The Rising Sun On My Back
When we declared on September 3rd 1939 that a state of war existed between this country and Germany an immediate decision was made to move our Apprentice School and Workshops from Woolwich, which was considered to be a prime target for enemy bombing, to Lydd on the south East coast of Kent.
We carried out the whole operation ourselves. Trucks were loaded with stores, tools and machinery and transported to Chislehurst, where goods trains were waiting to move everything to Lydd. I was in the loading party in Chislehurst, where we slept for the seven days of the operation, in a small corrugated iron rugby grandstand.
It was in Chislehurst that I met Ena the girl who became my wife. Her parents had threatened her with dire punishment if she dare have any association with soldiers, but I was persistent and she was able to win them over. They invited me to a party and everyone agreed that though I wore a uniform I was not an ogre after all.
Between 1939 and 1940 my training took me from Lydd to Stoke - on - Trent, Bury and Rhyl in North Wales. Whenever I was able to obtain a pass I would hitch - hike south and spend weekends with Ena’s family.
My training finished and I received the worst possible posting to a Territorial Regiment - the 137th Field - Royal Artillery at Larkhill on Salisbury Plain. For twelve months we were Deport Regiment to the School of Artillery and our 25 pdr. Guns were in constant use day or night, There was talk of the Regiment being posted abroad, and in August 1941 we received embarkation orders.
The next three weeks were hectic. We were medically checked inoculated and vaccinated. We paraded daily for issues of tropical kit and equipment - six shirts - six ghastly pairs of shorts which had turn - ups from knee to crotch, held up by buttons, and designed to be folded down and tucked into the top of socks or puttees, to protect the legs from mosquitoes - a toupee and a battle helmet - we needed two kit bags to carry it and all our ingenuity to pack it away.
Everyone had embarked leave to go home and say goodbye to families before departing overseas to an unknown destination. There was a strong rumour that we were bound for Singapore and I hoped sincerely that this was true because Mum and Dad, Margaret and Colin were there. They left England in 1936 and were due to come home but were prevented by the outbreak of war from returning.