Bere Regis Village, Dorset
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The Village in the BBC WW2 Peoples

War Archive

BBC   WW2   People's   War   is   an   archive   of   World   War   II   memories.   It   is   a   people's   history,   written   by   the   public,   and   gathered   by the   BBC   and   contains   47,000   eyewitness   accounts   on   144   events.   Below   you   will   find   the   Entry   involving   Bere   Regis.   You   can read the full National Collection by clicking here Reminiscences of a Roughrider, 1937 — 1940 Contributed by John Oswald on 27th October 2004 Background/Location of Story - Army in UK & France Article ID - A3189279 After   I   left   school   in   1936,   I   spent   a   year   working   in   an   office   in   Brussels.   The   object   was   to   brush   up   my   French.   I   had   done   well in   languages   at   school,   and   spoke   good   French,   German   and   Spanish.   I   received   little   pay,   but   lived   with   the   office   manager   and his   wife.   They   spoke   French,   but   whenever   there   was   anything   to   discuss   which   they   thought   I   should   not   hear,   they   spoke   in Flemish. I was surprised to find that I very quickly became proficient in that language, a fact which I kept strictly to myself! On   my   return   home,   I   found   a   job   as   Junior   Clerk   in   the   overseas   office   of   a   City   of   London   insurance   company.   On   the   strength of my knowledge of languages, I was offered the magnificent starting salary of £ 75 p.a. — instead of the normal £ 60. Soon   afterwards,   in   the   summer   of   1937,   we   had   a   visit   from   a   cousin   of   my   father’s,   a   senior   officer   in   the   Indian Army.   He   was horrified   to   hear   of   my   slaving   away   in   the   City   at   such   a   meagre   salary.   He   suggested   that   I   should   apply   for   a   job   in   the   Indian Civil   Service.   I   could   do   this   at   India   House   in   London,   and   he   would   be   happy   to   act   as   referee.   He   thought   that,   with   my   facility of picking up languages, I would easily earn language bonuses by passing exams in Urdu, Gujerati, etc. He   asked   me   whether   I   could   ride   a   horse   —   this   would   be   necessary,   as   much   of   the   work   in   the   ICS   involved   riding   to   outposts in   the   country.   I   could   not.   The   only   riding   school   near   us   was   run   by   two   sisters,   for   girls.   He   suggested   that   I   should   find   a horsed   Territorial Army   regiment,   join   up,   and   when   I   had   mastered   riding,   resign   and   come   to   India   House.   I   knew   of   a   drill   hall near my office, and went there one evening after work, to enquire where the nearest horsed unit could be found, The   drill   hall   belonged   to   the   London   Rifle   Brigade,   and   I   was   told   that   upstairs   I   would   find   the   office   of   the   City   of   London Yeomanry,   RHA,   which   was,   indeed,   horsed.   Here,   I   was   interviewed   by   someone   whom   I   was   soon   to   come   to   know   as   BSM Pemberton.   I   was   told   that   the   Battery   had   only   just   returned   from   Summer Training   Camp,   and   that   there   were   a   few   vacancies, especially   for   recruits   wishing   to   learn   to   ride.   Before   I   knew   it,   I   was   being   issued   with   jodhpurs,   puttees,   boots   and   spurs,   and told to report next week for my first riding lesson! For   the   next   few   weeks   I   learned   to   ride   at   St   John’s   Wood   Barracks   on   alternate   weeks.   In   between,   I   was   taught   how   to   march, form   fours,   present   arms   and   other   such   interesting   things.   Following   this,   the   bar   would   open,   and   we   recruits   would   often   be regaled by none other than BSM Pemberton and his rendition of Kipling’s “Snarleyow”. Progress   at   St   John’s   Wood   was   slow. About   eight   of   us   were   learning   to   ride.   