At the age of 18 years, along with three friends I volunteered for the Army. We all three opted to join the Tank Corps, but on receiving our papers were instructed to report to No. 1. Infantry Training Depot at Bury St-Edmunds in Suffolk. After completing our initial six weeks training we were posted to 70th Battalion Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire Regiment in Kings Lynn in Norfolk where we preceded to hone our infantry skills. My friend John and I were in a street fighting platoon where we were trained in house to house fighting, but most of the time was spent in helping the local farmers with their harvests of Flaxseed and Sugar Beet.
Having put up with this for three or four months we were volunteering for everything that appeared on the Company Notice Board but never got selected for anything. One day a notice asked for volunteers to train as drivers in either the Royal Artillery or the Royal Engineers, so I put down for the Royal Engineers and was eventually transferred to the Royal Engineers and sent to No. 1.Motor Training Depot at Gibralter Barracks in Aldershot. Here we were taught to drive all different types of vehicles, except motorcycles. After two months very intensive training I passed all my tests and was posted to 259 Field Company, Royal Engineers, in Colchester in Essex.
This was in 1942 and the company was sent to Northern Ireland where we spent a year training in building bridges, demolitions, mine laying and mine clearance. In January 1944 we returned to England and I was posted to 614 Road Construction Coy.Royal; Engineers in the 13th Airfield Group where I was given an Albion Tank Transporter to drive and promoted from Sapper to Lance-Corporal. These transporters were used to transport all the equipment of the company that did not move under it's own power.
In May of 1944 we moved from St. Leonards on Sea, Sussex to Salisbury Plain to do all the waterproofing etc on our vehicles for the coming invasion of France, although we did not know this at the time. At the end of May we moved down to Lee on Solent and eventually on the 4th June 1944 we loaded on to Tank Landing Craft at Gosport, near Portsmouth ready for the invasion.
I landed on Juno beach on the morning of D-Day, got stuck in the sand for about half-an-hour which was not a pleasant experience, being shelled, shot at, mortared etc but managed to get off the beach unscathed and made for our destination a place called Coulombs. Between 6th June and 5th August 1944 the 13th Airfield Group built air landing grounds and air strips at Coulombs, Lantheuil,and Cristot. I am proud to say that during the entire Battle of Normandy 20 English/Canadian and 30 American airfields were constructed.
From Normandy when the breakout came on 20th August we made for Lille Airport but on arriving were told to re-arm and re-fuel as we were not stopping but had to keep going and eventually I arrived in Brussels where we had to stop as our lines of communication were getting very extended. We stayed in Brussels for about 10 days and I made very good friends with a Belgian family and visited them often during the war and once after the war.
From Brussels we went to Louvain.and then on the Bourg - Leopold and then to Eindhoven and on to Helmond where we were billeted in a monastryjust outside Helmond. Here we built a large airstrip for the Rhine crossing. When the Rhine was crossed we advanced over Germany and came across Belsen Concentration Camp, something I will never ever forget, it was a terrible sight, how people can do such things to other human beings I do not understand.
We were told to make for a place called Timmendorfer Strand on the Baltic Coast of Germany near Travemunde and Lubeck. When we arrived there the war in Europe ended and after being posted to several other units I was eventually demobilised in December 1946. During the time from landing in Normandy and the end of the wear I was slightly wounded twice and blown up once.
All the terrible times and tribulations we suffered were more than compensated by the faces of the people of France, Belgium and Holland when we liberated them from the Nazi's. It is something I would not like to do again but I am glad I had the experience and I feel that in my way I did just a little bit to free the peoples of Europe.
Remember each and every sacrifice, made for your freedom!
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