In September 1939 we lived at Onslow, Wimborne, Dorset. I well remember at about 10am on the 1st, my mother coming to the back of the house where I (aged 13) was sawing logs, and telling me that Germany had invaded Poland. My mother was very upset and said, “War will soon start for us.”
My family in 1938
Two of my Mother’s brothers, Uncle Jim, 55, and Uncle Pat, 48, who had both retired as Lt. Colonels some years earlier both joined up again! Uncle Jim - in 1941 he was again, against his will, retired from the Army as ‘too old’ so he joined the Royal Navy. In 1943 he was once more retired, as ‘too old’ so he joined the Royal Air Force! He spent the rest of WW2 as a Wing Commander in charge of Kemble Air station in Gloucestershire.
Uncle Pat - was part of the Army who went to France in 1914 (when he was a new 2nd Lt in the Warwickshire Regt.) and after two weeks was taken PoW. He escaped from various camps SEVEN times but was re-captured. However, at his eighth attempt he got back to England in 1917. He was taken straight to Buckingham Palace, still in the clothes in which he had escaped. He talked with King George V for an hour who then awarded him the Military Cross. Later, in 1918 he went to North Russia to fight against the Russian Communists.
In 1939 he re-joined the Army (from retirement) and in 1940-43 was in ships moving troops around in the Mediterranean. He was twice torpedoed and sunk but survived.
c 22 May 1940
My parents received a telegram from the War Office announcing that my brother, Michael (19), was “Missing and possibly killed”. He had been in France since Nov 1939.
27 May 1940 (Toby’s 18th birthday)
My brother Toby’s Housemaster from school rang up my parents to tell them, “Toby has disappeared.”
30 May 1940
Toby rang up my parents and said, “I am perfectly well and have joined the Army.” (Queen’s Regt.)
Mid June 1940
My father joined the Land Defence Volunteers (former name of the Home Guard) but was discharged some months later due to his health/fitness. Thereafter he donated a pint of blood EVERY month until VJ Day.
My mother joined the ARP (Air Raid Precautions) where she manned a telephone for some hours each week to pass on details of Air Raids to many local villages etc. She did this until VE Day. Our young gardener, Jim Cross, joined the Army so my twin sisters (10) took over much of the milking of our two cows and I (13) took over more responsibilities in the garden etc. With the help of our aged gardener, we produced much more fruit, vegetables etc to help supplement rationing for ourselves, friends etc. Also we produced more logs to overcome coal shortages.
Mid August 1940
My parents heard from the War Office that Michael was a Prisoner of War. Thereafter we received a letter from him every few weeks.
My father heard from his sister, Isobel, that her two sons, Dick and Eric who were both rubber planters in Malaya and had joined the Army when Japan entered the War, had been taken prisoner by the Japanese. We learnt after the War that Dick died of overwork and exhaustion on the ‘Railway’ and Eric died a year after the War from general ill-health.
6 June 1944
“D-Day” - Toby landed with his Division in Normandy and steadily fought their way across Europe. They finished at the end of the War in Berlin. Toby spent most of his time in the Anti-Tank Platoon using 6 or 17 Pounder anti-tank guns to knock out German tanks. He was twice lightly wounded and had a scar on his nose. When near Hanover they were some of the first troops to enter the German Concentration Camp at Belsen.
8 May 1945
VE Day. By then I was in the Army doing my basic Gunner training at Marske, nr. Redcar, Yorkshire. We were given the day off but, in that isolated area, not too much happened and on our basic pay (one shilling/ 5 ‘new pence’ per day) we had no money to spare!!
20 May 1945
I heard from my Parents that my brother, Michael, had returned home to Onslow from his PoW camp. I was given three days leave to go home where I found Mike thin, pale and with a ‘squeaky’ voice as a result of the strain he had been under! When he had arrived home, he had given our Mother two bits of dry bread which he had brought from the PoW camp. This was because the German Camp guards had stressed that, “due to the German bombing, all the people in Britain were starving”!!
15 August 1945
VJ Day. At last WW2 was finished!! My Parents had become much older with all the STRESS AND STRAIN not only for their own family and relations but also for local friends whose sons had been killed. These included one local family who lost FIVE sons in five years.
At that point I was stationed at Wrotham in Kent. Geoffrey Horsell (who had been my best friend since we met at Monteacute House, Canford in Sept 1940) and I caught the 6am train to London and spent an enthralling day there seeing ENORMOUS crowds, the Royal Family at Buckingham Palace and a hilarious play (‘Me and My Girl’) at the theatre. We caught the midnight train back to Wrotham having made the most of our ‘day off’ on VJ Day!!!
Submitted by George Truell, 23 April 2015