This was my Great Uncle Ronald Bennett. Pg 1 On the 15th June 1943 I set out from Holt, Norfolk for Liverpool. Everyone was in good spirits, little knowing what we were going into. We arrived at Liverpool in the early morning of the 16th. Here we were ushered into one of the large waiting rooms of the Cunard White Star line. We had a cup of tea and then started embarking. After spending three days on the boat (most of the time practicing boat drill) we set sail on the 19th June [Note from transcriber, Fil: This was convoy KMF-17] (which was my 20th birthday) at 10 A.M. It was a good ship we were on called Samaria (Dutch). Twice that day we were sick until I pulled myself together and regulated my breathing with the movement of the ship. About 4 miles out from the coast of England the sea turned from blue to black, I suppose the difference in depth makes it so. The time flew during the journey. It was marvellous watching all the ships of the convoy keeping their position with apparent ease while little destroyers dashed to and fro. On the whole we had a quiet journey, as we approached the coast of Algeria we could see the little villages plastered about the landscape Pg 2 and everything was marvellously coloured. The most outstanding of all was the mosques. The church of the Arabs. Algiers is set back in a bay and all the ships anchored out at sea and then went in one at a time. The town itself seemed to be rising up a hillside. The main road with funny looking trams running up and down was good thirty feet above the road to the docks. When we eventually pulled into the dock I saw my first Arab. When we threw pennies and cigarettes down there was a terrible scuffle. The Arabs were to me, very dirty, with rags as clothes and all were bare footed. We disembarked and lined up in threes on the quay side with full kit including kit bags. We marched about two miles round the docks and to our surprise we turned into another quayside. In the way we had passed a couple of Arab children about eight years old one was lying in the gutter with a huge knife slash in his back. The other with a bloody face was yelling his head off. Apparently this must have been a common occurrence as no one seemed to take any notice of them. Pg 3 Once again we embarked, this time onto Yankee ships. Two days later we again went out to sea, but this time we just dashed along, keeping the coast in sight all the time to Philippeville [Note from Transcriber: modern Skikda], still in Algeria. On landing we were told we had 12 miles to march to another transit camp. Nobody fancied a twelve mile march with full kit, especially in that heat. By the way, this was June 28th. Still we all got through OK and considering the heat, we were not so tired as we would have been after a 12 mile march in Blighty. It was a big camp but it was situated in deep sand. Water was cut down to a fine ration. Every day we had a swimming parade and that is where I learned to swim, in the Mediterranean. By the time we marched back to camp we were just as dirty as when we started. We weren’t allowed to buy fruit off the Arabs as dysentery was very widespread. A lot of the chaps went down with dysentery but I myself was lucky. There was lizards by the thousand. It used to be fun to frighten them and watch their tails drop off with fright. Then came the day when we boarded Pg 4 TCV’s troop carrying vehicles for a 600 mile journey across the wastes to Sousse (Tunisia). This was the first time I had to live on an army ration of bully beef and biscuits and it was quite a novelty to me then. Whenever we stopped for the night which was usually by a well with water unfit for drinking we just lay down and pulled our blankets over us. On the way we also saw signs of battles that had been fought by the first army such as empty shell cases or shell holes, also vehicles lying around but apart from that it was all desolate waste land. After three days travel we arrived at our destination, Sousse. All through these travels, I had four mates, Bill Carter, who you will see later was taken prisoner, Harry Ward who got wounded and left us, Arthur Lockwood who was killed in Normandy and Ken Jones who is still okay and in the Cameronians. After we had been in the camp for three days we were told that we were now in the Eighth army and were due to sail to Sicily as reinforcements. That night we saw the Pg 5 mighty armada of gliders pass over us on the first stage of the invasion of Sicily and Europe. The next afternoon we boarded LCI’s Landing Craft Infantry. These craft are specially made for beach landings and off we went. We arrived off the coast of Sicily (Syracuse) on the afternoon of the 12th July, two days after the invasion. Syracuse had only been captured that afternoon so we didn’t know whether we could dock in the harbour or we would have or if we would have to make a beach landing. While we were floating round in circles awaiting a decision German aircraft came over. The guns of all the ships opened up on them and they soon went away although they had seen what they wanted to see. When we landed on the beach we were told to just keep walking and to get off the beach as quick as possible, which we certainly did. That night we slept in an orchard which are very common throughout Sicily. That night we slept underneath the branches of the trees (or rather tried to sleep) German planes were dive bombing the ships in the harbour all night long and the shrapnel was showering down around us. Pg 6 Two of our chaps got hit by shrapnel. After two nights of bombing we were told that we had to march 30 miles in two days. While we were on the march we dropped