AMERICAN ALLIES

18 Mar

The British and commonwealth countries were very fortunate to have America as an Allie during both World Wars and since.  The Americans under President Woodrow Wilson came into World War One in April 1917. Three years after hostilities began against the Germans. In that short time until the War ended in November1918 the Americans lost 116,000 men. Incidentally the United Kingdom lost 900,000 men in the four years of war. The figures do not include the many casualties. The manpower and the American industries in the manufacture of arms and ships played a big part in the outcome of the war.

 During World War Two the Americans came into the War through being attacked at Pearl Harbour on December 7th 1941. The President of the United States, the great Franklin D. Roosevelt in his speech to the American nation in declaring war on the Japanese Empire said “December 7th 1941 was a date which will live in infamy.”  On December 11th 1941 four days after United States declared war on the Japanese Empire. Hitler and Mussolini declared war on the United States of America. Great Britain had stood alone for two long years and now we had the American might as an ally to fight alongside us Prime Minister Winston Churchill was over the moon, because he knew the tide of the war would change. Once again the manpower of the American Forces and the massive industrial manufacture of weapons, planes and ships would come into force and bring about the eventual victory and history shows it did.

The first American Troops arrived in Britain in the early months of 1942. This build up continued as they were stationed in various camps throughout the country. They built and occupied Airfields in the South East of England for the USAAF. It was from these airfields they bravely undertook daylight bombing raids over enemy occupied Europe. Just the same as the Royal Air Force they had many losses at the end of 1944 there was nearly 450,000 United States Airmen stationed in Britain. In contrast to the 1.5 million ground troops who were preparing for the invasion of Hitler’s held Europe. The Troops were again stationed in camps scattered around Great Britain. All this must have been a big task in manpower organisation, but it was done. The British soldier was paid at that time 14 shillings a week (70P) While the American servicemen were paid £3 8s 9d (3.44). My father’s wages at the time was £5.10 shilling a week and he had my mother and three children to support. The American GIs with money in their pockets, better uniforms etc. were a hit with the girls who enjoyed their company and the perks that went with it such as nylons etc. One has to remember the young women of Great Britain had to do war work, either in the factory or in the services. No doubt the Americans put a much needed sparkle into their lives at a time when they needed it. Obviously this caused a bit of friction with the British military personnel, who came out with the term “Over paid. Over sexed and over here.” There were in the region of 70,000 British women who married American servicemen and when the war was over, they sailed to America for new lives.

Personally I only saw a few American servicemen in my part of England. Whenever they were seen, children of my age and older were usually following them saying “Have you got any gum chum” Overall the Americans were very popular and it was assuring to have them on our side in achieving the ultimate victory in Europe and the Far East. .

Alan

 

A King’s Own Royal Border Regt. Patrol In The Cameroons

15 Feb

Hello Everybody, I get a lot of visitors to my blog, reading about the Grenadier Guards attack on a terrorist Camp in the Cameroons. This camp had been attacked two or three months previously by patrols from the King’s Own Royal Border regiment led by Lieutenant Olsen and the camp was completely overrun. When the Grenadiers made their attack on the camp through difficulties they endured in getting to the vicinity it was mid-morning. Obviously the terrorist knew they were coming and were prepared.
To further your knowledge, I have written below about the attack made by platoons of (S) company of the King’s Own Royal Border Regt, on this same camp a few months before. The lads on this patrol were mostly national servicemen and came into the army most definitely green as grass but, it is how they were trained by the regiment that got the final results. The Support Company platoons of Mortar and Anti-Tank who were made up to be rifle companies during the Kings Own Royal Border Regiments stay in the Cameroons. Both platoons had set off the day before the raid and were camped in bivouacs in the Magga region, which is high up in the hills. Lieutenant Olsen, a very capable officer, briefed everyone that he would lead off before dusk, taking with him over twenty men of his own Mortar platoon. He was hoping to make some ground before it was too dark.

