What did I do in the war, I am asked. Well, as near as I can remember, honestly enough, I had a good war. Starting in early January 1941 at 18 years of age, I went to Croydon to join the RAF, unknown to my parents or anyone else but me. Trust the fates, the Recruitment Office was shut for lunch, so I went next door and joined the army.
For the next 6 months I trained at Hounslow with the 60th Rifles, Young Soldiers Battalion, and then at Debden Air Station in Essex, mainly on Guard Duties. Having not yet learned the old army adage "volunteer for nothing" (you can't blame yourself for what happens to you) I applied for every posting, being more than somewhat fed up with Guard duties.
Amongst these applications was one for the Reconnaissance Corps, a new fighting unit to precede invasion. This came through and I was transferred to Sudbury in Suffolk for training. Out of the frying pan into the fire - I still hadn't learned! It was a terrible place with Commando-like training, very uncomfortable, but again, now comes the fateful part.
One of my earlier applications had been for men with reasonable educational records for hush-hush war work and this culminated in an odd way. I went AWOL from this unit and overstayed a weekend pass, considering any mischief as reasonable for an extra night in the pub at home!
Getting back to camp and being placed on a charge I awaited my punishment (probably 7 days CB). Now, again, the hands of fate turn, and the very next day, a war office posting (priority) and I was given a Rail Permit and told to go to Wakefield in Yorkshire to study Radar. I was given a place to report to which was the home of Joe Exley (Whinney Moor Avenue - I remember it clearly). Joe was a working coal miner and I was billeted with 2 others in his house. A super chap, with his wife and daughter - that very night I was in the local working men's club supping ale (no-one would let us pay), and from the previous night's anticipation of 7 day Jankers I found myself in a comfortable house, good food and wonderful company.
There followed some 6 - 8 months of training at Wakefield Technical College - it could have gone on forever, as far as I was concerned but, it had to end and I was posted to a Gun Station at Crewe - then followed embarkation leave and eventually a long sea trip to India (via Gold Coast, South Africa and Egypt) to Deolali Base camp, at Bombay, living in tented accommodation and awaiting what came next! I came by way of a posting to Agra (509 Command) IEME Workshop as a Wireless Mechanic for the Indian Army (IEME). Arriving at Agra, and this is exactly how it happened, from living in a tent at Deolali, as a buck private, I suddenly found myself in the Indian Army, with the rank of Sergeant, living in my own bungalow, with personal servant and a Sergeants Mess, with all comforts, good food served by turbaned servants and minimal work (sad to say there were few radios to mend!).
This brought me to 1943 and being quite settled and having learned to volunteer for nothing, I graduated to becoming a Mess Caterer - no-one else wanted the job - and after a further year I qualified for UK leave (the Euro war was over). Looking back at my time at Agra, I am ashamed to admit that being a fair footballer, and playing for the local team, I avoided being posted anywhere nasty. I carried on as Mess Caterer - I came home in 1946 and never did apply for my war medals. So when you ask what did I do in the war, I fought for the privilege of learning not to volunteer for anything (Army style).
Notes: CB - Confined to Barracks AWOL - Absent Without Leave
Thanks to Jayne for transcribing Dad's notes.
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