DATA BASE REF: M/A 1005
REGINALD NORMAN HILL
BORN MAY 25th 1922 AT 25 PETERBOROUGH ROAD CASTOR
2nd SON OF CARLO AND HILDA HILL
I was called up in 1942 and sent to Kimmel Park in North Wales spending 3 months there in training with the Royal Artillery Driver-Training Regiment. Training included boxing, rope climbing, gymnastics and cross country running.
From there I was sent to a Holding Unit at Cleethorpes – the only person from the Regiment! My first posting was to the Orkneys travelling by train to Aberdeen and onwards by ferry. Here I joined the 19th Light Ack – Ack Regiment which had static Bofur guns on Scapa Flow. Three weeks later I was sent to the Isle of Wight (on Christmas Day) stationed on Osbourne Beach. Static guns there, were 20mm Wilcons as well as Bofurs 40mm.
One incident I recall when on the beach in day light and on duty was seeing a Dornier come flying up the Solent, on it’s way to bomb Sanders Row Mosquito factory. The guns opened fire and the Dornier was shot down.
After the I.O.W. we were mobilised and sent to London. Some guns were launched to the top of Canada House and others positioned in Hyde Park and Green Park. Our H.Q. was in Deans Yard, Westminster Abbey. I was based in Canada House alongside the Canadians in rooms at the top. We eventually ate meals with them too – a big improvement from being under canvas in one of the parks!
On leaving London the Regiment moved to Haltwhistle – Northumberland for a tough six week battle course. It nearly killed us!! Revellie at 5am – P.T and breakfast at 6.30am – out on the moors training all day with live rounds being fired overhead – marching through rivers – returning to camp at night and getting wet clothes dried ready for parade the next morning. I was later posted to Doddington Park followed by another move to Holyhead – Dawlish in Devon and on to a firing camp at Aberaeron then for battle training, with guns, to Pembroke. The Regiment left here for Sudbury and from there we were sent to South Wales, myself driving one of the lorries
On leaving Wales we were stationed on the Isle of Grain giving gun protection to the Shell fuel tanks and also Biggin Hill airfield. I can remember arriving late at night at the Aerodrome and being told there would be no food until the morning and being shown a pile of straw in a corner to stuff paliases with before we could bed down for the night!
In June 1944 – 14 days after D.Day our regiment landed on the French Coast at Arramanches and at 3am the next morning we were off to Caen. The Germans were firing shells from Caen so our guns with H.E shells – Ante tank and armour piercing one because there was no aircraft support.
We crossed the Sein at Elbeuf where a lot of German prisoners were taken – and again at Rouen until we reached Dieppe. I remember a really bad battle with a lot of men and vehicles lost – at Cassel.
From there we went on to the Ardennes and the Battle of the Bulge, and then on to Mardic near Dunkirk staying there until the end of the war. It was here I saw my best friend killed. We were both laying telephone wires through a block house at Lune Plage, Harry was ahead – entered the house and it was blown to pieces as I stood just outside, I shall never forget the terrible sight I saw of wounded men, and coming across a shelled Canadian tank with all the crew inside dead, with not a mark on them.
At the end of the war I was with the Army of Occupation and ended up at Schleswig Holstein at Eckenford near the Danish border and the Keil Canal. The next job I had was transporting Displaced Persons who were in camps – mainly women and children – to Ludenscheid. Some were taken by boat to Oslo so I had to go on the ferry as part of their guard.
During my last month at Eckenforde I was detailed to drive a Salvation Army van for two “mature” English ladies who were in charge of a Bedford canteen van selling hot drinks to the troops! I used to help them wash up so they were very upset when they knew it was my last week!
I was finally demobbed in April 1947 but not before I was requested to stay on in the Regular Army but I had had enough and wanted to get back home. For the whole of my time in the Services I was under canvas – never in Barracks, but I wouldn’t have missed the experiences I had for the world. There is no comradeship anywhere like there is in the forces.
In September 1948 I married a Land Army girl working on Walter Longfoot’s farm – Phyllis Brawn – from Moulton, Northampton. We had three children – Margaret, Colin and Wendy. I now have seven grandchildren. As I write I have been widowed for 18 years.
One other thing I recall which gave me a shock! In 1951 I was called up again – during the Korean War, for class Z Reserve – and had to report to Risdale, Northumberland, from there we were sent to Carlisle and issued with full kit – slept under canvas – did two weeks general training and also on 25 pounder guns and were then told we were no longer needed and – thankfully – were sent back home. So once again I was able to buy my battle dress to wear for work! I read a report later about the Korean War which said 3,000 British troops were killed in the conflict so we always felt very fortunate that hostilities ceased as they did.