The   first   lesson   was   hilarious.   It   was   amazing   to see   how   many   of   us   managed   to   end   up   sitting   facing   the   horse’s   rear   end,   or   forgot   to   take   our   feet   out   of   the   stirrups   when dismounting! Entire   lessons   were   spent   mastering   the   various   gaits   of   the   horse   —   the   walk,   the   trot,   the   canter   and   the   gallop. All   went   well until   we   reached   the   jump.   It   was   then   that   I   finally   came   unstuck.   My   horse   had   a   wry   sense   of   humour.   It   would   approach   the jump   at   speed,   and   at   the   last   moment   dig   in   its   heels   (do   horses   have   heels?).   I   would   sail   over   the   jump   and   look   back   at   the horse, chuckling at me on the far side. It   was   then   that   Providence   stepped   in   on   my   side.   At   the   next   parade   at   the   drill   hall,   it   was   announced   that   further   riding lessons   were   cancelled,   as   the   battery   was   being   mechanised. Any   recruit   who   could   drive   would   be   trained   on   trucks.   I   had   had a few turns around the block in my father’s car, so that included me. This   must   have   been   the   spring   of   1938.   The   Battery   had   hitherto   been   the   third   battery   of   a   Horse   Artillery   Regiment,   the   two senior   batteries   of   which   formed   the   Honourable   Artillery   Company.   We   were   now   to   exchange   our   13-pounder   RHA   guns   for Swedish   Bofors   2-pounder   pom-pom   guns,   expand   to   three   batteries   —   31st,   32nd   and   33rd   —   and   become   known   as   the   101st Light AA and Anti-Tank Regiment. I was drafted into 31 Bty. I   forgot   all   about   India   and   the   ICS,   and   that   summer   went   to   the   annual   training   camp   at   Stiffkey   in   Norfolk,   where   we   took   turns firing   our   one   Bofors   gun   at   a   coloured   flag   towed   by   an   aircraft   from   a   nearby   airfield.   When   we   were   not   firing,   we   carried   on with intricate military movements, which still included sword drill. A   few   days   before   the   end   of   camp,   we   were   told   that   there   was   an   international   crisis,   and   the   Regiment   was   being   mobilised. We   remained   in   camp,   and   received   our   mobilisation   bounty,   a   few   pounds,   which   were   quickly   spent   on   beer   (at   5   old   pence   a pint!).   Our   short   period   of   life   as   “real   soldiers”   ended   when   the   Prime   Minister,   Mr   Ramsay   Macdonald   (sic),   stepped   off   a   plane at Croydon, waving a piece of paper which was supposed to guarantee Peace In Our Time! In   the   months   after   Camp,   the   Regiment   was   developed   further.   We   received   more   Bofors   guns.   A   fourth   battery   —   43   —   was formed,   to   which   I   was   transferred. At   the   time   of   the   1939   Camp,   each   battery   had   at   least   one   Bofors   gun,   and   some   even   had two. There   was   more AA   training   at   Stiffkey   in   1939. A   highlight   of   Camp   was   a   visit   from   a   pilot   from   the   airfield   that   supplied   us   with targets. We were informed that one of our guns had managed to hit his rudder! Of course, it was “one of the other batteries”! It   was   not   very   long   after   our   return   from   Camp   that   I   was   telephoned   at   work   by   one   of   the   serjeants   (we   still   spelt   this   rank   with a   “j”   in   the   old   way),   and   told   that   we   were   being   mobilised   again.   I   was   to   report   as   quickly   as   possible   to   the   Drill   Hall   in uniform, in full Field Service Marching Order, and with my kitbag packed with everything I should need for an indefinite stay. I   was   among   the   first   to   arrive,   and   we   early   arrivals   were   delighted   when   a   well-known   firm   offered   to   take   a   few   groups   on   a tour   of   their   nearby   brewery.   