American Volunteers in British Army. (KRRC)

Discussion in 'General' started by Owen, Jun 20, 2007.

  1. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    aka No.1 Motor Training Battalion
    yeah I know, see post #1.

    Ask him if he remembers the CO Lt/Col Eddie Hamilton DSO.
    Also the YMCA, or Polly Tea Rooms for Officers , in Marlborough High Street, where they parked up for refreshments on their jaunts around Wiltshire whilst learning to drive 15 cwt lorries.
  2. idler

    idler GeneralList

    yeah I know, see post #1.

    I did, then forgot it! :redface:
  3. idler

    idler GeneralList

    As my penance, here are the obituaries from the KRRC Chronicles:

    Attached Files:

    Owen likes this.
  4. Asperon Thorn

    Asperon Thorn Junior Member

    Notes from his conversation.

    I joined up with them knowing that I wasn't American, and telling them I wasn't an American. But they said it was ok because I was American enough for their purposes.

    I didn't actually become an American Citizen until 1959

    Edit: I suppose I should clarify. My grandfather (M L Lejeune) was born in England. When he was 6 his family moved Stateside. The first time he had been back to England was when he joined up.
  5. Asperon Thorn

    Asperon Thorn Junior Member

    Notes are going to be disjointed. I apologize. I'm bold.

    So how did you get recruited for this, Papa?

    Well. . . I'll tell you, I was teaching school in new hampshire. So along came the japanese sinking a bunch of boats in Hawaii, so I figured it was time to start taking this war seriously.

    I tried to join the American navy, but they wouldn't have me because I was britiish. . . .

    Mr. Dickie, who was a father of a friend of me, told me that the british were recruiting for this hands-across-the-sea effort. So I got a hold of so and so and he came over, or I went over there and we chatted some.

    And they decided they would have me. So I got shipped over in a Banana boat. but there were not any Banana's on the boat, just aircraft. There were also 4 ladies that were in charge of flying them back. . .[confused I helped him with the word WASPs]

    Papa, That didn't seem right.

    I don't quite recall how it worked, they weren't a very attractive group and kind of stuck to themselves.
  6. Asperon Thorn

    Asperon Thorn Junior Member

    So after the banana boat did you go to Chiseldon?

    no. . well. . pretty soon yeah.

    I did a while at the KRRC. . base is the wrong word. .HQ of the Regimental. I did a few weeks there. Then went to Chiseldon.

    What was Chiseldon?

    It was suppose to be a training camp for mobilized infantry.

    Did you learn to drive there?

    I'd been driving for YEARS before I joined the army. [Tone: insulted]

    What about bren Carriers [thanks to may aunt for this one]

    I had a platoon of bren gun carriers. I had 13 bren gun carriers It was called a scout platoon, we we usually whiz off one place, and the another place to scout what was going on.

    Were you in that the entire time?

    No no no. . only while I was training. I soon moved on to other things.
    Owen likes this.
  7. Asperon Thorn

    Asperon Thorn Junior Member

    It's a difficult interview. My Aunt is here too. Above was like a 30 minute conversation and she says that is more than anyone has gotten out of him. . since the war. And I haven't even gotten that far.

    Asperon Thorn
  8. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Thanks for that.
    As he lived in the USA pre-War I thought he'd already know how to drive so I chuckled with that "insulted" comment.
    Good worh that man.
    I hope you said someone from the UK says Hello.
  9. Asperon Thorn

    Asperon Thorn Junior Member

    Well he is subjecting himself to another interview tonight.

    The thing about my grandfather is that he never talked to anyone, including his wife, about the war. He wasn't exactly proud of his service. . .as in the need to talk about it. For him it was more of a duty or chore. . like taking out the trash. . that he only did because the trash got piled so high.

    When he talks about his life and what he contributed it was his 40 years working for the International Bank of Reconstruction and Development. (The world Bank.) In which he spent 40 years helping countries Build. . rather than destroy.

    So, Part of me being HERE is to try and get information that I can use to get him to talk about it. Because I have determined to not have to learn about my grandfather from books and academics.

    So he was not in El Amein. But It sounds like he was in with Monty (8th Army?) as they were speeding up the coast trying to link up with Operation Torch. I don't know much about what that army group was doing. . .My historical focus has been with an extreme American bias.

    Same goes with Greece, in which he spent a lot of time . .from what we can piece together he had a really rough time in Greece.

