DLI 6th Battalion personal diary

Discussion in 'Durham Light Infantry' started by PhilC, Nov 5, 2010.

  1. PhilC

    PhilC Junior Member

    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.
    dbf likes this.
  2. Verrieres

    Verrieres no longer a member

    Hi PhilC ,
    Welcome to the Forum Did he keep a diary for Normandy as well?
    Initials:A C
    Nationality:United Kingdom
    Regiment/ServiceDurham Light Infantry
    Unit Text:6th Bn.
    Date of Death:07/06/1944
    Service No:14289853
    Additional information:Son of Edward Craven Lockwood and Gertrude Lockwood, of West Timperley, Cheshire.
    Casualty Type:Commonwealth War Dead
    Grave/Memorial Reference:XIV. F. 26.

  3. PhilC

    PhilC Junior Member

    Hey, give us chance!:mad::D

    He did, but I've only reached the Albert Canal.

    I found that link to Arthur because Ron was wounded on the same day. This is what he found out from Arthur's mum. It was how I found out what unit Ron was in:

    "I had a bad shock on receiving an answer from Mrs Lockwood saying Arthur had been killed in action on June 7th, the same day I was wounded. He died fighting and he still had a grenade in his hand1 when he was killed."
  4. Earthican

    Earthican Senior Member

    Excellent and rare insight into the operations of the infantry battalion Carrier Section. Looking forward to more.
  5. PhilC

    PhilC Junior Member

    After spending 6 months in England we were ready for the invasion of France (Normandy).

    On the 3rd June 1944 (my mothers birthday) we were ready to embark for the invasion of the contininent but we didn’t move until the morning of the 4th. Our carriers were waterpoofed for water 4 ft in depth. My mates Arthur and Ken were still with me. Ken as a gunner and Arthur as a driver (as his driver had vanished).

    Pg 12

    When we boarded the LCT’s Arthur was behind me and Ken was on another boat. He was driving a carrier full of mines, gelegnite etc. Phew! I wouldn’t have liked that job.

    We sailed the next day, it was a rough sea. Quite a few of the chaps were sick, but I, myself, was lucky. Arriving off the coast of Normandy the next morning we were suprised to find that we were not under constant air attack. We got up, washed, and as there was nothing very exciting happening (apart from our warships bombarding the coast and one or two shells falling round the landing craft) we snatched a few more minutes sleep. Then we nozed into the shore. I took the camouflage off the carrier and warmed the engine. I was thinking was the water shallow enough to take the carrier, or if the water is deep will the carrier float?

    The water was very shallow, and I drove onto a narrow beach covered in stones, something like Weston-Super-Mare. Once ashore, we proceeded to strip the four foot wadding sheets so I could see where I was going.

    Pg 13

    We knew the beach had been taken before we landed and our job was to pass through push inland. That day we pushed aprox. 12 miles inland. We had tanks on either side of us, a bicycle boy mixed in amongst the carriers and planes above our head. Whenever we met any opposition, our concentrated fire soon moved it.

    On the night we stopped and took up positions against counter attack. Three carriers had to go forward on a recce. My section was chosen and it was dark when we set out. We had only gone about 100 yards when we came to a big gun burning in the road. Going over it I had a large piece caught in my track and so had to stop. In the ditch, near the gun was a wounded Jerry and with him was a wounded Italian, about 18 years old. We tried to fix the Jerry but we knew he was dying. The Italian worked like a slave to remove the piece of metal from around the track (voluntary) and when we went back we left him to look after his mate. That night we withdrew as the marching troops couldn’t

    Pg 14

    get up to us that night. We lagered up in a wood and I was chosen to do a stag. I did my two hours with Arthur.

    The next morning we again started off on the column and everything went okay until we reached our final objective, then, as we were moving up a side road a corporal dashed up to us and said there were some Jerries coming up to the cross roads. Being the lead carrier I started to go up. A motorbike dashed past with two Jerries on. A corporal stood at the cross roads and fired his sten at them as they went past then a truck towing an anti-tank gun came across. The corporal fired again and the truck stopped. I was only 5 yards away. My crew bailed out. In trying to swing the carrier round, I got stuck on the bank. It was then that our anti-tank gun hit the Jerries truck and set it on fire. Being only 5 yards away from it, I bailed out and lay behind my carrier. I looked round and saw that everyone had fallen back about

    Pg 15

    100 yards. As shells (from the truck) were flying quite close I decided to stay where I was. I saw another truck pull up and I saw a Hun walk across the road. I wished that I’d had my rifle with me. On the arrival of our tanks the Jerries surrendered.