Our family home is at 14 Thorolds Way where I still live today. We moved there in 1953.
DATA BASE REF: M/A 1006
SON OF SIDNEY AND CHARLOTTE PEARSON
BORN HIGH STREET, CASTOR, JANUARY 19th 1925
My first military experience was when I joined the Home Guard – aged 16 years. Later I was promoted to Platoon Sergeant. We used to guard Wansford Bridge – over the A.1 – to keep a vital link open for the Regular Army. Every 4th night we were billeted in a room above the Cross Keys pub and in the early hours watched the planes returning from bombing raids in Germany – many with holes in the wings or fuselage – limping back to base at Kings Cliffe aerodrome. Once I was sent – with others on a Sergeants Training Course – to Dorking in Surrey for a month. While we were there was the time when the Germans first sent over pilotless planes called Doodlebugs. They were meant for London but the first lot dropped all around us – day and night. During daylight they flew in very low – the engines stopped – and we dived to the ground as they exploded, very frightening at the time because they were so unexpected and came over at all different times.
The blast above ground was unbelievable
I was called up in the army aged 19 and had 6 weeks initial training at Brittania Barracks, Norwich. From there we were posted to the Old Barracks in Northampton. My father was also there – with the Northamptonshire Regiment – in the First War. Later I went to Shrewsbury for special training on the 3// Mortor Gun. I also went on the Army Driving School there on Motor Bikes, Army Trucks, Bren Gun Carriers and Tanks. Good fun at the time – up and down the Welsh Hills – crossing rivers etc. I gained my driving licence after 12 weeks there. Returning to Northampton Barracks I met my good friend – Geoff Trasler – whose parents lived in the town. He used to take me home with him where his mother would cook us a good meal! One weekend I bought Geoff home and he took a fancy to my sister Edna and after the war they married and have lived in Northampton ever since. Geoff and I were posted to London for a time and lived in flats in Sloane Square and one day were sent to an Aerodrome near Cambridge. Here we were crowded into converted Lancaster Bombers and took off for the Middle East – a ten hour flight – and arrived in Tripoli, North Africa. Outside the canteen there were sacks of oranges and bananas we had’nt tasted for a very long time. Next day the queue for the toilets was endless! The next stop was Egypt – stationed near the Pyramids. The Arabs would come down in the night and raid the camp, many being shot by the Gurka Guards. From there we were sent to India – refuelling in Iraq – finally landing in Karachi. As the clock struck midnight Geoff wished me Happy Birthday – it was my 21st! A few days later we travelled by train across India to Madras stationed in Fort St George Barracks – a huge stone building with a moat all round – built by Robert Clyde in the 1600’s. the train journey took 10 days and nights. After transferring to the Manchester Regiment India Command we moved to several places including Karongivasler, Poona and Bangaban I played football here for my Battalion – in an Indian League against all nations, now I boast about playing for Manchester, all good training for when I played in goal for our local team at home later. Our days were now spent training on Vickers Machine Guns and landing craft ready for attacking the Japs on the many islands they occupied. Thankfully for us the H Bomb was dropped and ended the war.
Eventually the day came to begin the journey home. I boarded the ship “Strathnavenda” at Bombay, it was full of servicemen – many married with families – whom they had not seen for most of the war. We sailed via the Suez Canal, the Meditteranean and the Bay of Biscay docking at Southampton early in the morning – after 16 days at sea. I was demobbed at Chester, given a demob suit and sent home. As I arrived my mother was serving up the evening meal – rabbit pie – wonderful!! Starting work again in civvy street I joined my father in his building firm and later worked for Milton Estates for many years renovating farm buildings and Milton Hall which was infested with woodworm etc removing oak beams etc and replacing them with steel, a big job which took a long time. Later on I did contracts in Peterborough Development Corporation and many more before retiring.
My wife Joan and myself were married in July 1947 at Castor Church by the Rev. Adler – the same year as the Queen. On our Golden Wedding we received a certificate of congratulations from the Queen and Prince Philip. We had two sons – John and Richard, sadly Richard died while still a schoolboy in 1969. we gave in his memory – an electric clock for the church belfry presented to the Rev. Adler as the plaque underneath it states. Richard was a very keen bell ringer and I hope the clock is still going strong and is of help to the present ringers. John lives with his family at Maxey and we have two grandsons Paul and Jonathan. They are all very good to us in our retirement in Silvester Road.
