sirens sounded my parents and I went downstairs to our basement and used it as a makeshift shelter. After the first night our next door neighbours persuaded us to use the shelter across the road which was in the basement of a block of flats called Queens Buildings. It was just as well that we did because on the night of the 9/10 September there was a terrific crash from a bomb that exploded in the vicinity of the building in which we were sheltering. The noise awoke me and I found that the other people and I were lying amongst a great deal of broken glass that came from a window above the door. Luckily I was not cut from the glass, but a greater shock awaited my parents and I when we left the shelter in the morning. Instead of our home and shop, all that remained was a pile of rubble made up of bricks, mortar and the contents of our home. When my father tried to get near to the scene of destruction to salvage anything of our belongings, the Air Raid Wardens prevented him saying, ‘there was an unexploded bomb [UXB] buried in the rubble’. My mother was heartbroken when she saw the devastation and to make matters worse she could see a teddy bear belonging to one of my brothers sticking out of the wreckage, but she was not allowed to get it.

On the realization that there was no home or livelihood left, my parents decided that the best thing to do was to join my two brothers in Farnham, Surrey. In May 1940 my brothers’ school had been moved from Hove to Farnham because the South Coast was becoming increasingly unsafe due to enemy activity.

The only possessions we had when we boarded the train at Waterloo Station were the clothes we had been wearing at the time of going to the shelter and a small amount of money from the previous days takings in the shop. Although things looked bleak we were thankful to be alive and looking forward to being reunited with my brothers. When we arrived in Farnham, the foster family who were looking after my brother Raymond, invited us to stay with them until we could find a suitable place to live. They made us very welcome and helped us to cope with the trauma of our experience. My youngest brother Derek was billeted with another family in the same village about a half a mile away. Meanwhile I was again fitted out with another set of clothes to replace the ones destroyed in London.

Due to the unhappy sequence of events I had an extended holiday which caused me to arrive at my new school in Exeter several weeks late. At first I was billeted with a family who owned a greengrocer shop. When the weather was fine at weekends we used to go to Dawlish Warren where my foster parents had a beach hut and we spent happy times in the sea and playing on the sand. The war seemed a million miles away. During the Winter evenings our teachers ran a social club in the local church hall. The teachers joined us in playing chess, draughts and table tennis. Our mathematics master was very good at chess and draughts and not many boys, if any, could beat him at these games. Our headmaster was to our surprise, an accomplished ballroom dancer and once a week he ran dancing classes for any of the boys who were interested. To provide partners our girls school was invited to send along any of their students to join us to take part in these lessons. We found the dance steps we learned came in very useful later on when we went to dances in adult life.

About this time the school started its own Air Training Corps Squadron No.207 which most of the students joined. On a number of occasions we were taught how to handle and shoot with a rifle, in addition to other subjects .To learn about the rifle we used an indoor rifle range looked after by a sergeant of the Home Guard who had lost the use of an eye in the first World War. This handicap did not prevent him from shooting with extreme accuracy. He could cut a small cardboard target in half, which was set up showing just the edge of the card, with one bullet from a distance of 23 metres.

After about a year of my stay in Exeter the billeting officer moved me to another billet about a mile away. This new billet was a terraced house in a street of buildings of similar design. The family consisted of a man, his wife and young son. As the man was medically unfit he was unable to join the forces. However, he did valuable work as a telephonist at the main telephone exchange in the centre of the City. In another part of the City my foster mother had a brother who was a manager of a garage. Although there were restrictions on petrol, a number of cars came in for servicing, repair or petrol. At weekends I spent some of my spare time helping out with a number of these tasks.

When harvest time came around, the school sent us out to various farms to help get in the crops, particularly potatoes. We used to spend all day following the ‘spinner’, that was a machine pulled by a tractor or horse for unearthing the potatoes. We would have to pick them up and put them into containers, where they were then emptied into sacks and weighed ready for market. At the end of the day we would arrive back at our billets tired out. Some of the students were taken to large farms in hired coaches and others had to make their own way by local buses in groups of two or three to the smaller farms. I was lucky as another boy and I went by Devon General bus to Okehampton, about 18 miles from Exeter. On leaving the bus we went to a small farm managed by a farmer and his wife. When we arrived at the farmhouse we were invited into the kitchen and given something to eat and drink before setting off to work. Sometimes as a treat we were allowed to ride the horse up to the field where we were going work that day. The job of the horse for the rest of the day was to pull the spinner for us. At midday the farmer’s wife would bring us our lunch, this sometimes consisted of a home made pasty that even now to think of it makes my mouth water. In many ways we were sorry when the work at this farm came to an end as it was quite a change from classroom work.

