The memories of 48 RM Commando Roy Bennett

Discussion in 'Veteran Accounts' started by Hillbilly, Sep 6, 2018.

  1. Hillbilly

    Hillbilly Member

    Roy Bennett is my friends father and is alive and well living in Poynton, Cheshire. A few months ago I asked him to write down some of his recollections of his time during the war years and whilst his memory is patchy these days he wrote the following which was read out on Paul Cheall's excellent 'fighting through' podcast.I thought I would also post here on the forum. I hope you enjoy reading it:

    The Humour and Heartbreak of War by Roy Bennett

    When I was 16 I was working in a Birmingham factory that made equipment for the war. One morning when I arrived at work I noticed a new office had opened next door, when I looked through the window I found that they were recruiting and that afternoon I went in and saw the sergeant. He didn’t ask my age, he just asked which forces I wanted to join – I replied the Royal Marines. When he asked why, I replied “because they are the best sir!!” He seemed surprised but said I would have a letter in 10 days. He was right, the letter arrived to tell me that I had to appear at the Royal Marines head office in Portsmouth for a medical. I passed the medical and was very happy that they wanted me.

    I hadn’t told anybody in my family that I had signed up and when they heard the news they were very shocked that at 16 I was in the marines, my Grandmother was particularly upset.

    I went off to Portsmouth and after initial training at Eastney Barracks we moved on to Fort Gomer in Gosport. There were a number of forts built during the Napoleonic War to house French prisoners. Some were at sea; this was on dry land. It had walls eight inches thick and smelt musty. It was reopened during the Second World War to house Italian prisoners taken in the desert, but was condemned by the Red Cross. So they put Marines in! We finished our basic training there.

    One day three of us were detailed to report to the Cook Sergeant, “ I want you lot to go to the orderly room and pick up a cheese. It’s for the officers’ mess, but I want you to bring it here. Be careful because it’s very heavy. Do you understand?” Looking very subdued we replied “yes, Sergeant.”

    When we arrived at the orderly room we found that the cheese was round, huge and covered in hessian. It took three of us to control it as we set off to roll it to the galley. All around the ground was rough and the path to the galley was narrow. When we got the narrow part which was about ten feet above a brook that meandered through the forty area we had a problem. As young lads we were laughing and joking about things in general when the huge cheese threw a wobbler on the uneven ground. It started to go from side to side and we were unable to control it, horror of horrors it went over the edge end tumbled down into the brook below where it lay on its side in the water. Looking back today it sounds hilarious, but we recruits were frightened to death to tell the Cook Sergeant. We managed to get it out of the water and in the break period we got some of the squad to help us get it back on the path where we tried to dry it off with loads of towels. In the meantime the cook came looking for his cheese and was not a bit interested in our story. The next morning we found ourselves outside the orderly room again, where we were all give three days C.B. by the Adjutant for carelessness in charge of war office property!

    After our next leave we were moved to the Royal Marine depot at Deal in Kent for the next phase, which was tactical training. One day a shell from one of the big guns near Calais landed on the parade ground just as a marine was walking across. He had to have a leg amputated and that really brought it home to us all how close the Germans had really got to our country.

    At Deal there was a sadistic Drill Instructor who loved to humiliate the recruits. One was a 17 year old volunteer from Devon who had the misfortune to have the name W.C. Brown. He was given a dreadful time at the hands of the Sergeant and we all felt sorry for him. In the squad was a huge man, much older than we youngsters. There was an assortment of physiques in all squads but he really stood out, of course his nickname was ‘Tiny’ and the Sergeant loved to take the micky out of him. One day as the squad were drilling on the parade ground the Sergeant gave the order to “fix bayonets” and at the end of the parade ground he gave the order “about turn”. As they marched back towards the Sergeant Tiny broke ranks and charged as if he were doing bayonet practice. Just in time the Sergeant ran for his life. We all felt at the time that Tiny had done the right thing and it gave us something to talk about for days. Tiny spent some time in the glass house and we never saw him again. The Sergeant was posted immediately, but I was to meet him once more at the end of the war in the Pacific area by which time he was a regimental Sergeant-Major.

