Archive | August, 2012

The Corps In The Cameroons

20 Aug

When the King’s Own Border Regiment sailed on the troopship Devonshire to the British Cameroons, many Corps from the services was attached to the regiment. Out of all those Corps, who was attached to our regiment? Below I have listed in my opinion the top five
First on the list is the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. This Corps was responsible for sending all the essential supplies to the various camps where the King’s Own Royal Border Regiment Companies were stationed, such as Buea, Kumba and Bamenda. They had their own small camp near to the dock area of Victoria where all supplies that came from the UK were stored and then sent out. They never got any slap on the back for their work in the Cameroons or indeed for anywhere else they served in the world. The RAOC just get on with their job, which they do magnificently. One thing you can say the British Army are very well organised. I can vouch for that first hand
Next Corps on the list was the Royal Army Service Corps. I never had any dealings with them until the Cameroon venture. It was in the deck hockey tournament I first began to notice them. What a tough bunch of lads they were. They reached the final and played against one of our platoons in only what I can describe as a no prisoner match. Both teams knocked hell out of each other with their sticks and after the bruising battle the RASC lads won. All who played in that final limped around the ship for about a week. During (S) and (A) company’s stay at Bamenda, the RASC drivers kept the convoy of supplies coming to the camp. The drivers had to endure terrible conditions on the roads, I say roads but they were red clay tracks. These tracks in the early days due to the constant rainfall made the 10 hour journey from Buea to Bamenda very treacherous. To their credit the drivers did it and believe me they were most appreciated by one and all.
I also must mention two of our King’s Own Royal Border Regiment MT drivers, who drove 3 Ton Lorries constantly to our camp and surrounding areas over the 10 months we were there. They were Jack Simmons from my home town of Barrow-in-Furness and a lad named Holt, both national servicemen. Sterling work in all weathers by both men
Next was the Royal Army Medical Corps. I can speak for all who have served in the forces and indeed for the lads who are serving now. They are very much appreciated for the work they do. When one is sick or injured, the medics are there. This speaks volumes for all the lads in the RAMC.
Next were the Royal Engineers. In the early days at the Bamenda camp, the conditions everyone endured was absolutely terrible. The constant rain and thick mud everywhere made moral among the men sink a bit low as you must try to understand. The brave men who fought in Burma in horrendous conditions must smile when they read this. Well the Royal Engineers eventually rigged up showers, made a bakery, fitted a generator for electric lighting between the tent lines. All this took a few months but it was fully appreciated by one and all. This was at the main camp only, not the outposts. The Royal Engineers had their own camp just up the road from ours, because they wanted to keep themselves independent. Two of their sappers leniently got 28 days in our camp jail for killing a bull. They made such a mess of it; the bull had to be shot to put it out of its misery. They got what they deserved and most surely let their fellow sappers down. That was only a blip in the magnificent work the Engineers did in making life a bit more comfortable for the KORB in the Cameroons.
We had at the main camp of Buea, a detachment of Queen Alexander’s Royal Army Nursing Corps. If I hadn’t been ill, I would not be able to write how wonderful caring women they were. The QARANC’s were above the normal nurses and held a commission. When one is ill, there is nothing like the feminine care and kind words of which they did with a degree of professionalism. Don’t get me wrong they were strict and when they told you to do something you had to do it. Not many troops come into contact with the QARANC’s, but those who have like I, can only speak very highly of them and indeed I do.
There was other Corps in the Cameroons attached to the King’s Own Royal Border Regiment who also did good work, but again in my opinion the above were the top five.
Alan

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A Bad Day In The Blackout

13 Aug

Hello Everybody,
What I have written below is not the normal subject I write, but I feel it has to be told

