The feature Page
of

Norman Prior
1st/5th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers
And

108th Regiment Royal Armoured Corps
(The Lancashire Fusiliers)


Norman Prior 1939


Norman Prior and his mate Tommy Barron was with 1/5th LF at Dunkirk.
Tommy was bitten by an adder at Roman Way Camp Colchester following Dunkirk, and died there.


Taken on 9th June 1940in the back yard
of a house in Bristol after being invited to Sunday Dinner. This was one
week after return from Dunkirk. Notice the state of that battle dress after
prolonged exposure to seawater. Likewise, the boots. Memories are made of
this.

Norman on the BBC Northwest tonight 30th June 2017

 

Dear Norman Prior

We are delighted to invite you and three guests to the World Premiere of Dunkirk at Leicester Square.

The premiere is in association with Contact, a charity supported by Prince Harry. Contact is a group of military charities working with the NHS and the MOD to support the mental wellbeing of the military community (see below for further information).

Prior to your attendance at the premiere, we are thrilled to advise that each Dunkirk veteran with one guest has been invited to afternoon tea with Prince Harry at Kensington Palace. Please find timings below:

Date: Thursday, 13th July
Location: Kensington Palace
Time: 4:30pm - 5:30pm
Transfer to Leicester Square

Location: Odeon Leicester Square for the World Premiere of Dunkirk
Arrival: 6:00pm
Guests seated by: 6:30pm
Film introduced: 7:15pm
Dress code: Smart

Following the screening you are invited to attend a drinks reception for filmmaker guests at the following address from approx 9:30pm:

2 Temple Place, London, WC2R 3BD

WB is happy to provide transportation for all the above - please do let us know if you would like us to book you a car.

For guests attending the premiere but not going to Kensington Palace, we will be serving afternoon tea at the Hampshire Hotel on Leicester Square. The hotel is a very short walk from the premiere. The veterans will be brought to the Hampshire to meet with their guests and can either walk the red carpet or take a shorter route to the premiere depending on mobility issues.

We are very happy for you to tell people you have been invited to the palace and to the premiere and ask that you please wait until after the premiere before sharing your thoughts on the film in order that we can protect the privacy of the veterans who attended the early screening.

If you do find you are receiving requests from the media, please do feel free to pass them on to us and we can handle on your behalf.

Please let us know if you are able to attend at the below number/address:

Angharad Janin
Email: Angharad.janin@wbconsultant.com
Tel: 020 7984 5300
Mobile: 07912 890 991

Dunkirk is directed by Christopher Nolan ("Interstellar," "Inception," "The Dark Knight" Trilogy) and stars Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D'Arcy and Barry Keoghan, with Kenneth Branagh ("My Week with Marilyn," "Hamlet," "Henry V"), Cillian Murphy ("Inception," "The Dark Knight" Trilogy), Mark Rylance ("Bridge of Spies," "Wolf Hall") and Tom Hardy ("The Revenant," "Mad Max: Fury Road," "Inception").

Please find below link to view the trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/user/warnerbrosuktrailers

Dunkirk will be released in cinemas across the UK on 21st July.

CONTACT:
Contact is a group of military charities (Help for Heroes, Combat Stress, Walking with the Wounded and The Royal British Legion) and other entities including Big White Wall, King's College London and Royal College of Psychiatrists working with the NHS and the MOD. Our aim is to simplify the way the military community can find support with their mental wellbeing. Through its website www.contactarmedforces.org.uk, Contact has created a space where those seeking assistance for themselves or a loved one are able to quickly access, easily navigate, and simply find the support they need.

Norman did not go as it may take to much out of him

Congratulations to Norman Prior, one of our Lancashire Fusilier veterans. He has been honoured by the French Government for the part he played in the Liberation of France in WW2.
Well Done Norman even if its a little late

From the Manchester Evening News by Paul Britton

Veteran Norman Prior, 96, awarded France's highest decoration for bravery in recognition of Dunkirk heroics
Norman becomes a Chevalier in the Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur

He risked his life as a young soldier to help liberate France from Nazi occupation.

Now more than 70 years on, veteran Norman Prior, 96, has finally received the recognition he so richly deserves from the country he fought to protect.

He & rsquo;s been awarded France & rsquo;s highest decoration for bravery, becoming a Chevalier in the Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur - and branded a hero.

The honour was personally recommended by French President Francois Hollande and equates to the title of knight. It’s the highest distinction in an order of chivalry created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802.

In a letter to Norman, France & rsquo;s ambassador to the UK, Sylvie Bermann, thanked him for his ‘steadfast involvement’ in the Second World War. She added: & ldquo;As we contemplate this Europe of peace, we must never forget the heroes like you, who came from Britain and the Commonwealth to begin the liberation of Europe by liberating France. We owe our freedom and security to your dedication, because you were ready to risk your life.”

Norman, who lives in Middleton, is a former president of the Manchester branch of the Dunkirk Veterans Association. He served as a Fusilier with the 1st 5th Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers having joined at the age of 20 in 1939.

Norman was 21 and had only been in France for eight weeks when he found himself hemmed in on the beaches at Dunkirk alongside tens of thousands of his comrades.

Letter from the French Embassy

He recalls being camped on the Belgium border then being ordered to retreat to protect bridges and aerodromes from the threat of German paratroopers before his unit was switched to Tournai then Dunkirk.

Norman, a grandfather and great-grandfather, said: “We did not know the names of all the towns and places. We would always only move at night. We had been fighting rearguard actions across France and we were 30 miles outside Dunkirk when the evacuation began.

“There were so many people. I never thought I would get on a boat. I remember there being fishing boats loaded with men and making makeshift piers. I remember one night walking on the beach with another chap because we couldn’t sleep when a small boat came ashore.

“We rowed the boat out to sea in the hope of finding a ship and suddenly this huge black shape materialised in front of us. It was a destroyer.”

Norman went on to serve in North Africa and Italy with the King’s Own Hussars regiment during the war.

Friends at the Fusiliers Association in Bury recommended Norman for the honour.

He added: “I am please and proud. I feel that I have not been forgotten and that people are still remembering.”




this photo was taken at Newbury Race course
Click on photo to enlarge it

Reflections on The Past

It was said that during the years between 1930 and 1939, a man joined the Regular Army because he was considered to be a complete drop-out from Society.

This is far from the truth however, because first of all you must remember that during these years, there were no DHSS Handouts as we know them today, and with unemployment in the order of 30% of the working population, most of the workers were trying to exist on some 10 shillings a week, in terms of today's value this would be 50 pence.

You have only to look at the living conditions being experienced by the Welsh Miners and the workers in heavy industries of the North during these years to understand the squalid conditions in which they were forced to live.
Indeed, these conditions motivated some thousands of these workers to march to London as the "JARROW MARCHERS" in an attempt to prod the government into providing employment. Needless to add, the Government did nothing.

Hitler had the same unemployment problem when he came to power in 1933 and promptly solved the problem by initiating a massive Public Works Programme, and as we were to learn to our cost, an equally massive re-armament programme.

In England we did nothing to solve the problem. Infact, it took a declaration of war, in 1939, to solve it by simply introducing Conscription into the Armed Forces., for all suitable men and women and directing the rest into War Work.

During the 1930s, a boy in so called working class was expected to leave school when he was 14 years of age, in order to seek employment to supplement the family income.
This was bad luck for a boy with an aptitude for further education, because; regardless of the fact that he could be awarded a Scholarship to attend the local Grammar School, in no way could the family afford the extra expense involved.

As far as the girls were concerned, it was expected they would enter into "Service", which of course, meant drudgery, in the full sense of the word. Involving the waiting on, hand and foot, on the more fortunate "Gentry".
The alternative was to obtain employment as waitress or shop assistant. With these facts in mind, jobs for boys such as errand boys and other similar dead end jobs were reasonably available, but at the age of 18 years, when he might reasonably expect an increase in his wage packet, he in turn, was thrown out of work and into the dole queue.

It was only natural, therefore, that young men looked to the Regular Army as a means to provide three square meals a day. A spending allowance of some 10 shillings a week, with clothing and accommodation thrown in for luck. Also the means to provide the opportunity to visit all parts of the world. Such travel would normally be completely out of his reach.

Having decided that Service in the Regular Army could provide a better and more exciting life-style compared to what he could expect by remaining in civilian life, the next question was how and where to enlist.

In all big towns in the UK, were Territorial Army Drill Halls, staffed by a Regular Army Soldier, Usually a Sergeant Serving in his local County Regiment. This soldier was not only the custodian of all the military hardware in the Drill Hall, But combined these duties with that of a Recruiting Sergeant. You therefore arranged an interview with him and made known your wish to be accepted into the Regular Army.

At this first interview, you would probably be asked to apply for enlistment in the Brigade of Guards Regiment. The breason for this is the fact that he would receive a higher Recruitment Fee. If you were accepted for Service in a Guards Regiment. Unfortunately for him, however, the majority of potential recruits could not provide the high physical standard required by these regiments. Particularly the height requirement.

You were therefore faced with the problem of which Unit to apply for. Armoured, Signals Etc.There was also the problem that you may not possess the necessary qualifications to enable you to be accepted into a specialised Unit. As an added problem, not all the Units would be recruiting at this particular time. This could mean that taking all these factors into account, you could well be persuaded to enlist in your local; county regiment, which of course would be an Infantry Regiment.

