Archive | December, 2011

Contributors To Stories And Letters

31 Dec

Stories and Letters

Alan E Parkinson.

Paul Maxwell.            Brian Owen.
R.C.Heape.                 B Sutton.
Duncan Hamman.    Mike  Hargreaves.
Ken Bradshaw.          Alan Booth.
Frank Parkinson 2.  Arnold Jordan.
Angus Ross.
Mike Woodford.
George Hardisty.

Letters
Ron Green.       Jeff Sherwin.                  Gorge Andrews.  Tony Rogers.
Brian Phillips.   Ted (Wacker) Morris.  Laurie Avison.    Les Sexton
Peter Tucker.     Jim Thomas.                  John Giles.
Les Singfield.     Michael Robinson.       John Kelly.

George Hardisty, King’s Own Royal Border Regiment

31 Dec

GEORGE HARDISTY Ex-KORB. TIME IN THE CAMEROONS.

My name is George Hardisty No 23790954. I was a member of the King’s Own Royal Border Regiment stationed in the Bamenda region Of the Cameroons.
I would just like to start my letter by congratulating you on your initiative to build this website, which I am sure like me the many people who served in the Cameroons will really appreciate.
I was originally drafted to do my national service in the Loyal Regiment on March 6th 1960. Whilst training at Fulwood Barracks Preston my draft was transferred to the King’s Own Royal Border Regt. who was also being trained at Fulwood Barracks. All this was due to a crisis that had broken out in the British Cameroons, West Africa
On completing our training (square bashing) at Fulwood barracks our draft joined the battalion at Barnard Castle to further our training. It seemed only a short time before the battalion boarded the troop train to Southampton, where we joined the troopship Devonshire for our journey to Africa.
The journey on the Devonshire was really quite enjoyable. I remember buying pints of orange juice and slices of this tasty cake, which was available in the bar area. Some of the lads had brought with them guitars and they used to sit on the deck playing and singing in the moonlight.
At times we were moved in sections to the Aft end of the ship, where balloons were thrown overboard for target practice with our S.L.Rs.(rifles) There was even a daily competition onboard to see who could guess the distance the ship had travelled in the previous 24hrs with the result given over the ships loud speaker. When the Devonshire eventually anchored off the shore of the Cameroons, dozens of natives came out to the ship in their home made boats it was for then and us quite an occasion.
After disembarking from the Devonshire in barges, we spent our first night at base camp Buea. On the following morning being an M.T. driver I was designated to drive a flat nosed 3 ton Bedford lorry Reg no 54BG89. The vehicle was very sturdy and was used for transporting both stores and personnel to and from Bamenda.
On the first day, due too the bad conditions on the road caused by heavy rain. We stopped overnight at the R.A.F. base at Mamfe. I remember a colleague and I had to sleep on top of the canvas of the lorry due to the shortage of sleeping accommodation. Little did I know at the time, that I would spend many more nights sleeping rough on benches of primitive schools, or even out in the open jungle and hills. On the second day we made our way up the long winding narrow road to Bamenda one has too understand the roads had no tarmac and with it being the back of the rainy season, it was very dangerous.
My first few months spent at Bamenda, was an experience looking back I enjoyed.
As an M.T. driver I travelled to all the platoon outposts at Sante Coffee, Sante Customs and Pinyin etc.
Although the daily parades at the outposts were quite relaxed than the Bamenda camp. It was never relaxed if C.S.M Kershaw was at that outpost nicknamed by fellow squaddies (The Screaming Skull). At Sante Customs where we slept in tents and due to his personal attitude everyone had to parade first thing in the morning and be inspected by an office and the Screaming Skull. On this particular morning I had got up late and did not bother to shave. The officer and the CSM passed by me without saying a word. I sighed a big relief, how stupid of me. A few seconds later, I felt the breath of someone standing immediately behind me and yes it was Kershaw. He said in a reasonable quiet voice, “Have you shaved this morning Private Hardisty!
Not one for lying I said, “Yes Sgt major”. Then at the top of his voice I think it could have been in the U.K. he yelled “WELL GO SHAVE AGAIN AND THIS TIME STAND A LOT CLOSER TO THE RAZOR BLADE.”