We   were   taught   about   brewing,   and   offered   copious   samples   of   their   wares!   It   was   a   pleasant   start to   what   was   to   become   WW   2.   We   slept   well   on   lumpy   palliasses   in   the   Drill   Hall   that   night.   Next   morning,   a   fleet   of   civilian   trucks came to transport us to our various destinations. 43   Battery   was   taken   to   Tilbury   Docks.   Our   one   Bofors   gun   had   been   re-allocated   to   one   of   the   other   batteries. A   few   days   later, we   received   our   four   guns.   These   were   not   Bofors   guns,   but   redundant   naval   2-pounder   pom-poms,   which   had   been   removed from   naval   vessels.   We   were   also   provided   with   four   trucks   with   flat   wooden   beds,   to   which   the   guns   were   to   be   screwed. Unfortunately,   we   did   not   receive   the   screws   until   much   later.   The   trucks   had   to   be   towed   and   manhandled   into   position,   as   their engines did not work. It was impossible to fire the guns, which would have toppled over at the first shot. Another   reason   we   could   not   fire   the   guns   was   because   the   ammunition   we   had   received   was   for   Bofors   guns,   and   would   not   fit the   naval   guns.   All   this   would   not   have   been   apparent   to   the   daily   Lufthansa   flight,   a   civilian   Ju52   aircraft   that   flew   directly overhead   to   Croydon   Airport   and   then   back   to   Germany.   It   probably   had   photographs   of   our   positions,   and   the   photographic interpreters would see guns, ammunition and, of course, us. Hopefully they could not see that we were no deterrent to them! Our   officers   were   billeted   in   comfortable   quarters   on   board   one   of   the   ships   laid   up   in   the   docks,   whereas   we   ORs   were   in   the classrooms of St Chad’s School nearby. Some   months   later,   we   were   re-deployed   to   the   Chingford/Ponders   End   area   of   North   London.   I   had   in   the   meantime   done   a course   of   signalling,   and   had   mastered   the   Morse   code   and   Semaphore.   On   arrival   at   our   new   Headquarters,   Hawkswood House, Chingford, I was told that I would be the Battery Signaller, under Sjt Ogden. Hawkswood   House   had   been   a   girls’   school,   prettily   set   at   the   end   of   a   long   drive,   in   extensive   grounds.   During   the   first   few nights   of   our   occupation,   some   of   us   were   surprised   to   hear   continuous   bell   ringing.   We   soon   found   that   some   of   the   rooms, presumably former school dormitories, had bells marked “Ring for Mistress”! My   job   as   a   signaller   was   to   lay   field   telephone   lines   from   Battery   HQ   to   each   of   our   four   guns,   as   well   as   to   the   local   Police Station.   The   latter   was   about   two   miles   away,   on   the   other   side   of   a   wood.   The   guns   were   located   at   various   points   in   a   nearby golf   course.   I   was   kept   busy   re-laying   these   wires,   because   the   local   poachers   found   that   the   wire   could   readily   be   split   into   finer strands.   Snares   could   be   made   from   these   to   catch   rabbits,   to   supplement   the   meat   ration!   We   had   no   radios   in   those   days,   and had   to   rely   on   the   old   field   telephones,   which   had   to   be   cranked   up   to   call   an   out-station.   My   life   was   a   leisurely   one,   mainly spent in patrolling the telephone lines and trying to keep them inaccessible and out of sight of the poachers. The   first   winter   of   the   War   was   spent   in   Chingford,   and   the   following   spring   we   received   our   Bofors   guns   and   moved   to   Dorset. 