After all this hassle, you sat back, to await a letter from the Regimental Depot for a medical examination and future documentation. On receipt of this letter, you would prepare yourself for your first experience in the Regular Army.
In the case of a boy, being 14 years of age, and wishing to enlist as a boy musician, the case was slightly different in that he would first require his parent's permission to enlist.

He would also have to satisfy the Bandmaster of his selected Regiment, that he was sufficiently educated to enable him to become a skilled musician. Care would also be exercised in selecting such boys for enlistment, in that he would require uniforms to be made for his particular size and special facilities would have to be made available for his welfare.

On arrival at the entrance to the Regimental Depot, you marched down the driveway in what you considered to be a most soldier like attitude, to be confronted by an immaculately dressed soldier.

From his Cap Badge to his Boots, everything was polished and gleaming. Needless to add, he took not the slightest notice in my arrival.
At this stage, I was yet to learn that a soldier on sentry duty was only interested in anything that looked to be Officer Material crossing his path, in which case, he would be galvanised into action and slap his rifle with consummate ease, to perform the appropriate salute. The Officer would then return the salute with a flip of his cane to his cap. Such is the way of Officer Material when dealing with other ranks. The soldier was not going to afford me such respect, however, and would certainly not invite the wrath of the Regimental Sergeant Major by talking.
You therefore entered the Orderly Room, which was staffed by equally smart soldiers; all dressed in their best uniforms, and made known the fact that in accordance with instructions, you had arrived to form part of their illustrious regiment.

After looking at you as if you were something the cat had brought in, regardless of the fact that you were wearing your best 50/- shilling Taylor's blue suit, complete with turnips. The Orderly Room Sergeant would detail a soldier to escort you to a barrack room containing some twentfour iron framed beds. On each bed would be stacked three Biscuits (Not the edible type) but Hessian filled squares which served as a mattress, three blankets and two sheets, uttering the ominous words, "sooner you than me mate". The soldier would then tell you to stand by for future orders.

During the next few hours, there would be further recruits arriving at the Depot until there were some twenty-four, nervous potential soldiers assembled in the barra ck room, all of whom had received the same reception as you.

In retrospect, I was to learn that this number of recruits would form a training squad and each squad would be named after a particular Battle Honour awarded to the regiment. It is also true to say, that each squad of potential soldiers, would represent all walks of life. Be it tinker, tailor soldier, sailor, rich man, beggar man and thief…
All these recruits would be wandering around the barrack room, asking questions of each other and wondering if they had done the right thing in joining the army.

The next phase would be for all twenty-four recruits to be directed to the medical Officer for a medical and dental examination. This examination would be fairly stringent, and particular regard would be given to eyesight and feet, which were possibly the most important medical requirement for a soldier serving in an Infantry Regiment. A recruit who required glasses to read, or suffered from flat feet, would not be accepted for the Service.

After this medical and dental examination you would report back to the Orderly Room to accept what was known as the "King's Shilling", which committed you, body and soul, for seven years with the Colours and five years Service with the Reserves.
So came the saying, which all soldiers had said at sometime in their Service, "Roll on My Seven".

All recruits would now report to the barrack room to find that in their absence, they had been allocated, A Full Sergeant, A Lance Sergeant and a Lance Corporal, all of whom had been detailed to act as their instructors for the next six months until they had completed their basic training at the Depot.

As soon as you had been introduced to the Sergeant, the introduction took the form of a bellow to "Get Fell In". You proceeded to the hairdresser for your first experience of an Army Haircut. This was a very simple matter of running the clippers up and over the crown of your head, after which, with any luck, you might be left with a slight bristle on top. It is true to say that many a recruits' vanity was left on the floor of the hairdressing saloon.
After this experience, you proceeded to the Quartermaster's Stores, to be issued with your webbing equipment and clothing, together with all the accoutrements which made up your army gear,
This session was an example of efficiency, never seen before, or since. You would be issued with a kit-bag and with a stentorian voice; the quartermaster would call out each item as it was issued. Eg.Kit-bag, soldiers for the use of, "One". As you shambled along the counter, stuffing clothes into your kit-bag as it was issued…

Eventually you came to the end of the counter, and then, to add insult to injury, you were expected to sign for this lot, regardless of the fact that you did not know precisely what you were signing for. The only pause in this programme would be to inquire the size of your head, and on reply, an S.D. Cap, jammed on it. (With of course), Soldiers for the Use Of, ONE. If the size was wrong and it came over your ears, the whole conveyor system would slide to a halt, much to the disgust of the quartermaster.

After all this drama you would creep back to the barrack room in order to unload all this military hardware and clothing onto your bed, and to wonder where it all fitted and where it went. This pause was not to last however, because you now had to assemble all your equipment and learn how to fold all your clothing and bedding in preparation for the morning inspection by The Orderly Officer.

With this in mind, the L/Corporal Instructor would come into his own and detail all recruits to look at all his equipment clothing and bedding which had been assembled as a demonstration module and to inform all their kits would be equally immaculate for the morning inspection, or else.The inspection by Orderly Officer the following morning would be the first chance to sort out the wheat from the chaff, because however hard they tried, some recruits just could not master the art of general cleanliness and to maintain their belongings in the manner expected by the army.

This is when army discipline would first begin to be applied, because no excuse would be tolerated for what, in the Army "Jargon", would be called, "slovenly behaviour". In fact, the army had a name for just about everything you could commit. When all else failed, you could be charged with "Dumb Insolence". You just could not win. The simple answer was of course, to keep out of trouble as much as you possibly could.

To arrange your belongings for the morning inspection, you would first of all, telescope the two parts of your metal bed into one. Then place your three biscuits on top of each other and stack them at the rear of the bed. You then would then fold two of your blankets and fold two folded sheets between the blankets, and finally encircle them with the third blanket. The resulting package would look very much like a Liquorice Allsorts. This would then be placed on top of the stacked biscuits.

Your webbing equipment would be completely assembled and suspended by the shoulder straps, hung on the two protruding pegs fitted to the wall behind the bed. The equipment would then be opened up flat against the wall by means of a length of wood behind the webbing belt.
Your walking out cane would be inserted through the bayonet frog and placed over the two pegs, enabling your bayonet to be suspended in the centre of your equipment.

Bolted to the wall behind the bed would be a cupboard containing your belongings and on top of this cupboard would be your mess tin, encircled by your white belt… Suspended on a coat hanger on the side of the cupboard would be your spare tunic and greatcoat.
Standing in a wooden shoe next to your bed would be a br4ass plate, proclaiming to all and sundry, your name and army number.

All equipment, brasses and buttons would need to be polished every morning in order to pass the scrutiny of the Orderly Officer at the morning inspection. As far as cleanliness of the barrack room was concerned, each recruit would be responsible for the immediate area around his bed and a Roster would be maintained, appointing each recruit a specific task is it cleaning Ablutions, Fireplace, Windows or centre part of the barrack room floor. The floor would be highly polished by means of a hefty piece of iron work with bristles, called a "Bumper". This was a lethal piece of ironwork because it was not unknown, when swinging it in a rhythmic manner across the barrack room floor, for the operator to lose control with disastrous results for anyone in its path.

By the end of your first day's training, you would have learned that recruits joining the regular army would have originated from all walks of life and from all parts of the United Kingdom.
In any particular squad under going training you would hear accents from the Highlands of Scotland. The Geordie accents of the north, to the cockney mimicry of London and the lilting accents of the Welsh valleys.

You would also have learned that the army had a fascinating habit of referring to a soldier by a nickname as distinct from his proper name, for example. A Smith would become known as Smudger. A soldier named White would become Chalky. Equally, a Bell would become Dinger. A tall soldier, Lofty and a short soldier, Shorty. Needless to add that a soldier from Ireland would be Paddy. If a soldier did not have a name that readily lent itself to a nickname, but was a bit ungainly, he would become known as Hoppy. In the case of recruits serving for, example in a Welsh Regiment, there might be several of them answering to the name of Jones. In such a case it was practice to identify each particular soldier by the last two numerals of his Regimental Number, E. G. Jones 60. It would follow his nickname would become 60.
.
The terminology of a recruit would now begin to include foreign sayings and words, which had been picked up by years of Service by the British Army in all parts of the Empire. His "Bond hook" would mean his rifle. "Possee" would mean, jam. "Panni", water. "Chai", Tea. "Dhobi", would mean his washing and so on. It was in fact, a language of its own.

He would be learning that Regiments would have their own particular nickname. The 11th Hussars were the "Cherry Pickers" because one group had been captured in an orchard during the peninsular war. From their long Service in Ireland, the 4th Dragoons Guards were the, "Mounted Micks" and the 9th Hussars, The Dheli Spearmen.
Leading the Infantry of the Line came the Guards of the Grenadiers, "The Coal Heavers". The Cold stream Guards, "The Nulli Secundus". The Scots, "The Jocks" and The Irish, "Bobs Own", because Lord Roberts had been their Commanding Officer
From the battle of Athera, where the Commanding Officer of The Middlesex Regiment had exhorted his men die Hard, The Regiment became known as "The Die Hards"The Seaforth Highlanders, from their cap badge, were simply known as "The Kingsmen"
From their initials, The Duke of Cornwalls Light Infantry were the "Docs". From their original number The Suffolk Regiment were known as "The Old Dozen".
Sadly, a number of these old Regiments have now been disbanded or amalgamated into other Units.