    We threw a roadblock across the road and cut off a lot more Bosche. Our carriers then carried on with my carrier leading and we turned down the road the same direction that the Jerries had been going before we stopped them. About two hundred yards down we came to a crossroads (the Jerusalem Crossing) our final objective. Some French civilians came out and gave us some wine. Our planes had been flying about, but one suddenly turned and faced us. Smoke came from his guns and cannon. Everyone dived for cover bar the French who were too terrified to move. I threw myself over the gear lever and waited. Being the front carrier I took the brunt of the attack as I was lying there

    Pg 16

    I suddenly felt someone sticking red hot needles in my back and side. Then I felt warm and wet and putting my hand to my back I pulled it away, covered in blood. Expecting him (the Thunderbolt) to come back I bailed out and ran into a house. I saw my sergeant lying against a wall with his legs peppered with shrapnel. The French were in a heap on the floor, two dead one with her leg off.

    The lads got a carrierand sticking the searg and me on dashed us back to the RAP. After being dressed we were passed back from one dressing station to another until we reached the beach. The same night I was taken down the beach on “Duck” but owing to the congestion we could not board the ship. While we were wedged in between the traffic some German planes came over and strafed the beach so we were taken back to the dressing station.

    The following morning we were again loaded onto the Ducks and this time when we got to the beach the way was clear so we went straight into the water.

    Pg 17

    After floating around for a while we drove straight onto the LST. It is marvellous how they do this, boarding a ship at sea. I was lifted onto the floor (still on my stretcher) then I was put on a rack against the wall. There were racks made for stretchers in tiers of three. After that, until we reached England I did nothing but think I couldn’t eat and because of the huge tablets I had to take, six, three times a day. When we reached England we landed at Portsmouth, at least I think it was Portsmouth. Here we were taken to a hospital run entirely by Canadians. At the time I was in a bad state with a temperature of 102.4. I could eat very little and didn’t smoke and to crown it all I was constipated. This was three days since I had been wounded and I had been lying on my left side all that time. After two days we were again moved. This time we were taken in ambulances to the train placed in the train, something similar to the boat. There were more girl nurses on the train

    Pg 18

    and at first I was too embarrased to ask for a bottle but as everyone else was doing it alright I asked. We didn’t know where we were going but thought it was Wolverhampton. When at last we reached our destination we were unloaded off the train by Civil Defence ambulance workers. While we were lying on the platform, people were giving us tea and cigarettes. I asked one man were we were and he said Newport. After being placed in the ambulance we started off for the hospital. There were hundreds of people lining the streets cheering as we left the station. It made us think that after all it hadn’t been in vain. On reaching the hospital we were put into bed and by this time I was feeling terrible. In fact I was in such a bad state I hardly remember what happened for the next three days. I remember one nurse that I gave my plate to. She kept trying to make me to eat. She said she would smack my – if I didn’t.

    I was then moved to another ward and saw Jimmy Elise, one of my platoon mates. He told me that the lads had had a stiff time

    pg 19

    The nurses here were all young but were very efficient. Although I was in a bad state I thought I had better write and let my mother know how I was. This was the first letter I had written since before I left England. After spending a week in bed came my birthday, my 21st also my first time out of bed. As soon as I put my feet on the floor I nearly went down but after four attempts I managed to keep my feet. The nurses gave me a lovely tea. During the next four days I walked round the town once or twice. Then I left for Ty Gwent Convalescent hospital, Newport. The first few days here it rained, so I couldn’t go out. I was still with my pal Arthur Gorman who I had met at Gwent hospital, Newport.

