Hello From Lincolnshire!

Discussion in 'User Introductions' started by John Benson, Feb 17, 2005.

  1. John Benson

    John Benson Junior Member

    I was at school in Lincoln during WW2 but the memories of those days are still vivid. Lincoln was the heart of Bomber Command and there were almost 50 air bases in the county - including one in the city itself (RAF Skellingthorpe). RAF Scampton (the home of the Dambusters, and now the Red Arrows) is only 4 miles away. As lads we watched the Lancasters setting off in the evening and sometimes they woke us when they returned, flying very low in the small hours of the morning. There were frequent air crashes, and in 1940 a Hampden crashed into the church just opposite our house. One summer's evening we watched as a couple of Spitfires larked around and stood horrified as one got too near and crashed into the other. Both pilots parachuted to safety, but one of the planes crashed in the centre of Lincoln, just opposite the station, and killed four people.

    I was called up in 1947 and was in the army in Germany during the Berlin airlift.

    Many years later we moved to a village just outside Lincoln, where I found that my neighbour had been in a Territorial Army Artillery regiment. He had an amazing story to tell, for this regiment (60th Field Regiment RA) claimed to be the only unit in the British army which had fought all major foes in WW2. They were at Dunkirk and in 1941 were sent to the Middle East. Their first job was to go into Iraq as part of a pathetically small force to relieve RAF Habbaniya, which had been surrounded by Iraqis. Part of the force included Glubb Pasha's Arab Legion. Against all the odds, and helped by fortitude, determination and luck, they succeeded in entering Baghdad. The pro-German Prime Minister fled the country. Within weeks, the 60th fought our former allies, the French in Vichy-controlled Syria. In November 1941 they were in the 7th Support Group of the 7th Armoured Division and took part in Operation Crusader, which turned into a shambles. They were in the forefront against both of Rommel's Panzer Divisions at Sidi Rezegh. The battle lasted 3 days and was later described as one of the great anti-tank battles of the war. Brigadier Jock Campbell, OC 7th Support Group, lent a hand at loading their guns and was later awarded the VC. Half of the 60th's men were killed, wounded or taken prisoner at Sidi Rezegh. Returning to Egypt, they found that Japan had now entered the war, and the 60th were shipped off to Rangoon, only to find that when they were half-way there the Japanese had already taken it. The ship altered course and they landed in India. There, they had to give up their 25-pounders and train as Chindits. As 60 and 88 columns in the 23rd brigade, they were the last to go into action as Chindits in the jungles of Assam and Burma. My neighbour (Jack Bartlett MBE) and myself decided to write about the exploits of the 60th Field Regiment and our book "All the King's Enemies" was published in 2000. Sadly, Jack died just before publication. There is a website at www.lincs-artillery.co.uk.

    I became interested in the Territorial Army (they seemed more friendly and less rigid than the Regulars!) and I then had another book published in 2002, "Saturday Night Soldiers", which is the story of the 4th battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment in WW2. They took part in the fiasco in Norway and in April 1940 were probably the first unit in WW2 to exchange fire with an advancing enemy (Austrian alpine troops) in the field. They then went to help occupy neutral Iceland for 2 years, before returning home to train for the invasion. They landed in Normandy on D+4 and fought their way through France, Belgium and Holland. Their last action was in liberating Arnhem in April 1944. There is a website at www.4thlincolns.co.uk.

    Whilst researching photographs for that book I came across many old pictures of the Lincolnshire Regiment, and this resulted in the publication of my third book "The Lincolns", an illustrated (over 430 pictures) history of the 10th Foot from 1685 until the time they were amalgamated with the Northamptonshire Regiment in 1960. The website is at www.lincolnshire-regiment.co.uk.

    I don't know whether I will be writing any more books - getting a bit too old!

    I would welcome any feedback about the 60th Field Regiment's claim to have been the only single unit to have fought all major foes (and former allies!) in WW2.

    John Benson
     
    ritsonvaljos likes this.
  2. nolanbuc

    nolanbuc Senior Member

    Welcome, John! Glad to have you aboard.

    Are your books in print in the US?
     
  3. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    John,

    Glad to meet you. Must look up some of your publications. Thanks for joining up!
     
  4. Kiwiwriter

    Kiwiwriter Very Senior Member

    Welcome aboard and congratulations on all the book publishing. You must tell me how you did it. The book on the 60th sounds fascinating! :)
     
  5. John Benson

    John Benson Junior Member

    Thanks for your good wishes.

    My books aren't available in the USA but you can occasionally find a second-hand copy on www.abebooks.com. You can also buy on-line at www.countytownbooks.co.uk.

    Publishers of military history weren't really interested in my first book. It was difficult. But I found a local publisher who specialises in books about Lincolnshire and he agreed straightaway to publish it.

    My neighbour told me the story of the 60th and I made the notes. Later I met a few of his old comrades and they all had stories to tell and photos to lend. I visited the Public Record Office and spent about 5 fascinating days going through the regiment's war diaries. And I read.

    There is still a story to tell about the lads of the 60th who were taken prisoner at Sidi Rezegh and found themselves in Italy. (Some never made it, for they went down with a ship which was sunk by a British submarine.) Many of the others escaped, and the most famous was Major Sam Derry who started the Rome Escape Line. He ended the war as a brigadier and with the DSO. He published a book called The Rome Escape Line and was the subject of a "This is Your Life" programme. Gunner Dickinson from Lincoln escaped and was then killed fighting with Italian partisans. Gunner Whitfield made it to Switzerland and when he returned to the UK they sent him to train as a tank driver and he ended the war in Germany.

    Thanks for your interest

    John Benson
     
  6. morse1001

    morse1001 Very Senior Member

    may i add my welcome to the rest.
     
  7. phyl

    phyl Junior Member

    Welcome u surely no how to rite no wonder u rite books lol.......well have fun on this site=)
     
  8. Gert

    Gert Member

    John Benson sadly died in January 2016.
     
  9. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    Gert thank you for letting us know
     
  10. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member

    Sam Derry was quite a chap as was the wonderful Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty who made Derry's work possible. O'Flaherty could not abide the British and yet he took huge risks to hide and support Allied PWs. One of the places that he hide them was in. German nunnery.

    Rome Escape Line is a fascinating read.

    Regards

    Frank
     
  11. ritsonvaljos

    ritsonvaljos Senior Member

    I was going to welcome John to the forum and say what a really interesting introduction he has made on joining the site until I scrolled down to see he had sadly passed away.
    In fact. John's introducction was written years before I joined this forum.
    R.I.P.
     

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