After your first night at the barracks, you would be awakened at 0630 hours by the strident notes of the bugle sounding Reveille, Indeed all your future duties and activities in the army would first be heralded by a particular bugle call. There would be a call for every occasion, be it getting up in the morning to lights out at night.
Over the years, soldiers have concocted certain ribald words to suit each particular call. Some of the more well known words would be, "Come to the Cookhouse Door Boys, Come to the Cookhouse Door", or possibly "Fall in A, fall in B, fall in Every Company".
One of the lesser well known calls would take the form of, "You can be on Jankers as long as you like, so long as you answer the call".
Each bugle call would be prefixed by a particular sequence of notes, peculiar to each Regiment.
This, no doubt, originated from the time when Regiments were billeted close together and it was necessary to determine for which Unit the call was intended. If there were no Regimental call, all and sundry would be rushing to answer the call with the resultant chaos.

As soon as Reveille had sounded, the Orderly Sergeant would burst into the barrack room, extolling all to get out of bed. One recruit would then be detailed to proceed to the cookhouse in order to collect a pale of tea, called, "Gunfire", which all recruits would gratefully swallow whilst they feverishly attended to their kit in preparation for the morning inspection. You would then line up in the ablution block for a vacant wash bowl, in order to have a wash and shave. This could be a particularly onerous task because no hot water would be available for shaving and all your ablutions had to be completed in freezing cold water.

All this preparation had to be completed by 0730 hours, because at this time you had to parade for physical training, dressed in shorts and gym shoes.

This parade would finish at 0800 hours; you would then have to rush back to the barrack room to change into fatigue dress and to parade at the cookhouse for breakfast. This meal would generally consist of porridge followed by fried egg or sausage, together with bread and margarine, and tea.
The system of messing would be for twelve soldiers to be seated, six a side of a long trestle type table.
The two soldiers at the end of the table would act as mess orderlies, and would be responsible for the collection and distribution of the meal. As an example, the orderly would collect a tray of fried eggs and he would then divide this ration into twelve portions for distribution to each soldier. Needless to add, that ten pairs of eyes would be watching very carefully, .the fairness and the calculation of each portion.
At the end of the meal, the Orderly Officer, attended by the Orderly Sergeant, would inquire at every table, if there were any complaints relating to the cooking of the meal.
It made little difference if in fact a complaint was made because the Orderly Officer would then daintily taste a portion of the food and would express his delight at the quality.

When you were first issued with your clothing and equipment, all these items would have been completely new, and as a result, would need to be cleaned and pressed to a very high standard.
The first skill to be mastered would be that of "Blancoiing" your equipment. This task would first of all require you to strip all equipment of brass work, then to place the webbing straps etc, on a flat surface. You would then use a flat brush to paint the straps etc, with a khaki coloured paste, called "Blanco". The end product should result in a matt khaki coloured finish to all your equipment.

The brass work would now be highly polished and fitted to the equipment. The whole operation could well have taken a couple of hours of dirty work. Furthermore, this operation might have to be repeated every time your equipment was used.

The art of blancoing was a skill not always achieved by every soldier, some of whom could never attain the even matt finish required. In such cases, it was not unknown, for a soldier, more skilled, to undertake this work on his behalf for a small remuneration.

Your overcoat and tunic would have been issued with general service type buttons. These would have to be removed and replaced by a Regimental type peculiar to each Unit. With this in mind, every soldier would have been issued with a cloth wallet, containing needle and cotton, referred to as a "housewife". It was quite entertaining to watch a soldier undertaking this task, because it was more than likely to be the first time he had ever sewn a button on in his life.

Sometimes it was possible to obtain a set of buttons from a time expired soldier for the princely sum of one shilling. This would save hours of work, which would otherwise be necessary to achieve a high polish.

Your boots would be considered things of beauty, for you could see recruits spending endless hours of toil, using all sorts of theories such as a hot spoon to remove the pimples found on the toecaps of his new boots. The end result would be a mirror-like finish to his footwear. It was nothing to see a recruit fidgeting about on a drill parade in the attempt to stop a fool scraping his toe caps with a rifle butt.

The chin strap of your SD Cap would also require a mirror-like finish, with of course, the brass "D" piece, which altered the length, always being on the right.
Finally, your cap badge and collar insignia, commonly called, "Collar Dogs" would need to be highly polished, both front and back

Your Service Dress Tunic would have to be altered by the depot tailor to ensure a perfect fit, but the recruit would still be required to keep the Tunic well pressed with particular regard for a crease down the back. Intelligently called a "bum freezer".

By this time, recruit training would have started in earnest, with a syllabus covering, education, physical traing and map reading.
With regard to education, this aspect of training would be supervised by a Sergeant, seconded from the Army Education Corps and the whole subject would be divided into three examination levels. .

The primary level was called a third class certificate. And would require a pass standard in arithmetic and Regimental history. It is interesting to note that, a recruit would not be allowed to graduate from the depot until this examination had been passed.
The next level was called second class certificate and would probably be equal today's "O" level. Maths and English You would need to pass this examination before being considered for promotion.

The final level was a first class certificate. This examination would probably be equal to that of today's GCE "A" level in Maths and English, but would also a proficiency in a second language. You would be required to pass this examination before promotion to a Warrant Officer Rank.
Physical traini8ng was under the direction of a Sergeant, Seconded from The Army Physical Traing Corps. And would consist, in general, of normal exercise movements.

The Army was however, very keen on promoting Sport. In any shape or form, and considerable emphasis was placed on this aspect of training.
If any recruit showed promise in a particular sport, he would be given every opportunity for further training and, with this in mind, he would also be excused all fatigues,

Considerable emphasis was placed on Foot and Rifle Drill. There were reasons for this, because after spending months and possibly years of training on the Square, A Soldier would obey a command instantly and without question. This obedience would stand him in good stead in time of war, when hesitance in obeying a command could well jeopardise the safety of not only him but other soldiers relying on his actions.

In order to maintain some measure of unison with each other when performing a drill movement, each recruit would shout out the timing of the movement. With several Squads Drilling at the same time, it could be bedlam when a recruit was learning the art of Foot and Arms Drill; there were certain hazards to be mastered.

The first might be related to the command , "Fix Bayonets", at which command, amongst other things, the recruit was expected to secure his bayonet on the end of his rifle by means of a small spring operated plunger. The snag was, however, that you were not allowed to look downwards at the rifle to ensure that all was well and truly secured. If this was not the case , the next time you "Sloped Arms", the bayonet would make a beautiful arc into the rear rank of soldiers, resulting in unprintable remarks from the Drill Instructor.

The second hazard might also be related to the command, "Right Form". This was a highly complicated manoeuvre at the best of times and when being executed by inexperienced recruits, the results could be disastrous.
This manoeuvre, the right hand man to give a ninety degree turn to his right, take two steps forward and remain Marking Time.
The remainder of the squad would make a half right turn and pick up the dressings on the left,
If the right hand soldier botched it up however, you would be faced with soldiers wandering all over the Square and wondering if it was best to go home…

Weapon training would consist mainly of achieving a high standard of proficiency with the Lee Enfield Rifle. You would be taught to shoot accurately by following the doctrine, "Get the Tip of The Foresight in line and in the centre of the U of the Back sight. Sights thus aligned Focus" the Mark. You would also be expected to fire ten rounds in one minute, with reasonable accuracy.

The highlight of this training would be a visit to the Rifle Range in order to calibrate the Sights of his Rifle.
The rifle itself would be clean on all occasions and would be what the army called," Clean, Bright and Slightly Oiled".

It is true to say, that a soldier seemed to spend all his spare time with a "Pull Through" and lashings of material referred to as , "Four by Two"in an attempt to keep his rifle clean at all times. To accuse a soldier of having a dirty rifle, was a crime only slightly removed from murder.

Weapon training would also include the use of automatic weapons, such as the Bren and Vickers Machine Gun.
As a soldier was to learn to his cost, no provision was made for training with "Anti Tank weapons.

The best the army could do in this field was a two pounder Anti-tank Gun, manned by the Royal Artillery. This weapon was, however completely outclassed by the famous Eighty-eight Millimetre Anti-tank Gun used by the German army.
On the outbreak of war in 1939, there was a vicious implement called "A Boyes Anti-tank Rifle", issued to Infantry Units.

When this gun was fired, however, it would either break your shoulder with the recoil or land you flat on your back. Needless to say that if you ever hit an armoured fighting vehicle with this weapon, the round would bounce off. It was therefore the ambition of every soldier to dump his weapon at the first opportunity. , .
The army attached a great deal of importance to the question of religion and, with this fact in mind; there would be a Church Parade every Sunday morning. Other than soldiers performing essential duties, everyone would be detailed to attend this Parade. It would be no use trying to escape this Parade by pretending you were an Atheist because you would still be detailed to attend and then told to wait outside until the Service was finished, before marching back to the Depot with the rest of the troops. It was also true to say that this was the only Parade when you would see troops crawling out of the woodwork, many of whom would vanish equally as fast when the Parade was dismissed, not to be seen again until the next Sunday.
Dress for this Parade would be your Best Uniform, White Belt, Bayonet and Walking O Stick.
It would be a full scale parade, complete with Band and Drums, with all the Pomp and Ceremony that only the army can present on these occasions.
All Officers would be present on this parade complete with the Adjutant on his Horse. It must have been a sight worth seeing, because any number of civilians would line the route in order to watch the proceedings…

During his training at the depot, the whole outlook and bearing of a recruit would have changed sp much that even if he was to wear civilian clothes, his upright stance and arm movement would make him instantly recognisable as a Serving Regular Soldier.