I think my most frightening experience in the Cameroons, was when I had to transport a section of riflemen from one of the outposts to a place called Baligam, where they would start their night patrol in pursuit of known terrorists. Before leaving Sante Coffee a mate of mine David Lee asked the officer in charge if he could tag along for the run to break his boredom. The officer agreed to this and so was I.
I was issued with a Sterling Sub Machine gun with a full magazine of thirty 9mm rounds
We made our way to Baligam a distance of 7 to 8 miles from Sante Coffee on a very steep and narrow road in darkness. Going past all the mud huts of Baligam we turned right and after following a track for a further few hundred yards we came to a large flat grassy area. The Sergeant and riflemen left the vehicle and disappeared into the night to start their patrol.
I have to say at this time that we never saw any natives on our way to or through Baligam. With the patrol well on its way and the morning pick up time arranged. I with the company of my friend David lee started our return to Sante coffee.
About a half-mile or so from where we dropped the patrol off, to our surprise and shock, our road was blocked by a vast number of natives. They were spread all over the road waving spears, knives and machetes etc. in a most terrifying manner. I have to be honest for a split second I froze, not knowing what to do.
I had to do what was the best thing for David and me. I shouted at David to load my sterling machine gun and stand in the turret of the cab in the lorry, which he did fairly quickly.
I informed him not to fire without my command. I then put my foot on the throttle of my vehicle and raced towards the large crowd of natives who were blocking the road.
They realised I wasn’t going to stop for any reason and they started to move out of my way, but still continued to behave in a very hostile manner. One particular native lunged towards my side of the door with a machete in his hand and jumped up and with his free hand grabbed the bar of the vehicle mirror. He was peering at me through the open window of my cab, but could do nothing due to the speed I was
doing, he just held on for grim death. What seemed an eternity, but must have only been seconds. I elbowed the uninvited passenger directly in the face and with a grunt he completely disappeared from view.
With my adrenaline racing I returned to the Sante Coffee outpost, where I immediately informed the O.C. in charge about the incident. He noted it down, but said nothing could be done now, because the fact is they would have dispersed by now.
The following morning I returned to a now deserted area, to pick up the night patrol, who apparently had an uneventful night. When I told my story to the sergeant, he said he was sorry he couldn’t have been there to help.
The remainder of my time at Bamenda was not as exciting as that, until I caught Malaria and was placed in the medical hut at Bamenda camp in what I now know to be a very serious condition. After many weeks I started to recover then I sustained abscesses on my appendix. I had to be flown by the mail plane, which I believe was a little single engine pioneer to Buea base camp to undergo surgery in their hospital.
I always remember the surgeon a Mr Smith, who was a perfect gentleman in many ways. I made knew friends during my stay in the Buea army hospital. One lad I remember told me he was driving his truck along a road. A native carrying a long probably bamboo stick of some sort, heard the truck coming and turned round to look at the truck. As he did so, the cane went through the driver’s window slicing the driver’s neck open nearly killing him.
After recovering from my illness I remained at Buea camp some times visiting a vast volcanic lake, which was unbelievably warm when you dived in. We would swim out to a large tree trunk which was lying about 15 yards from the shore everyone seemed to congregate by the old tree trunk.

The regiment’s time was up in the Cameroons the Grenadier Guards arrived on the troopship Devonshire and we were now to board the ship back to the U.K.
I was really enjoying the trip home, when to my surprise I contracted measles above all things. This meant I was put into solitary so as the disease did not spread. Whilst in solitary, the Devonshire anchored just outside Lagos docks where the lads were taken to a sandy beach for swimming. While this was all going on I was still in solitary much to my disappointment I contracted serious appendicitis and I had to be transferred from the Devonshire to the military hospital in Lagos Nigeria. I recall being stretched off the ship as the rest of the soldiers were actually watching a film on the top deck.
I remained in the Lagos hospital, the only private as you had to be at least a sergeant or above to serve in Nigeria for several weeks, until the drugs eventually calmed down my appendix. Eventually I was allowed to fly home in civvies on a civilian passenger jet. Leaving Lagos airport and arriving at Heathrow at 9am the following day.
I had to fly in civilian clothes bought for me by the army, because in those days military personnel were not allowed to fly over foreign countries wearing uniforms.
I was met at Heathrow Airport by members of the Queen’s Alexander’s Nursing Corps. They transported me to the King Edward 7th hospital in London.
I remained here until I was fit enough to be discharged and allowed home for my disembarkation leave.
I then travelled by train to Carlisle railway station of which is only 7 miles from Gretna, where I lived. Words cannot express the feeling I had in finally returning home after 12 months. On arrival at the station my parents who were well off business people were not there to greet me. Later when I did see them they treated me as though I had not been out of their sight. I thought a lot of my parents and I know they did of me, but this episode has haunted me ever since.

