"When we traveled through Germany, I didn’t realize the devastation was so great in the cities. Along the cities, you could see for miles and hardly see one brick on top of another"
It was the greatest event in the history of our lifetimes, there’s no doubt about that. And there will probably never be anything like that again. When you consider D-Day, it was the greatest armada in the history of mankind. Going over to Normandy. And although I didn’t see it, except for the, as I mentioned, the planes towing gliders, it must have been quite a sight, how many ships, 5,000, 10,000 ships crossing the Channel. On the early hours of 6 June, I was on duty and I heard this roar of planes going over. I looked up in the sky and it was dozens of planes towing gliders. So obviously D-Day had begun.
I was transferred from basic training, General Service Corps [British army holding unit] to the Sherwood Foresters [Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment], which was the local infantry regiment. For some reason or other, there was a group of us were separated from the rest and we weren’t sent over. We were sent to the south of England, which was a break because the weather was much better down there. And we started training for the Far East.
It was May 1945 then, and the war in Europe ended. So we figured we’d be shipped out to the Far East right away after that because there was quite a few troops came over from Germany and started training with us. After they moved around quite a bit, finally finished up in Dover; the war in the Far East ended. So that was it. After a while, they shipped us out to Germany to become the army of occupation.
When we traveled through Germany, I didn’t realize the devastation was so great in the cities. Along the cities, you could see for miles and hardly see one brick on top of another, the devastation was so great. And while on the way, before we got to Germany, we traveled through Arnhem on the train; and in the fields around Arnhem was still the wreckage of gliders that had crash landed.
We were transferred to the Dorsetshire Regiment [British infantry] which was the first battalion of the Dorsetshire Regiment and one thing I was surprised at, how badly depleted that regiment was and how many of the guys had been POWs. And then I found out afterwards that during the battle Arnhem, when they started to bring the paratroops back over the Rhine, the Dorsetshire Regiment was sent over as a rear guard. And I don’t think there’s any arrangement to bring them back across the Rhine, so that’s why so many were taken prisoner. And I guess the casualties were pretty heavy too.
When I was discharged and got back to England, just about everyone, of course, had served, but nobody seemed to want to talk about it. They just wanted to get back to civilian life, getting back to work and forget the whole thing. And it seemed it wasn’t until years later that anybody really wanted to talk about their experiences.
I remember once incident, a friend of mine that I’d gone to school with, I know he served in Italy with the British army, never mentioned anything about it at all. Now, he played on the same soccer team as I did. Just a fun league. And I remember standing next to him in the dressing room one day, changing into his soccer uniform, took his shirt off and there must have been a dozen wounds in his back from bullets, shrapnel or whatever. He’d never mentioned anything about it. I never do [say] anything about it. I guess that’s the way it was.