However, there is still no doubt that, regardless of the fact, the present day soldiers enjoy the advantages of a better type material for their clothing and stay bright metal for their buttons and badges, coupled with plastic type equipment, requiring very little cleaning. The Pre-war soldier was equal if not smarter in appearance and bearing than his present day counterpart.

It was regrettable, however, that some recruits would not be able to accept the discipline of the regular army and would have, "Gone Over The Wall" and deserted. If he were caught, such a crime would result in severe punishment.

The next phase in the progress of a soldier would be a Posting to a Regular Battalion of his Regiment and then to undertake specialised training in Signals, Driving, etc. Who knows, he might be offered promotion to the dizzy heights of Lance Corporal…

************************************ . .

The 'victory' of the little ships
Don Frame

HERO: Norman Prior

Second World War.
The Victory of The Little Ships.

It has been described as the worst defeat suffered by British Forces during the Second World War. But the evacuation of Dunkirk was also something of a Miraculous Victory.

Over the course of ten days, the Royal Navy, along with a flotilla of small vessels famously known as "the little ships" rescued thousands of battle-weary soldiers from the French beaches in the face of hostile fire.

By the end of Operation Dynamo - 64 years ago tomorrow - 350,000 troops had been evacuated, enabling the Allies to continue the war with Nazi Germany.

Retired works director Norman Prior, President of the Manchester Dunkirk Veterans Association was among them. And as the Nation remembers D-Day Norman and his comrades recall their feelings during a week they will never forget.

A 21-year-old fusilier with the Lancashire Fusiliers, Norman had only been in France a little over eight weeks when he found himself, along with tens of thousands of his comrades, hemmed in on the beaches at Dunkirk.

"There were so many people, I never thought I would get on a boat" he admits.

YOUNG SOLDIER: Norman in uniform

"And never for a second did I think we would be going home. We assumed we were simply being moved further down the coast to renew the fighting. "We lined up trucks in the water, filled them with sandbags and then laid planks across to act as a makeshift jetty to get the lads out into deeper water," he said.

"It wasn't too successful however, and we got most of them away by loading the boats in the shallows then wading out chest-deep into the sea to push them away from the beach.

"It was exhausting work, and we were both hungry and thirsty, but we did that umpteen times." One dark night he helped row a collapsible boat carrying a dozen men half a mile out to sea in the hope of finding a ship to take them.

"It was back-breaking" he said. "We hadn't a clue where we were going, but suddenly this huge black shape materialised in front of us: a destroyer."

Now aged 84, a grandfather and great grandfather, he recalls: "We hadn't had a square meal in days.

"I was with a Bren carrier crew in the Fifth Battalion. We had been fighting rearguard actions across France, and we were 30 miles outside Dunkirk when the evacuation began on May 26th.

Click on Photo to enlarge it

"Our last meal had been simple cheese and biscuits which one of the lads managed to find on a foraging mission at a town where we stopped."

Hear Norman Talk about the Evacuation on,
http://menmedia.co.uk/manchestereveningnews/news/s/118/118675_the_victory_of_the_little_ships.html

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Chapter 3
Arrival in Co. Durham
June 1940

Following our return from Dunkirk and our short stay in Bristol we rejoined the Regiment which was spread in various locations around Ushaw Moor Co. Durham and then to Wolsingham with My Company, (HQ) in a large house on a large estate. Harpurley Hall, with the river Wear a few hundred yards away where some of use to a swim in the afternoon but only for a short time as we had to move off to a new area.
The next step was to be re equipped and retrained.

My clothing was almost threadbare from our time in France and being soaked in sea water, so a complete new set was issued by the QM from a warehouse in Durham which we found out later was infested with lice. Not having experienced lice before we thought the itching was caused by the newness of the clothing and carried on scratching.

Seventy-two hours leave was granted and a special train lay on to the Manchester area. Early in the trip and still suffering the itching it was quite funny to see everyone having a little scratch. We stripped off to check but again our lack of experience led nowhere.

When I arrived home my mother saw me having a quiet scratch and said, have you got something on you? Of course I said no, had a meal, a good wash and change of clothes. My mother inspected the uniform and was shocked at the lice she found. Without further ado, she put the clothes in a bucket and covered the lot with paraffin.

I went with Dad to the club and on our return was invited to view the bucket of clothes which had a layer of dead lice floating on the top. Then came the washing to remove the smell of paraffin. When dry a lot of the colour had come out with the lice. However, I did extend my seventy-two hours to seven days and did my seven days "Confined to Barracks" (Jankers) as punishment. It appeared almost everyone else had done the same.

Mid July and the next move was to Matfen Hall, Matfen, in Northumberland on foot, Marching off at about 9-30/10pm and Marched through the night, a distance of 38 miles with all Kit.
Matfen was a very small village with one pub and a church. Life seemed to be dominated by Matfen Hall.

Bell Tents had been erected by the advance party who had gone by road, and after a meal we were allowed the pleasure of a few hours rest.

Training restarted and included practicing rapid deployment to intercept expected German Paratroops. Coaches were commandeered for quick movement of troops, this included embossing and debussing in the fastest possible time.

Night Guards included "Lookouts" from the Clock Tower of the Church. This kept us awake as the clock chimed each quarter hour and on the hour. We helped to improve the sound by hitting the church bell with our Rifle Butt as the Hammer came down on the Bell on the hour stroke. That made the villagers cross with us if it happened late in the night.

I never went into the pub, just could not afford to. One reason was that even though we had not been paid before and during The Evacuation from Dunkirk the "Records of Accounts", IMPRESS had not caught up with us so we could only have the basic weekly pay and in my case, from my pay of 14 shillings per week, I allotted 7 shillings home each week which left me with only 7 shillings (35 pence).

The Carrier Platoon moved about two miles to Great Whittington, reputed to be the original home of Tom Wittington or was it Dick Wittington and his cat. some of us on the floor of the, by this time, disused small Methodist school or Chapel. Others were in the stables of a small farm across the road and where there were facilities to house the few vehicles we had. The chapel itself was still used for Sunday evening Service.

On the first Sunday we heard the Organ start playing for the Service, after a quick discussion four of us went to join them on the back row.
We were given a warm welcome and hymn books.

It was the best decision we could have made because apart from enjoying the service we were invited by a farmer's family to go with them for the evening meal. On arrival at the farm we found the large kitchen table already set out with an array of home made farm food we had not seen in a long time. They were lovely people, helpful and generous with an invitation for the following week…
It was not to last.

2nd August we moved to the area around Newcastle. With the Battalion spread in Throckley, Walbottle, Newburn and Heddon on the wall.
The Carrier Platoon was in Westerhope, a small mining village with a pub, a club and a cinema which changed the film twice each week.

Our billet was one of a semi detached house belonging to two brothers and a sister who had a Pie making factory in Gateshead. Their business had actually started in the house we occupied and a very large oven, almost up to the ceiling high, was still there.
We had rations sent from the QMs store and one or other was detailed to be the cook but again we were lucky, because each night the brothers would return home from the factory with a tray full of pies for us.

12th September
We moved to Northallerton in North Yorkshire under canvas.
On the first Sunday, four of us went by 15cwt truck to Newcastle station to collect two new Bren carriers and return with them to Northallerton.
On arrival back in camp, we found the main body had already left for the railway station to put the existing Carriers on the Railway Flats for transporting to Newbury in Berkshire because of the threat of German Invasion. ( The German Code word, Operation Sea Lion) .

The great Invasion Scare came then, the code name CROMWELL was received. Within a few hours the Battalion had packed all stores and entrained for an unknown destination.
The few of the rearguard left to close the camp gave us the message that should we arrive back before the train departed we must go and join the other Carriers at the railway station. If we were too late for that, we must make our own way by road to Newbury. Someone had their wires crossed as that message was not strictly true. But who cares, a journey so far by road sounded fine.

The two Sgts in charge of us decided that we would travel via Bury and Ramsbottom where most of the crew lived. During the journey, the Ford V8 engine of one Carrier stopped and we realised that we would have to switch over to the reserve fuel tank.
It would not start so the Sgt decided to "Prime it by putting some petrol down the carburettor, Some petrol was spilled and the engine caught fire, from a short from the Spark Plug, fortunately the fire extinguishers were effective and we were soon on our way again. We arrived in Bury early on the Monday morning and I was instructed to have a few days at home outside Wigan and I would be picked up on Wednesday about 5pm.This was too good to miss.

They duly arrived on time , Stayed for about an hour drinking, chatting and we gave the children rides on the Carriers. Demonstrating the capability of both the carriers and the drivers.
We set off on our journey to Newbury complete with sandwiches and beer.

The journey was quite eventful when one carrier ran out of fuel and the other carrier found an army depot and succeeded in obtaining a two gallon can of petrol but the Sgt had to stay behind as hostage until the petrol can was returned.
Air raids were encountered as we travelled through the Midlands but nothing serious.