DATA BASE REF: M/A 1007
ALEXANDER NOEL JAKES
ELDEST SON OF ALEXANDER AND OLIVIA JAKES
BORN: HIGH STREET, CASTOR, DECEMBER 1923
At the time Alec volunteered for the army in 1942 he was working for farmer Walter Longfoot – “Home Farm” Castor. He was called up in February 1943, aged 19years, to join the Royal Marine Commandos.
Three months training at Lymston – Devon was followed by an eleven month posting to Malta. During time there he spent a period in hospital having caught Sandfly Fever missing a posting to North Africa. He was sent to Sicily stationed on a gun site with 3.7 guns later returning to England for training in preparation for the D.Day landings. Four days after the landings his unit was sent to France joining up with the allied troops. A particular incident – en-route to Germany remains in his memory when he spotted a familiar figure directing traffic in Belgium! Walter Taylor from Ailsworth!
After some time stationed in France, Belgium and Holland Alec volunteered to join a special advanced Commandoes course of training based in Scotland, eventually being awarded his “Green Beret” having successfully passed the qualifications required. From there he served with the 42nd Marine Commandos and was sent to India in preparation for the relief of Singapore – which of course was aborted following the dropping of the Atom Bomb. Hong Kong was his next destination as the Japanese had surrendered and the British Forces were in occupation.
He came home and was demobbed in September 1946. As a result of his overseas postings Alec suffers re-occuring bouts of Malaria to the present day – some 53 years on.
In this year of 2001 he is a retired widower living at 5 Thorolds Way, always community minded, he served as a Parish Councillor for 40 years, was a former Rural District Councillor, School Governor of Castor Primary, Cricket Club Secretary and keen player in his youth, and a founder member and Chairman of the Village Garden Society.
DATA BASE REF: M/A 1008
PAMELA HOPE JAKES (NEE BAKER)
DAUGHTER OF CHARLIE BAKER – HIGH STREET CASTOR
BORN MARCH 1924
Pam was born in Longthorpe and came to live – along with her two older sisters and brother – in Castor, when her widowed father re-married and worked as groom to Major Pelham at “The Cedars”.
She joined the A.T.S in 1942 being in the Royal Signals and stationed at Beverley Barracks, Yorkshire. She was demobbed in late 1945 and in 1946 married Alec Jakes, supporting him with his village commitments, faithfully, until she died in April 1999.
Alec and Pam moved into 5 Thorolds Way in 1952 and have two daughters Lynne and Anne.
DATA BASE REF: M/A 1009
EDWARD CHARLES WOODWARD (DECEASED)
BORN AT CASTOR 1926
2ND SON OF ALFRED AND LOUISE WOODWARD
Ted enlisted in 1944 as an Apprentice Fitter with the Kings Royal Rifle Corps stationed at York. In October 1945 he was posted to Tripoli and Palestine with the British Army on the Rhine until June 1952, returning home in August 1952.
After a period of leave and on the expiration of his time with the K.R.R.C. (8 years 46 days) – he was transferred at Exeter, to the Army Reserve – serving a further 3 years 10 months. In total 12 years of service.
On leaving the Army – according to his service records – his C/O states the army was sorry to lose him and that Teds Military Conduct was exemplary. He was cheerful, good humoured, a hard and capable worker, a steady and reliable man especially when driving or as a vehicle mechanic.
After demob Ted drove for Frank Taylors Transport (Ailsworth) Reeds Removals of Peterborough and later for John Taylors Haulage (Ailsworth)
He married Nancy in 1971 and lived at 41a in Peterborough Road Castor until he died in 1994 aged 67 years.
DATA BASE REF: M/A 1010
GEOFFREY HARRY SHARPE
SON OF CECIL AND ELSIE SHARPE
BORN 1924 “DRAKES FARM” – MAIN STREET AILSWORTH
I was 20 years old when I joined up serving in the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers. (R.E.M.E.)
The first camp I was posted to was at Fort St George. The second to Royal Arsenal, London,
third – Derby where I became a third class Armourer – fourth – Tunbridge Wells and the fifth back to Derby as a 2nd class Armourer, my job entailed inspecting Arms for the whole of Southern England. Later I was sent to camp “Verne” at Portland as Armourer attached to the Royal Artillery. I was promoted first to Corporal and then Sergeant and finally demobbed in 1947.
