Discussion in 'Veteran Accounts' started by a well camel, Feb 17, 2011.

  1. These recollections are from talks with my father and are bookends so to speak. Hope they are informative. The italics are mine as is the *.

    In the Autumn of 1938 I was sent to a big house in Blackwell (well to do west –end of Darlington) to unpack and re-assemble furniture from large packing cases. They belonged to the Schmidt family, who were moving in. Mr Schmidt wasn’t there and his wife said he was still in Germany. She was a German Jew. I was there a few days putting the furniture together and listened to what was happening in her country. It all seemed wrong to me. I had wanted to go to sea from being a lad and this sort of pushed me into doing something. I asked about and ended up going up to Newcastle and getting papers to join the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.
    When I gave the papers to Henry (his dad) to sign, he tore them up and threw them on the fire. He had been in the first war. He said ‘Never volunteer for anything’ (He was a sniper with a Cheshire Bantam Reg, losing a lung in 1917-his second wound). I was looking for ways to get into the Navy but finally went down to the Drill Hall in April the next year and joined the T.A. They only needed me to sign.
    This entailed two nights a week, Tuesday and Thursday for two hours and some weekends. For this you got a £4 a year bounty, less boot polish. We learned to salute and to march, took part in parades and had talks. Stan and I had both passed our driving tests and after passing Mr Frank’s test we became designated drivers. The unit was split into various sections HQ, A, B (Cable) etc.
    We were issued a uniform, old style, kahki, with a peaked hat and leather Sam Brown with leather bandoleers that needed polishing. Later these were exchanged for a fore and aft tw*t hat and a battle-dress that smelled of moth-balls! Even so this was much better because there were no brass buckles and buttons to polish, just the cap badge. We were issued rifles and did rifle drill, but did not fire them until later on the range at the back of the Hall. These were .22, like an air-gun, not .303’s. Later we got Lee Enfields with webbed straps that had to be blanko’d. Bayonets were issued and then taken back. These were the big long type. We didn’t have bayonets until North Africa and those were the short ‘pig-stickers’.
    As well as the Sam Brown we had breeches with puttees, with tape that had to be blanko’d above the ankle. Originally we were issued lightweight black boots, but then got heavy stiff, studded ones which we polished and shined using an old bone.
    Other gear; big pack, small pack, webbed braces, pouches, water bottle...
    Big pack had two of socks, shirts, draws circular (cellular), braces, vests, and a groundsheet plus any personal gear.
    Small pack had toothbrush and powder, razor shaving stick and brush, hussiff (housewife - sewing kit), button stick, brush, blanko, mess-tin.
    Kit bag contained Great-coat, 2nd best uniform, and extra blanket.
    Gas mask on your chest and field dressing in battledress pocket.
    On Friday 1 September 1939 a despatch rider brought a note to the door. The typing read ‘report to the Drill Hall no later than’... and then written in was..’ immediately!’
    Embodied 2 September 1939 it say on my records. Driver, Royal Corp of Signals. 50th (Northumbrian) Division.
    I was detailed to draw D R kit and take a motor cycle down to Brussels. Cpt Potter needed the bike to get about and fix up pitches for football matches between’ Phantom’ and local teams. I only took the coat and the round hat, and I only handed the hat back in.
    We played the matches, went back to Baddenhausen and I held onto the coat. It had a big collar that buttoned across and a flap at the back that came up through your legs and up the front. Made you waterproof.
    When it came time to leave we were sent back in small groups. We were supposed to be inspected but by then things were pretty informal. Capt Potter came out and looked at my kit bag and said “What have you got in there?” I said “Personal items, Sir” and then added, “ Don’t open it up there’s a D R coat in there” He was alright was Potter, he just shook his head and said “You’ll never get that back”
    I took a train to Calais, a boat to Dover and the train north to be ‘de-mobbed’ at York station
    You could keep your Greatcoat, one uniform, shirt, socks, boots – well what you were dressed in, apart from any webbing. If you handed in the Greatcoat they gave you 30 bob extra.
    It was like Burtons! Blokes going around with tape measures round their necks. I got a grey pinstripe suit, a shirt, tie, trilby and a pair of brown shoes. The other thing was they called you Mister... Mister!
    So I became a Mister in February 1946.
    I had 111 days leave, worked out on time overseas, plus de-mob leave, so I was still drawing Army pay in June or July I think, if my memory serves. It was 8 bob a week when I went in and 35 bob when I came out, again if memory serves. Less stoppages of course, and there always seemed to be stoppages!
    The D R Coat? Sold it in 1953 with the Royal Enfield that I bought with part of my de-mob money.
    Paul Bradford and dbf like this.

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