    The first thing I did was write to Mrs Lockwood asking about Arthur and Mrs Jones asking about Ken. I had a bad shock on receiving an answer from Mrs Lockwood saying Arthur had been killed in action on June 7th, the same day I was wounded. He died fighting and he still had a grenade in his hand1 when he was killed.
  6. PhilC

    PhilC Junior Member

    Pg 20

    One day my father came to see me with Ken. I was glad to see them so they could tell mum and all at home that I was ok Come my time to depart and get back once again to army life. This time my destination was a convalescent depot, Stoke on Trent. The train I was going on was also goin to B’ham so I wrote to the folk to meet me on the B’ham station but owing to the train being split up at Hereford, I missed them. I was two days at Stoke then I had my leave. I arrived home at twelve o’clock midday. Mother was the first to meet me and she nearly cried with relief as she saw that I was alright. The next day, Arnold, Flos, Doris and myself went to Bewdley. It was a lovely day and we all enjoyed ourselves especially when out boats got stuck in the middle of the Severn and Arn had to paddle to get us out. It was during this leave (Sat 22nd July to be exact) that I asked Doris to marry me. When came the day for me to depart for Oxford, Arnold, Mother, Dad, Doris and Will came to the station to see me off

    Pg 21

    it brought tears to my eyes to leave, especially as I knew I was going back to France within a short time. I landed in France again, on August 2nd and after travelling from one RHM to another arrived back at the Battalion while they were in the line. The morning after getting backwith the lads we were told that we had got to take a wood the next day. Our section was to make a frontal attack while another went round the side.

    We parked our carriers about 300 yards away from the wood, under cover, then set off on foot for the wood. As we were climbing a hill and about 10 yards from the wood Jerry opened up on us so down we went. I went to the right of the track we were walking up and the rest of the lads went to the left seeking a little lump in the ground. I knelt down for a few seconds but a bullet passing my ear told me to get down lower so I dived and fired a couple of shots at the place I had seen the Jerry fire from.

    Pg 22

    Someone shouted get help so I started to crawl back down the slope. After going about 100 yards another chap ran past me. He said that the others had been killed so up I got and followed him. Then two battalions went in and took the wood and the next morning 80 prisoners came in. We lost a seargent killed, two wounded and one prisoner. We then pulled out for seven days rest to get things ready for a very long chase after Jerry. The first stop we made in the Falaise Gap, we had to clear a wood. While our section of carriers went round the back of the wood to cut off any Jerries that were in it whie the rifle company drove them out to us.

    While we were waiting a lady came and told her there was one in her house. The sergeant went and fetched him, he was only about 14 or 15 years old. After him we got two more. All the way we travelled round the Falaise Gap we saw hundreds of horses, vehicles of all types also dead Jerries and “phew” what an odour.

    Pg 23
    The next action we bumped into was on a canal. As we were moving in column we had a message that 400 Germans were heading our way. So two brigades off our division dropped out to deal with them. The next morning we started to find them. I was gunner(2) on the leading carrier, we came to a canal, as we drew near, someone fired a rifle at us so our objective reached we backed behind a wall then w—oof! Up went the bridge. We turned round and reported to the officer of the infantry following us up. We were then sent to help another section of our infantry who were being pushed back. We stopped this counter and drove Jerry back over the canal.

    One of our tanks came up and had a go at Jerry thus we fouind out he only had small arms. Thus the next morning we we crossed the canal capturing two railway bridges intact and once again Jerry was running. Then we came to Brussels and o’boy! What a reception. We lagered up in a wood for two days and did two patrols, one 14 miles

    Pg 24

    and one 20 miles without seeing a single Jerry. The next place we came to was the “Albert canal” and the stiffest fight we ever had. The night of the assault across the Albert Canal by the 9th Battalion DLI our carrier platoon had to go to the left of the Bridgehead-to-be and we had to make as much noise as possible with Brens, Vickers, Mortars etc to make Jerry think an attack was going in there. When we pulled out and formed up again we found Captain Daw had been hit and taken to a CCS (later he died from his wounds).

    The next day moving up to cross the canal our carrier twice threw a track. When we finally crossed it was getting dusk and as we couldn’t find our lads we slept in a building with some 4-2 inch mortar men. Every so often they would send some mortars over Jerries way then back would come some Jerry swag. It was a noisy night.

    The next morning we found our BHQ we were sent to a company B Company. We were just in time for an attack (it seemed like Jerry was attacking at the same time).

    Pg 25

    We had worked it out that us carriers were to be the right flank of the company but we only got two or three hundred yards when we ran into a ditch. Meanwhile there was a terrific small arms battle going on all round us. As I bailed out I pulled out the satchel of Bren magazines that it was my job to carry. I tried to get my rifle but couldn’t without climbing on top of the carrier and exposing myself to fire. We took up whatever positions we could (none were very healthy) as there weren’t any slit trenches handy we lay on the ground.