I married Nora (Pearson) in 1945 and our first son was born in 1948 – Patrick John and our daughter Mary Anne was born two years later. We lived in a cottage in Sharpe’s Yard at Ailsworth and later moved to Glinton where we still are today.
After demob I returned to Baker Perkins working in the Cutter shop department.
DATA BASE REF: M/A 1011
HAROLD FREDRICK BURTON (Deceased)
ELDEST SON OF WILLIAM AND MAUD BURTON
BORN JUNE 1st 1920
The following is recorded by his brother Reg.
Harold was called up for the army in the summer of 1940 serving in the Irish Guards.
He was stationed in the Home Counties and witnessed many bombing raids and was also in the D. Day landings. He was involved in heavy fighting in and around the French town of Caen and was wounded there. He was sent home to a military hospital in Stoke – on – Trent where he met – and married his wife Nellie who pre-deceased him. They lived in Ailsworth first later moving to Stocks Hill, Castor. Harold and Nellie had two daughters – Dorothy and Rosalind
DATA BASE REF: M/A 1012
4th SON OF JACK AND ESTHER GRIFFIN
BORN AT AILSWORTH – 44 MAIN STREET
I was called up for the army in November 1939 and enlisted at Cambridge, later being posted to Bury St Edmunds with the 49th Division Royal Engineers.
After completing the intensive Training Course in the first year, we moved around England, Scotland and Wales bridge building, mine laying etc.
My most hazardous time during my army service was during the invasion of France with the 2nd Front. We landed on the French coast at Arramanches on D. Day Plus 1, eventually pushing through France, Belgium and Holland into Germany.
During this time I was wounded twice, resulting in long spells in hospital. When peace was declared I was demobbed at Aldershot arriving home in Ailsworth in 1947.
Two years later I married Ella Wingrove from Wansford, we have two children – Jill (now in Australia) and David – and five grandchildren – one boy and four girls
DATA BASE REF: M/A 1013
RICHARD EDWARD GRIFFIN
3RD SON OF JACK AND ESTHER GRIFFIN
BORN IN 1914 AT 44 MAIN STREET AILSWORTH
Before the war Dick worked for Milton Estates and did his apprenticeship for Bricklaying and Building serving under Mr Leeder of Longthorpe.
He joined the Royal Suffolk Regiment on joining up in 1942 and in January 1943 was posted to Turkey and from there to North Africa. In March 1944 he was sent to Tunis and in June to Algiers.
Later that month the Regiment was sent along the coast to Italy and on the 24th to Naples leaving there for Gibralter in July. It was here Dick was promoted to Lance Corporal serving with the Military Police until demob in 1946.
In December 1942 – on first being posted – he married Joan Spademan of Woodnewton in St Mary’s Church.
After being demobbed he returned to Milton to work, living with his family at 25 Church Hill Castor – in the end cottage of three – presently converted to a single property known as “Vine House”.
In 1949 he was appointed by Milton Estates, to Estate Manager at Great Gidding, living here until his death in 1984 aged 64 years. Here Joan and Dick raised their family of seven girls. His widow now lives in Main Street Great Gidding.
DATA BASE REF: M/A 1014
ELDEST SON OF ALBERT AND ELLEN GIBBONS
OF PETERBOROUGH ROAD CASTOR
Arthur joined the army soon after hostilities began in 1939 and served with the Royal Engineers. When the Battle of Britain was at its height he was stationed at Dover but was later transferred to the ‘Eighth Army’ in the desert and on into Italy with his unit. After the D. Day landings he was sent to France staying there until peace was declared.
In spite of all the action in which he was involved he returned home relatively unscathed.
DATA BASE REF: M/A 1015
ARTHUR HAROLD (HARRY) GIBBONS
FOURTH SON OF TOM AND HARRIET GIBBONS
OF STOCKS HILL CASTOR
When I left school at Castor my first job was with the Peterborough Co-operative Society but in April 1932 I joined the Radio Supply Company (later known as Rota Electric Ltd)
I left to join the army in July 1940 and was posted to Special Z3 Radar Unit and two years later – posted to 103 Infantry Brigade Workshops as Staff / Sergeant in charge of the Stores Section.
The Regiment landed in Normandy approximately one week after D.Day crossing France into Belgium and Holland, our unit helping to get the boys out of Arnhem.
