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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

Ken Bradshaw 2 Field Ambulance RAMC

8 Nov

In my story Get In Get Out and Get Away I mentioned the Medical Orderly who was with our patrol when the terrorist camp was attacked, but until now I did not know it was Ken Bradshaw. I have put this again on the Blog, because I had not put his name on the heading. I had and still have, a lot of respect for the RAMC orderleys They were tough honest men. This is Ken’s letter he sent to me over a year ago

Hi Alan,

I read with great interest your article on the Cameroons. I was in the RAMC field ambulance serving in the Cameroons with your regiment. It was a privilege to have been there with such a professional regiment as the King’s Own Royal Border.
When I read your article it was like being there again and what seemed like a dream suddenly made me realise that it did really happen.
I spent the first couple of months at Beau camp and then moved on to Tiko cottage hospital if you remember we had a surgical unit there not in the hospital itself but in I think it was 2 like nizzen huts with about 6 beds in each. We hardly had any patients but plenty of tarantulas that I had to kill as it worried the patients. Most of the patients seemed to be circumcisions with the occasional appendix operations. We sometimes help with civilian operations.
I then went to Bamenda camp and was soon sent to Sante Coffee. It would seem that we were on to same patrols. In particular I remember the raid on the terrorist camp high up in the bamboo forest I was with the patrol that came up the mountain after the shooting had started. I remember clearly those shots at dawn. You perhaps did not realise that most of us medics were not as fit as you boys and often got left behind as on this occasion. I was probably about 100 yards behind you lot and I could hear the cries of agony coming from the forest and could see the blood all over the bamboo trees. I can’t tell you how scared I was being on my own. When I caught up the first thing I was asked to do, was to verify that the two shot were dead and I can tell you that I took a very quick glance and said yes they are. Everything happened so quickly.
Our next mission was to destroy the camp although I don’t think I had much energy if you remember when we slept the night before it had rained and I just happened to be lying where the water channelled down. On our return from the terrorist camp. I remember we all had to carry two or three weapons that we had captured and I remember that the prisoners were made to carry the ammunition on their heads. There were three prisoners one of whom was a woman who I must say felt sorry for in her pathetic state
We set off down the hill and soon I fell quite a way behind until I could no longer see the platoons in front. There didn’t seem to be any waiting in those days. I was again scared as you can imagine after all that shooting, I would have been an easy target. I had almost given up when I climbed to the top of a small hill and with luck I saw the other medic in the far distance.  I kept him in my sights until I eventually caught up, you had all had a rest and just as I reached you the order was given to move out.
Another patrol went out a few days later I think to recover the bodies and when they
Reached there the camp had been put back up.

The other patrol I was on was where we went to see the chief in the village. We went into the hut; Quite a big hut, there was a large carpet on the floor which none of the tribesmen would step on. There was like a throne at one end of the hut with all the chairs arranged around the carpet. We all sat down and watched as the room gradually filled up with armed tribesmen. Do you remember when they spoke to the chief they covered their mouths. Your sergeant went in a back room to ask his questions and the chief asked if there was a doctor. I was of course called upon to act as a doctor. It was not for the chief, but for one of his wives. I handed out a few pills and told him it was very powerful medicine, he seemed happy with this.
Do you recall how the medic had his own little tent where I used to get a small queue of locals outside in the morning? There was little I could do for many of them but I did my best.

I get the feeling that we must have rubbed shoulders, as many of your experiences are very similar to my own.

I won’t bore you any more but congratulations on a good article.