    While we were at Deal we spent the last few weeks at Kingsdown a few miles away to complete our field training. We had to take turns to guard duty. Just outside the camp there was a wood overlooking the sea and there were a number of buoys on at sea. One of our orders was to keep an eye on them and report immediately if any of the green lights turned red, I was colour-blind anyway but nobody took any notice when I told them.

    There were quite a number in the squad who came from towns and knew little of country life. Being on their own in a wood with lots of rustling and owls hooting made them uneasy, and more than a little nervous. Those of us who were country lads had quite a good laugh at their expense.

    At Kingsdown we were in one of the Warners holiday camps with two of us to a chalet. Above the bed was a shelf and on this we had to put our fighting order pack which had to be perfect with the exact amount of ground sheet showing. On top of it was our steel helmet. One evening a duel started when the huge siege guns on both sides of the Channel opened up. The chalet shook and the steel helmet came crashing down almost decapitating me!

    I finished the training and joined a new unit – Royal Marines 48th Commando. As I was the youngest all the lads nicknamed me ‘Babs’, which I hated.

    I was seventeen when D Day started and my unit landed early in the morning on Juno beach, Normandy.

    There was a horrendous noise as we landed, people were dying leaving the landing craft boat, it was terrible, bullets were crashing all around at our feet and parachutes were falling from the sky. I was very frightened and just stopped in my tracks, I couldn’t move. Suddenly I shook myself and said “I am a Royal Marine” and got moving as quickly as I could up that beach. It was the worst thing that has happened to me in my whole life. I was very fortunate and got away; I was never injured as so many were.

    When we were in Normandy one of my best friends was a lad from Manchester, he was great company and never had a care in the world. He had a lovely girlfriend and thought the world of her, she wrote to him several times a week. Mail was not the number one priority at the time and would often be delayed, and then several letters would arrive at once. They were precious and we would retire to our own secluded spot to read them in privacy.

    My mate always looked forward to receiving his letters from home but suddenly there were longer periods when he received nothing and he became a different person, even with me, his friend. Then one day the post arrived and he got a letter, he was really excited. When he didn’t return from his ‘private spot’ I went looking for him and found him with his head in his hands and the letter on the grass. The was totally devastated, I lit a cigarette and gave it to him. “What’s happened?” I asked, expecting that I already knew the answer. “She’s gone Babs” he replied, not looking at me “She’s met someone at work”. I did not know what to say to help him, but watched helplessly as he became a shadow of himself and lost interest in everything. “You’ve got to be careful” I warned him “If you lose your concentration it could be fatal for you”. “Who cares?” he replied. “Well, you family does for a start, and I do as one of your best mates, your eighteen for God’s sake with your whole life in front of you”. I was upset and worried for him but he was in no mood to listen. One day he went out on patrol with his partner and never returned his mind was elsewhere and he paid the price.

    One further memory I do have – a bugler arrived on the battlefield with a Sergeant holding a bucket of rum, the Sergeant gave everyone a tot apart from me, “you’re too young for this stuff Babs” he said. I was very upset that the Royal Marines let me fight the enemy but they would not give me a drink!!

    Later I went to Australia and that was wonderful, we went to join the attack on Japan but on the way we were told that the war was over and that was such good news.

    When I got home they asked me to stay on and train new recruits but I had had enough of it all by then so I left but I am proud to have been a Royal Marine and part of D Day. After all this time and at the age of nearly 92 the French have presented me with their highest order The Legion d’Honneur for my part in the Normandy landings on the 6th June 1944.

  2. 4jonboy

    4jonboy Daughter of a 56 Recce Patron

    Hello Jonathan
    Thank you for posting Roy's story.
    I am familiar with Paul Cheall's podcasts; he really does a fantastic job putting Veterans' stories out on the web.
    I did a couple of podcasts with Paul the last couple of years with Wilf Shaw, who recorded his war stories; unfortunately he passed away earlier this year. Are you familiar with them?

    Tricky Dicky likes this.
  3. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    Thanks for sharing that here. I listened to it on the podcast but it's still good to read again. The bit about him being denied a tot of rum for being to young - yet being in the Marines - is quite amusing!
    Hillbilly likes this.
  4. Hillbilly

    Hillbilly Member

    Hi Lesley,

    I agree about Paul's podcasts, they are really excellent and yes I did listen to all the Wild Shaw ones, such a shame to have lost him earlier this year, he sounded like a real character!

    Best regards, Jonathan

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