15th Sept 1940
On arrival on Newbury racecourse, the Sgts were called into the C.O.s Office to give an account of what had happened. One Sgt was reduced to Corporal and the rest of us back to normal duties.

The visit to Newbury in September was much more enjoyable than in Jan 1940 during the big freeze. Our billet was under the Grand Stand, still on the floor. Was much more comfortable than the freezing horse boxes we occupied on our previous visit.
Our roll was to prepare for the expected German invasion. (Operation Sealion), so everyone was on full alert.

We spent a few happy months here until the whole of the 42nd Division's next move in November, to East Anglia on coastal defence with the Battalion spread out in Southwold, Walberswick, Dunwich, Bulcamp and Halesworth. The 1/5 Battalion were in Southwold in Suffolk where the Duke of York's Annual Camp for boys was previously held.

Battalion HQ was at St Felix School for Young Ladies. There were no young ladies there then of course as most of the population had been evacuated. The QM's Stores was at Bulcamp, (In the Workhouse) along with the Carrier Platoon. The Rifle Companies were based along the coast at Southwold, Walberswick and Dunwich.

This was an ideal situation for the Carrier Platoon who at night time was responsible for Guard Duties. The cookhouse acted as Guard Room and it was next to the QM's Store so it was an easy matter to break into the QM's store to get extra rations during the night and have a Fry Up between spells on guard. (Two hours on, four hours off.)

All our moves were for Home or Coastal Defence so it was always important to be at state of alert and ready to move at a moments notice.

In all cases the beaches were mined and barbed wire entanglements in place except for designated places left clear for access.
We stayed there until the End of February 1941 then moved to Roman Way Camp near Colchester. This was well equipped with new wooden huts built originally for the Militia in 1939.
It had a very large Square for Parades and garages around the perimeter where we were able to do maintenance on the carriers and trucks.

In May 1941 we moved again, this time to Clacton on Sea in Essex. Again on Coastal Defence. The night before we arrived there was a heavy air raid but everywhere was fairly peaceful during our stay.
The Billets were very good .Most of the troops were in evacuated Boarding Houses on the sea front.
Commandeered by the Army
The Carrier platoon billeted in a house which had been evacuated. A large civilian garage was also vacant so was used for the Bren Carriers. For PT one morning, someone had the bright idea of going into the sea for a swim, after all it was May.
We wended our way through the gaps in the barbed wire defences onto the sands and all made a dash into the sea. We came out faster than we went in. It was ice cold so we returned to the billet quickly to get warmed up. Back to PT.

It wasn't to last, in June 1941 after only a month there the Battalion moved to a place called " Duke's Ride" ,near Thetford, Norfolk. We were under canvas over a dry pit about three feet deep, in a large forest. miles from anywhere. This was another of those out of the way places that the army were good at finding.

The weather was very hot and dry; everything was covered in a thick layer of dust. It was an ideal training area and we worked very hard but that dust was everywhere,. Yet there was one respite. Each morning a number of Land Army Girls from a Hostel a few miles away would pass the camp in trucks on their way to farms or forestry duties. As they came by they started throwing things at the troops who in turn would make sure they got them back the following day. That broke the monotony a little.

But with the Carrier Platoon we could usually find an excuse to break the monotony by taking the carriers out for driving instruction of non drivers.

One Friday afternoon while driving along, two Land Army Girls were on the roadside trying to hitch a ride to Bury St Edmunds railway station. Of course it was not allowed but after a short discussion and a bit of pleading from the girls we agreed. After about two miles we were overtaken by a vehicle which stopped in front of us and woe and behold, out stepped the Adjutant from our own Unit on his way to the station, going on a weekend leave.

He ordered the girls out and gave us a severe talking to with the promise we would hear more. We were up for "Orders" on the Tuesday morning
This is where the fun comes in. In the army they have this rule that in the absence of an NCO, the Senior Soldier takes responsibility.

Fortunately for me as the driver and in control of the Carrier the same with the other carrier driver we each had a longer serving soldier who each had served in the TA, and were deemed responsible for allowing civilians to be carried without permission. We argued this, knowing it was a bit unfair and saying we thought that being Land Army, they were classed the same as us but that excuse did not wash so two trainee drivers under instruction received seven days each, confined to camp. It was really a most unfair decision but it did have its funny side. One of them, Jimmy Dentith nearly cried. It was his first offence. Until that time he had had a clean record.

Even in the worst situation troops always make the best of it and find something to keep them amused and the mind occupied.

It was not long before we were on the move again .We stayed until July before going to Long Melford and Sudbury in Suffolk where we celebrated "Minden Day"1941.
This move coincided with the War Weapons Week in Sudbury where funds were being raised for the war effort. We enjoyed the week giving help and support and lots of rides on the Carriers for the locals. This was very much appreciated by everyone. Especially the children.

At the end of August 1941 we moved to Colchester again, this time to Le Cateau Barracks. Wherever the troops go, training continues but in the barracks an additional stint was Fire Drill with the barracks own fire fighting equipment. This was a nice change and something else to learn about and of course it was always easy to make sure the hose slipped and gave someone a soaking. All taken in good part.

Between these dates I attended an advanced course in Leeds on the latest Tanks, this was for only two weeks but was followed shortly afterwards by a few weeks course in Eastern Command REME Workshops. The Instructors decided that my engineering skills and knowledge could be put to better use and made me an Instructor for the rest of my time with them.

Before leaving them to return to my Unit I was asked if I would transfer to REME. and backed that up with a letter to my Unit to that effect. I said I would consider it.

On my return, I was called into the Office and pointed out to me the advantages of staying with my Unit and the increase in pay I could expect as we changed over completely to a Tank Regiment. I agreed to stay. I realised later that promotion would have been higher and quicker in REME but I had not realised that at the time. I had made my choice and I don't regret it because I stayed with comrades I knew and the later training was valuable in my civilian work after coming out of the Army..

It was at this time, October 1941 that the War Office decided that the 42nd Infantry Division of which we were a part, would be changed over to an Armoured Division.

Training for this began by selecting personnel for the various new roles. Such as tank driver /mechanics. Wireless Operator/Gunners etc. Everyone had to be reclassified under all the different headings and jobs to which they were most suited. Each man had to be skilled in more than one job.

Anyone not happy with the new role were given the opportunity to stay as Infantry but join other Regiments or where possible go to one of their Regiment's other Battalions.
I was quite happy and looking forward to the change. Some men were sent down to Bovington and Lulworth, some to Farnborough, places which were established Schools for armoured fighting vehicle training.

I was selected to go to Martin Walters of Folkestone. International Coach Builders and Motor Engineers for three and a half months on a Vehicle Mechanics Course along with another man, Ernie Ramsbottom from Heywood, who was from the Transport Section and me from the Bren Carrier Platoon?

We were given rations and travel warrants and travelled down from Colchester, through London threading our way through loads of fire brigade hose pipe,carrying all our equipment as bombing had taken its toll. Then by Southern Railway to the home of Mrs Reynolds of 64 Morehall Avenue in Folkestone. Mr and Mrs Reynolds were nice people with a son in the RAF and a daughter; a nurse in Canterbury, then Betty who was the youngest and worked in the local grocer's shop.
Perhaps by working in the local shop a few extras would become available.
We met up with men from other Units of the Division who made up the small class numbers.

This was almost home from home, working at Martin Walters during the day and doing lots of homework at night ready for the following day.
But it was very valuable learning from experts. Some of them were Professors in the chosen subjects.
It was very rewarding training which would be useful later in life.

Occasionally we would go to the cinema and call at a café for supper afterwards. Being in a vulnerable area, the café's seemed to have more rations available than some places we had served in.

Small Sprats from the local fishermen came up regularly in Mrs Reynolds household as did a Hare or half a Hare. On those occasions it was important to be aware of lead pellets in the flesh; there would be a little pile of these on the edge of each plate.

Lunch was taken in the Martin Walter's canteen and was free to us.

Sometimes at weekends we would do our turn at Fire Watch against air raids plus if one of the workers wanted to miss their turn at fire watching they would offer us about five shillings which to us was a good pick up.

The works closed for Xmas so I was able to go home for a few days after which it was back to work.
Eventually the three and a half months training finished we returned to our Units, our reports and results sent to the Units separately.

By this time our Unit had moved to Barnard Castle Co. Durham so that was our destination.
This was a new camp of wooden huts, still under construction with mud everywhere, but this is where we would try out our new found skills. On the moors was the Battle Training Area where live ammunition was used. It added a bit more excitement into training.

I had only spent about three weeks there with the Unit and of that I had 10 days leave due. On my return from Leave, I learned that because of the excellent results I had received from Martin Walters of Folkestone I was to go to Tom Garners, Motor Engineers of Manchester, but we were based at Knott Mill in the Deansgate area. This was an Upgrading Course and would last Eight Weeks.
This was an opportunity not to be missed

We were billeted in a house in Raby Street, Moss Side in Manchester and even though meals etc were provided by the owner we had Sergeant Mathias in charge to keep everything up to army standards and Discipline and of course to march us to the works each morning.
After four weeks and complaints about the food we moved to Acker Street not far from Manchester Royal Infirmary where Actors appearing at theatres in Manchester would stay. Here the food was much better.

We made many new friends among the other trainees and one, Dennis, and I went out on the Saturday night to Belle Vue Speedway and afterwards around the other leisure areas including the dance hall. I was not a dancer but Dennis being a typical cockney soon made himself known to two girls, Elizabeth and Edna with whom we struck up a friendship.