In 1942 during the months of April and May Exeter like other historic towns suffered heavy bomb damage in what became known as ‘Baedeker Raids’. The name Baedeker was taken from the name of a well-known German travel book featuring many of our historic towns and cities, in particular the ones that had cathedrals. Most of these raids occurred at night and when the siren sounded my foster family and myself took refuge in a ‘Morrison Shelter’ that had been assembled in the lounge. The framework was made of very heavy angle iron, a thick steel plate on top and a strong wire mesh for the sides and bottom. The measurements of this construction were approximately 6 ft [1.83 m] long,4 ft [1.22 m] wide and 3 ft [0.915 m] high. Shelters of this type were named after Herbert Morrison who was Home Secretary at that time. One night this shelter saved us from injury when a bomb exploded not far from us and the ceiling of the room came down on us and landed on top of the shelter.

On the days following a previous night raid some of my school friends and I, who were A.T.C. cadets, were detailed to act as ‘cycle messengers to carry letters and information to various parts of the City. Because of the damage to the streets, houses and broken telephone lines, the ‘cycle messenger was the best way to get vital information from one place to another. Many streets had hose pipes criss – crossing them and bomb debris strewn about, the bicycle came into its own as a means of transport. My headquarters was the Central Food Kitchen, whose job it was to feed several thousand people bombed out by the raids. The City covered market place was used for this purpose and when there were no messages to be delivered I helped with peeling potatoes and preparing other vegetables.

As a result of the damage and high number of casualties it was becoming very difficult for the billeting officers to find accommodation for our students. The school authorities decided that it would be best that the school return to London. On the return to our school buildings we found that some of the classrooms and workshops were occupied by military and civilian courses, this meant that we had to use some of the facilities of the Beaufoy Institute in Vauxhall about two miles away. For the first few months after our return I stayed with my uncle, aunt and cousin who lived in Camberwell, South London. After the Summer holidays my parents thought it best for me to travel to London each day by train from Farnham. During this time there were still air raids on the capital, which sometimes caused delays on the railways. On occasions I would not arrive back in Farnham until 2 or 3 hours later than the scheduled time. One of these long delays was caused by bomb damage to the railway lines at Clapham Junction. To get back to Farnham on this particular evening, the first part of the journey required travelling by Underground train from Waterloo Station to Wimbledon. At this station we had to change trains and board the normal Southern Railway train to complete our journey. These journeys at most times were uneventful but on other occasions were not so good. However, they went on until the Spring of 1943 when I sat for my final examinations. When the exams were finished I left school to make my living and way in the world. I was now about two months from my seventeenth birthday and thinking of applying for my first full time job. An engineering workshop of E.D.Abbott Ltd., Motors Engineers, who had their premises at Wrecclesham just outside Farnham. It was at this firm that my first taste of war work started. One of the jobs on which I was employed was helping to make experimental radar aerials for the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough, Hampshire. This was very different from their peace time work, which was building special bodies for Rolls Royce, Bentley and Sunbeam Talbot cars.

In the early months of 1944 I changed my job and went to work for another firm in Farnham called Dzus Fasteners. This engineering workshop was engaged in making special fasteners for holding the engine cowlings on nearly every British aircraft in the R.A.F. Many thousands of fasteners were produced each day and the factory was working practically non stop day and night for 7 days each week. Since leaving London my father worked at this factory, he was working 12 hour shifts, one week on night work and the next week working during the day. It was not unusual for 60 hours to worked in a week. When I started my employment at this firm I also worked 12 hour shifts, but my shift changes were organized on a two week rota, that meant that I had two weeks on day work, followed by two weeks on night work. This produced a situation where twice in every four weeks my father and I were at work together on the same shift. After completing a night shift at 8 o’clock in the morning, to get home to our village of Rowledge we had a 20 minute bus journey. More often than not the conductor would have to waken the pair of us when we reached our destination. Fortunately Rowledge was the terminus otherwise we would be on our way back to Farnham again.

Even though long hours were worked at Dzus Fasteners, the firm managed to field a cricket team during the Summer months. At weekends we used to arrange games between village teams wherever they were able get enough players together to field a side. This was not always an easy task as most of the young men were away in the Forces. Still we had a number of enjoyable games at different places and it helped to give us some welcome exercise in the fresh air. In the village of Rowledge on some Saturday evenings a friend and I used to organize and run dances in the village hall. We used a home built public address system, and with this equipment plus a pile of suitable dance records we managed to provide a good evenings entertainment. These dances became very popular and young people came from a wide area to join in the fun. During 1944 the village suddenly found itself playing host to a tank unit of the Canadian Army. Their armoured vehicles were very carefully camouflaged so that they would not draw attention to themselves and the village from any enemy reconnaissance aircraft that may happen to fly over the area. It did not take long for the soldiers to learn about our dances which they attended and joined in the fun with enthusiasm. The unit did not stay very long in the village and it left just as suddenly as when it arrived. Although the visit was very brief their company was missed when they were gone.