Sergeant Smethhurst would follow just before dawn with the Anti-Tank Platoon and make as much ground up as possible. It was hoped that the Mortar Platoon would find the location of the terrorist camp before bedding down for the night and basically our platoon was their back up. As arranged Lieutenant Olsen’s platoon move out in fading light, each carrying a Sterling sub machine gun and two loaded magazines of twenty eight 9mm rounds of ammunition. The Sterling sub machine gun was most lethal over twenty to thirty yards and was just the job for close encounters. Lucky for us it was a beautiful night with a blanket of stars overhead, with not a sign of rain. Our platoon spent the night talking quietly in-groups, with just the odd occasionally dozing off. Along with my fellow comrades, although feeling a little nervous we were able and ready for whatever task that lay before us. As instructed before first light we assembled and set off in pursuit of the Mortar platoon. Barring the NCOs, who had Sterling sub machine guns, the rest of the patrol carried the 7.62 Self-loading Rifle and one or two magazines of twenty rounds. Our popular Officer Commanding Support Company, Captain Dunand surprisingly said he was coming with us, although Sergeant Smethurst would lead the patrol. We set off in the early morning mist at quite a steady pace. We hiked for about a mile, heading towards the pre-planned area, with the conditions very favourable. We were quickly taking the elements in our stride, when without warning; the early morning calm was suddenly shattered, by the sound of automatic gunfire,not too distant away. We also knew it was the sound of the Sterling Sub machine gun and that meant our lads had run into trouble. An anxious radio   contact was made and the message, attacking terrorist camp crackled out,followed by the words “Please make haste immediately!” As the crow flies, we were under a mile away, but it was not that easy, because of the rugged terrain and bamboo thickets to contend with. Not undaunted, Sergeant Smethhurst led the patrol at a near on jogging pace covering a considerable amount of   ground in what seemed in no time at all. The adrenaline was really pumping in all of us, each united in the same common reason, to reach and help our friends in the other platoon.For the last few   hundred yards the gunfire had stopped and we could see smoke looming from trees on top of a hill. In seeing this, we knew the exact spot of the confrontation and again this saved time. As our patrol reached the lower slopes of this large bamboo wooded hillside we were nearly at running pace. Making our way, quite quickly up the narrow path that led to the summit, the smelly smoke was thickly bellowing through the bamboo trees. Although we couldn’t see him, we all heard the over agitated voice of an NCO, urging our platoon to hurry up. Seb Coe could not have reached them any quicker, than we did that morning and Sergeant Smethurst replied to him in very strong language indeed. I am positive even to this day, that as we climbed the hill to the summit, I heard voices to the left of me. I reported it to Captain Dunand and Sergeant Smethurst but, because nobody else heard the noises, we just carried on. It may have just been as well, because we were in no mood to parley.

