My service in Royal Signals, 1939 to 1946.

Discussion in 'Veteran Accounts' started by Nevil, Feb 21, 2011.

  1. Nevil

    Nevil WW2 Veteran/Royal Signals WW2 Veteran

    Nevil - results of a quick Google search:

    7th Sept. 1940 : Germany starts it's Blitz on London with 300 German bombers in the first of 57 consecutive nights of bombing. The Blitz caused the deaths of over 40,000 men women and children and left a million homes destroyed in the city.
    wikipedia.org

    After 5th July the Intelligence Staff issued no further invasion alert until 7th September when all home defences were brought to a state of “immediate action”.
    From Bletchleypark.org.uk.

    Thanks for the very interesting quotes, Mike. After I had posted my write-up I remembered the name of the German invasion plan, Sea Lion, and looked it up. However, the info I read did not mention September 7 so I was gratified that from your quote above, my memory had not been inaccurate in that respect. I also recalled that for quite a while after September 7 there were rumours about hundreds of bodies from a German invasion force floating in from the Channel

    It was interesting also to see the quotes from Bletchley Park. I don't know if I have mentioned it previously but I served there for a comparatively short time, a few months. Of course, as a DR I knew it was a top secret cipher (cypher in Brit-speak?) training unit but we really did not know the full extent of what was being done there. Anyway, I recently got a fancy badge and a certificate of thanks from your current PM.......better late than never I guess but I did not really earn anything, just doing the usual DR stuff, mainly from Bletchley to the War Office and a few other places in London. Of course they would not use wireless/radio from there and even telephone was not trusted so it had to be DRs.
    Nevil.
     
  2. Nevil

    Nevil WW2 Veteran/Royal Signals WW2 Veteran

    Hi Mike & Andy,

    In my piece about the events of Sep 7, 1940, I should have mentioned that 4 Corps was really a "paper tiger." As a Signals unit we were in pretty good shape, and well-equipped. However, our divisions (cannot recall which) were not in good shape being probably about half-strength in such essentials as tanks, artillery, transportation, personnel, and even ammunition, after the debacle in France just three months earlier. Just as an example, DRs were restricted to just six rounds in our .38 Webley revolvers, with all spares being withdrawn for use elsewhere, and similar restrictions were applied to all service units.

    So all in all, it was a damned good job the Germans did not land, and especially not in our sector!

    A rather farcical aspect of that time was an aspect of the probably well-founded fear that the enemy would land paratroops behind the lines. One thing amongst many we were supposed to look out for was very tall nuns!

    Nevil.
     
  3. Nevil

    Nevil WW2 Veteran/Royal Signals WW2 Veteran

    I'm thoroughly enjoying the recollections Nevil, even if I didn't need reminding of mutton. We're so spoiled these days.

    Everything is different these days, Rich! I don't envy the Canadian troops in Afghanistan (and I don`t even think they should be there) but when I read about the facilities on the bases ......MacDonalds for hamburgers etc., Tim Hortons for coffee and doughnuts, and so on, I am quite amazed! And I doubt if they ever get boiled mutton! Also I don't think the present Western world could live with the scale of casualties that became commonplace on both sides in WW2 and lets all hope they never have to. Of course, I am sure my father and his brothers and many others also said that after WW1.

    Nevil.
     
  4. Nevil

    Nevil WW2 Veteran/Royal Signals WW2 Veteran

    I mentioned Bletchley Park. This is what I received a couple of months ago. I did not do anything special.....just regular DR work and for a comparatively short time.

    Pictures re-posted:


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  5. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Nevil
    What a fabulous thing to see. Thanks for posting up the images.

    I was once told that a former boss of mine worked at Bletchley. No idea what he did, but he did tell me himself that pre-war he had travelled all over Germany as a student and was fluent in the language ... Better late than never indeed. I'm sure that many who were associated with Bletchley Park took their 'secret' with them.


    I mentioned Bletchley Park. This is what I received a couple of months ago. I did not do anything special.....just regular DR work and for a comparatively short time.

    [​IMG]
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  6. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Many thanks for sharing the pics Nevil. As Diane says better late than never but a bit too late for many sadly.