We crossed the Rhine into Germany and when peace was declared were in German Barracks at Munster Lager (on the edge of Luneburg Heath), later moving to Berlin. I was finally demobbed a year later – in May 1946.
Back in “civvy” street I rejoined Rota Electric in July of the same year and in 1947 was promoted to manager of the newly opened branch in Colchester. Three years later I was made a Company Director, in 1960 the firm sold out to Newey and Eyre Ltd and I remained with them, as Director for East Anglia, until I retired in late 1979 to care for my dear wife (formally Millie Oliver of Ailsworth) whom I married in 1940 at Bulwick Church, Northamptonshire.
I now live in Torquay having later married Jessie (a dear friend of Millies since 1947) and we have a very happy life together.
P.S. I had three brothers – now deceased – Frank, George and Sidney. My mother – Harriet (nee Popple was born at Barnack).
DATA BASE REF: M/A 1016
ERNEST WILLIAM GIBBONS
SON OF JACK AND ETHEL GIBBONS
75 PETERBOROUGH ROAD CASTOR (NOW SITE OF CARLTON COURT)
I was born in 1918 and was called up – aged 20 – to join the army and served with the Suffolk Regiment in July 1939 already being in the Reserves. I was posted to Bury St Edmunds and when war was declared on September 3rd we were told we would be in the army as long as the war lasted.
In the October our regiment merged with the Green Howards to bring it up to strength so were posted to Chipping Campden. From here we were sent to France. On the retreat from Dunkirk, in June, we were mixed up with soldiers and sailors from different regiments and ships, so were given 48 hours leave and on our return were refitted with equipment and uniforms. Later in the year we were sent to the Middle East and in June 1942 I was taken prisoner along with many others by Rommel and the African Corps. We were taken to three different camps before finally arriving in Stalag 4F in Germany. We were set to work repairing and re-laying Railways and many other different jobs.
In 1946 I was sent home to be demobbed and helped with the harvest on Mr Wade’s farm before getting a job with Horrells Dairies at Westwood, later with the City Council working for them until I retired.
In 1952 I met and married my wife Phyllis Cooper – and have lived in Peterborough since then.
DATA BASE REF: M/A 1017
EDWARD (TED) MORTIMER
SON OF OLIVIA JAKES – WIDOW OF MR MORTIMER
AND LATER WIFE OF ALEC JAKES – HIGH STREET CASTOR
Ted and his sister Joan came to live at Castor when they were young children, their mother Olivia having married Alec.
When war broke out Ted served in the Grenadier Guards from 1939 – 45, he was sent to the battle zone of North Apuco – Italy and Monte Casino.
Before the war he worked in the stone pits at Helpston, in his leisure time he enjoyed sports of all kinds and excelled at football, playing for the village team.
After demob he worked on the railway as a chargehand. He married a Castor girl – Adele Longfoot, they made their home in Peterborough and had one daughter – Rachael.
DATA BASE REF: M/A 1028
DAUHTER OF GRACE AND ERNEST GARFIELD
I was born in a small thatched cottage in the Main Street of Ailsworth and was still living in the Main Street but a different house when I joined up. I was 17 year’s old when the war started, but as soon as I was 18 which was January 1940 I started the process of joining the A.T.S. and was enlisted at Durham on the 8th March where I spent my initial 3 weeks training. From there I along with several other rookies I was posted to the Duke of Wellington’s Barracks in Halifax where we took over the duties of cleaning, cooking and washing up etc, releasing the men from such things, we were known as orderlies and our title was volunteer, not Privates as we eventually became. At first we were billeted with families and after about 6 months a large house overlooking “Peoples Park” became our home and we journeyed each day on the trams to the barracks.
Toward the end of 1940 the Duke of Wellington Regiment were moved to Barnard Castle and the Barracks became known as the number 6 A.T.S. Training Centre so we members of the A.T.S. already there were trained in various ways and became the nucleons of the permanent staff to train the 1,000 of girls which were conscripted into the army for their initial training, which started off with a medical, and being kitted out with their uniform, then Drill, Gas Lecture, P.T, route marches, lectures etc etc.
In about 1943 the Training Centre was closed down and I was posted to Chesterton where we billeted in the Rectory which became the H.Q for 3 Ack – Ack Batteries which fired salvo’s of rockets, 1 unit was at Cambridge, 1 at Peterborough and 1 at Leicester, I was later posted to Cambridge from where I took my discharge for family reason’s in August 1944.