Moving quickly to the top of the hill, the first thing that met our eyes was the body of a terrorist lying sprawled on the ground. With no time to stop, we fanned out quickly to join up with the relieved looking Mortar Platoon who had made the attack. Each one of them looked wide eyed and excitable, with adrenaline still pumping in their veins. This was quite understandable for what they had all just been through. They had by luck more than judgement, stumbled on the terrorist camp during the night, then quietly bedded down until first light. Just in the early light of dawn they were spotted by a terrorist who was wandering about, Even with the knowledge that the back-up platoon, were on their way. Lieutenant Olsen had no time to wait now they were spotted. Leading from the front of his platoon they charged into the terrorist camp, with all guns blazing. The terrorists were completely caught with their pants down, fleeing in all directions in utter confusion and disarray. Ever so carefully in line, we made our way through the terrorist camp until we reached a bamboo thicket at the bottom end. I never knew exactly, how many people were in the camp at the time of the attack, probably in the region of twenty to thirty. What I do know, there was one confirmed dead and two captured. The two captured, were a man and a woman. They can count themselves very fortunate; they did not lose their lives. Thick blood trails were all over the place, especially in the bamboo thicket at the bottom of the camp. The camp itself, in its complete entirety was truly amazing, so perfectly camouflaged and certainly helped by the surrounding bamboo. The camp had been laid out in six twenty-yard long streets that had been dug out and stepped down the hillside, one below the other. Each street had a covering of corrugated iron sheeting and pieces of wood with a thatching of dried grass for camouflage. The streets were each sectioned off into living quarters; and stores, both for food, water, and menthol cigarettes, which were in abundance. I only saw one chicken running about, no doubt the others must have run off in during the confusion, but it wasn’t running around for long, because Private Patterson, put it under his tunic. I saw meat hanging up in one of the sectioned off streets, but there was no sign of any cattle. The camp also had a primitive medical section, which had an assortment of antiquated equipment. The one thing that impressed me most was a forge they had built. It sounds so ridiculous but, it is true, built very much in the mould of a primitive blacksmith’s shop of bygone days It was complete with a make shift blower. It was in this forge, where they made their own weapons including guns. All the guns made, consisted of a carved handle and stock, inferior quality tubing for the barrels, complete with forged and filed out triggers, incorporating a firing pin. Each gun made, was shaped similar, to old flintlock pistols, as seen in pirate films back home. Unlike those, these guns were made to fire a twelve bore cartridge. There were guns in various forms of completion, with each having similar base plates that had been hammered out in the forge. For added extra strength, copper wire was tightly wrapped round the barrel and stock, making them quite lethal at close range, but personally, I would not have liked to fire one and definitely not shot by one. There was also five hundred or so spiked twelve bore cartridges.The lads in the patrol collected up about seventy guns including a few rifles and a couple of revolvers and I would say about half of these guns, had been made at this camp. These kind of terrorist groups were organised to cause mayhem around the countryside and if by attacking and killing these people saved innocent lives, then no doubt it was a job done with great satisfaction. Everything in the camp that was burnable was burned, anything that was useful was destroyed, especially the forge. Quite obviously, we generally made the place as best we could, unusable. Once a terrorist camp had been rumbled, an alternative site would have to be found. After seeing what they had made for themselves on that hillside, I am sure that would have been no problem. To build such an organised camp, miles from any proper civilization, still makes me shake my head, at the ingenuity of it all. The camouflaging was first class, because when at Sante Customs we would watch a French plane vainly bombing the hillsides looking for this camp. All bombs dropped by the French fell on the wrong hills.
In my opinion, the terrorists had made a brilliant job in making  this camp and whoever was their leader must have been trained by professionals. In writing that, they were routed by soldiers who were taught, by much superior professionals of the King’s Own Royal Border Regt. Each member of the platoon on leaving the terrorist camp carried one or two of the captured guns; give and take about seventy guns in all. Due to the number of guns captured I can’t give a definite figure of how many terrorists were in the camp at the time of the attack. The ammunition, which was quite heavy, was put into two rucksacks for the two prisoners to carry. Both prisoners looked downcast, pathetic, and very much frightened. After the initial none friendly approach to them, one felt a little sorry for the plight they were in, but who knows, they could have been a ruthless pair! I was at the back of the patrol on the return journey, with the two captured terrorists, just in front carrying the ammunition. I was told if they try to escape, shoot them. I assure you, they did not try to escape, nor did I want them too. Engrossed in personal thoughts, the return journey firstly to the camp we set up the night before and then onto the rendezvous point, I kept on glancing back to where the terrorist camp was situated. Even then the only clue to its whereabouts was the smoke bellowing from the bamboo-infested hillside. Once again, I can only describe it as truly amazing. Arriving back at the rendezvous point, where the three-ton lorries were waiting to pick the patrol up. There was no chance of keeping any of the weapons for a souvenir, because of the diligent way we had to hand them over. I am sure Lieutenant Olsen kept hold of a stainless steel revolver, because it wasn’t amongst the piled up confiscated weapons and ammunition!
It came as a surprise and a most welcome sight that also at the rendezvous point, was the most respected Commanding Officer of the Bamenda camp, Major Brough DSO. MC. He was waiting by the side of the transport with a V.I.P, who was possibly a Member of Parliament on a visit to the Cameroons. Major Brough congratulated the men of our patrol; on a job well done and said we were all a credit to the King’s Own Border Regiment. I must admit, coming from such a brave man, what he said was most appreciated and gave one and all, a certain amount of satisfaction, in the knowledge that what we had been trained for had been successful.
Lieutenant Olsen for his outstanding leadership in the operation, was awarded the Queens Commendation for Bravery This award was thoroughly deserved and definitely it should have been a higher award. He took all his men in and brought them all safely out, what more can I say. Knowing the British Army code of early morning attacks and the regular soldiers who instrumented it. On behalf of my fellow comrades we thank you all, because through their expertise, all members of the patrol came back safely without a scratch.
I hope you the reader is enlightened by what I have written. There are a few things I have left out on purpose, mainly whilst in the camp. Which can be read in full in my story on.