As the buses were not always reliable and it was late, Dennis, being the hero of the hour volunteered that we would walk with them from Belle Vie to Rochdale Road so they could catch the all night bus service to Middleton. This we did, saw them safely onto the no17 bus and then made the long journey back to Moss Side and our Billets.

We arranged to meet and go to the pictures on the Tuesday night in Manchester. Elizabeth and I carried on the relationship and a year later we were married. The best decision I ever made, thanks to Dennis who was probably more outgoing than me.
I never met him again after the end of the training.
Our Love and our marriage and the happiness we share have stood the test of time including by celebrating our Diamond Wedding.

We were very fortunate that no serious accidents occurred during this period where men were learning to drive tanks. Not that it was all trouble free. The road from camp to the village of Staindrop was a good long stretch and many learned to drive there.
One tank had the misfortune to veer off the road at one point and went straight into one of about four houses which were luckily unoccupied at the time. A few days later and another learner driver did the same, fortunately without casualties.

The 125 Brigade of 42nd Infantry Division now became the 108 RAC. of 10th Independent Armoured Brigade of 42nd Division.
Now it was time for another move, this time to Rufford Abbey, Edwinstowe, Near Worksop, and Nottinghamshire. Of course this was Robin Hood country with the "Major Oak Tree " that would easily hold two or three men.

An area known as The Dukeries, consisting of Welbeck Abbey, Rufford Abbey and Thoresby Hall, a lovely area where during that summer in addition to our army duties we were called upon to help out the local farmers harvest the Flax which had to be cut by using scythes etc.

After training so many troops into tank crews the War Office decided that 108 RAC and 10th Independent Armoured Brigade were now longer required. After Hundreds of men had been trained and sent abroad to join various armoured regiments the Brigade was to be disbanded. This was a sad blow for everyone but the decision could not be changed.

The 10th Armoured Brigade went up to North Yorkshire to be disbanded. This took some time The 108 Regiment RAC was stationed at Wensleydale and Middleham,
near Leyburn.All the equipment was handed over and postings instructions were issued to everyone
Embarkation Leave was granted and on return and along with many others went by train to Glasgow for the move abroad…
This took some time and the remaining troops posted abroad.
But first all the vehicles, tanks trucks, stores etc. had to be handed over to various depots.

We boarded the ship whose name I don't remember and sailed out past Northern Ireland in convoy into the Atlantic, zigzagging our way south. The sea was rough; some men were out of circulation for several days. That didn't matter to the rest of because we got their rations as well as our own.
We saw a few depth charges being discharged into the sea and the explosions that followed.

Eventually we turned east into the Mediterranean Sea and docked at the Port of Algiers then south to the dirty, dusty, little town of BLIDA.
Under canvas once again.

After a short stay there, we went to the outskirts of Algiers for a few days before boarding a train which had no windows; the seats were just wooden slats. From the outside.apart from the lack of windows we looked quite normal.

This was quite a long journey with frequent stops for the engine to fill up with water etc… At each stop a crowd of tribes people would come charging from the hilly areas begging for whatever we could give them.

These people were obviously very poor, their clothes were just rags really and the food must have been very scarce. The strange thing was that they all knew the words biscuit and cigarette. When the train set off again they would disperse.

We travelled through many tunnels and the smoke from the engine filled the carriages so that we were gasping for breath and glad to reach fresh air again.

We eventually arrived at our destination which was the dirty little village of
El Guerra about thirty miles from Constantine.
Apart from the police station and several houses, most of the rest of the inhabitants lived in huts made from any bits and pieces they could find including old tins, opened out to cover the roof. Some had bits of rag or hessian covering the roof which was only about feet high. Or less.

We had search lights in watch towers to assist us on guard duty against the thieves who prowled at night time. Thieves who could take your blankets while you slept leaving you to waken up shivering and wondering what had happened.

Away from the camp entrance but on the pavement was a man with a mobile charcoal burner cooking Kebabs. The meat on the skewers was really an apology for meet, something the average person wouldn't look twice at. To walk past it meant a step into the road and at that moment a battered old car came passed and hit a soldier, knocked him to the ground leaving him with a deep wound to the side of his head. The car didn't stop so we returned the man to camp for treatment. He went to hospital and we never saw him again.

Training never stops of course and in my case I attended a Course on the General Motors Two Stroke Diesel engines as fitted in the Sherman Tank. These diesel engines replaced the original petrol engines which were so prone to catching fire. The Course lasted eight weeks and was equal to a City & Guilds qualification. As with other Courses I passed with flying colours.
The knowledge gained was so valuable and so necessary in a Tank Regiment.

The camp was close to the Atlas Mountains and the weather was atrocious with snow at night melting during the day and making the ground into a quagmire, so much so that in the whole of the war years it was the only time we ever received a Rum ration and had a spare pair of boots issued. One pair worn while the other pair was drying around a slow combustion stove made from a 40 gallon oil drum and burning wood from trees which had been cut down by the troops.. This was housed in a special wooden hut.

It was also the only place that a supper was available to combat the cold and damp. This was always cheese melted into a liquid and a thick slice of bread to dip in it.
The lumberjack team was a Fatigue Party, detailed each morning for the Job.
Mid morning we were issued with half a large cup of delicious Dates which were very welcome.

Our camp was part of a larger one with one part for British and the other for Canadians and they too had their own Tanks and parking area. .
Each week a ration of two bottles of Canadian beer arrived, The Canadians had a similar ration and would come offering to buy ours at a good price. Quite a few did sell.

The Order came for a move to Italy, one we were looking forward to and we watched the Eruption of Mount Vesuvius spewing out flames and red hot ash, then onward through Caserta (a US Main Depot,) Avelino, Benevanto etc and ended up in the Apennines.

Our equipment had gone astray including blankets etc, so we were each given a two man Bivouac which appeared to be made of rigid sail, cloth to keep out the freezing cold but they were almost useless.without our blankets.
What a terribly cold night it was, Needless to say, we were up most of the night walking and jumping about trying to keep warm.
The following day our kit was located and returned to us.

Volunteers were called for to assist in the cookhouse. This was one job not to be missed, with the possibility of getting extra rations. I found that food was available and in reasonable quantities but up to that time was being ruined by over cooking and lack of care on the part of the cook.
In spite of the fact that we were so isolated, poor ragged Italians came at meal times begging for food and even when the troops had thrown any scraps into the 40 gallon waste bin there was a scramble by the Italians to retrieve it and where possible intercept it before it dropped in the bin. Then we realised their plight and handed it to them.

Soon we were on our way down to lower ground where it was much warmer. We set up camp where we became a Reinforcement Unit with three tanks with Captain Riley of 3rd The Kings Own Hussars in Command and me as his tank driver.
Our roll was to replace casualties in the Regiment and prepare for the attack at Cassino. We watched the bombers doing their part but our roll was to await the Breakout from Cassino and continue the assault from Cassino and through the Leri Valley towards Rome but there was much fighting to be done before reaching Rome.
.
. The only practical approach to the city was via the Liri Valley but that road was still blocked by the town of Monte Cassino with the Benedictine Monastery on top. This was known as the Gustav Line. A great defensive position for the Germans to see everything for miles around.

The Allies had tried three times in terrible weather, during the first three months of 1944 to break through the Gustav Line without success but with heavy losses in manpower.

Behind Monte Cassino was the Adolph Hitler line constructed across the Liri valley. Behind that the Allies had made a landing at Anzio.
On May 11 the Allies began the final phase of the battle for Rome By the 18th May the town of Cassino had been cleared of the enemy and the Poles had raised their Flag on the ruins of the monastery.

The 3rd Hussars went into action at Coldragone Wood Nr Arce
It was here we had our first casualties on the approach march from Cassino when HQ Reconnaissance Tank was blown upside down on hidden pile of Teller Mines. The crew of four were killed and Col. Farquar was badly burned when he tried to drag their bodies from the blazing tank.Another officer Lt Ashworth was wounded when he put his hand on a pencil mine.

During the next two days the 3rd KOH were ordered acoss the Liri river to join the 78th Division near Ceprano. More than 100 Germans were killed and twenty-six taken prisoner for the loss of one Infantry man

4th June. Rome fell and two days later we drove through the eastern suburbs on our advance north. It was disappointing not being allowed to stop in the city.
News came through on the 6th on the Allied landing in Normandy.

The enemy retreated until third week of June when they made a stand about 100 miles north of Rome east and west near Lake Trasimino.

Battles were fought at Civita Castellana, Gallesi Castiglioni, and Orvieto which was only twenty miles south of Lake Trasimino where Kesselring had rallied his forces. The resistance was much tougher, the opponents were the Elite German Paratroops who had orders to hold the line at all costs.
Progress was slow due to the numerous craters and concrete road blocks covered by concealed anti tank guns and Bazookas. Ficule was taken on 15th. Capt Riley, I had been his driver, was killed while leading the advance north of the village and at Montelenone on the 16th, two tanks were "Brewed Up" by Bazookas but no further casualties.