    Regards
    Andy
     
  7. Nevil

    Nevil WW2 Veteran/Royal Signals WW2 Veteran

    In late October of 1940, I was returning to 4 Corps HQ at Chenies from a night run About 30 miles from there in the pre-dawn darkness I was passing a convoy of trucks that had stopped but had not pulled off the road. When I was about half-way past, I was hit by a truck that had not seen me coming and turned onto the road from a side road. It was a glancing blow but enough to wreck my bike and inflict some damage to me. Eventually I arrived at a hospital, bandaged up, and then found fit to leave. I phoned through for a DR to come and finish my run and he arrived at about the same time as the truck from the DR Section to pick me up. I knew that the hospital was wrong in finding me fit to travel but I did not want to be stuck there.


    In the army of those days, and perhaps today also for all I know, one had to be fit to report sick so it was no surprise to be told that the first attention I could get would be by attending sick parade at 0600 hrs next day. The lower part of my right leg was swollen and very painful so I had to use a floor brush as a crutch to get on parade. The Medical Officer told me my ankle was sprained and I should walk on it as much as possible, I knew it was broken, feeling the bones grinding, so I did the unthinkable and demanded an X-ray. Surprisingly I was put in a car and taken to the military hospital at Amersham where an X-ray was quickly followed by an operation to put a screw in my ankle which was badly fractured. I also had a lot of cuts and abrasions pretty well all over but they did heal eventually except for a broken right thumb which was not noticed under the swelling and so not set and is not very useful to this day.


    A few weeks later I was in bed in the hospital with my right leg raised and in a “tent” to keep the weight of the blankets off it, when the MO from the Signals came round the ward. He stopped at my bed and asked if he knew me from somewhere. I said “Yes. I'm the DR you diagnosed as having a sprained ankle.” He turned abruptly and left without a word!


    For some reason they could not give me a walking cast immediately, in fact I was still without one
    several weeks later but I could get around with crutches. Then one night we were wakened by the nurses and told that all those who could walk were to leave their beds, dress, and prepare to help the nursing staff receive badly injured civilians being brought to the hospital from London where there had been a very heavy incendiary raid and the hospitals there were full. I was told that only the worst injured, those with little hope of recovery, were being brought to military hospitals which in the case of Amersham was mainly staffed with Red Cross volunteers, all of whom were very willing but not really professional nurses. The ambulances started coming in soon after and the wards filled up rapidly. The man who was brought to my bed and whom I helped look after, as best anyone could, was horribly wounded having been exposed at close quarters to a phosphorus incendiary bomb. There was really nothing anyone could do for him except try to help with the pain and it was actually a great relief when he died a couple of days after he was admitted. The experience stayed with me in nightmares for years, even after the war.


    On a lighter note, shortly after this, I asked at one point if I could have a pass for an evening out of the hospital. I assured the Matron that my brother would bring transportation so the fact that I did not have a walking cast would not matter. I omitted to explain that my brother would be picking me up on the back of his motorcycle. Anyway, about a dozen DRs arrived around 6:00 p.m. and we departed for a very festive evening in the pubs of the surrounding villages. They delivered me back to the hospital reception area around midnight, an hour later than the curfew, rather the worst for wear but rescued by a couple of sympathetic nurses who got me back into the ward without the Night Duty Sister being any the wiser!


    In late December I got a week's leave to go home for Christmas. I had a walking cast but I had to stand most of the journey home in a crowded rail car, with a full pack and a rifle which the hospital had insisted on.. Walking from the station at Sale towards my home, an air raid started and a few minutes later I was shouted at by someone in the darkness to get to a shelter. After a second or so, I realised it was my father, then an Air Raid Warden (veteran of WW1). The raid was the the worst one that Manchester had experienced to that time. My father decided I was no use to the Civil Defence and asked me to go to my sister's, her husband being away in the RAF. So I spent a very noisy night under the stairs with her and her daughter. When I went home next morning, a house at the back of ours had disappeared but fortunately the occupants had gone to a shelter when the raid started so nobody was hurt. And so ended 1940.

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    Nevil.
     
  8. Nevil

    Nevil WW2 Veteran/Royal Signals WW2 Veteran

    Many thanks for sharing the pics Nevil. As Diane says better late than never but a bit too late for many sadly.

    Regards
    Andy
    Thanks for the comments, Andy and Diane. I had not posted these previously because the real heroes of Bletchley were the civilians and a few military who did the brain work, so I did not earn any recognition.. However, it occurred to me the other evening that probably relatively few of these were issued because very few are left who were there, so they might have a historical interest in this forum..

    I have been surprised reading various histories of WW2 how much the British and later SHAEF knew about the German formations and their locations in 'real time.' One has to believe it made a huge difference to the success of the Normandy landings and the subsequent battles.

    As you say, the badges were issued too late for most of the 'good guys.'

    Nevil.
     