Alan

Stuart Williams RAF 1954-57

26 Jan

Hello Alan

My Granddaughter found your ‘story’ on the Web which I am reading with great interest. I was born at Barrow in 1936, and lived at 15 Hastings St with my brother Ralph Williams, my Mum, ‘Molly’ (Mary) Williams and my Dad, Jack (John) Williams, and my elder sister Joan Williams. My Father’s Father lived on the same side of the street, further up probably about opposite to your house. He was called John Williams I think. My Father worked in Vickers as a Capstan Lathe Machinist throughout the war.
I remember VE day and the party outside Joe Condron’s. We used to play with his son Colin regularly. I would very much like a copy of the street party if you can supply one. I think myself and my brother is among the boys seated on the right of the picture. I am struggling to remember you by name. In 1941 (I think) I was playing at the bottom of the street with some other boys, when a small group of other boys came around the corner from the rear of the back of your side of the street. They were calling names and throwing stones at us. One struck me directly on the left eyeball. My eye swelled up very badly, and my parents trailed me all over Barrow to various Doctors and the Hospital and they all said that the eye would have to come out. With careful nursing however I still have it although there is a tiny mark on the front of it as a reminder.

 Also I remember being snowed in during the very bad winter of 45/46 I think. The snow was drifted right to the top of the downstairs front window and my Dad had to dig a way out of the front door.
Most of the early war years seemed to have been spent at night in the Air-raid shelters that were built in the back streets, with guns firing all around and plenty of pieces of shrapnel in the streets the following day. I had quite a collection at one time. There was a big searchlight and anti-aircraft gun on some ground behind the Picture House. We used go the Saturday morning matinee for kids watching Flash Gordon and cowboy films. The place was a riot with everyone shouting and stamping their feet when the ‘baddies’ came on. I remember a bakery nearby having a sign saying ‘Closed for the duration’ and I couldn’t understand at the time what it meant. Men coming home on Leave in Uniform and local families upset when they had received news by telegram of a family member being K.I.A. There seemed to be a lot of waste ground and the Lakeland Laundry electric vans and electric milk floats coming and going from street to street. . I also remember vividly going with my father, to look at the bomb damage in and around Barrow and also watching ships and submarines being launched into Walney Channel.
.I did go to Ocean Rd School until 1946, but I don’t remember any of the teacher’s names.
.In 1946 our family moved to Haverigg in Cumbria. Just across the Bay from the Northern tip of Walney and eventually into a Council House in Millom.
In 1954 I left Millom to do my National Service and it will be 60 years this June since I left and haven’t been back since. I joined the Royal Air Force in 1954 for 3years for the better pay and served at RAF Hornchurch and RAF Kirton in Lindsey as a RAF Policeman. I met my wife Maureen who was from the village of Kirton. I ought to say that my full name is john Stuart Richard Williams. When I joined the RAF everyone called me by my first name John. Only my family still use the Stuart name. Leaving the RAF in 1957 (the year we were married) I worked for 5 years in Scunthorpe Steel Works and on the 10th December 1962 (Very bad winter) I joined the West Riding Police. I served for 30 years in and around Yorkshire retiring back to Lincolnshire in 1996. We have lived in Sleaford for the past 17years.

Sadly Maureen passed away on 31.12.2013 after bravely fighting an illness for many years. We had been married for 57 years and had two sons PAUL and IAN. Paul was on HMS Hermes for the Falklands War. He went away a bright young lad and came back a completely different man. It certainly affected him and sadly he died aged 36years of age, leaving a wife and four young girls. The eldest girl 11years of age died suddenly at home with a heart defect not detected. As one can imagine, it was a very sad time for the family. We are a close knit family and life goes on

I am enjoying reading your story, with memories of my early days flooding back. Finally I would like to wish all my family and friends, good luck and best wishes for the future

 Thanking you

Stuart Williams

 

 

 

 

THE ANZAC’s

20 Jan

I have just returned from a most enjoyable visit to Australia. During this visit I went with my son Ian and family to the Sherwood Services Club in Corinda Queensland. I was quite taken aback with hospitality shown to our family by the reception, bar staff and members alike. The club itself had bars, a restaurant, gaming machines, various lottery games, snooker tables. Also a stage and a small dance floor for performing artists which, incidentally was every night. It was all governed by rules which had to be adhered too. One might say, what’s this to do with the blog. Well it was noticeable in the club of plaques and reminders of places and men who gave their lives during the World Wars.