    Asperon Thorn
  10. idler

    idler GeneralList

  11. Asperon Thorn

    Asperon Thorn Junior Member

  12. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    Alsop and Thompson joined SOE as Jedburghs (transferring absck to the US Army and the OSS while at Milton Hall) Alsop wrote a book called Sub-Rosa about the OSS in 1946 and became a very famous political commentator
  13. Asperon Thorn

    Asperon Thorn Junior Member

    My Grandfather wrote these type of Form letters home to the States that my Great-Grandfather would then copy and send out to a list of people. He wasn't particularly fond of them because they were so impersonal, however there wasn't much alternative.

    This is letter number 3 written sic I have yet to locate letters number 1 and 2. In context when it was written the US was still mobilizing for war while my Grandfather was in an Army and a country that had been at war for 3 years. In this letter you can very much tell that he still feels very much an outsider looking in. The change from the USA to wartime England almost surreal.

    2/Lt. Michael L. Lejeune
    c/o American Express Co.
    6 Haymarket,
    London, S.W.1,England

    November 29,1942


    This third letter was suppose to come as a "wishing-you-a-Merry-Xmas" letter, but with one thing and another (mainly the fact that I've been away at Battle Camp in the wilds most of this last week) it is quite obvious that I shall be extremely lucky if it turns out to be a "wishing-you-a-happy-New-Year" letter, and it is more than likely that I'd better wish you a tremendous Twelfth Night combined with a lovely Lincoln's Birthday. This all sounds rather like that slick "Holiday Inn", which, incidentally, was a raving success over here and you can't go anywhere without hearing the strains of "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas". It's a good tun and all that, but usually over here it doesn't happen to be Bing Crosby singing it. At any rate, whenever this does reach you it brings you my best wishes.

    At the moment it is the witching hour of 4 a.m. I am on guard and, luckily, have the fairly easy job of being second in command of the guard which entails being awake from 1 in the morning until we dismount at 10. Al I have to do is change the guard every two hours, see that they wake up the early risers - cookee et all - and keep the fire going. the most difficult thing of all is to keep myself awake.

    There are, thank God, only three more weeks in this place at the end of which I shall hatch out as a second Lieutenant, destination unknown, but with probably a month or so with a battalion in England before beign shipped abroad. Most of our time these days is spent on schemes of one sort or another, especially TEWTS which are tactical exercises without troops. We go out to some pre-selected spot and proceed to go through the complete process of taking a bridge or some such thing, answering a series of questions and finding solutions for the problems on the ground and the conditions the Tewt present. They aren't bad fun really, and at least you are using your head for a change.

    A week ago we went up to a battle camp on the Scottish border. Two days were spent on schemes in the course of which we fired off a great deal of live ammunition, and two days were spent on a long march over the moors, carrying everything we needed in the way of clothes, blankets, and food and of course the inevitable rifle. This was a pretty gruelling trip as we did over twenty-five miles, but we did spend a very comfortable night in a barn where, buried in the hay, we were warm for the first time. we were amazingly lucky in that it never rained and most of the time it was so frosty that the ground was frozen so we escaped a great deal of mud and bog.

    as a matter of fact we have ben having what for England must be bery good weather. Some weeks ago - it was the weekend of the good news from Libya - I was down in Sussex and it was he most glorious day I have seen for ages - all green and gold and blue. he sun and the good news had cheered everyone up immensely so they were all smiles.

    the advance in Africa has done a great deal to improve people's spriits here. It has restored their confidence in the army which had drpped to a pretty depressing low last summer. The poor army doesn't get much of a show over here. the limelight is always grabbed by the navy and R.A.F. But at last the army has done something spectacular and the people are so proud of it and pleased with themselves because nearly everyone can feel that he has really done something towards the victory. The only fly on the ointment is Darland and his friends. A lot of people aren't very happy about him and wouldn't trust him as far as they could throw him. And they are very disappointed about the French fleet at Toulon. They're glad Hitler hasn't got it, but they can't help thinking how much more help it could be afloat than sunk in Toulon Harbour.

    As a result of the incredibly rapid advances in Africa there has been a good deal of over-optimism, but I expect that this will be cured now that Rommel is going to have to make a stand. But no matter even if the going becomes stiffer from here on in, it will be less of a back against the wall affair. The russians were driven to Stalingrad, but have come back fighting. The British were forced back into Egypt but have come out of that corner swinging. The Americans took some pretty severe knocks to begin with, but they seem to be delivering the goods (and in a literal sense as well) now. None of this of course is news, but it is pleasant to reflect on it and to contemplate the turning worms and tables.

