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Discussion in 'User Introductions' started by Aeradia, Aug 4, 2021.

  1. Aeradia

    Aeradia Member

    Hi all

    My name is Andrea and I joined the site to see if I can piece together more information about my grandfather. I was wondering if anyone would be able to advise me on where I can start. I have a few photographs of his, the biggest clue I have is a group photograph with him in the middle and on the back it states 11th Armoured "The Black Bull" R.A.S.C. A couple of his photos also have the number "83" on, but I don't currently know what this means. When he was still alive and I was much younger he made mention that he was at the liberation of Belsen and I believe he was involved in engineering as he mentioned converting exhausts on vehicles into "duck boats" in order to allow them to cross water. I also believe a couple of his photographs are from Hamburg. Ultimately I would love to know more about his unit and hopefully this will allow me to share the photographs with other families who may spot their father or grandparent in the photographs I have.

    Sorry if this is the wrong place to pose these questions.

    I really appreciate anybody pointing me in the right direction.

    Andrea :)

    Attached Files:

    ecalpald, Owen, 4jonboy and 2 others like this.
  2. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    Hi Andrea

    I think that "83" indicates that he was a member of the armoured brigade RASC company of 11th Armoured Division which was 171st Company. I also noted the "W/S" on the wall which stands for Workshops [platoon] which ties up with your comment about 'engineering'.

    I think I might have some of the company war diary for 1944 - have you applied for his service records? They would confirm whether he was indeed with 171st Coy and when. Do you know anything about his rank?


  3. Aeradia

    Aeradia Member

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks so much for responding. I have asked my mother to apply for his service records, but I believe she is the only one who can do this. I believe he was a private. I have attached some more photos of him in uniform. There is also a photo of one of his friends who is sat in front of the "83" number again. I will take a look at the 171st. We live in Merseyside and I belive he was trained up in Yorkshire.

    Attached Files:

    ecalpald and Owen like this.
  4. Aeradia

    Aeradia Member

    Also I would be really grateful if you would be willing to share the diaries. I could show my mother as she listened to his stories as a child, it may help piece together some of the history.
  5. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member


    If you share his name I'll look through diary tonight - it is very much hit and miss though with other ranks. There are some orders in the diary (WO171/2401) that include names of individual soldiers so you never know! Very happy to share what I have.

    The Company was based in Cottingham from Jan 44 (when the records I have start) and then moved down to Aldershot at the end of March 44 (Tournai Barracks). Whilst there they waterproofed their vehicles ready to move to Normandy. That may have been the 'converting exhausts' you mentioned.


  6. Aeradia

    Aeradia Member

    Hi Tom

    Thanks very much. My Grandfathers name was Arthur Edwin Ashford. He was known as "Binky" to his friends in the war.
  7. CL1

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

  8. MichaelRampling

    MichaelRampling New Member

    Welcome aboard Andrea! I'm also new here c: Just registered to share my story :)
  9. MongoUK

    MongoUK Junior Member

  10. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA

    Welcome to you both.
  11. Aeradia

    Aeradia Member

    Hi All

    Just thought I would update you. My brother found an old camcorder VHS tape that he had of my grandfather talking about the war. I have transcribed as best I could. He initially didn't mention Belsen until the very end when my brother prompted him, it was very difficult to get any details about this, so I have popped that in where I think it should sit as he wouldn't give us any details really about local villages. My grandfather preferring to focus on other aspects of his time at war such as marvelling at european designs - understandably. It was lovely to hear his voice again, I hadn't realised how nerdy he was about different designs he came across during the war and that really warmed my heart watching it as an adult.

    My grandfather was around 80 years of age when he relayed the information below and he would often say he could not remember some specific names or dates.