43   Bty   was   stationed   in   Bere   Regis. At   first,   I   was   billeted   on   the   local   vicar,   The   Rev   Herring,   but   I   picked   up   German   Measles from somewhere. The vicar’s wife, who had just discovered that she was pregnant, insisted that I was moved. After   a   spell   in   the   military   hospital   in   Blandford   Forum,   I   was   returned   to   Bere   Regis,   to   find   that   my   belongings   had   been   moved to   a   loft   above   the   local   grocers’   shop. There   were   four   of   us   in   this   billet,   a   very   comfortable   one,   and   the   only   chore   was   that   we had to take turns pumping water from a well into the header tank at the top of the house every evening. Meals   were   served   in   the   village   hall,   just   by   Bty   HQ,   and   the   owners   of   the   local   watercress   beds   supplied   us   generously   with their product. Whilst   in   Dorset,   we   went   through   a   period   of   intensive   battle   training   —   gun   drill,   route   marches   and   manoeuvres,   together   with the   other   batteries   of   the   regiment.   We   had   our   numbers   augmented   by   a   draft   of   conscripts.   We   were   now   part   of   the   1st Armoured Division — Div Sign, a rhinoceros — and rumours were rife, mainly that our departure for France was imminent. The   day   came,   in   May   1940,   when   the   battery   received   its   orders   to   proceed   to   the   coast   for   embarkation,   and   I   and   five   or   six others   were   summoned   to   the   Commanding   Officer’s   office.   We   were   told   that   we   were   to   be   left   behind   as   a   rear   party,   the reason   being   that   we   all   had   close   relatives   in   Germany.   It   was   considered   that,   should   we   be   taken   prisoner,   these   relatives might   be   made   to   suffer.   As   I   was   the   senior   soldier   of   the   group,   I   was   given   the   dubious   honour   of   a   local,   acting   and   unpaid stripe! Our   little   group   watched   with   heavy   hearts   as   our   comrades   left   for   France.   Our   task   was   now   to   clean   up   the   various   buildings we   had   occupied,   ready   for   the   next   unit   to   come   into   the   area.   This   proved   to   be   a   Yeomanry   unit   from   the   Newcastle   area,   and as soon as we had handed over to them, we had to report to the RA Barracks in Woolwich. We   very   soon   had   good   reason   to   be   glad   that   we   had   not   gone   with   our   battery   to   the   Continent.   We   had   always   thought   that German   armoured   troops   were   equipped   with   trucks   bearing   plywood   “mock-ups”   of   tanks,   and   that   our   2-pounder   guns   would make   short   shrift   of   them.   However,   our   shells   had   just   bounced   off   the   very   real   tanks   with   which   the   German   Panzer   Divisions overran   the   north   of   France.   A   steady   stream   of   our   comrades   began   to   arrive   at   Woolwich   with   stories   of   prisoners   taken, wounded and dead members of the Regiment, as well as painful escapes via the beaches around Dunkirk. I   had,   on   arrival   in   Woolwich,   been   informed   in   no   uncertain   terms   that   my   stripe   must   be   removed   forthwith,   as   it   was   only   local, and   “local”   meant   Bere   Regis   only!   Demoted   to   the   rank   of   Gunner,   I   was   now   posted   to   a   unit   in   Sandy,   Bedfordshire.   This turned   out   to   be   215 ATk   Bty,   a   part   of   54 ATk   Regt,   and   of   the   52nd   (Lowland)   Division.   This   regiment   also   bore   the   title   of   The Queen’s   Own   Glasgow   Yeomanry.   I   was   one   of   only   five   “Sassenachs”   in   a   unit   mainly   from   the   Gorbals   district   of   Glasgow.   I had   little   time   to   try   to   learn   the   language   they   spoke,   before   we   were   on   our   way   to   France.   I   heard   much   later   that   this   was   a last-ditch   effort   to   stop   the   German   Blitzkrieg.   We   were   brought   back   to   Britain   hurriedly   only   a   few   days   later,   whereupon   my Army career took on a completely different route. © Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author.
© 2003, Bere Regis Village Website.