My first home was at Cambridge, then in 1956 I moved to Helpston to be nearer my parents, and where I still live.
SPECIAL MEMORIES: the first when our troops came back from Dunkirk and 1000’s were sent to the Barracks and had to stay whilst all information and documentation took place, before they were allowed to go home, the place was full to overflowing, every available place taken up, many harrowing stories told, and during the day they just lay about especially on the lawn overlooking the Officer’s Mess was just a sea of Khaki, which in normal times was treated as hallowed ground, and only the grass cutter was allowed to put a foot on it.
The second memory was whilst at Chesterton we would catch an occasional sight of every young girl’s heart throb “CLARK GABLE” who used to go to the Wheatsheaf at Alwalton.
I would like to add, although the war itself was a terrible time for some people, I did enjoy my life in the services.
DATA BASE REF: M/N 1001
REGINALD WILLIAM BURTON
2nd SON OF WILLIAM AND MAUD BURTON
BORN JUNE 2nd 1924 AT CASTOR
At the outbreak of the Second World War I was too young to join the services but in 1943 I volunteered for the Royal Navy and was accepted.
I was detailed to join the navy at Chatham Barracks on June 1st – a day before my 19th birthday – and passed a trade test to become an Engine Room Artificer. Following three months initial training I boarded a troop ship for Malta to a shore establishment.
From there I joined H.M.S Brixham – a mine- sweeper carrying out duties in the Mediterranean notably helping to clear a minefield in the Straits of Boniface and taking part in a combined landing operation close to Toulon.
18 months later, I was transferred to a cruiser – H.M.S Delhi – being attacked by German E.Boats in the harbour of Split – Yugoslavia. I remained with the ship until it returned to the U.K. on the day peace was declared in 1945.
Prior to this I served on naval ships in the Far East – visiting Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong. I was demobbed in December 1946.
DATA BASE REF: M/N 1003
JOHN STEPHEN HEPWORTH CBE of Peterborough, late RNVR, World War Two
John Hepworth was born on 6 July 1922 in Peterborough. He served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War. He then worked in Argentina until 1982 when he returned to England and lived in Castor.
Herbert Hepworth = Clara Crossley
Eileen Betty Joan Peggy John = Molly Richard
Elsie May Stephen Allen(Bill)
Sheilagh = John Moira Peter
Ann With Jane Ian
Died age 9
Caroline O’Donnell Sarah Morgan
John married Molly while serving in Jamaica on 22 Feb 1945 at Kingston Jamaica
After leaving Deacon’s School John went to do his banking articles with the Midland Bank, and was based in Spalding and Nottingham.
John was warned that he was to be called up. The first thing that happened was that he, with a number of other men, were sat in a school-room, given pen, ink, and paper to do some tests, basically to establish how literate they all were. Most of the young men wanted to be pilots, John had always wanted to go to sea. When asked which service they would prefer, John was the only one to choose the Royal Navy. He was called up on 15 Oct 1940 and went to HMS Glendower ( a former Butlin’s Camp at Phwelli, North Wales). After 3 months he went to Portsmouth Barracks. He then had an awful trip as a Demi-Gunner to Gibraltar. At Gibraltar, he returned on a Van W class 1914 destroyer. He then went to the battleship, HMS Nelson and was selected as a Potential Officer, and had to wear a white hat-band. This required him to spend a minimum of one year at sea, after which the Captain of the Nelson recommended him. John went to HMS King Alfred at Brighton to officer training, being posted as a Sub Lieutenant in Dec 1941. While training they were based at Fortwilliam for a while. One of the navigation exercises included sailing from Fortwilliam along the West coast of Scotland to Tobermory. They had to go to the bar of an hotel, to meet an old Lieutenant Commander, who had been brought back into. service for the war. There you would ask “Would you like a drink , sir, “ and having bought him one, he would sign to say that you had arrived. John especially remembers one convoy, sailing down to South Africa , where looking around you could see 25 ships ( such as the Acquitaine) from all the famous shipping lines, serving as troop ships, carrying reinforcements in readiness for Alamein.