    1940-1944 Training.
    1. Undertook basic training in Hertfordshire
    2. Moved to Yorkshire
    - Division was founded “11th Armoured Division”, the Black Charging Bull.
    - Whilst in Yorkshire received all new vehicles including American Fords. Worked on a Workshop Lorry which had a trap door inside which would allow them to attach a chain to power a dynamo by putting the truck in 1st/2nd gear and power all of the tools onboard such as Laithes and Drilling machines. My grandfather and his mates decided it would be too slow to unhook the chain in the middle of a war zone so they planned to get a small Austen utility car engine and put it into the back to power the machines (this was a car that the lieutenants used) – Managd to get one of these cars that had been in a smash but engine was perfect so they put this into the back of the lorry with the gearbox, he put the exhaust through the roof and put copper piping in for petrol supply and it powered the equipment.

    3. Moved up Northern Scotland and then to Paisley / Glasgow

    4. Movd to Newcastle – undertook a trade course here.
    - Four soldiers around a bench with a cast iron melting pot and under that a Bunsen burner. Put Tin and various other items in to make linings for engines. The instructor instructed them to ensure thoroughly dry and then definitely make sure no blobs of water left. There was water left so the molten tin exploded all over their uniforms and the instructor wiped the floor with my grandather.

    5. Moved to Hull
    - did some more jobs on the lorry's and repaired the pipes on the vehicles that came in. Panel beat all of the panels and the radiators when damaged in action (the hardest bit). To make radiator was difficult, there was a top container and bottom container with copper pipes, had little steam press and moulds. Laborious and had to solder everything together.

    6. Moved to Norfolk
    - All tradesmen no matter what their trade needed to be able to drive due to Dunkirk (2 months prior) – some of the soldiers couldn’t drive then so the vehicles had become stuck on the beach. Each night when on guard my grandfather would have a little drive around the carpark in little 1500 weight open back Suzuki? (I couldn't understand what he was saying here, I would be grateful if anyone would know the name of what this car)

    7. Moved to Cambridge
    - Getting nearer June 6th for Invasion. Altered all of the vehicles ready for the invasion and all of the exhaust pipes – extend them over the driving cab so that no water could get in and cover the extributor with sticky tape and air filter and top of the cap of the radiator – had to solder copper pipe to them. Everything was covered over and could still fire in water.
    - My grandfather remembers that the roads were very busy and full of Americans

    8. Drove through London and ended up on the isle of Wight
    - 6th June 1944
    - Order came through to board landing craft. Planes flying overhead, battleships all going to the French coast. Halfway across the channel, came around with a can of soup. Clever invention (beckwells?) soup pull little tab which allowed sodium to mix with a chemical and make heat and in 5 or 10 minutes the soup was red hot.
    - June 7th or 8th warm day, my grandfather marvelled at the ingenious way of bringing petrol from the UK to France – one long continuous pipe. (Pluto pipeline?)
    - By dawn could see French coast (Juno beach?) and could see German defences. Too busy getting off landing craft to take much more in.
    - Did not travel too far inland as Germans were held up in a large French town to the South called Caen
    - Moved on in the end. Over the top of the hill into a lovely valley and lorries were making their way South in a convoy full of bombs and ammunition. Lovely warm sunny day when a Messerschmitt 109 with the front painted like a tigers face. Everyone was told to get out of the vehicles. Plane dropped bombs on the trucks. Sammy one of his school friends was one of the casualties (paid respects next time he was on leave).

    - Falais Gap – Just outside Caen. British Tanks and the poor blokes inside were black, he said he would never forget the sight. Overhead ‘flying rocket-firing typhoons’, shot every single German vehicle they could see on the roads. Horses, cattle, German vehicles. Had to clear the road so they could get through – was an awful mess.
    - German supply trucks all blown to hell. Grandfather and his group refuelled and decided to inspect the back of the German truck. Found German lard, sugar. And as they had only been eating biscuits this was great. My grandfather and a few friends went to a farmers field and found potato plants and made some chips for their tea in huge square cans which would have been filled with water, cut these containers in half. Peeled the spuds and washed them. Poured petrol on soil and fried the spuds for the team.
    - They had a big box radio which worked from the battery supply and they could tune in and get news from England. Given bread (for first time in weeks and weeks), had a nice meal and some tea. Further and further into France with lots of bombing overhead.