    We then noticed some of our boys pulling out and found we had lost nearly half a company leaving about 50 – 60 men, so we withdrew. Then Jerry started bashing us with mortars. We fell back to a long trench. Just as I was getting my head down a bomb landed almost in my ear. I felt the blast but as I was so low and so close the shrapnel flew over. On reaching Company HQ we were told we were going back again but as we were so few we were following A Company in. This time our artillery was covering us

    Pg 26

    landing shells about 20 yards to the right. A Company had done a great job, there were dead and dying Jerries all over the place, and while our sergeant went to look at a dying hun we lost the Company. Still we carried on and after going about a mile we stopped. Little knowing we had come a mile further than our troops. The sergeant and a corporal walked down the road on a recce and suddenly came face to face with a Jerry. The serg triggered his sten gun but nothing happened so they ran back to us. Knowing then we had come too far we started back to find our chaps. When we reached the outskirts of the town again (Gheel) welay in a ditch and waited. We were greatly relieved when we saw a company of troops approach us and found them to be A Company of our 9th Battalion but with them came an interruption. Two tanks coming from the direction of our lines started firing at us. The major made us lie down behind a hedge with a piat and a bren gun. I was lying against as hay stack until an incendary set it on fire. Then I moved further along the hedge. I could see the tanks but

    pg 27

    as it was getting dark we couldn’t see if they were ours or enemy.
  7. PhilC

    PhilC Junior Member

    That's as far as I've typed so far. You'll have to wait to find out if they made it.

    Wait a sec... he wrote it so he must have made it out okay. :)
  8. idler

    idler GeneralList

    From the War Diary for 7 June:
    0730 Mobile column reached final objective and was straffed by our Thunderbolts: two Carriers lost.

    An Inns of Court Regiment 'raiding party' was also wiped out by Thunderbolts at Jerusalem at around 0900 (presumably local time) on 7 June. It sounds like it's the same incident.
  9. englandphil

    englandphil Very Senior Member

    will be watching this thread with interest, as one of my local lads was 6th DLI

    Nationality: United Kingdom
    Rank: Private
    Regiment/Service: Durham Light Infantry
    Unit Text: 6th Bn.
    Age: 25
    Date of Death: 24/07/1944
    Service No: 4461582
    Additional information: Son of Fred and Annie Ratcliffe; husband of Gwendoline Ratcliffe, of Widnes, Lancashire.
    Grave/Memorial Reference: III. H. 13.
  10. Phaethon

    Phaethon Historian

    I'll be keeping an eye on this thread too...

    Totally OT but I was at a wedding yesterday and ended up speaking to a ww2 vet from the 6th DLI and talking about sicily/algiers/normandy most of the night! (in particular he mentioned the short walk from one dock to another)
  11. PhilC

    PhilC Junior Member

    Thanks, Idler for that information. Anything else from the diaries that correlates?

    EnglandPhil, it looks like Ron was wounded and in Blighty in July, so can't help with your local lad.

    And Phaethon, that isn't OT at all, it was interesting to know that the things Ron spoke about had an effect on other people.

    I'll get the rest typed up as quickly as I can.
  12. PhilC

    PhilC Junior Member

    Still if they came close enough we were going to let them have it, ours or not. Somehow the major found they were ours and we let them come in to us. As we had three bren guns, the Major asked us to stay with his company and give them a hand. We were grateful to accept as we didn’t know where Jerry was. Lucky for us we did stop as there were 200 Jerries between us and our BHQ. Two German and one S.P.gun (self propelled) with about three hundred troops had got round the back of us. They got as far as our BHQ knocking out nine Shermans and three carriers before one tank was knocked out, the troops riding on it jumped off and were mown down by our Vickers, the rest withdrew the other tank being knocked out by a Piat later (the SP got away). The first we knew that jerry was behind us, In fact dug in just got the road from us was whent the major was walking on the road to meet a runner from an outlying section when a voice shouted “Achtung!! Halten!!” followed with a burst from

    pg 28

    a Spandau. The Major dived into the ditch and came back to us. We then kept a quiet watch until dawn. Three tanks had joined us the night before, not two. At dawn, the tank commander shouted “Look at the B’s, hundreds of them” he was right too there were two hundred Jerries behind our lines. The tanks and seven of our chaps started to bring them in. They killed about 60 got a prisoner and the others ran. The tanks were firing their 12 pounders at point blank range. That afternoon we pulled out for a rest but Jerry had had enough as the Scottish who relieved us walked straight through”Gheel” and he next town without a fight. After three days rest we once again set out this time we had to cross the escant canal. We took over from a company of Hampshires who reported that Jerry had withdrawn.