After various courses John ended up as a Deck Officer (Specialist Navigation). His next task was to travel to the Mediterranean with a flotilla of Fairmile Bs. After three months in hospital due to illness he was posted to Coastal Forces in the Caribbean. This was an area of very intense operations, with heavy losses of shipping to enemy U-boat action. At this stage the most intense slaughter in any ocean was in this area. Ships coming through the Windward Channel between Cuba and Panama were very vulnerable to being ambushed by U-boats, and the situation did not improve until the USA joined the war in 1942. At one stage, John was tasked to go to New York to pick up minesweeper crews. They were sent to Miami, and ferried PT Boat hulls and engines to New York, sailing up the intra-coastal waterways (speed limit 5 Knots, actual speed about 30 Knots!), passing through Georgia and the Carolina. At that time there was just nothing there, apart from the odd wild pig which they shot. Now of course the whole area is full of marinas. After operations in the Caribbean, John went to New York, then to Los Angeles, and across the Pacific in a troop ship to Calcutta, for the landings at Chittagong; from there to Trincomalee working up for the invasion of Japan planned for 9th Sept 1945, but on 10th August the Japanese threw the towel in.
Shirley Temple’s Bedroom:
While John and his party were travelling across the States to the Pacific, they were granted ten days leave in Los Angeles. They stayed in the Bachelor Officers’ Club in Sunset Boulevard. Shirley Temple had just become engaged, and she invited a group of officers from the club to join her celebrations. Lots were drawn to see who should attend, and John was one of the ones selected. On arriving at the party, they were told that Miss Temple was confined to her bed, but they were allowed to go in pairs into her bedroom to talk to her. (She was about 19/20 at the time, a bright, bubbly blonde)
John returned home on an aircraft carrier in time for Christmas 1945 and was demobbed on 20th August 1946. Molly had been in Jamaica; after 4 days of marriage, John did not see her for 10 months. In the meantime Molly took a troopship to England (Molly had been a Naval Captain’s secretary and thus qualified for the passage). On demob John was a Lieutenant in the RNVR. After the war John did not return to the Midland Bank. He was cold, and hungry and had a new wife, so he joined the Royal Bank of Canada. He worked for them firstly in Jamaica, then Montreal, then Cuba, before, during and after the Castro Revolution,, then to Barancquilla in Colombia, then Puerto Rica and then to Argentina in 1963. While in Argentina John was made a Companion of the British Empire (CBE) for services to Her Majesty the Queen and the Country and the local British community. He remained in Argentina with the Royal Bank of Canada, until the Falklands Conflict, when he retired and came home; firstly to Cambridge, then to Castor near the town of his birth Peterborough.
Shortly after these notes were written ( September 2002), John decided to return to Argentina to live in Buenos Aires, to be nearer his daughter Sheilagh and her husband John
DATA BASE REF: M/R 1002
HAROLD EDWARD HILTON
BORN 5TH DECEMBER 1922 AT MAIN STREET AILSWORTH
SON OF LEN AND MARY ROLFE – HILTON
I joined the R.A.F in 1940 and did my first training at Skegness including square bashing, bayonet practice and P.T. Afterwards I was posted to Elsham Wolds in Lincolnshire as an A.C.I. Ground Gunner Airfield Defence.
My next posting was in 1941 to India sailing from Gurrock in Scotland, on the troopship “MALOJA”. Our destination was Bombay calling at Freetown and Durban on the way. We were stationed at St Thomas’s Mount (Madras) and later sent to Colombo (Shri Lanka) Ceylon where we formed the R.A.F. Regiment – which I did not take to – and in 1943volunteered for Aircrew. I was accepted and sent to
El Balla – in the desert close to the Suez Canal and it was there I learned to swim!
Here also I did Educational and Flying training and in 1944 was sent to Palestine joining my future Aircrew – a group of us combining to become the crew of a Wellington Bomber. Our posting from here was to Foggia in Italy, where we carried out 35 operations over enemy territory bombing mostly Northern Italy and Austria and also, supply dropping over Yugoslavia.
In 1945 I was interviewed by the C/O who told me the Squadron was going to the Far East but I would not be included as my time overseas had expired. As a result I was told to pack my kit in preparation for a 6am flight to St Morgan in Cornwall! From here I was sent to Bicester finally being demobbed in July 1946. I finished my
Service as a Flight Sergeant – Air Gunner – with a total flying time of 344 hours.
I must say I enjoyed my time in the R.A.F. seeing places and people that I would have not seen otherwise. In peacetime it would have cost thousands of pounds to do so.
I am now retired and living with my wife Joyce in Silvester Road, Castor. We are parents of twin sons.