    Pulled across Northern France into Belgium and pulled in for the night, lovely clear night. This worried them as the moon was out and it lit the entire place up. They had camouflage over the vehicles. Could hear humming from German bombers and to make things worse could hear bombs coming down and they hadn’t heard them as loud as this and they were getting louder and louder. Deafening and shrieking. They dived under the vehicles. Bombs landed on an old house in the corner of a farmers field and killed a lot of his friends in there. They scrambled out from under the truck and checked in the back and discovered the truck was carrying ammunition and bombs and that if they had been hit they would have been blown to high hell.

    - German jet bomber swooping around. Crossing Countryside instead of roads, they left booby traps around the place. Landmines about the place. Special tank with two big arms and a rolling drum with steel wires attached that would whip forwards and drive across exploding land mines. (It would be great to know what tank this was)

    Moved into Holland
    - Planes pulling gliders for parachute drop, they qll cheered as parachuters dropped down. Some dropped into Orchards. Germans (my grandfather referred to them as "Gerry knew") knew they were coming and were spraying them with bullets. Took a large amount of the parachutes down as they were sitting ducks and those that landed as prisoners. My grandfather felt this was an awful part of the campaign.

    Christmas 1944
    - A dutch farmer and his wife and all of his kids told the group to come to the house to celebrate Christmas. Young girls around 5-6 around large table in this farmers house making stuff for Christmas. Making pork pies. They were able to drink some wine. Lights in Dutch farmhouse dipped. Farmer said that this was the warning for the bombers rather than using a siren, so they went into shelter in the garden. Had a lovely Christmas dinner after that.
    - One of the workmen said he would show them a trick, had one of hens in his hands, and he spun it around in his hands 3 times and put it on the floor. The hen went to sleep! Made them go to sleep on the roost must have been the motion.
    - Snow on the ground and was getting cold. Job to change one of the engines, had the usual chain pulley around the engine. Lifted the old one out and someone let go of the pulley and the engine came right down on his foot. Had to see the medical officer. Hobbling down and another German bomber was swooping around so had to throw down into the bushes.
    - He remembers the huge nests on top of the houses for storks.

    New Year 1945 entered into Germany and crossed the Rhine river.
    - Engineers had floating pontoons to enable the trucks and tanks to cross.
    - Didn’t see much damage on the way up. Crossed the Rhine to Remargen. Famous Remargen bridge towers holding up the bridge that was. Germans blew the bridge up after some failed attempts. Grandfather mentioned that German officer who failed to blow the bridge up was shot dead on Hitlers orders.
    - Took over German barracks and sent remaining Germans to prisoner of war camps, these were smart big buildings. This was on the way to Hamburg.
    - Cream coloured box inlaid into the floor – apparently, it was the heating fire and the flu wrapped around the room and into the next room, this one fire heated 3 rooms using the Flu system.

    - Hamburg. Damaged U-Boats in Hamburg Docks which had been blown to hell. U-boats on anchor in the sea were blown.

    - Belsen – Americans were there. Didn’t know what it was at first. Drove up to it and could see piles of bodies, everyone was angry. Carted all of the villagers in to bury the bodies. They were all crying, told them it was their fault what their menfolk had been doing. Germans were rounded up and all weapons taken off them.

    - Pulled in one day and allowed to talk to the German people if they wanted to, some of the young lads would come up to the camp for souvenirs. Staff sergeants, sergeant majors and corporals at separately for breakfast and drove to a building in the town. My grandfather was friendly with a 15 year old girl and her 11-12 year old brother who he would give chocolate and corned beef to. One morning the girl’s brother (11-12) was killed by a sergeants lorry on his way to breakfast. My grandfather was asked to go to the funeral. He said the sight of the small coffin completely broke his heart.