It is well recorded by many historians of how the citizens of Great Britain endured hard times during the Second World War. It was not just the shortages of food etc. The British people had to contend with the blackout. I know older readers will know about the blackout, but for the readers who don’t know. When war was declared, every house and factory in the country had to have black blinds put up against every window that could be seen from the outside. No chink of light had to be seen, also there were no street lights on which we enjoy now. Obviously the German Bombers would have also seen the light and had an idea where to bomb. The ARP Wardens were very strict in implementing this and often a shout in the street by them would be “Put that light out don’t you know there’s a war on”. Okay the Germans still bombed the Cities and Town, but certainly the blackout did help in reducing more carnage. The blackout was implemented for over five years. During that time there were numerous fatalities on the streets and roads throughout the country. During the blackout period, just the same has we have today; there was a criminal element who thieved, burgled, assaulted and even murdered people. Although a very small minority they were the pits of the earth. Many a life was ruined owing to the blackout; Here is a story of one life that was ruined.
My Father had a sister named Catherine, but she was always called Kitty by family and friends, she was my Aunt. Kitty was born in 1907 and brought up on Barrow Island, which is one of the tougher parts of the town. Educated to a high degree she went to a teachers training college in Dundee Scotland where she progressed to become a teacher. She took employment at Vickerstown Junior School on Walney Island a few years before the war and although very attractive woman she was unmarried. When war came in 1939 the blackout was enforced. It was in 1942; Kitty had been in the town of Barrow seeing a friend. On returning home in the darkness, Kitty was walking across the High level bridge which overlooked the dock area. As she approached some steps that led to the Docks. A man attacked her from behind and violently put his hand across her mouth to silence her screams. She struggled in the darkness frightened and bewildered, but to no avail, he was too strong for her. I do not know fully what happened during the attack, because my Dad would not talk about it. One can only use one’s imagination what actually happened. A distressed Kitty and family informed the police next day. She said in a statement that the man was foreign of a dark skin and had a strange odour. There were many ships in the docks during the war and the ship’s crew were mainly cheap labour manned by Indian and African men who were called Coolies. To the family’s dismay, no one was caught for what had happened. The ships at that time, were coming and going into the Barrow Docks every day and the assailant must have departed on one of those ships
The trouble was, my aunt was in a terrible state both physically and mentally as you the reader will most certainly understand. She completely had a nervous breakdown and eventually was put in a secure mental home in Lancaster where she stayed as a patient for about two years. Being released and trying hard to readjust back to normality she was not fit to go back to her profession of teaching until after the war in 1945.
Given a clean bill of health Kitty applied for a job of teaching again in her home town of Barrow-in-Furness. She had to go in front of the local Education Board. The personal and unsympathetic questions they asked her were too much and Kitty broke down in front of them. The heartless board turned down her application to teach in the Barrow- in- Furness Schools even though there were plenty of vacancies due to men still being in the services. There was no counselling in those days it was just a complete tragedy. Words fail me in the way she was shamefully treated by that so called education board
Although very disappointed in not getting a teaching post in Barrow, Kitty wrote many letters to various educational authorities in the country. A reply came from the Birmingham City Education Authorities; she was interviewed and was offered a post to teach there. Kitty taught in the Perry Barr and Great Barr areas of Birmingham for over twenty years, living in lodgings and coming home to Barrow during holiday times. She retired in the Sixties and died still a spinster in 1981
My Aunt Kitty was a lovely and kind person, who was one of the many people in our country whose lives were ruined during the war years. Indeed totally sad.
Alan

Proud To Be British

8 Aug

Hello Everybody I am back from my holiday in Spain
The opening Olympic ceremony for the London Olympics was absolutely first class. It is about time this great nation of ours showed the world what makes the British people great.
Back in September 1938, the then Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returned from meeting Hitler in Germany. He had in his hand a document signed by both men that the two countries would never go to war with each other and they would contribute to assure the peace of Europe. Within one year we were at war with Germany, just the same as all promises done by the infamous Hitler he was a complete liar. The British people had suffered many loss of life in the First World War as the many monuments in every City, Town and Village will testify. Following the war in the twenties, factories shut down and unemployment was rife, families throughout Britain suffered with poverty. During the thirties when the country was getting back to some normality, Hitler and his Nazi followers turned up.
In 1939 Great Britain was totally unprepared for war and by 1940 we stood alone in Europe. Hitler thought he would steam roll over the British people as he had done in Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Holland and France. How wrong he was. I am not a conservative, but lucky for Great Britain we had a new Prime Minister in Winston Churchill. Like him or like him not he was the right man for the dark days that lay ahead for the British people. Obviously the services had to be brought up to strength and indeed they were. I am going to write about the British People who were on the home front
In May 1940 Anthony Eden broadcast to the nation for civilians not eligible for the military services to join the Local Defence Volunteers later called the Home Guard. Although unpaid, over one and a half million had joined by June. Throughout the country these men when they returned home from work on various nights and week-ends they were put through their paces by Regular soldiers. Soon they became quite capable of being a rear guard action group. The sitcom Dad’s Army, which is good to watch, makes the Home Guard out to be a load of idiots of which they were not. One has to remember the overwhelming majority of the Home Guard, including the Officers and NCOs had fought in the First World War and some were still in their early forties. These brave men had known what war was all about and passed their knowledge onto the others. Whatever anyone wants to think, these men would have laid down their lives for their country, that is for sure.
There were millions of men in the country who were in reserved occupations. That means they were exempt from call up, because of their employment in factories that were on strategic work such as Engineers, boilermakers, coalminers etc. Many of the men who were in reserved occupations wanted to join up in the services, but they were quickly shown the door. The work they did in the factories was just important as the men in uniform. All men who were exempt from the forces had to enrol for other duties when off work such as ARP Wardens, Fire Watchers, Observers, Ambulance Drivers, Civil Defence. The list is endless, but they had to do it and they were in big trouble if they did not turn up to do their duty.
Women worked also in many factories and did sterling work throughout the war. They also worked in their own time at various jobs in the Women’s Voluntary Services, Civil Defence and Hospitals etc. The British housewife no doubt had the hardest job of all, bringing up their children during the war years when all food was rationed. They queued for everything in all weathers so that they could put food on the table, probably going short themselves in doing this. Some of the women had their husbands in the forces, some were war widows, they were all in it together come what may. The British women all those years ago were true heroes. They struggled and suffered during those dark days, but what is paramount they survived and brought up a new generation, who enjoyed a free world.
The people I have mentioned above are only a few of the people who have put the Great in Great Britain. We are only small in comparison to other countries, but we have something they haven’t. We are British and proud of it.
Alan

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