out in twos and threes and got lifts on passing vehicles. Through this we had to do a four mile route march buckshie. As we reached our final objective I heard the first guns and the shells passing overhead. One shell landed about 300 yards away and being inexperienced in warfare we all went to ground. On the last lap of our journey we had seen quite a few carriers (bren) knocked out on the wayside so even though there were 21 carrier personnel in our group only my four friends and I were the only ones that said we were carrier drivers. That night we heard the guns and shells continuously. The next morning we (the five) had a driving test. My mate Bill and I passed OK and Bill was chosen to drive the platoon commander. I also was given a carrier, it was called Eldon. It was the second Eldon the platoon had had. The first had been lost two days before in one of the bloodiest battles of the war, the battle of Primosole Bridge. Pg 7 The next day we went into the line for the first time. I was quivering with excitement wondering what my first few days in the line would be like. At first I was ready to dive for cover at the slightest bang but soon we got used to telling the difference between our shells and Jerries. My pal Arthur was my gunner at the time and at night we used to sit in the hole at the top of the embankment chewing biscuits and keeping a watch for Jerry coming. The second night I had to take rations up to A company which was only 100 yards from Jerry and they were having a pretty rough time. Everything went OK until we came to a field which we had to cross. It was only 200 yards but I had to crawl along in second gear. Every now and again a Very Light would go up and I’d have to stop dead. Then we waited a few seconds, holding our breath hoping Jerry hadn’t spotted us. We got through OK but then the unloading had to be done with care as at the slightest sound, Jerry would open up. When we got back to our own positions I was put on guard for the rest of the night. Pg 8 At about two o’clock there was a disturbance. The first I heard was somebody shouting “Sergeant, come and get me sergeant”. It turned out that one of our patrols had bumped a couple of Jerries and the officer had got the Jerries but was also wounded himself. After being in the line for six days we pulled out for a rest. As we pulled out in daylight we had to run the gauntlet of shell fire. When we were back even though it was only a mile from the front we had swimming parades. After two days rest, washing our clothes etc we again went into the line. This time everything was pretty quiet. This time we were in a grape vine on the beach so we had plenty of grapes to eat. The next time we came out for a rest was to prepare for the attack on Catania, two miles away. First we built twenty tanks (of wood and rag) in a field. This was to make the enemy think we had more strength than we really had. The night before the attack we lagered in a field near Primosole bridge and slept. Pg 9 At first light the next morning we started. We had only gone 1/2 mile when we came across two of the enemy in a dug-out. One was German, the other Italian. The Italian had an English rifle and as I had lost mine the night before, I had it. When we reached the outskirts of Catania we were held up by a machine gun nest so the platoon officer took us to contact the other section which we did only to be driven back by artillery and mortar fire. The next morning we drove into Catania. My first narrow escape was when a huge piece of masonry fell from a building and scraped the side of the carrier. That night Jerry held on to the last piece of Catania and the next morning he was driven onto the high ground outside where he stayed for two days. It was here that Harry Ward got wounded from a bullet ricocheting behind his carrier. The morning following our platoon went out on patrol, my mate Bill Carter was driving the lead carrier. I the second then behind me there was another carrier from our section, an armoured car of the Royal Engineers and behind were the rest of the platoon. Everything was quiet (too quiet) until Pg 10 there was suddenly a flash from in front and at the same time Spandau’s opened up on both sides. My carrier commander and gunner bailed out. I couldn’t get out as the bullets were only hitting the carrier above my head. When the firing died down a bit, I bailed out. The platoon commander signalled us to withdraw so I jumped in again and started up, and started back up the road. When we got to the carrier that was behind me, we saw it had been hit and was swung across the road. My carrier commander and gunner again bailed out but as things were pretty hot I didn’t reckon on staying there as a sitting target so I put it in first gear and barged between the knocked out carrier and the wall thinking to knock the carrier out of the way but I don’t think I even touched it. A bit further up the road I pulled up beside the RE officer who was wounded in the side. The RE’s wouldn’t lift him on the carrier so I had to carry on and leave him there. One or two of the RE’s jumped on my carrier as we went along and there was one of our wounded lying across the front box. Pg 11 When we got round the bend I stopped and the carrier commander took over and we dashed straight for the RAP. My mate Bill who was driving the platoon commander also got as far as the wounded RE officer and stopped. As the RE’s wouldn’t lift him onto the carrier, the crew got off to do it themselves. It was then that the Germans came out and took them prisoner. That night we were relieved and through the last few days of the fighting we were in reserve.