    I see Life occasionaly and Time and I get the New Yorker, so to a certain limited extent I can keep up wiwth things. From these and from tehletters I've had, it seems that America is still a long way from being in this war in speirit as well as in fact. Perhaps that has changed now that a fairly large number of Americans are actually abroud and many of them fighting. But it isn't like Britain where many of the bus conductors are women, many of the porters at stations (when you manat to see a porter) are women, and where women ols are the starts on the platforms of the London Underground. You seldom - very seldom - see a car on the road which isn' a military car or truck. there are always planes in the sky and there are a number of airdromes withini a few miles of this unmentionable place each of wich outstrips La Guardia Field in newness and size - and that's not letting out ay military secrets because there are airdromes like that all over England. I went to stay with some people not long ago with four children. The lder boy is a prisoner in Germany, the younger has just been in the madgascar campaign. Both girls are in the WRNS 0 one of them stationed in East Africa. That sort of thing isn't an exception it's the rule. - And queues, God what a lot of queues. The British always have ben inclined to queue up for things, but now its terrible. You stand in line for everything. But I suppose the thing which would impress Americans most is the restictions on travel of all kinds and on motoring particularly. There is not a single drop of gasoline available for private use unless it is in connection with farming or some such essential business. People have cars, and by combining their own shopping etc. with National Service, such as Home Guard work or Women's Voluntary Service, or some such thing, you can occasionally get the use of a car, but it inevitably works out that most of the time you take the bus, and you usually stand in the bus.

    But in a way it's so much easier over here not only to take all these inconveniences, but to give everything you have to the war effort. Over here you certainly know what your fighting for. In America I suspect there are a lot of people who don't know. And if they do know they haven't wittled down their ideas of their own importance in this war to fit the actual useful job they must do. Is it still business as usual in America? or Are people really getting down to it.

    Mrs. Roosevelt made quite a splash over here. She rushed around at terrific speed and saw everybody and everything with various Britishers taking turns running along behind with their tongues hanging out. The papers were full of her doings and "My Day" burst into flower in several of them. Whether it will continue or not now that she has departed, I don't know.

    I'm afraid this isn't much of a letter, but it has ben written under rather sleepy conditions and probably it isn't too sparkling.

    Maybe it will all be over by this time next year. Until then, as ever,

    Owen and dbf like this.
  14. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Super stuff, thanks for posting
  15. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Really interesting to read that letter, thanks for posting.
  16. Asperon Thorn

    Asperon Thorn Junior Member

    This one is a bit more about the routine of military life that he is now in. Wartime England is less of a novelty than it was in the previous letter. However he is writing to an Audience which is mostly in California, which was about as untouched by the war as you could get in the States, so he is trying to convey the differences.

    A point of note. Like I said in the previous post my Grandfather would mail these to my Great Grandfather who would type them and distribute. Well, My Grandfather, while born in England and still a British citizen, was very much an American. (And billed as one on all KRRC propaganda) My Great-Grandfather was very much an Englishman through and through. (Veteran of the First Big War in the British Army and got Mustard gassed for his trouble.) So while my grandfather used such American spelling when he hand wrote his letters (color and harbor) my Great-Grandfather would change them when he typed them (colour and harbour.) My Grandfather and I had a laugh about that the other night.

    2/Lt. M.L. Lejeune
    c/o The American Express Co.
    6 The Haymarket
    London, S.W.1, England.

    January 23rd 1943


    The longer one is away from home, the less there seems to write about. this is partly because you lose touch with things of topmost interest, but largely, I think, because you get so used to the new ways of doing things that they are no longer "newsworthy". Driving on the wrong side of the road was pretty much of a novelty once, but now it is, after ten months, completely automatic. Woman porters in the stations, conductresses in the buses, no diners on the trains, players cigarettes, God-awful coffee, suet pudding, 4-page daily papers, omnipresent aeroplanes; all these things are just part of life as it is lived here and now. I remember when I first arrived and was travelling towards London, my first balloon barrage was quite an experience. The silver globule shining in the summer sky each with its almost invisible umbilical cord. I was impressed. Now they are taken for granted. The same with beds in the London underground stations, and the omb damaged buildings, and the blackout. Sometimes I think it would do Chicago a lot of good to have a blackout for a week or so. You begin to get a pretty good idea of what you're fighting for when you know that if you show any light outside, somebody's going to drop bombs on you. I don't know what a "dim-out" is like, but you can take it from me that a blackout on a cloudy night is a bit of a curse.