The Village in the BBC WW2 Peoples War

Archive

Bere Regis Village Website
BBC    WW2    People's    War    is    an    archive    of    World    War    II memories.   It   is   a   people's   history,   written   by   the public,   and   gathered   by   the   BBC   and   contains 47,000    eyewitness    accounts    on    144    events. Below    you    will    find    the    Entry    involving    Bere Regis.   You   can   read   the   full   National   Collection   by   clicking here Reminiscences of a Roughrider, 1937 — 1940 Contributed by John Oswald on 27th October 2004 Background/Location of Story - Army in UK & France Article ID - A3189279 After   I   left   school   in   1936,   I   spent   a   year   working   in   an   office   in Brussels.   The   object   was   to   brush   up   my   French.   I   had   done well   in   languages   at   school,   and   spoke   good   French,   German and    Spanish.    I    received    little    pay,    but    lived    with    the    office manager   and   his   wife.   They   spoke   French,   but   whenever   there was   anything   to   discuss   which   they   thought   I   should   not   hear, they    spoke    in    Flemish.    I    was    surprised    to    find    that    I    very quickly   became   proficient   in   that   language,   a   fact   which   I   kept strictly to myself! On    my    return    home,    I    found    a    job    as    Junior    Clerk    in    the overseas   office   of   a   City   of   London   insurance   company.   On   the strength    of    my    knowledge    of    languages,    I    was    offered    the magnificent   starting   salary   of   £   75   p.a.   —   instead   of   the   normal £ 60. Soon   afterwards,   in   the   summer   of   1937,   we   had   a   visit   from   a cousin   of   my   father’s,   a   senior   officer   in   the   Indian   Army.   He was   horrified   to   hear   of   my   slaving   away   in   the   City   at   such   a meagre   salary.   He   suggested   that   I   should   apply   for   a   job   in the    Indian    Civil    Service.    I    could    do    this    at    India    House    in London,   and   he   would   be   happy   to   act   as   referee.   He   thought that,   with   my   facility   of   picking   up   languages,   I   would   easily earn   language   bonuses   by   passing   exams   in   Urdu,   Gujerati, etc. He   asked   me   whether   I   could   ride   a   horse   —   this   would   be necessary,   as   much   of   the   work   in   the   ICS   involved   riding   to outposts   in   the   country.   I   could   not.   The   only   riding   school   near us   was   run   by   two   sisters,   for   girls.   He   suggested   that   I   should find   a   horsed Territorial Army   regiment,   join   up,   and   when   I   had mastered   riding,   resign   and   come   to   India   House.   I   knew   of   a drill   hall   near   my   office,   and   went   there   one   evening   after   work, to enquire where the nearest horsed unit could be found, The   drill   hall   belonged   to   the   London   Rifle   Brigade,   and   I   was told   that   upstairs   I   would   find   the   office   of   the   City   of   London Yeomanry,    RHA,    which    was,    indeed,    horsed.    Here,    I    was interviewed   by   someone   whom   I   was   soon   to   come   to   know   as BSM    Pemberton.    I    was    told    that    the    Battery    had    only    just returned   from   Summer   Training   Camp,   and   that   there   were   a few   vacancies,   especially   for   recruits   wishing   to   learn   to   ride. Before   I   knew   it,   I   was   being   issued   with   jodhpurs,   puttees, boots   and   spurs,   and   told   to   report   next   week   for   my   first   riding lesson! For   the   next   few   weeks   I   learned   to   ride   at   St   John’s   Wood Barracks   on   alternate   weeks.   In   between,   I   was   taught   how   to march,   form   fours,   present   arms   and   other   such   interesting things.   Following   this,   the   bar   would   open,   and   we   recruits would   often   be   regaled   by   none   other   than   BSM   Pemberton and his rendition of Kipling’s “Snarleyow”. Progress   at   St   John’s   Wood   was   slow.   About   eight   of   us   were learning   to   ride.   The   first   lesson   was   hilarious.   