  9. Nevil

    Nevil WW2 Veteran/Royal Signals WW2 Veteran

    The daily job of Despatch Riders became more difficult after the evacuation from France in May-June of 1940, and that accelerated again after the invasion scare of September 1940.


    For a start, all road signs, signs at railway stations and signs giving names of towns or villages were removed. In many places, any road names that might identify the direction the road was taking (e.g. “London Road”) were also removed, The idea was of course to confuse the enemy if and when they did land. It confused a lot of DRs also, especially at night, so an excellent memory and a similar map reading ability were essential to a smooth run.


    Add to this the heightened attention given to and by the Home Guard units, especially those in the south of England. They were overly suspicious and somewhat trigger happy, the latter a characteristic of most of us until the invasion alert pretty well went from people's minds I suppose. So in the deep darkness of a small village, a DR had to be very alert to the possibility of a Home Guard road block and check point imposed by some officious local commander for some unknown reason. At this point, the standing order for DRs carrying Despatches not to stop for anything between Signals Offices had to be viewed with discretion!


    Army life was certainly not without its lighter side even in a particularly tense period of the war. By this time our original group of about twenty four DRs at Bakewell had become quite diluted as we lost some by accident and transfer and gained replacements and additions. Most were good but a few were not so. I recall one who did not inspire much confidence. One night he was on standby DR Duty at the Corps Signals Office, waiting for any call for a special run. While he was doing this he was reading a novel and as he found his revolver for some strange reason uncomfortable in its holster, he tucked it is the waist band of his pants. At some point he stood up to go out on a run, grabbed the butt of the revolver to extract it from his pants and accidentally pressed the trigger....at least that was the statement he later made on the accident report. Anyway, he was not fatally injured but the doctor at the hospital told me when I visited him that “his hopes of posterity had been greatly diminished.”


    On another occasion, a truck driver entering through the main gate of the camp about 11:00 p.m. on a dark night, stopped at the Guard House and reported that he had seen two `bodies` in a ditch about a quarter mile from the camp. The guard was turned out and a detachment sent out to the scene to investigate. They surrounded the bodies, which proved to be somewhat embarrassing to one of our DRs, famed as the Section Don Juan, who was bidding a fond goodnight to his latest girlfriend from the village, causing much merriment in the unit as the tale was told and retold, with much embellishment, the following day..


    I was not immune from this desire to have a joke when the occasion was right. It happened in 1941 when we were stationed in Newmarket with 2 Corps. I had been on a very long night trip, probably about 12 hours on the bike and I was exhausted. As DR Sgt I had my own room in Heath House and had slept right through the day. Around 1030 p.m. my brother along with several other DRs came into the room, carrying their mess tins, mugs, and cutlery, and woke me up, telling me that if I did not get to the Mess Hall across Severals Heath immediately, I would miss breakfast. So I dressed in a hurry and ran to the Mess Hall.......only to be greeted with loud laughter from the staff and the lurking DRs when I demanded breakfast!


    Nevil
     
  10. Mike L

    Mike L Very Senior Member

    Nevil, thanks again for posting more of your recollections. Always a delight to read, even if some memories are unpleasant for you.

    Mike
     
  11. geoff501

    geoff501 Achtung Feind hört mit

    Nevil,

    Just caught up with this thread and read it through. What a great collection of photo's and documents you have. Thanks for sharing and don't worry about boring us with the smallest details, you won't! Good to see you got the badge for the time you were at BP, don't belittle your service there, without the DRs the boffins would not be able to receive their material and send the results out. However it is sad they leave these award things rather late.

    all the best,

    geoff
     
  12. Nevil

    Nevil WW2 Veteran/Royal Signals WW2 Veteran

    Nevil,

    Just caught up with this thread and read it through. What a great collection of photo's and documents you have. .........................

    geoff

    Thanks for the comments Geof, and also Mike whom I failed to acknowledge earlier (my apologies, Mike!).

    I think I have shot my bolt as far as pictures and documents are concerned but some have asked for further comments so I will do that when I can. I have been lucky in accumulating the pictures as in addition to my own I received some many years ago from my late brother's wife and a few old friends with whom I served....which explains the variety of text on the pictures....which I probably should have standardised, and in some cases made more legible, before I put them on the forum!

    Nevil.
     
  13. Nevil

    Nevil WW2 Veteran/Royal Signals WW2 Veteran

    Nevil
    What a fabulous thing to see. Thanks for posting up the images.

