Veteran Stories:
Francis William “Frank” Hodges

Army

  • Francis W. Hodges on leave in 1946 with a friend in Manchester, England.

    Francis Hodges
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"I used to shoot the rifle in the air because I couldn’t kill people. You know, they were children, women and children, for goodness sake."

Transcript

I was born in Manchester, England. Well, I was in the thick of the bombing in Merseyside. I was eight years old when it started, 1937/38. And I used to spend all my nights in the cellar below the house. And I was with my mother, my father and my sister. And I was only, I was born in 1927, so I was only a seven-year-old kid. This was before the war. There was air raid precautions. There was no war on but we had to practice for the war. What would we do when they started to bomb. And by God, they bombed, they bombed and we had a blitz, Merseyside blitz in 1940 and 41, it was terrible. I used to sit down there with my mother and father and my sister, bang, bang, bang and there was a whole row of houses opposite us, all demolished. The bomb hit that side and didn’t hit our side, thank God. Because I wouldn’t be here talking to you if it had hit the other side. It was kind of dodgy, you know. Merseyside was rained with bombs. We used to hear these German planes coming over (makes noise), and we’d know. And then wait to hear the bombs dropping and the anti-aircraft guns trying to shoot them down. And the barrage balloons on the end of the big wires there, trying to protect them. Oh, it was awful. Terrible, terrible, terrible. And the centre of Manchester was absolutely raised, Piccadilly, bombed and everything else. Well, we had air raid drills and the sirens used to (makes noise). We heard this, we dropped our books and we had to do lineup. We had to go down under the school, in case there was bombs and all that. We were never bombed during the day. They were only after Trafford Park and where the munitions were being made in Manchester. Merseyside. That was the Manchester, Liverpool area. And that’s where there was a port of Liverpool. The German bombers used to concentrate on destroying the docks where the boats came in from North America, when convoys came in. And also, Trafford Park in Manchester was a big munition factory, where all the munitions were, and the Germans were determined to destroy that and they did a good job. And our house was about 10 miles from the munition factory of Trafford Park. And so the Germans used to come out with these bombs and bomb, they didn’t care where the bombs were, as long as they got that damn munition factory and give it trouble, stop them, stop. But they bombed houses and they erased everything. Our house was never hit but on the other side of the road, the whole damn block was blown down. We had the air raid sirens every night in Manchester. We used to have to go down the cellar. We’d go down with a convection stove because we had no central heating. We used to heat with coal fire and my mother and my father and myself would cuddle underneath the stairs in the cellar. As a kid, it didn’t, you know, I wasn’t aware of the danger. You think it’s a lot of fun. But it’s not funny at all. We had bombed-out people and fires and smells and oh, terrible, terrible stuff. There was compulsory army registration in Britain. And I was drafted into the army in 1945 I believe. I was unit army number one, 4035732, and I was in the infantry. I did my primary training at Perth, Scotland. Black Watch. I was transferred and did my core training in Deepcut in Sussex. And then I was transferred to the 2nd King’s battalion in Thornby, Lancashire. I was transferred to Alexandria, Egypt, from where I became involved with the Palestinians and the Jewish people before the state of Israel was declared in 1948. So I was there from 1945/46 to 1947/48. And that’s when I got out of the army, I was discharged. Eventually, wound up in Farm Augusta, in Cyprus where the prison, where we kept these unfortunate people who tried to get into the state of Israel. And we were on an unofficial army police job. We had to look after them, make sure they didn’t escape and run away and all that sort of thing. We went through hell. We had to guard these poor people who were waiting for the state of Israel to be declared and we were a 20-foot-high tower with a rifle. And anybody who came and tried to swim to the boats as they went by, we had orders to shoot them, by the British. I used to shoot the rifle in the air because I couldn’t kill people. You know, they were children, women and children, for goodness sake.
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