It   was   amazing to   see   how   many   of   us   managed   to   end   up   sitting   facing   the horse’s   rear   end,   or   forgot   to   take   our   feet   out   of   the   stirrups when dismounting! Entire   lessons   were   spent   mastering   the   various   gaits   of   the horse   —   the   walk,   the   trot,   the   canter   and   the   gallop.   All   went well   until   we   reached   the   jump.   It   was   then   that   I   finally   came unstuck.    My    horse    had    a    wry    sense    of    humour.    It    would approach   the   jump   at   speed,   and   at   the   last   moment   dig   in   its heels   (do   horses   have   heels?).   I   would   sail   over   the   jump   and look back at the horse, chuckling at me on the far side. It   was   then   that   Providence   stepped   in   on   my   side. At   the   next parade   at   the   drill   hall,   it   was   announced   that   further   riding lessons   were   cancelled,   as   the   battery   was   being   mechanised. Any   recruit   who   could   drive   would   be   trained   on   trucks.   I   had had   a   few   turns   around   the   block   in   my   father’s   car,   so   that included me. This   must   have   been   the   spring   of   1938.   The   Battery   had hitherto   been   the   third   battery   of   a   Horse   Artillery   Regiment, the    two    senior    batteries    of    which    formed    the    Honourable Artillery   Company.   We   were   now   to   exchange   our   13-pounder RHA    guns    for    Swedish    Bofors    2-pounder    pom-pom    guns, expand    to    three    batteries    —    31st,    32nd    and    33rd    —    and become   known   as   the   101st   Light AA   and Anti-Tank   Regiment. I was drafted into 31 Bty. I   forgot   all   about   India   and   the   ICS,   and   that   summer   went   to the   annual   training   camp   at   Stiffkey   in   Norfolk,   where   we   took turns   firing   our   one   Bofors   gun   at   a   coloured   flag   towed   by   an aircraft   from   a   nearby   airfield.   When   we   were   not   firing,   we carried     on     with     intricate     military     movements,     which     still included sword drill. A   few   days   before   the   end   of   camp,   we   were   told   that   there was    an    international    crisis,    and    the    Regiment    was    being mobilised.     We     remained     in     camp,     and     received     our mobilisation   bounty,   a   few   pounds,   which   were   quickly   spent on   beer   (at   5   old   pence   a   pint!).   Our   short   period   of   life   as   “real soldiers”     ended     when     the     Prime     Minister,     Mr     Ramsay Macdonald   (sic),   stepped   off   a   plane   at   Croydon,   waving   a piece   of   paper   which   was   supposed   to   guarantee   Peace   In   Our Time! In    the    months    after    Camp,    the    Regiment    was    developed further.   We   received   more   Bofors   guns.   A   fourth   battery   —   43 —   was   formed,   to   which   I   was   transferred.   At   the   time   of   the 1939   Camp,   each   battery   had   at   least   one   Bofors   gun,   and some even had two. There   was   more   AA   training   at   Stiffkey   in   1939.   A   highlight   of Camp   was   a   visit   from   a   pilot   from   the   airfield   that   supplied   us with    targets.    We    were    informed    that    one    of    our    guns    had managed   to   hit   his   rudder!   Of   course,   it   was   “one   of   the   other batteries”! It   was   not   very   long   after   our   return   from   Camp   that   I   was telephoned   at   work   by   one   of   the   serjeants   (we   still   spelt   this rank   with   a   “j”   in   the   old   way),   and   told   that   we   were   being mobilised   again.   I   was   to   report   as   quickly   as   possible   to   the Drill   Hall   in   uniform,   in   full   Field   Service   Marching   Order,   and with   my   kitbag   packed   with   everything   I   should   need   for   an indefinite stay. I   was   among   the   first   to   arrive,   and   we   early   arrivals   were delighted   when   a   well-known   firm   offered   to   take   a   few   groups on    a    tour    of    their    nearby    brewery.    We    were    taught    about brewing,   and   offered   copious   samples   of   their   wares!   