During the Spring of 1944 the amount of military vehicle movement through the Farnham area increased considerably. This was most noticeable through the main street of the village of Wrecclesham which was narrow in places with a number of bends in it.Unfortunately for the residents this street happened to be on a direct route to Portsmouth and the south coast. Lengthy convoys of wheeled and tracked vehicles wound their way through the village causing a great deal of noise during the day and night. On some occasions an armoured track vehicle that had difficulty negotiating a bend, usually at night with their very restricted lighting, would slice off part of a brick wall. Because of the complete clamp down on information we could only guess that all this activity had something to do with the preparation for the invasion of Europe.

On the night of the 5 June 1944 I was at work and during the night there was a constant roar of aircraft engines, the noise was so loud that it could be heard over the sound of the machines in the workshop. When we had a chance to look outside during our tea break we were stunned by the sight of hundreds of our aircraft. There were bombers, fighters and glider tugs with their fully laden gliders, flying in a continuous stream over our factory towards the South Coast. It was not until we heard on the early morning news broadcast that we learned what all the noise was about. The long awaited ‘Second Front’ had started, which was the day the Allied Armies landed on the beaches of Normandy, France. From that day onwards the 6 June was to become known as ‘D. Day’.

During the period when I rejoined my parents to live in Farnham I transferred to the local A.T.C. squadron No. 229. The parades were held in the town’s old Territorial Army Drill Hall. There were two particular events that I recall whilst I was with this squadron. One was a series of training sessions in the radio wing of the Army Staff College Sandhurst, Camberly. These periods were designed to teach us how to operate Army radio sets in case there was a need to man these sets in an emergency.

The other event occurred in the Summer of 1943. This was a weeks camp for some members of our A.T.C. Squadron to Biggin Hill aerodrome in Kent. The aerodrome was one of the foremost fighter ‘plane stations in the Country, and renowned for some of the exceptional things done during the Battle of Britain. Most of the aircraft being used by the squadrons at that time we were there, were the Spitfire Mk. IXb. Because this was an operational station the aircraft had to be ready and serviceable as soon as possible after returning from a mission. To help with some of these servicing tasks I was assigned to assist one of the regular R.A.F. ground staff, to check that the oxygen bottles were full and replaced when necessary. This gas was essential for the pilot to breathe properly when flying at high altitudes. Tests had to be carried out on the radio to see if it was functioning correctly on each of the pre-set channels, as good communication had to be maintained between Base and other aircraft on the same operation. In addition it was important to ensure that the instruments were checked and re-set to their correct settings.

Our A.T.C. squadron was lucky to have picked this particular week for their camp, because during the week Biggin Hill celebrated their 1000 enemy aircraft shot down. As guests of the Station we were invited to take part in the activities organized for the occasion. On the particular day in question, the personnel of the Station and the A.T.C. cadets were paraded on the square and the Station Commander, Group Captain A.G.’Sailor’ Milan gave a short speech, during which he announced to the Parade ‘that resulting from a sweep over Northern France the Stations aircraft had shot down its one thousandth enemy aircraft. During the day a special dinner would be served and a dance to be held in the evening’. While the dance was in progress one of our cadets found a number of spare ‘biscuits’ [square fibre-filled bed mattresses] in an adjoining empty barrack room. With about 30 of these he placed them on the bed of his friend, who was at the dance, and put his made up bedding on top. The unfortunate victim must have enjoyed himself enough not to have cared, as he slept soundly all night a considerable height from the floor.

During the week we were given instruction on the Vickers Maxim machine gun, followed by a practice shoot on the 30 yard [27.4 m ] range. To us youngsters this was a dream come true, having the experience of firing off a number of rounds at rapid rate into the target at the end of the range.

On another day our group of cadets were in the dispersal area when a Spitfire landed with a punctured tyre. The senior member of the repair team told us to jump onto the trailer carrying a number of regular aircraftsmen and a spare wheel. We were then taken out to the disabled aircraft as fast as the tractor could take us. On arrival we had to put our backs under the wing on the side nearest the punctured tyre, then lift the Spitfire so that the R.A.F. team could exchange the wheel with the one on the trailer. Now it was back to the dispersal area on the trailer, the aircraft taxied back under its own power, the whole operation taking a matter of minutes. This episode gave us a very clear picture of the way the ground crews were able to keep our fighters ready for combat during the demanding times of the Battle of Britain.