    Everything was quiet during the day then just as it was getting dark. We heard some planes approaching. As it was “stand to” we were in open trenches manning our guns. All of a sudden our “Bofors” opened

    Pg 29

    up all around us tracers were shooting into the sky. The a plane would dive and a wierd whistling sound, then woof woom boo boo boom. Hundreds of small bombs burst round usl showering burning phosphorous in all directions. Were we glad when they cleared off. Two days we now received the plan, that, had it come off would have shortened the war. We were going to cross the Rhine at Arnhem and swing right to Munster while the Americans went the other way, thus cutting off the “Rhur”. The next day, the tanks broke through and were off on their dash. Paratroopers were dropped to take a bridge beyond Eindhoven. Meanwhile we just followed up to Eindhoven and took up all round positions. The chaps passing through Eindhoven on the night before had certainly caught out. There were burning trucks all over the place.

    While we were in these positions. We saw the biggest airborne fleet ever seen before. We even saw the parachutes coming down and gliders cutting loose on their way to “Arnhem.”

    Pg 30

    Twice Jerry broke through our thin line and each time it was closed again. As the line was so thin and stretched so far our division was given the job of widening it. We made two patrols without opposition, on the second one we recce’d a town called “Beek en Donk.”

    One carrier went into the town, while we gave covering fire (if it was needed). The Germans must have moved out as we went in according to the civilians in the town, there was a river and or section of carriers stayed there until the RE’s built two bridges at night under “arck lamps.” We were lucky nothing happened. Every time we stopped now we took up all round firing positions as we didn’t really know where Jerry was.

    One day a message came through that an RAF plane had been fired on from a wood near us. It was thought by SS Pom-Pom. So off we went to clear this wood. After we had cleared three and found nothing except a big bomb dumps we gave up.

    The next place on our list was Nymogen, it was just as we were approaching, there was four

    Pg 31

    quick explosions in front of us. The carrier ten yards in front seemed to go in smoke. After the smoke had cleared it was discovered that all the carriers were ok and it was only a few small bombs from a plane. Still it shook us for a while. On reaching Nymogen we were billeted in a house, a beautiful house used by a high SS officer. No sooner were we settled down when came that dreaded word, pack up we’re going in the line again. So off we set, we crossed the famous Nymogen bridge, over the lower Rhine and swung right slong the river. We left our carriers in a wood and walked three hundred yards to our positions. But for a few shells and tiring hours on watch we were on a quiet front. Jerry was in a factory two hundred yards in front of us so we had to be careful during the daylight. It was great to see our Typhoons daily bash that facory.

    After five days we once again pulled out to that lovely billet but only for a few hours and again came the “going in again”

    Pg 32

    This time we stayed this side of the bridge and all the big shells thrown at the bridge were landing near us. After another five days we were told instead of coming out for a rest. We were going further in, in fact an attack was going in. We went into Bemmel. Here in a dug out I found a lovelly ash tray Jerry had left behind. Once again we moved right out to the left flank. Jerry was fighting hard here as we were only four miles from “Arnhem.” At this place Jerry came through our lines every night, dug in, and we couldn’t move him. Also his shells were falling round us all day and night. One night my mate in the next position to me coughted and as we ducked spandau bullets whistled over our heads. A German patrol was only about eight yards away. As we kept quiet the patrol pulled out. After five days in this place we were relieved by the Green Howards, but obnly to go back to Nymogen bridge and the big

    Pg 33

    shells again. For two days then we had three days rest, with a bed to sleep on in Nymogen. After being in the line for twenty two days. After three days maintenance, in we went again. The first night we went again. The first night we went out on a standing patrol three hundred yards in front of our leading troops.

