The next morning we boarded a small craft (not a civilian
ship, more like a converted merchant vessel) and set sail. We watched the
Belgian coastline fade into the distance and had our first glimpse of dear old
Blighty a few hours later. We made our way up the Thames Estuary and berthed at
TILBURY DOCKS. We were then soon en-route to CLACTON-ON-SEA,
a town I was conversant with having been on holiday there several times as a
We were billeted in a boarding house taken over by the army
and after a few formalities and documentation we were issued with our leave
passes and were soon on our separate way’s home. Thankfully we only took just
as much of our kit as we needed and this included a few “trinkets” that I had
acquired during the campaign.
The date was 11th
July 1945. As I sat on the train I reflected that it was to be only
weeks before I would be on a bloody troopship heading for INDIA, for how long I
did not know, but it transpired later to be for 2 years!
What can I say about my leave? – except to say it was great
to be with Ma and the family and old friends again, to sleep between clean
white sheets, to take that uniform off!, to have a beer or two down dear old
Chantrelle’s, good old home cooking, one of Uncle Ernie’s haircuts!, a walk
round the fields etc etc, and, last but not least, to have a good old bash on
my dear old “Schupisser” GERMAN piano at 2 Clare Street!
Like all leaves it passed all too quickly and with a slight
lump in my throat I found myself on the train, being propelled towards CLACTON,
but with my moral slightly boosted by the knowledge that I would have 14 more
day’s embarkation leave before I left England.
In spite of everything, however, I must admit also to an
undercurrent feeling of excitement and a sense of adventure and anticipation of
what was to come! The only drawback at this moment was the fact that the war
with JAPAN was
still on and I might end up in BURMA
– Bugger that!
On arrival at CLACTON I spent a
couple of days in the boarding house where I was billeted, then I was
transferred to “Butlin’s Holiday Camp” which had also been taken over by the
army. Once again I was with a completely new set of chaps who, like me, had
been recalled from various units in Germany
and who were also on the BURMA
We were this time billeted in the camp’s chalets, only two
to each one. Now this camp was something. We had good grub, with a choice of
menus, in the largest dining room I had ever been in. We had exceptional
amenities, snooker, table tennis, piano (complete with stage), a private beach
belonging to the camp (but restricted for obvious reasons), our own post
office, own shops, gymnasium (which had been converted from the Viennese
Ballroom, in fact all the scenic arrangements were still there!), ad-infinitum.
Added to this we had the whole of CLACTON, no wonder we
were only going to be here for four weeks!
We were paraded and told that the camp was indeed a “kitting
out” centre for the East and our time here would be spent in doing just that.
Medicals, vaccinations, inoculations, a fair few lectures on the various things
we would have to cope with when we got “out there”, in fact a big
“pre-embarkation unit”. Thankfully, “bullshit” was at a minimum and I can’t
remember doing one guard duty. We also had quite a lot of “keep fit” games and
In the evenings we wandered around CLACTON
itself and had some really enjoyable times. I managed to have a play on a few
pianos and we had some good old sing-songs.
Then came the news that really boosted our moral. Over the
radio came the announcement that an Atomic Bomb had been dropped on HIROSHIMA
and, after hearing of the terrible effects of this new weapon, we all realised
that the end of the war with JAPAN
was in sight. The date was the 6th
Three days later, on the 9th August, another bomb
was dropped on NAGASAKI. Five days
after this, on the 14th August, JAPAN
surrendered. What good news this was for us, we now knew that even if we got as
far as BURMA,
our chances of survival were that much greater. I must say, however, that, in
common with a lot of people, although the JAPS were a bloody cruel lot, I had
mixed feelings at the indiscriminate extermination of thousands of men, women
and children, and the terrible after effects that would result from radiation
However, I came round to the way of thinking that, terrible
as these weapons were, there would have been many thousands more people killed
and maimed had the war been allowed to continue. But even so, deep down in my
mind I wondered if it was a good thing for mankind (and indeed all other
species) that these and perhaps even more potent weapons would be available in
the future. To this day I am still not certain in my mind.
The day after JAPAN
surrendered I was off again on embarkation leave (15th August 1945)
and this I thought was the last leave in England
I would get. So on arrival back in Raunds, only three weeks after my last leave,
I carried on from where I left off.
At the end of the 14 days Ma came with me to Wellingborough
station, and we stood there, waiting for the train to come, I really did this
time feel very, very homesick. After what seemed like an eternity, I saw the engine
coming, then watched as it slowly pulled alongside the platform, then grind to
a halt with a hiss of steam and squeaking brakes.
It was one of the worst moments I have had as I said cheerio
to Ma and boarded the train, for this time I was going a long way away, and for
how long I did not then know. Thankfully this moment wasn’t prolonged and as I
leaned out of the window, waving until Ma was out of sight, I suddenly felt at
that moment very alone. Once again, however, I found myself with other squadies
who were in the same boat, and I was “back in the Army”!
Two days after arriving back at CLACTON
we were ready to move. Fully kitted out with all our “tropical gear”, we were
(hundreds of us) transported to the railway station. A special troop train was
waiting and soon we were on our way. After a rather slow journey we arrived at
LIVERPOOL DOCKS, the train pulled right into the docks, almost to our “boarding
In a very short time we were standing alongside our
“transport”, a giant (to me!) liner called “THE MONARCH OF BERMUDA”. We were
all very aware that we were standing on English soil, the last time, for a very