Juno Beach, France to Germany
614 Road Constr. Company Royal Engineers. 13th Airfield Constr.
At the age of 18 years, along with three friends
I volunteered for the Army. We all three opted to join the Tank
Corps, but on receiving our papers were instructed to report to
No. 1. Infantry Training Depot at Bury St-Edmunds in Suffolk.
After completing our initial six weeks training
we were posted to 70th Battalion Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire
Regiment in Kings Lynn in Norfolk where we preceded to hone our
infantry skills. My friend John and I were in a street fighting
platoon where we were trained in house to house fighting, but most
of the time was spent in helping the local farmers with their harvests
of Flaxseed and Sugar Beet.
Having put up with this for three or four months
we were volunteering for everything that appeared on the Company
Notice Board but never got selected for anything. One day a notice
asked for volunteers to train as drivers in either the Royal Artillery
or the Royal Engineers, so I put down for the Royal Engineers and
was eventually transferred to the Royal Engineers and sent to No.
1.Motor Training Depot at Gibralter Barracks in Aldershot. Here
we were taught to drive all different types of vehicles, except
motorcycles. After two months very intensive training I passed all
my tests and was posted to 259 Field Company, Royal Engineers, in
Colchester in Essex.
This was in 1942 and the company was sent to Northern
Ireland where we spent a year training in building bridges, demolitions,
mine laying and mine clearance. In January 1944 we returned to England
and I was posted to 614 Road Construction Coy.Royal; Engineers in
the 13th Airfield Group where I was given an Albion Tank Transporter
to drive and promoted from Sapper to Lance-Corporal. These transporters
were used to transport all the equipment of the company that did
not move under it's own power.
In May of 1944 we moved from St. Leonards on Sea,
Sussex to Salisbury Plain to do all the waterproofing etc on our
vehicles for the coming invasion of France, although we did not
know this at the time. At the end of May we moved down to Lee on
Solent and eventually on the 4th June 1944 we loaded on to Tank
Landing Craft at Gosport, near Portsmouth ready for the invasion.
I landed on Juno beach on the morning of D-Day,
got stuck in the sand for about half-an-hour which was not a pleasant
experience, being shelled, shot at, mortared etc but managed to
get off the beach unscathed and made for our destination a place
called Coulombs. Between 6th June and 5th August 1944 the 13th Airfield
Group built air landing grounds and air strips at Coulombs, Lantheuil,and
Cristot. I am proud to say that during the entire Battle of Normandy
20 English/Canadian and 30 American airfields were constructed.
From Normandy when the breakout came on 20th August
we made for Lille Airport but on arriving were told to re-arm and
re-fuel as we were not stopping but had to keep going and eventually
I arrived in Brussels where we had to stop as our lines of communication
were getting very extended. We stayed in Brussels for about 10 days
and I made very good friends with a Belgian family and visited them
often during the war and once after the war.
From Brussels we went to Louvain.and then on the
Bourg - Leopold and then to Eindhoven and on to Helmond where we
were billeted in a monastryjust outside Helmond. Here we built a
large airstrip for the Rhine crossing. When the Rhine was crossed
we advanced over Germany and came across Belsen Concentration Camp,
something I will never ever forget, it was a terrible sight, how
people can do such things to other human beings I do not understand.
We were told to make for a place called Timmendorfer
Strand on the Baltic Coast of Germany near Travemunde and Lubeck.
When we arrived there the war in Europe ended and after being posted
to several other units I was eventually demobilised in December
1946. During the time from landing in Normandy and the end of the
wear I was slightly wounded twice and blown up once.
All the terrible times and tribulations we suffered
were more than compensated by the faces of the people of France,
Belgium and Holland when we liberated them from the Nazi's. It is
something I would not like to do again but I am glad I had the experience
and I feel that in my way I did just a little bit to free the peoples