Best Wishes,
Ken Bradshaw 2 brigade field ambulance

Remembrance

5 Nov

Remembrance Sunday is this coming week-end and as we all know it is a sad day indeed. When, one looks at the figures of United Kingdom men and women, who sacrificed their lives in the name of freedom. It is completely mind blowing. During the 1914-18 War some 886,342 lost their lives. In the Second World War from 1939-45, 383,667 U.K. men and women lost their lives. The various conflicts since 1945 to this present day, 3,739 U.K. men and women have lost their lives.
The overall total since 1914, who paid with their lives for you and me to live in a better world, is 1.273748. I get very angry when I hear a person say they are ashamed of being British over some very minor incident. Obviously they are not in the real world. I again say that the Remembrance to the fallen and the injured, during the conflicts concerning United Kingdom service personnel, should be taught at school. When, young people wear the remembrance poppy. They must have the knowledge of what the British Men and women before them endured in those conflicts.
All ex and present service men and women have their own memories of Remembrance Day. I have mine. It was November 1960. I, along with the platoons of(S) Company King’s Own Royal Border Regiment and men of Ex-King’s African Rifles, who had served in Burma. We all marched through the local village then into a large grassy area in a valley, where the remembrance service was performed. High up on one side of the valley walls there was a small plateau. It was from here a bugler of our regiment appeared. He beautifully played the last post and the sound echoed loudly down the valley. I had a sensational feeling in the back of my neck which is hard to explain. That moment in time has lived with me ever since.
I hope for the sake of this great country of ours. The future generations to come, will remember the sacrifice that was paid by their fellow countrymen.
Alan

Update In History Lessons

27 Oct

I should not have to write this but, I could not believe the picture in the Mail on Sunday. It showed two British soldiers giving the Nazi salute with a Union Jack in the background. I know this is just an isolated case by a couple of idiots. Obviously they do not know the back ground or are completely ignorant to what people endured during the German Nazi era. Well let’s face it every young person who is raised in Britain, should be educated to what happened during World War Two. School history lessons must surely be updated to these modern times. What message does that photo send out to the descendants of the millions of innocent people, who were murdered by the Nazi regime? Every City, Town and Village has a memorial in memory of brave men and women who laid down their lives, fighting for freedom against the Nazi oppression. The British Forces will hopefully send the culprits packing who tarnished the British name. This will also send out a message, that this minority of idiots will not be tolerated in our British society.
Alan

A DEBT OF GRATITUDE!

15 Oct

It is in my own opinion, that I think all ex-national Servicemen have been shabbily treated, since conscription was abolished. Not one mention of gratitude from successive governments was forthcoming. It is 74 years ago, since due to the second World war that an act of parliament brought national service into being. At that perilous time, it was a just act and for that there is no argument. When victory came in 1945 a new parliament act was brought in making all able bodied male, liable for conscription into one of the services. If one did not have a trade they went in the forces at 18 years of age. The men who had an apprenticeship or went to University were called up when they had finished their learning etc. Usually their ages on conscription were 21 or 22 years old, but the odd one escaped the net through faking medical problems etc.
Due to the Korean War, where many National servicemen served, the length of service was increased from 18 months to 2 years. One must remember, they were not volunteers like the regular army. The national servicemen served and fought shoulder to shoulder with the regular servicemen throughout the world, until call up was abolished in late 1960. Most of the last National servicemen were demobbed in 1962 There were some of the late call up men, that had to serve an extra six months, if they were stationed in Germany and were therefore demobbed early 1963. I believe it broke a few hearts, when they learned that they had to serve an extra 6 months as one can imagine. For all National Servicemen to be called up, to serve 2 years in what was termed the best years of their lives. One has to remember the pay in the forces for a National serviceman was in present day money £1.50 pence, a complete pittance. Can anyone imagine the youngsters of today, enduring that weekly wage for two years? I am not going into all the ins and outs of time served in the forces, because national service turned boys into men and made them stand on their own two feet and be counted.
The brave men who fought in Burma during WW2 were once called the forgotten army. I believe National Servicemen have been put in that category by successive governments. The youngest of these ex-servicemen are now over 72 years of age and as you are aware in the twilight of their lives. Surely it is not too late for a government to say some form of thank you, for what you all did so long ago.

Alan

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