    I was once told that a former boss of mine worked at Bletchley. No idea what he did, but he did tell me himself that pre-war he had travelled all over Germany as a student and was fluent in the language ... Better late than never indeed. I'm sure that many who were associated with Bletchley Park took their 'secret' with them.

    Hi Diane,

    Your comment about the German speaker you worked for at one time triggered a memory that is not I believe outside the purpose of this forum although it may appear so at first glance.

    In the summer of 1936 I was a 15 year-old and went on a four week school trip to Germany accompanied by our German teacher, Herr Liebeskind. When we reached Cologne (Koeln) Herr Liebeskind, much to our surprise, donned a swastika armband and re-introduced himself as an official of the Nazi Party. Shortly after that we were joined by a uniformed squad of Hitler Youth who accompanied us for the rest of our stay in Germany.

    I'll leave out the travelogue and just say that the final part of our trip was spent at the Youth Hostel on the Moehnesee in Westfalen. My German was pretty good in those days and it soon became obvious that we were sharing the space there with a preliminary training unit for the nascent German U-boat program, something that was actually forbidden at that time by the Versailles Treaty.

    In the early part of the war, shortly after the first air raids had started, the RAF issued an appeal for any information that would assist them in locating strategic targets in Germany. I sent them my photographs, tourist-type maps, and leaflets describing and locating the Moehne Dam. I have no idea if the information I sent them made any contribution to the attack on the dam by the Dambusters Squadron in 1943.

    Here are some pictures I took there although cameras were not supposed to be used at the Youth Hostel:

    The first picture showsthe Youth Hostel. The second is of the Moehnedee but the bridge in the distance is a road bridge, not the dam, all those pictures went to the RAF. The third picture shows some of our Hitler Youth companions. The fourth shows also a couple of the 'NCOs" of the naval contingent and the fifth shows the morning parade which I was not supposed to photograph but I sneaked a shot out of the window, The C.O. of the unit is on the left, just joining the parade.

    Pictures reposted after deletion in error:

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  14. geoff501

    geoff501 Achtung Feind hört mit

    Nevil,

    Very interesting account on your first trip to Germany. The sudden appearance of the nazi armband sounds like something out of Monty Python! I can imagine John Cleese playing the part.

    Do you remember any of the place names you went to during your short time as a Bletchley DR ? Sorry if it's too many questions.

    geoff
     
  15. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Sadly Photobucket has seen fit to delete Nevil's pics as they have a blanket ban on anything that has anything to do with Nazism.
    :(
     
  16. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Any chance we can upload the via Imageshack? I'm happy to do the work if you email them to me Nevil.

    Regards
    Andy
     
  17. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Nevil thank you so much for the account. It's thankfully clear given your actions later that the trip and the introduction to HJ was thankfully more than a bit counterproductive. Did you receive any acknowledgement from the authorities at the time when you sent your photos. I find that kind of public appeal fascinating. I wonder just how many could have actually been in the same position as yourself or my old boss, to contribute, given that travel experience wasn't as widespread as it is now. Every photo must have counted.

    I wonder Nevil if your photobucket album is set to public rather than private? I have uploaded a few photos from my father's photo album and they are still there after about 3 yrs. It'd be a bit difficult to miss the swastika here
    http://www.ww2talk.com/forum/140100-post44.html

    Please do tell us anything you can remember of Bletchley.

    Kind regards
    Diane
     
  18. Nevil

    Nevil WW2 Veteran/Royal Signals WW2 Veteran

    Any chance we can upload the via Imageshack? I'm happy to do the work if you email them to me Nevil.

    Regards
    Andy

    Sure, Andy....will do! I don't know how to get your email address from the forum but if you contact me at email removed I will send the pictures to you.

    I am away from my regular computer over Easter but will do it when I return early next week.

    Thanks!

    Nevil.
     
  19. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Nevil
    I've removed your email details because of potential spam.

    By clicking on your username anyone can use the drop down menu to opt for email contact, since you have left that option enabled. They won't see your address unless you reply directly to them via email. I'll forward Andy your email address in a PM.
     
  20. Nevil

    Nevil WW2 Veteran/Royal Signals WW2 Veteran

    My apologies, folk!

    All my pictures have been deleted. And this is my fault because I assumed that once I had downloaded them to the forum they were there until the cows came home.......so I deleted my pictures from Photobucket thinking they had served their purpose.......hence the mess on the forum.

    I will download everything again and not make the same mistake again. However, I may need some help from Owen eventually in cleaning up the existing entries that show the deletions. I guess I could do this by editing?

    Sorry!

    Nevil.
     

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