My Girlfriend Patricia, whom I was engaged too, did however meet me at the station.
It was obvious there had been some kind of rift between Patricia and my parents whatever it was I vainly tried to find out. I had been engaged to her before I went abroad. She wrote regularly to me and quite often sent me gifts in the post. These gifts mean a lot to all servicemen not only then but in past and present times. I had great feelings for her, and no doubt she had for me, but what had happened over the last 12 months had understandably changed me. Patricia had also changed and over the next month or so, we simply grew apart. On hindsight it was sad really, because we had so many plans for the future.

With my leave over I returned back to the regiment at Barford Camp Barnard Castle.
I was in for more disappointment, as I was informed that all my personal property which had been on the Devonshire, had been stolen. This included my camera and about 10 rolls of film, which I had taken in the Cameroons.
I was summoned to the camp medical officer who said when you were called up to do your national service you were A1, but your latest medical review showed you now as B5 category and you are no longer required to complete your national service. I was only a couple of months short of completing my two years’ service
So that was it, I really paid the price for all the times I spent living rough whilst going to and from the Cameroon outposts, but thankfully I survived
.Finally on a brighter note, I would like to wish all my ex comrades who served with me throughout my national service days.
Good luck and best wishes wherever you may be.

George Hardisty

Christmas

22 Dec

with Xmas coming up I am expecting a boost to sales of the book Get In Get Out and Get Away – Memoirs of a National Serviceman as people receive their new Kindles for Xmas. I note the Kindle is the bestselling item on Amaxon, for more details check out Amazon or http://www.getingetoutandgetaway.co.uk

Letters to Alan – Les Singfield National Service REME

21 Dec

Hi Alan.

I began my 2 yr stint Feb 1959 with the REME in Honiton Devon, I was 21, married with two young children. Call up for apprentices was deffered until they had completed their trade, (what a crafty way to get trademen on the cheap) My first weeks pay was 15 shillings, my wife received £2. 12 6. We applied for a national service grant and eventually my wife received £4. 5. 0d about a third of the going rate. The average wage for a mechanic was £12, we lived in povety and visits to jumble sales for clothes. A woman across the road helped my wife out finacially, her husband was in prison, but she was much better cared for than my family. I went to Borden in Hampshire on a tank course. (A vehicles) What a terrible camp that was, we even got an artical in the People or the Pictorial sunday newspaper about the non stop bull.
Some lads even slept on the floor to seep their beds and kit tidy. It was at Borden I realised that some regulars would pay to have their guard duty done. I did at least two a week at £1.10s a time, Weekend guards fetched much more, the most I got was £9 10s for a bankholiday, It was the talk of the camp, I was always able to send money home. We would thumb lifts home if we had a 48hr pass. I lived in Liverpool and would often arrive home in the early hours of the morning soaked to the skin. I was posted to Liverpool (deysbrook barracks) for 7 months, 3 miles from home!! It was a good camp and the food was excellent, not the pig swill we had at Borden.
My last twelve months I spent a Mathew Barracks in Tidworth Hamts, I’d passed my Vehicle Mechanic 2 and 1 and my money went up to £3, I still did a few guards for cash, fiddled a bit here and a bit there, I even stole a complete cooked leg of pork from the officers mess xmas dinner table and thumbed up to Liverpool with it. (It was very nice)
I met some great lads, I wish I’d kept in touch with them.
I do wish the country would give national servicemen more recognition, Over the years many a conscript has laid down his life for this country, We were under paid and under valued, we get no pension, regulars do. No matter how bright and clever, if you had a scouse, brummy or newcastle accent, you would never get a commision.

Best wishes. Les Singfield 23610721 59/03

Other National Service Stories 7 Mike Woodford 1953 to 1955

18 Dec

Hello Alan

My National Service number was 23004494, from 1953 to 1955, I was stationed at 62 Company R.A.S.C in or very near to Spandau, in fact many a time I drove past Spandau Prison when they were changing over guarding the only prisoner in the prison – Rudolf Hess
I always found it strange the way the russians drove away with their guards sitting in the back of their vehicles, the tarpaulin sides down on every lorry preventing anyone seeing the russian soldiers and of course to stop the russian soldiers from seeing how the west lived
I also remember driving to Gatow when requested (or is it ordered) and able to see the russian soldiers in their guard huts on stilts behind the wire fences, looking at me and my lorry through binoculars and there was always one of them following you pointing their rifle in your direction in case you drove through the fence into the forbidden russion zone………………now two very true stories if I may
True story No. 1
In 1956 I had emigrated with my younger brother to Southern Rhodesia and I moved to Bulawayo, I am in a nightclub on my umpteenth bottle of Lion Lager, when I saw ‘Jock’ across the room, (Jock was with the Argylle & Sutherland Highlanders, and I was involved in making many a journey from Berlin Station to the Montgomery Barracks transferring soldiers and all manner of their equipment to their new home) and I had many, many a glass of Schultheis in the Berlin NAAFI with Jock.
As we old soldiers do, I through my arms around him saying how good it was to see him, only to be told I had my arms around his twin brother.
Lucky I did not receive a glasgow kiss