 It was during the early part of World War one, the first Australian Imperial Force and the 1st New Zealand Expeditionary Force amalgamated together. They were named the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps Commonly known as the ANZAC’s. They trained in Egypt before being sent to Gallipoli. The Anzac’s fought with courage and endeavour during the fighting in Gallipoli. The Anzac’s lost many lives during the disastrous campaign in Gallipoli. During, 1915 following the allied evacuation from the Gallipoli Peninsula the Corps was disbanded. Both New Zealand and Australia formed their own divisions, but still fought alongside each other as ANZAC’s even to this present day. During the First World War 60,000 Australian Forces lost their lives and New Zealand forces lost 18,000 lives. Many thousands were casualties and maimed for life. This was a massive contribution by both countries for a war that was so far away.

During The Second World War 27,073 Australian Forces and 11,928 New Zealand Forces lost their lives and again many thousands of casualties. Since the World wars the Australian and New Zealand Forces have fought in many conflicts even to this present day with the same bravery shown by their forefathers.  April 25th is ANZAC day; it is a public holiday in Australia and New Zealand. In years to come the future generations of Australia and New Zealand are being brought up to recognize the contribution and sacrifice, paid by so many men and women.

Going back to what I wrote about the Sherwood Services Club in Corinda. The memory of the Australian forces that lost their lives in all the Wars and conflicts is certainly not forgotten. Every night come what may, at 6PM the last post is sounded and everyone respectively stands, while it is being played. Well done Sherwood Services Club.

Alan

 

 

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Gnr Geoff Wheeler Royal Artillery

12 Jan

Hello I have been reading with interest the stories of times in Suez. I did my national service in the Royal Artillery 1948-49 and after completing my training, I was being posted to Egypt. I first travelled by the troopship to Malta, everyone hanging like bats in their hammocks on the troop decks. Eventually reaching Malta, where I awaited my posting to the 71st HAA RA Regt. I had three good weeks in Malta; before travelling on to Zavia Tripoli It was here I joined the Regt rear party, because the regiment had just left for Suez. I had 2 or three months in Zavia, and then sailed by LST, with AA Guns and Radar etc.to Port Said. We then joined a motor convoy on the very hot sweaty drive down to the camp at Fayid in Egypt
Being based in Fayid and very well remember doing Guard duties at C-in Cs residence. What a hot sweaty place Fayid was. I remember quite vividly doing my guard duty on the Suez Canal road with sweat running down my back within 10 minutes of starting my guard. Having to salute every vehicle containing an officer, how the hell you were supposed to know which vehicle to salute with the many vehicles using the road? No doubt quite a few Arabs felt chuffed from receiving a salute!
I travelled home on the troopship Westralia from Port Said to Trieste and then by train all way down to Hook of Holland and eventually Aldershot for my demob.
I would like to thank you for bringing back memories and I wish you all my ex comrades best wishes for the future.

21056640 Gunner Geoff Wheeler ex 187 Bty. 71st HAA R.A

A Letter

26 Nov

Many years ago, I received a letter from a lad who had been on attachment to the King’s Own Royal Border Regiment. The attachment was because of the regiments’ assignment in the Cameroons West Africa. There was many regimental Corps attached to the regiment that sailed on the troopship Devonshire. For example: RASC, RE, RAMC, RAOC, QARANC, and ACC. I cannot speak highly enough of the valuable work these Corps do, as I am sure you ex-servicemen will agree. The lad in question came from one these, but I am not disclosing which one!
When he wrote to me he said it was an honour and a pleasure to serve with such a most efficient regiment as the King’s Own Royal Border Regiment. He had been with our platoon a few times on patrols and found it a real eye opener. He said it was the professional way they went about what was put in front of them. On his return from the Cameroons, he was attached to another regiment in England, which remains nameless. He said what a difference there was; they never came anywhere near to the King’s Own Royal Border Regiments level. He did not like mentioning this but he just felt he had too.
What he said, no doubt speaks volumes for the now amalgamated King’s Own Royal Border Regiment. I was only a two year national serviceman, but I have never found the comradeship I experienced during those two years, ever again. I read many letters from former regular soldiers of the KORB. They have a friendship between themselves that will be with them all their lives. It was a great pity, when the powers above decided to amalgamate such a fine regiment, as The King’s Own Royal Border.
Alan