We reached Citta dalla Pieve at dusk on 16th June but it was too late to attack so pulled back to laager, leaving the East Surrey Regt to keep watch.
9th Armoured Brigade Headquarters were confident that the defenders, reported to be a Battalion and a Half of German paratroops would withdraw during the night and one squadron would support an attack by East Surreys at first light.
But far from withdrawing the enemy were strongly reinforced. "A" squadron paid a heavy price for this misfortune.

We started off up the road and met only small arms and mortor fire but as soon as we entered the narrow streets of the town, hidden anti tank guns and bazookas opened up from every side. The Hussars Tanks fought back as best they could in the confined space, but lost four tanks with five men killed and ten wounded before the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry were sent to take over..

From this action where much bravery was shown there, where awards were made.
P l Jarmaine of "A" Squadron was mentioned in despatches after taking care of the wounded and hiding wounded comrades in the basement of a house for two nights and a day.

Later on 16th the Regiment was withdrawn five miles, back to the village of Santa Maria and visited by the Divisional Commander Mjr, Gen Keightly.Here he consoled them for their losses and praised them for the confidence and inspiration they had inspired in the infantry battalions of the 78th Division to whom they had shown they had the gallantry and dash to defeat the enemy at every turn.

We rested up at Santa Maria during forty-eight hours of constant rain.
For their part in fighting the German paratroops from Orvieto to Citta Della Pieve, the 3rd Hussars were awarded their first battle honour of the Italian campaign.

The next action, at Ripa Ridge, a few miles east of Perugia, was equally deserving more battle honours, for it was there that great courage was shown but it was also a feat of tactics that was reported to be unique in Armoured Corps history.
Ripa Ridge, five miles long and rising to 1,000 feet, marks the beginning of the rugged, mountainous country between the river Tiber and Chiasco river.

From the top and its steep slopes to the north, the Germans, heavily dug in, cotrolled the approaches to the main road running along the left bank of the Tiber to Umbertide.
Opposite them was the 17th Infantry Brigade of the 8th Indian Division, who on 18th June began a series of sharp actions that secured Ripa but failed to drive the Germans from the higher ground beyond .Even the gallant Ghurkhas had to fall back due to the fierce artillery fire and the Brigade's casualties were heavy.

That was the situation on 22nd June when the 3rd Hussars and The Chestnut troop of RHA, after fording the river in darkness with tanks and guns, joined the 17th Brigade to support another attempt to open up the Umbertide road.

The key was to advance and attack a steep hill, point 450 on the right front which the Regiments predecessors,the North Irish Horse had failed to do and said it was a tank obstacle and impossible to ascend.
Sir Peter Farquar,CO 3rd Hussars was more confident. After flying over the ground in a Spotter plane with Mjr Bell of "B" Squadron he was sure the tanks could find a way up

The 8th Indian Division were reluctant to risk further casualties so the Corps Commander agreed to allow the 3rd to make the raid alone, supported by the Divisional Artillery to draw the enemy fire and gain information

It was a great success. As "A" Squadron was moving forward under a bombardment .The Germans were taken by complete surprise and withdrew in disorder, believing their line was broken and they were almost surrounded..The enemy were pushed back five miles at no cost except for a random shell which landed in "C" Squadron B Echelon area, and sadly killed SQMS Dixon.and Cpl Sellars and wounded four other men.

The 3rd counted their bag; 11 guns and many vehicles destroyed, three bazookas and one Field gun and Field kitchen captured, at least one hundred Germans killed and sixty taken prisoner.

More Italy and beyond


Later, as we were moving forward and we were ambushed and came under heavy fire, George Needham driving the three ton B Echelon Truck with Sgt Parsons along side him in the Cab and L/Cpl Dixon and me sitting at the front of the bodywork with the Tarpaulin Cover tied back to get a free flow of air through. Dixon was on the left, me on the right, chatting and enjoying the fresh air and sunshine as the short, sharp attack started. And all hell let loose.

Dixon was hit on the side of his head with a lump of shrapnel. George worked frantically to drive the truck out of trouble as I dressed Dixon's wounds . We cleared the area and took Dixon to a Casualty Clearing Station (CCS) we had passed earlier, from there he would be taken hospital. I don't know if he survived.
We continued forward through many hazards and always prepared for the worst.

We fought our way North to Florence but further progress was halted as Winter approached and the winding, rising roads were similar to going over the Alps so were not considered suitable for tank
warfare at that time . Instead we were moved over to the Adriatic. side

We had received an allotment of Valentine Amphibious Tanks. These were only three men Crew. Driver, Wireless Operator /Gunner and Tank Commander. We Trained in these on Lake Bracciano with very tight security for an intended assault across the wide stretch of the river PO on the Adriatic Front.
with Headquarters Squadron in Senigalia with "A" Squadron, my Squadron in Brunetto.

One night during the training where we were to make a landing on the other side of the large lake, The
Vertical air tubes which supported canvas surround which enabled the tank to float, had to be inflated. and steel strips fell into place and locked in position. This took approximately four and a half minutes.

On reaching the landing zone the canvas supports were deflated, this only took about four seconds.
Unfortunately, half way across the lake, the canvas of one tank somehow deflated, the driver and wireless operator were trapped as the tank sank in seconds, never to be seen again and it was assumed it was in volcanic ash as the Lake was the result of a Volcanic Eruption from hundreds of years before.

Each tank was fitted with a Bouy which remained on the surface in such accidents. It was said it was too deep for divers and In daylight a Spotter Plane flew over but could not see anything. Such bad luck.
A few days later, the two black and bloated bodies surfaced. These were buried at the lake side.
I
In time for Christmas. I was now a Corporal and,in a Three Ton truck, I went with two Troopers and Lt Thawnton in Charge to lay signs to act as decoys in the Faenza and Forli areas south of Bologna, to give the impression that a large Force was being assembled for an assault on the German Lines. We drew enough Rations from the area QMs Stores which had some Italians employed there to make it all real .

Then came the news that men who had served four years abroad were being sent home on the Python and Liap scheme. (Leave in addition to Python).
As the 3rd Hussars had been in the Middle East since August 1940 and there were up to Seventy in number. involved It meant the Regiment would have to be reinforced from other Regiments. and retrained.

This was completed but we did not get the chance to continue, instead we left our comrades who were going home and went South by road to Taranto in the foot of Italy. From Italy, next stop the Middle East.
We travelled by road from Senegal on the Adriatic Coast down to Taranto ,the foot and after a few days in a filthy Transit Camp, boarded a ship to Port Said, Egypt, and then across the Suez Canal and the Sanai desert stopping at Gaza Station to fill the engine' water tank before going to a Camp at Adloun, about eight miles south of the Capital, Beirut.
Our New Roll was Internal Security. This was to include Syria and later Palestine.
This was peaceful and a nice change. It was right by the sea and after daily duties we were able swim in warm calm waters. and visit Beirut regularly by truck. During the day we visited various reported sites that drugs were being shipped. We never found any.
We held Manoeuvres' with the Indian Brigade tanks on the Syrian Desert.

It was at this time that the uprising by the Syrians against the French started and we moved to various places to intervene. We made camp at Jebel Maazar a few miles from Damascus when the Signal Sergeant fell sick with suspected Meningitis and went to hospital We were placed in quarantine for ten days.
During this time a plague of Locusts descended . The sky was black with them for miles . Even though we were in the middle of them, they ignored us and stripped all the available greenery before disappearing in that same black cloud to find new ground.. Peace at last.

It didn't last, the fighting between the French and Syrians had spread to Damascus and the quarantine was forgotten as we received orders ordered to intervene.
Damascus was shelled from two French Forts and strong points in the hills bordering Lebanon. As well as the army barracks in Damascus and the shopping area of Straight Street and a Red Cross Train at the back of the Station burned out, the damage in other places was also substantial.

However, we restored order and the area declared safe. Time for a Brew. As the water in the billycan T started to boil, I bent down to switch off and drop the tea in and as I did so, a machine gun opened up from the area of the barracks and missed my head by inches if I had been standing, my head would have disappeared.
Back to Action Stations.

Eventually, all was declared safe. On entering the Barracks, the first thing to attract my attention was the body of a Syrian Soldier, just placed on a handcart with the side of his head blown wide open but there was a Pulse beating away inside. There was nothing we could do for him.

General Sir Bernard Paget, CIC Middle East Forces addressed us from the railway station steps and congratulated us for a job well done. A few well-wishers brought us bottles of "Liberation Beer".
The Prison had been hit and all the inmates escaped, it was reported that some were sheltering in a village in the hills.
The following morning I along with two others plus an interpreter went by an open top armoured car to investigate.

On approaching the village, we met guards armed with knives swords and other weapons .Eyes everywhere following our every movement. We gave them a friendly greeting and proceeded into the village where everyone seemed to have a weapon.
Again, we greeted them with smiles and after a talk via the interpreter and not disclosing our mission we wished them well and left. Discretion.
Then back to Camp.

From there to HAMA and the Bug ridden army barracks vacated by the French Army.
Here we dowsed everything with paraffin and watched the Bugs die.

By now the French Army and their families which had retired to their headquarters in Allepo, near the Turkish Border was ready to leave Syria and the K D Gs (King's Dragoon Guards escorted them to North of Hama and handed them over to us to continue the journey to Tripoli, passing through the Town of Homs. I was at the rear in the Fitters truck with the driver two Fitters and tools in the back to take care of any problems including breakdowns of the French trucks which were in a bad state through lack of maintenance.
Here, unknown to us, the Syrians had prepared large piles of stones
Our Convoy was supported and lead by our Staghound Armoured Cars and an Ambulance.