DATA BASE REF: M/R 1003
JACK SMITH – CASTOR
BORN NOVEMBER 3rd 1920
1143969 FLIGHT SERGEANT JACK SMITH R.A.F.
REAR GUNNER (HALIFAX BOMBERS) No 77 SQUADRON
No 4 GROUP BOMBER COMMAND
I was still living at home with my parents Percy and Fanny Smith , at 11 Peterborough Road, Castor until I joined up in spring 1941, aged 20. after six weeks square bashing (basic training) in Blackpool I was eventually assigned to general duties attached to the R.A.F. military police.
My first posting was to Iceland in June 1942 for ground defence duties. I wanted to get back to the U.K. so I volunteered for air crew.
I first went to Morpeth in Northumberland then down to Stanton Harcourt in Oxfordshire. In late 1943 after completing a basic gunnery course we crewed up and went to Marston Moor, from there we were posted to No 77 Squadron at Full Sutton in Yorkshire, flying Halifax Bombers.
We took part in the raids on Duisberg and Brunswick and most of the other major German cities, except Berlin.our area was mostly in the Ruhr Valley, we did go on a mine laying mission to the Oslo Fjords in Norway that was a round trip of about 71/2 hours and we had no opposition from the German’s at all.
Most of our air raids over Germany were at night but we did go on one in daylight, I forget where exactly but the American Bombers had been twice and now it was our turn, in the briefing the officer said there would be no opposition as the Germans had moved most of their guns to the Russian Front, when we got back I can remember this very small chap from one of the air crews go up to the officer and say “you know those guns which have gone to the Russian Front?” “yes” replied the officer “well I’ve got news for you , they’ve bought them back” I had never herd air crew talk to an officer like that and get away with it.
The worst thing about daylight raids was that with our aircraft flying in formation at different altitudes so as not to fly into one another, you could see bombs falling from above some quite close, at night it didn’t bother you as you couldn’t see them.
The lowest altitude we flew at was 300 feet when bombing the Doodlebug sites in France, at the height we could feel the blast as the bombs exploded. We could also see the German soldiers shooting at us with their rifles so we would give them a burst from our machine guns to stir them up a bit.
One of my worst experiences came while we were laying mines at sea of the French Coast near La Rochelle, we flew close to the coast and the German search lights caught us and all hell broke loose, they hit one of our engines the force must have flipped us over because the pilot, who incidentally was an Australian, came on the intercom and said he had a search light coming in through his turret, I replied
“so have I” On our way back while flying over Cherbourg we encountered some friendly fire from the Americans who had recently landed after D Day, this took out another engine so we were down to two engines out of four, this was a bit worrying as there’s no room to wear a parachute in the rear gunners turret so its stored in the fuselage. We eventually landed at East Benson in Oxfordshire with one 2,000 lb mine still attached. Afterwards we counted 57 holes in the aircraft caused by flak.
I can remember an incident at another airfield when a Wellington Bomber crash landed on fire, the rear gunner was so badly injured and it was impossible to get him out, an officer had to shoot him with his pistol to put him out of his misery. We also took part in the bombing of Caen in France which was still in German hands some time after the D Day landings. As the allies moved out of the low countries and into Germany we had a month of taking plane loads of Jerry cans full of petrol to Belgium.
I flew 37 combat missions over France and Germany this did not include the petrol runs etc, sometimes I’d have to fly with other crews if they were short of a gunner.
I was demobbed about May – June 1946 I was in Oxford at the time and I had to go to Wembley in London to get my demob clothing. Most of our crew had been promoted to air crew by the end of the war, only me and another chap had not, I’d been given special permission to help out with the sugar beet campaign just after the end of the war, I still say that cost me a Warrant Officers job.
Our crew went their separate ways after the war, although I did see one of them some years later, a chap we called “Ginger Dick” as we had two men with the name Ginger, he was in the Wheatsheaf at Alwalton, he’d come up from London on a fishing trip, it was pure chance we were both in the pub that day.
I returned to the Peterborough area after the war with my wife Kath, we’d married in 1944, and went to work on Martins farm in Haddon where we also lived. We had three children Susan, Kevin and Beverly. Sadly Kath passed away in 1966.
I did come back to Castor for a short time about 1947 or 1948 I’d had a fall out with my boss so I went to work for Wally Longfoot an I lived in Splash Lane. It didn’t last long and I was soon back to my old job and house in Haddon.
I remarried in 1975 to Alice and we recently celebrated our 25th Wedding Anniversary and we still live in the same house in Haddon.
Jack Smith’s memories of the war were told to his Nephew, Mark Smith on the 10th May 2002.