    - Heading to the Baltic Sea, stopped at Schleswig-Holstein at the port of Lubeck.
    - Took over a Luftwaffe building there. German’s were still in it with Women and officers. They had more personnel so the Major (Edringham?) said “I believe you used to be a plumber” and he said yes he was. “Take one of your trucks down to the village as we are going to make more latrines and sinks for the regiment", My grandfather took a vehicle down and got urinals and all sorts from the local town. He marvelled that things were made from of Zinc instead of Brass due to the local mines and was rather excited about the clever way Germans didn't have a ballcock, instead it was a cup.
    - Not far from Luftwaffe base there was a German railway siding and he got pally with one of the railway workers. They can’t say Arthur, instead they called him Artuer – who said he would “Maken you some tools when you go home to your frau”, made all of the tools he would want i.e. hammers and chisels.
    - Picked up German radio set (Telefunken Radio) – electric eye tuning. Radio blew when plugged in and was told that the voltage was 500 volts. German fellow in Lubeck one day who said he knew someone who could get it fixed. Gave him corned beef and cigarettes. Went to electric works with dynamo’s humming. Up the steps in a glass room, lots of guys wearing white coats, went upstairs. 2 days later he went down to see him, needed some new valves and asked if he could borrow a vehicle. Got one of the vehicles and drove just outside of the town to a lovely Country house (just like a British one). Suits of armour around the room. German’s had taken the house over to store valves for radios for ships etc. My grandfather gave him more corned beef and cigarettes. Fixed radio and it was perfect.

    And then he said he was "Demobbed" and travelled back via train to Holland and then crossed to Hull.

    Jona, Bleblond, Wobbler and 4 others like this.
  12. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA

    Just a wild guess - Singer Bantam?


    Is it possible to post the recording? I'd love to listen to it
    CL1 likes this.
  13. SteveDee

    SteveDee Well-Known Member

    Thank you Aeradia for taking the time to post your grandfathers account of his experiences. I found his story very interesting.

    Does anyone know if it became a requirement for all servicemen to know how to drive at this time?

    I thought my dad once said he only had to ride a motor bike around a field without falling off and the army then gave him a driving license (...he may have been joking!).
  14. pete mully

    pete mully Member

    ]Thank you Aeradia for taking the time to post your grandfathers account of his experiences. I found his story very interesting.

    Does anyone know if it became a requirement for all servicemen to know how to drive at this time?

    I thought my dad once said he only had to ride a motor bike around a field without falling off and the army then gave him a driving license (...he may have been joking!).[/QUOTE]
    My dad was a gunner in the 3 rd ulster search light reg RA in the BEF he went to france in dec 1939 he told me pretty much the same story as your dad told you about riding a moter bike around a field .He told me a sergent asked his troop if any one was musical and could play a instrument my dad said he could, the sergent told him to get on a motor bike and ride it around a field untill he had stopped falling off it AFTER that my dad was made a DONR .
    Regarding driving licences in the army duing ww2 .i think the army may of only gave out something called a driving permit instead of a actual driving licence
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2021
    SteveDee likes this.
  15. SteveDee

    SteveDee Well-Known Member

    Yes I think you may be right, this is my dad's ID Card for Mechanical Transport Drivers;


    But I think he must have been able to transfer this to a proper driving license after demob, because I'm sure he didn't take any tests to drive a motor bike and a car.
    pete mully likes this.
  16. Aeradia

    Aeradia Member

    Hi All

    My grandfather definitely said all "Tradesmen", not Servicemen - so I assume all those working in the transport corp needed to be able to drive - which makes sense I suppose!
    I will also look into getting the recording into an uploadable format, it is large as it was digitised from a camcorder VHS tape :)
  17. SteveDee

    SteveDee Well-Known Member

    I would encourage you to talk to the Imperial War Museum, as they are very keen on Oral Histories. This would also save you from trying to upload a huge file somewhere.

    Here is an IWM example; Moore, Henry William (Oral history)

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