Not Again !

19 Nov

So, Hugh Grant has urged Britain to reintroduce National Service. He said it suits us and it goes with our personality. What a load of rubbish from a person who has never served or likely to serve. Here we have a celluloid person advocating young men being called up for national service. Does he not realise that the Government have controversial plans to replace regular soldiers with Territorial reserve forces. The regular soldiers are all volunteers who have made the army their career. These brave men and women serve throughout the world in many conflicts. Sadly some pay the supreme sacrifice losing their lives and many suffer with injuries both physically and mentally. This Government and future Governments must look after our forces and not just while they serve, but also in their retirement with good pensions.
For the attention of people who advocate national service please read this. The men who had to do national service all those years ago were originally called up at the outbreak of World War 2. This was in 1939, when Great Britain was in grave danger of being overrun by the jackboot.
National service continued for another fifteen years after the end of World War 2. When each eligible man called up had to do firstly eighteen months service. The length of service was raised to two years due to the Korean War.
The lads of yesteryear mostly came from poor homes where their father went to work for poor wages and their mother cooked, cleaned the house and looked after the children.
Over 80% of the people didn’t have a bathroom just a tin bath brought in usually on Friday night. The brick toilet was outside in the backyard the paper used was the day before newspaper. The bedroom for the children was shared with two in a bed for brothers and sisters depending on the size of the family.
The only wardrobe was in your parent’s room, the children’s wardrobe was a hook screwed to the back of the bedroom door. The heating in the house was just one-coal fire, which was usually lit before the children got up.
I was in a much loved family life with no television to distract conversation, but as you must be aware homes had a radio.
One was made to respect elders, neighbours etc. it was always Mr and Mrs When talking to neighbours; it was no Jim, Tom and Maggie.
When your time came to be called up for National Service whether you were eighteen or twenty one, you knew it had to be done.
No one was looking forward to doing two years in the forces, while just entering the prime of one’s life. All the frightening tales told to by the abundance of ex-servicemen didn’t help, because they did it and you were no exception.
The day came when you reluctantly left your tight knitted community and left to join your allotted service, be it Army, Navy or Air Force. Although it was a shock to the system there was plenty of food and for the first time in their lives there were showers. Young men at that time had so much in common, coming from similar backgrounds, camaraderie and lifelong friendships soon formed.

The lads of today have the better of two worlds, money in the back pockets, cars and a certainly more permissive society. Their homes have all the mod cons. The downside of their family life has been dampened by television.
I am sorry to say now; there are a small minority who have not much respect for elders, neighbours and the law, which of course should certainly be addressed.
Parents and school teachers should play their part in this and stop passing the problem onto others. Discipline when one is young plays a big part in future life.

The politicians, media and sections of the public who have never been in the forces themselves keep bringing this national service question up. Do it to them not to us attitude.
These same young men who keep getting picked on, will I am sure be the first in line to join up if the country was threatened, like it was many years ago.
No one wants to see lads who were forced to do national service being brought home after losing their life in conflicts. It is sorrowful enough seeing our brave service men and women being brought home from Afghanistan.
National Service should not be introduced, because of our country being involved in conflicts in far off places or any other feeble excuse. Do you honestly think the armed forces want to start training lads who are not making the services their career? I am sure they will agree that it would be a complete waste of time for everyone concerned. Look after the lads who are in the forces both now and in the future, because they have earned the respect of the British people.
Politicians should stop swanning around and start earning their wages, in sorting our own country out. Make it a peaceful and happy place to live, with no such thing as dole queues, poverty and racism.

Alan

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