It   was   a pleasant   start   to   what   was   to   become   WW   2.   We   slept   well   on lumpy   palliasses   in   the   Drill   Hall   that   night.   Next   morning,   a fleet    of    civilian    trucks    came    to    transport    us    to    our    various destinations. 43   Battery   was   taken   to   Tilbury   Docks.   Our   one   Bofors   gun had   been   re-allocated   to   one   of   the   other   batteries. A   few   days later,   we   received   our   four   guns.   These   were   not   Bofors   guns, but   redundant   naval   2-pounder   pom-poms,   which   had   been removed   from   naval   vessels.   We   were   also   provided   with   four trucks   with   flat   wooden   beds,   to   which   the   guns   were   to   be screwed.   Unfortunately,   we   did   not   receive   the   screws   until much   later.   The   trucks   had   to   be   towed   and   manhandled   into position,   as   their   engines   did   not   work.   It   was   impossible   to   fire the guns, which would have toppled over at the first shot. Another   reason   we   could   not   fire   the   guns   was   because   the ammunition   we   had   received   was   for   Bofors   guns,   and   would not   fit   the   naval   guns. All   this   would   not   have   been   apparent   to the    daily    Lufthansa    flight,    a    civilian    Ju52    aircraft    that    flew directly    overhead    to    Croydon    Airport    and    then    back    to Germany.   It   probably   had   photographs   of   our   positions,   and the    photographic    interpreters    would    see    guns,    ammunition and,   of   course,   us.   Hopefully   they   could   not   see   that   we   were no deterrent to them! Our   officers   were   billeted   in   comfortable   quarters   on   board   one of   the   ships   laid   up   in   the   docks,   whereas   we   ORs   were   in   the classrooms of St Chad’s School nearby. Some      months      later,      we      were      re-deployed      to      the Chingford/Ponders   End   area   of   North   London.   I   had   in   the meantime   done   a   course   of   signalling,   and   had   mastered   the Morse     code     and     Semaphore.     On     arrival     at     our     new Headquarters,   Hawkswood   House,   Chingford,   I   was   told   that   I would be the Battery Signaller, under Sjt Ogden. Hawkswood   House   had   been   a   girls’   school,   prettily   set   at   the end   of   a   long   drive,   in   extensive   grounds.   During   the   first   few nights   of   our   occupation,   some   of   us   were   surprised   to   hear continuous    bell    ringing.    We    soon    found    that    some    of    the rooms,    presumably    former    school    dormitories,    had    bells marked “Ring for Mistress”! My   job   as   a   signaller   was   to   lay   field   telephone   lines   from Battery   HQ   to   each   of   our   four   guns,   as   well   as   to   the   local Police   Station.   The   latter   was   about   two   miles   away,   on   the other   side   of   a   wood.   The   guns   were   located   at   various   points in   a   nearby   golf   course.   I   was   kept   busy   re-laying   these   wires, because   the   local   poachers   found   that   the   wire   could   readily be   split   into   finer   strands.   Snares   could   be   made   from   these   to catch   rabbits,   to   supplement   the   meat   ration!   We   had   no   radios in   those   days,   and   had   to   rely   on   the   old   field   telephones, which   had   to   be   cranked   up   to   call   an   out-station.   My   life   was   a leisurely   one,   mainly   spent   in   patrolling   the   telephone   lines   and trying    to    keep    them    inaccessible    and    out    of    sight    of    the poachers. The   first   winter   of   the   War   was   spent   in   Chingford,   and   the following   spring   we   received   our   Bofors   guns   and   moved   to Dorset.   43   Bty   was   stationed   in   Bere   Regis.   At   first,   I   was billeted   on   the   local   vicar,   The   Rev   Herring,   but   I   picked   up German   Measles   from   somewhere.   