Friendly rivalry between the Allied air forces was demonstrated one day during the week .On this occasion for some reason or other an American Thunderbolt P-47 fighter landed at the Station. The ‘Bush Telegraph’ informed us that during lunch in the mess, the Thunderbolt pilot and a Spitfire pilot had a wager as to whose aircraft could take off and reach operating height in the fastest time. It turned out on this occasion the Spitfire won the contest. The experiences of the week at Biggin Hill proved to be invaluable later on when we joined the Regular Services.

In addition to our camp at Biggin Hill our A.T.C. Squadron visited an R.A.F. aerodrome at Odiham, Hampshire for a day. One of the units stationed there was engaged on photographic reconnaissance. At the time we were there, the unit was engaged in obtaining as much information about the German defences in Northern France as they could. One of the ways they did this was to use high speed aircraft fitted with cameras. For this purpose fighter aircraft such as the Spitfire were stripped of all their armourment and cameras installed in their place. Because of the reduction in weight the extra speed the aircraft obtained managed to keep it out of trouble from enemy fighters. Having obtained the photographs the aircraft returned to Odiham and on arrival would drop the film by parachute to the photographic processing trailers situated at the edge of the airfield. By the time the aircraft had landed and taxied to the dispersal area the film would have been processed and being examined by the intelligence officers. Another activity that was occurring at that time was a modification being carried out on a number of Mustang fighters. This work required a new bearing to be fitted to the propeller shaft. The method the engine fitters used to accomplish the task was to shrink by freezing the bearing in liquefied gas, then fit it into its housing. When the bearing regained its normal temperature a very tight fit was obtained which held firm when the engine was running. During the time we were there the highlight of the day turned out to be a 20 minute flight over the surrounding countryside and the town of Basingstoke. The aircraft used for this trip was a de Havilland Dominie which was the forerunner of the Dragon Rapide. For many of the cadets this was the first time they had flown in an aircraft and it wetted their appetite to look forward to future trips.

On several occasions during the Summer of 1944 I had to go up to London, it was then that I experienced at first hand the fear of the V 1 flying bomb. It was very frightening to hear the unmistakable jet engine throb of the ‘Doodle Bug’ [as it was known by most people]. However, when you thought it had passed you, the engine would suddenly stop, a deathly hush would follow, when that happened the best thing to do was to lay face down on the ground and cup your ears with your hands. After a short while the bomb would explode with a tremendous bang causing a great deal of damage to buildings and sometimes killing or injuring people in the area. At one time I was taking a Morse aptitude test for air crew selection when a V 1 came within earshot to add a little drama to the situation. This time there was no taking cover or similar action by the candidates. It was carry on as normal hoping the bomb was going to land somewhere else.

Later on during September an even more terrifying bomb was launched on the war weary people of London, this was the V2 rocket. Without warning this bomb would fall from the sky and land anywhere in the Capital. These rockets caused more damage than the V 1 because the war head contained a larger amount of explosive. In addition the lack of any kind of warning had a demoralizing effect on the population, who had suffered so long from the constant attacks of one kind or another from the air.

On the 21 December 1944 I enlisted in the Army, my reporting centre was the Guards Depot at Caterham, Surrey. After being sworn in with the rest of the bewildered eighteen year olds in the room, we were now recruits in the Coldstream Guards. Our first drill parade was on Boxing Day. It was a bitterly cold day with snow on the ground, we did not think much of this as a Christmas present. For the next three months the instructors set about changing us from civilians into guardsmen, no mean feat.

From the Guards Depot we were transferred to the Guards Training Battalion at Pirbright, Surrey. Here we learned the skills that would be needed when we joined an active service unit. Before I completed this infantry training I was moved to the Guards Armoured Training Wing ,that was situated in another part of Pirbright Camp. When I arrived there I learned that I was to be trained as a gunner / radio operator in Churchill Tanks. It was an intensive course, learning to strip, assemble and fire different types of Armoured Fighting Vehicle main armourment and various machine guns. In addition we had to learn how to operate the radio and the maintenance tasks required to keep the tank fighting fit. About the time I completed my A.F.V. training the Army decided to disband the Guards Armoured units and revert to their traditional role as foot soldiers. This took place shortly after V.E. Day 8 May 1945. Now it was back to my previous accommodation block in Pirbright Camp and continue with the infantry training again.

In order not to waste the skills I had gained in radio operation I was selected for training as a Regimental Signaller. This required learning how to use a number of infantry radio sets, field telephones and laying telephone lines. We were taught the use of codes to convey information, so that an enemy could not understand the contents of the message. After completing this course I was transferred to Catterick Camp in Yorkshire for three months on a Signals Instructors course. In the period between these two courses V. J. Day 15 August 1945. occurred. After passing out as a Signals Instructor, I returned to Pirbright Camp to join a team of instructors training young guardsmen to become Regimental Signallers. This job I continued to do until my release from the Army on 8 January 1948.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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