True story No. 2
Still in Southern Rhodesia, this time 1957, I am in a bar in Gwelo, midday and only two customers drinking, eventually we started to talk and I recognised a scottish voice and a while later national service was mentioned, he said he was with the Argylle & Sutherland Highlanders in Berlin, I told him I had been involved in moving his Regiment to his barracks
He told me that the RASC driver driving the lorry he was in had reversed into a very very large crate containing the Dress Kilts of the Regiment, yes it was me, I heard a very loud shout from a CSM of the Argylle & Sutherland Highlanders, wearing his regiments dress who came, I swear, from the east end of London

Trying to make an excuse for my bad driving skills, the CSM recognised I was somewhat local to London and following a real b******ing. let me off

Just to close, I remember 2 officers in our company, 2nd Liutenant J.E.T. Ray and Captain Barton (Dick)

Regards and best wishes

Mike Woodford

National Service Years 1945 – 1959

17 Dec

I am looking forward to visiting the National Service Years Exhibition at Lancaster City Museum, Market Square between Jan 7th and 28th Jan. Entry is free and more details can be found on their website at www.kingsownmuseum.plus.com

Letters to Alan 5 -Peter Tucker National Service – 33rd Airborne Light Regt R.A.

17 Dec

Hi there, I am Peter Tucker and I was called up for my National Service on the 3rd March 1949 and I had to report to Park Hall Camp, Oswestry and was enlisted into the Royal Artillery and my no. was 22112917 after doing basic training with 17th Trg Regt R.A., further training followed and finally I was posted to Germany and sent to Woolwich Depot to await a draft, whilst there awaiting Embarkation Leave I went down with appendix pain and was sent to Royal Herbert Hospital, Woolwich where I had an operation the same day. During my stay in hospital there was a National Dock Strike and Woolwich Depot was used to billet Service Personnel for the strike so when I came out of hospital the only place to sleep was on the verandah of a barrack block on a mattress filled with straw, next day I went on 7 days leave, during which time the strike was settled and the Depot had returned to normal. I had missed my draft so I was sent the next day to Germany and as I was still wet under the collar I was placed in the charge of a Sgt returning to his unit in Germany after being Y listed. He escorted me as far as Hannover where we parted company, I was given all my posting documents and taken to the RTO at Hannover, as it was late at night by the time we got there they put me on a truck and sent me to the Transit Camp for the night, with instructions to report back back to them the next morning. The next morning which was on the Saturday having left Woolwich on Thusday I was placed on a civilian train for Celle, and given a compartment to myself with all the necessary details and told to report to the RTO at Celle . On arrival at Celle about lunch time the RTO contacted the unit to which I had been posted and I was sent to the Lakeside NAFFI club to await the duty jeep, this arrived early afternoon and I finally arrived at my unit 33rd Airborne Light Regt R.A. stationed at Fallingbostal they gave me some bedding and the Orderly Sgt found me somewhere to kip down until Monday when I would be finally placed. On the Monday I was interviewed by the Assistant Adjutant and becaused I could do shorthand and touch type it was decided that as they were not expecting any replacements anywhere I should stay in RHQ and take a place in the Regimental Office.
In November of 1949 the whole brigade (16th Independant Parachute Brigade Gp) returned to England to the Aldershot area, we were at C Camp Barton Stacey. My release no was 4905 which was due out in August 1949 I was lucky as the day before I was to be posted to my TA unit NS was increased from 18 months to 2 years because of the Korean War but it did not effect me so I duly was posted to my TA Regiment which was 255 Medium Regt RA (West Somerset Yeomanry) for the remainder of my National Service which was 4 years. The Bty to which I had to do my drills was P Bty and was 14 miles away from my home. As I had to do 4 years I thought that it would be better if I became a volunteer TA member and receive the annual bounty and many other privledges, in the end I did 8 years with the TA reaching the rank of Bdr finally finishing with the army in 1958.

Good luck

Peter Tucker

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