The   vicar’s   wife,   who   had just    discovered    that    she    was    pregnant,    insisted    that    I    was moved. After   a   spell   in   the   military   hospital   in   Blandford   Forum,   I   was returned   to   Bere   Regis,   to   find   that   my   belongings   had   been moved   to   a   loft   above   the   local   grocers’   shop.   There   were   four of   us   in   this   billet,   a   very   comfortable   one,   and   the   only   chore was   that   we   had   to   take   turns   pumping   water   from   a   well   into the header tank at the top of the house every evening. Meals   were   served   in   the   village   hall,   just   by   Bty   HQ,   and   the owners   of   the   local   watercress   beds   supplied   us   generously with their product. Whilst   in   Dorset,   we   went   through   a   period   of   intensive   battle training   —   gun   drill,   route   marches   and   manoeuvres,   together with   the   other   batteries   of   the   regiment.   We   had   our   numbers augmented   by   a   draft   of   conscripts.   We   were   now   part   of   the 1st    Armoured    Division    —    Div    Sign,    a    rhinoceros    —    and rumours   were   rife,   mainly   that   our   departure   for   France   was imminent. The   day   came,   in   May   1940,   when   the   battery   received   its orders   to   proceed   to   the   coast   for   embarkation,   and   I   and   five or   six   others   were   summoned   to   the   Commanding   Officer’s office.   We   were   told   that   we   were   to   be   left   behind   as   a   rear party,    the    reason    being    that    we    all    had    close    relatives    in Germany.   It   was   considered   that,   should   we   be   taken   prisoner, these   relatives   might   be   made   to   suffer.   As   I   was   the   senior soldier   of   the   group,   I   was   given   the   dubious   honour   of   a   local, acting and unpaid stripe! Our   little   group   watched   with   heavy   hearts   as   our   comrades left   for   France.   Our   task   was   now   to   clean   up   the   various buildings   we   had   occupied,   ready   for   the   next   unit   to   come   into the    area.    This    proved    to    be    a    Yeomanry    unit    from    the Newcastle   area,   and   as   soon   as   we   had   handed   over   to   them, we had to report to the RA Barracks in Woolwich. We   very   soon   had   good   reason   to   be   glad   that   we   had   not gone   with   our   battery   to   the   Continent.   We   had   always   thought that    German    armoured    troops    were    equipped    with    trucks bearing   plywood   “mock-ups”   of   tanks,   and   that   our   2-pounder guns   would   make   short   shrift   of   them.   However,   our   shells   had just   bounced   off   the   very   real   tanks   with   which   the   German Panzer   Divisions   overran   the   north   of   France. A   steady   stream of   our   comrades   began   to   arrive   at   Woolwich   with   stories   of prisoners     taken,     wounded     and     dead     members     of     the Regiment,   as   well   as   painful   escapes   via   the   beaches   around Dunkirk. I   had,   on   arrival   in   Woolwich,   been   informed   in   no   uncertain terms   that   my   stripe   must   be   removed   forthwith,   as   it   was   only local,   and   “local”   meant   Bere   Regis   only!   Demoted   to   the   rank of   Gunner,   I   was   now   posted   to   a   unit   in   Sandy,   Bedfordshire. This   turned   out   to   be   215   ATk   Bty,   a   part   of   54   ATk   Regt,   and of   the   52nd   (Lowland)   Division.   This   regiment   also   bore   the title   of The   Queen’s   Own   Glasgow Yeomanry.   I   was   one   of   only five   “Sassenachs”   in   a   unit   mainly   from   the   Gorbals   district   of Glasgow.   I   had   little   time   to   try   to   learn   the   language   they spoke,   before   we   were   on   our   way   to   France.   I   heard   much later    that    this    was    a    last-ditch    effort    to    stop    the    German Blitzkrieg.   We   were   brought   back   to   Britain   hurriedly   only   a   few days   later,   whereupon   my   Army   career   took   on   a   completely different route. ©   Copyright   of   content   contributed   to   this Archive   rests   with   the author.
© 2003, Bere Regis Village Website.
© 2003, Bere Regis Village Website.
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