    For one month and five days I have been the holder of His Majesty's Commission. It makes quite a lot of difference one way and another. I don't have to sleep 25 in a room any more. I've got a Batman to do all the things I don't like doing. I've got a beautiful new uniform (utility style) and I can wear a collar and tie with my battle dress. As a rifleman I drew three shillings a day and was supplied with everything. As a junior subaltern I draw ten shillings a day, pay two shillings of it for messing, approximately another two shillings income tax, and am obliged to clothe and care for myself at my own expense. It's no wonder that a lot of Sergeants in the british Army decline commissions on the grounds that they can't afford them!

    However, at the moment the question of pay is pretty unimportant because we are stationed in the middle of nowhere and the mess has run out of whisky; between the two it is almost impossible to spend any money. At the present we have just come to the end of a five day thaw, so the snow is almost all gone. It looks rather different from what it was when I first arrived. I had left London fairly early in the morning and had spent all day either sitting in the trains or trying to fill in time between trains. I finally arrived at a little village "Somewhere in England" and dumped myself and impedimenta out of the train. It was pitch dark and snowing - New Year's Day hardly at its best. Suddenly out of the darkness came "hullo old man, I've been sent to meet you." We piled my stuff into a truck and headed out. The person who had come to meet me had to go to another camp so he was dropped off. We drove three miles through the snow, mostly up hill, and finally came to a wood. The driver unloaded me and baggage at the officers' mess and left me to my devices. I hadn't devised much, but managed o get myself directed to the dining room where I at last found some officers. from then on things became easier. The commanding Officer came in and we exuded charm at teach other (If you can imagine me exuding charm). the C. O. is a rather leonine person, extremely nice, but I shouldn't think he's too brilliant. However, I've hardly had time to see. I've been here only three weeks, and for two of those the C.O. has been away.

    Next day when the sun came out I had a chance to look around. The camp is in a wood and is entirely composed of Nissen huts, you know, those corrugated iron huts made up of what appears to be sections of a giant pipe. It was all very picturesque and Christmassy with now on everything. Also it was pretty damn cold. But it wasn't the looks of the thing so much as its feel that mattered. with the mercury well below freezing and the snow about fourteen inches deep, we went out on fieldcraft training. We spent two whole days crawling through, over, and under the snow. We didn't think it much fun, but actually it wasn't as bad for us as for another company who went out a few days later when it was beginning to thaw. hey were wet to the skin the whole time.

    We live a see-saw life here. One of the most usual complaints in the army is that because of fatigues and leave you can never get a whole platoon or company together for training. Our new Colonel is therefore trying out a system of alternate training periods and leave and duty periods. For ten days two companies are on training and two on duties (those who are due for leave taking it in the duty period), and then for the next ten days they change around. For platoon commanders this meant ten days of intense activity and then ten days of practically nothing. At the moment I am in the middle of one of the "nothing"periods. As a matter of fact there are only two of us in the company, the company commander and myself, the others all either being away on courses or on leave.

    There really isn't very much else to write about these days. Al the interesting things are taboo, and the uninteresting things like truck inspections (there always seems to be another one) are best left alone. the most amusing aspects of that kind of life, like life at school and college, spring from the "dormitory" sort of life we lead. Phrases and anecdotes where are always good for a laugh in the mess are meaningless outside of it.

    I just this minute heard on the wireless that Alexander Woolcott has died. I guess a lot of people will miss him. I shan't, I don't think. He was rather nicer on paper than in real life. the best part of him remains behind.

    The other day I had the pleasure of spending four hours in a gas mask. It isn't the most comfortable way to spend your morning. Because of the difficulty of breathing you are conscious of every breath you take. Your eye-pieces fog up and moisture condenses inside the face-piece and dribbles down to form a pool around your chin. It's pretty tiresome up to the middle of the third hour, but after that you get used to it.

    there really is nothing to write about these days. Write some time when you get a chance and let me know all the things which are going on.

    As ever,
    (to some of his friends)
    or Michael to others.
    Drew5233 likes this.
  17. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Great stuff - I bet the units complete war diaries from this period would be interesting.

  18. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    I couldn't resist looking up the address on google maps and No.6 is to the right (as you look at the pic) of the No.7. The building with the awnings.

  19. Asperon Thorn

    Asperon Thorn Junior Member

    Is it still an American Express?
  20. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    I can't tell from this pic - It looks like a restuarant. I'll have another butchers at it via google.

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