The French trucks came under violent attack with the stones. Including ourselves Some drivers were badly injured the one in front of us very much so.. His hands were so badly damaged that he was unable to turn the steering wheel to turn onto the Tripoli Road and drove straight into the railway station goods yard followed by an Armed Baying mob. We radioed to our Convoy for help and held the mob at bay until two Armoured Cars and the ambulance came to our assistance and dispersed the crowd.

This Operation was to last several days so it was important that there was no repeat.
An inquiry at high level was held during which I explained what happened and each day from then on Soldiers of the Indian Brigade were placed along the edge of the pavement in Homs for security of the Convoy.

Later as problems with the Jews got worse we went into the Sarafand Garrison in Palestine.
As my time for Demob was approaching I was attached to Palestine Railway workshops for a few weeks working on the Engines and then with others took them onto the main railway track for testing.

Back to the Regiment then I went to Egypt to the Mitoqra College in Cairo for four weeks to prepare me for life as a civilian again. Before going back to my Regiment in Palestine.

My time came to leave Palestine, the Regiment was staying to finish the job there so instead of returning to the UK with my Unit I travelled solo but later joined up with members from other Units who were also coming home for Demob.
First by train from Sarafand Garrison across the Sinai desert again and across the Suez Canal to the Transit Camp at Tel El Kabir in Egypt .

After about a week or ten days moved via Ismailia on the West Bank of the Nile to Port Said.
This was not a happy journey for those who had left their bags in the corridors at the end of the Coaches expecting them to be safe.

We were due for a stop at Ismailia Station for food.
A breakdown in communications meant there was no food or drink so after some delay, the train set off slowly out of the station and as it did so, swarms of locals jumped onto the train and offloaded Kit Bags and Suit cases before jumping off the train as it gathered speed leaving no time for the unfortunate ones to recover their belongings and so, souvenirs collected for loved ones were lost.

We had been issued with a booklet, "The Way Back". It described the changes in conditions at various stages of the journey back to England.

On arrival at Port Said, we boarded the Liberty Ship "Empire Battleaxe" which was not the most comfortable with three tier bunk beds for Ors and Senior NCOs better accommodation.
After leaving Port Said the weather on the Mediterranean soon started to deteriorate and due to the pitching and rolling many were very sea sick . So much so that many never got out of their bunk. Our speed was down to four knots and we were forced to pull in at Malta due to leaking steam boiler needing repair.
Down in the bowels of the ship there were iron gates leading to the prison cells . They were empty of course but because of the bad weather the gates were clanging as they opened and shut with the Pitching of the ship.

As a Sergeant, I had free movement over all the ship and supervised a fatigue party of 12 men to sweep and clean the decks morning and evening and prevent men going to the Prow of the ship because of the danger as huge waves crashed over.
The weather had been terrible for the whole of the voyage. Everyone was ordered to go to the Stern
As waves cascaded over the deck. The ship was rising and falling with the propeller almost out of the water with the rise and fall. as well as rolling side to side.

With the boiler repaired we set sail again, still with the rough sea and sea sickness still very bad for some.
I was not seasick but suffered bad head aches.
We arrived at Toulon in the South of France where we boarded a train for the long overland journey to Dieppe. During the journey, we stopped at various stations where meals were awaiting us served by army personnel
This was a welcome respite from the slatted wooden seats of the carriages.
At this time, we started to change from tropical wear to warmer clothes exactly as described in the booklet, "The Way Back".

On arrival at Dieppe we boarded a cross Channel Ferry. The sea was as calm as a mill pond.
On arrival at Newhaven, Customs Officers were waiting to check our luggage etc. We were a bit shocked at this reception but most of us were allowed through without a problem but an Officer was called over to open his Suitcase. I didn't see him again.

From Newhaven by train to Aldershot for the formalities of Demob. Here it was found that our Demob Books and general paper work had gone astray so we were delayed for a further forty-eight hours. Before proceeding with the formalities.

Then off to the clothing Centre for an issue of clothing. Suit, Raincoat or Overcoat, Socks Shoes etc.
Some items were out of stock and would be sent later by parcel post when available..
All this was put into the cardboard box to be carried home.

Change into Winter clothing. Woollen Vest and Long Johns and we certainly needed them, the weather at the end of February 1946 was bitterly cold and more so after my time in the warm climate of the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

With my travel warrant to Manchester. Piccadilly Station, here I come. I arrived at about 7-30 pm. Across Manchester for a bus to Middleton.
No phones available in those days.
However, we were together, my wife and my daughter Norma and my life as a civilian was about to be restarted.





Keep Their Memory Green

Over seventy years ago in the last days of May and in early June 1940 --------
The British Expeditionary Force was by The Grace of Providence, and by Stout Hearts, saved from annihilation and brought home, through Dunkirk, to fight another day.
The Victories won by our Arms in the years that followed that great deliverance have made men forget those Soldiers. The first of the many; upon whom it fell to withstand the shock of Hitler's great attack. It is fitting that these men and their Commander in Chief, Lord Gort, should be worthily remembered and their story fully told from those first landings in France in the autumn of 1939 until the climax of Dunkirk.

This is a moving story of courage and devotion to duty, in the face of odds which no other British Force has ever been called upon to face.
It is chivalrous to admire a gallant enemy and of that chivalry we have seen much.
Justice demands that the courage and devotion of our own fighting men be no less clearly recognised. There were no medals for The BEF, today, hardly the "Laurels" of memory.
Children will play this summer on the beaches which saw the last triumphant agony of a Gallant Force.

God Keep Their Memory Green

In the fields of Flanders, at Dunkirk and elsewhere in the quiet countryside of France, now again peaceful and free, lie those of our Comrades who did not return from that forgotten campaign. Beside them are the graves of the men of an earlier BEF who made the same sacrifice so few years before, facing the same enemy.
The sons were not unworthy of their fathers or those of other British Soldiers who have given their blood to the thirsty soil of Flanders throughout our history.
To them, the weapons we brought to France over sixty years ago, inadequate though they were, would have seemed formidable indeed, but they would have recognised the men who carried them.
It has become fashionable to site that chivalry is dead, yet the men who went to France in 1939 were as much the Flower of our chivalry as their forefathers who followed King Henry to Agincourt.
Although humdrum Divisional Symbols took the place of Pennants and Bannerettes and Bren Gunners and Riflemen replaced Bowmen and Pikemen of England, the British Expeditionary Force knew none the less, that they were the first to be entrusted by their Country with a great enterprise and they were proud in the knowledge,
They did not betray that trust.

God Keep Their Memory Green


New

27/9/2015

Britain’s Lost Mines
BY Chris Arnot
Postscript

Local Journalist Geoffrey Shryhane kindly put an appeal in his column in The Wigan Observer asking if any readers had worked at Bryn Hall. It was more in hope than expectation on my part, the pit having closed so long ago. But a few days after my return from Wigan, I took a call from one Norman Prior, sounding remarkably robust for a man of 94 years.

He lived at Croft Cottages, Bryn Hall, left school at 14 in 1933 and joined his father and brothers at the colliery later that year. He trained as a fitter, working on the surface as well as underground where he might be called upon at any time of the day or night to fix the conveyor belts or coal cutting machines, amongst other things.
You didn’t always know who the visitors were and I would not have recognised Orwell, he told me.

Norman’s work proved good training for what was to come when he joined the Lancashire Fusiliers in 1939. I remember being partially buried when a Shot-Firer shouted a belated warning and we had to dive for cover, he added, almost chuckling at the memory.

By 1940 he was up to his chest in water rather than coal. Despite being a non-swimmer, he was just off the beaches of Dunkirk pushing heavily loaded rowing boats out to sea.
Eventually he was picked up by a minesweeper and made it back to blighty, where he retrained as a tank driver and gunner. He then fought his way through North Africa and Italy before arriving in Palestine in time for the uprising.

When he finally made it back to Bryn Hall, the job he had been promised on his return had gone. The pit had closed. Disappointed but undeterred, he took a job with an engineering company on the outskirts of Manchester and finished up as works and production director.

So this has been the story of three remarkable men: George Orwell, an Old Etonian who took the road to Wigan Pier, Alan Davis, grammar school boy who chose to work as a coal miner; and Norman Prior, who had an elementary education, followed his father’s coal-dusted footsteps,
Yet eventually became a company director- but only after prolonged exposure to the University of Life above ground.


August 2017

War diaries for May 1940

The Way Back





Dunkirk revisited

Bray Dunes 2000


Cyril Kubler ex RASC, Arthur Bell, 1/5th Battalion LFs in the middle and Norman Prior

here is one from year 2000. Taken at Bray Dunes by Dave Guest of Radio Manchester, who accompanied Manchester & District branch with his cameraman, for the final Pilgrimage.

Those buildings in the background were not there in 1940. The area was covered in Sand Dunes


on the far left is Steven Fitts dad

older Photos

 

 

 

 


These have yet to be tranlated

Click on this photo to enlarge it

23rd October 2017
We took Norman to see one of the only working Sherman Tanks Thanks to Terry Till in Chipping Nr Preston
Norman Drove a Sherman Tank after he came back from Dunkirk when the 1st 5th Lancashire Fusiliers
108 RAC and returned to Dunkirk