    But for getting soaked in the rain, in a trench half full of water we had a quiet night. Same again next night. I reported sick next morning and didn’t go out with the lads on the night. On the fourth night a patrol of D company was going into a wood to take a prisoner while our section with three guns dug in two hundred yards from Jerry had to fire and make him think an attack was going in. We did fire and soon had all the might of the Jerries answering us. It was certainly hot but we did it ok. The patrol didn’t get a prisoner. Three nights later we again went up on a standing patrol, but there was too many of us to occupy the trenches. A sergeant a corporal and myself

    Pg 34

    came back. Two days later Jerry took that patrol prisoner only one escaped. My two mates were among them taken prisoner. The next night we again went up to those positions, but Jerry didn’t come that time. We just got drowned sitting up to our waists in water. The next day I went sick with the flu and was told it was my nerves, that was the last time the Division was in the line.
  13. PhilC

    PhilC Junior Member

    Only a few more pages to go now. I've got a photo of him as well, which I'll get uploaded too.
  14. PhilC

    PhilC Junior Member

    When we came out for good the first job I had was a weapon training cadre (storeman) while there, I made friends two girls and a boy, The two girls were only twelve (Annie) and fouteen (?). The boy was fourteen. After the first night Annie asked me to go to her house. So I snaffled some food and went. I went. I had a good time talking to her family. It was like home, on my second visit to Annie’s, she gave me some beads for Doris.

    Pg 35

    but I lost them again. When I told her we were leaving Nymogen, Annie was very upset, and she nearly cried the day we drove away. From Nymogen we went to Proven (Belgium) near Popperinge. Here we were billeted in a public house (cafe) with a girl a boy and a mother and father. I was okay here, if ever I wanted a drink I just went down stairs. I played the boy at pool and beat him every time. It’s very rare for you to dee a pool table in England. We used to give the people food, and they gave us food also a cup of coffee every morning. When the girl came home on the second day, we played “Ludo” On the third day she went away again and invited me to her sister’s where was staying (near the French border) so the next day the boy and I went on our bikes to see her. Then came the news that we were breaking up the Division. I was going

    pg 36

    to do garrison duties, so I moved five kilometres to Beveron. Again I was billeted in a cafe with one girl (eighteen) named Miarcella and her mother and father. On the first day I helped the girl to mop the floor etc and on the night Ken Jones came and as he was leaving in the morning we had some wine and beer. We got Miarcella merry on and she gave me her photograph. The next morning I was sent to Bruxelles to army group HQ. My first night in Brussels I walked out, there were trams but I was frightened of getting lost so I didn’t go far and did get lost I had to be directed back by a civilian. The first week we did nothing but drill and training, then we started guards. The sirens sound a lot here, and doodlebugs came over pretty often. I had a quiet Xmas. On guard but a lovely dinner.

    Jan 1st We started off the new year well, by having the

    Pg 37

    city straffed by fighters. It was hot while it lasted and eight Jerries were shot down. 1325 in the day. Good shooting, eh! The next thing of interest I saw was the shooting gallery where Nurse Cavell was shot in the last war. We were doing five nights guard out of seven, have sometimes for twentyfour hours. With training during the day. Most of the time we were tired out.

    The next thing of interest I saw the Breandonk Gestapo torture chambers at Breandonk concentration camp. A guide explained the tortures as we went through and they were horrible. Next I saw the Battle field of Waterloo, also the Panorama. It is marvellous, I learned more by it than I ever did at school. Then we moved into Germany, to Süchteln eight miles from the Rhine.



    Pg 38

    From Süchteln we went to Bad Oeynhausen in Germany, it was here just after I had got back of a leave, that, going to a football match fifteen miles away I was in the back of a TCV we had just started out when a fifteen hundred weight truck struck the side of our truck and hit my own, trapping it between the bar of the framework for the canopy. We couldn’t make the driver hear so I had to carry on the fifteen miles and an officer brought me back in a Volkswagon. After going sick for five days , the MO sent me to the hospital for an X-ray. I was admitted straight away with a fractured elbow. Thus I had eight weeks in hospital, I had seven days hospital leave. I went to Herford (Germany) to Ostend. It was a lousy transit camp but luckily I was only there four days. We sailed from Ostend to Folkestone. Then went to a transit camp. The next day I went on leave. During this leave I asked Doris to marry me on my next leave. The night I was due to start back, it was announced on the wirless that the Japs had surrendered, so I didn’t go back. I didn’t enjoy myself though ass I wasn’t well, I got seven days Jankers peeling potatoes. I got a job as Lance Corporal escorting the Captain’s (wife) librarian delivering library books to other camps carrying a revolver.

    sol and dbf like this.
  15. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Thank you for sharing
  16. Verrieres

    Verrieres no longer a member

    Whilst posting a link to this excellent thread found a photograph of the man him self on his wedding day!

    Best Wishes

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