My War Days

West Burton Local Defence Volunteers

These are the Local Defence Volunteers from West Burton. Us lads used to call them Look, Duck and Vanish, but they always stuck to their guns.

Evacuees from the North East

These two young lads came as evacuees to stay with my mum. They came from somewhere in the North-East and stayed for about a year. When they had to go back they were very upset as they didn't want to leave here. Does anyone remember them?

The picture was taken in Flanders Hall vegetable garden and the boys are wearing special constables helmets, one of which belonged to my dad Horace. Special constables were enlisted during the war to help out the existing police force.

Home Front

The old lady in the photo is my grandmother sitting with the shepherds wife from Walden.
In the background of this picture there is a car with a gas bag frame on the roof. During the war, petrol was in very short supply.

I wonder if that is where the term "gas bag" came from?

Home on leave


Me and my mum. Strange times when you are not sure
if you will ever come back.

I was a fitter in the REMES Motor Transport in the Canadian 2nd Air Force.

This is a close up of part of a large photograph of the whole company. I had been out all night on recovery and just came in in time to get my mugshot. I am the one right in the middle.

see the whole company

SS Samstrule Singapore

SS Samstrule, SS Samdart, SS Samcanyon. All these ships were known by us as the 45 day ships although there official titles were the Liberty Ships. They were built in sections and then floated at sea and welded together. They only took 45 days to build. They were the most Heath Robinson ships you ever saw (dog rough) but they served their purpose well which was to haul bulk munitions and supplies across the atlantic.

There were 28 lads billeted in the bowels of this ship whose job it was to look after plant, and deck cargo etc. The boat was noisy and banged a lot especially when the prop came out of the water and then dropped back in again. It nearly shook you out of bed.

There were three areas of the hold. At the back food, tents, ropes and other small supplies were stored.
The middle section held the high explosive. 40 tons of it wrapped in non-flammable materials we hoped.
The front section held the lorries, Bedfords etc.
On the deck there were two D8 bulldozers, a mobile power plant and a six-wheel Coles crane. Its maximum lifting capacity was only five tons but it was a special crane that was used to lift engines in and out of aeroplanes. Its design meant that it was able to lift the engines out over the aircraft wings without obstruction because of its long reach.

This is the kind of things that the ships transported.
Not exactly sure where this was taken but it clearly shows the size and conditions in a camp.
The washing area is built on an enormous concrete raft. The men would get water from the water tower in a double handled tin bath, wash and shave (shaving mirrors above benches) and then do all their personal washing.

Swimming Pool SS Samstrule

Raggy the ships' bosun designed this swimming pool and the lads helped him to build it. The main reason for this was to help to keep us cool. It was helish hot out there.

I'm the one in the middle again.

Panama Canal

Not a good photo I'll agree but it's just to show how the ships got through the canal. They were pulled through by tugs on tram lines.

This photo was taken illegally by a lad laid down on his belly so he couldn't be seen.

In the Philipines


These are very young local kids fishing in their makeshift boats or looking for anything else they could scavenge.

Babies as young as a year old would drop into the water watched by their mothers. The mums didn't appear to be worried. You would hear a 'plop' and another baby went in the water and started to doggy paddled.

The Straits of Singapore

This photo is taken in the harbour. I am sitting on a mine that has had it's whiskers taken off.
The mine is still full of explosive but the spikes have been removed so the mine is waterlogged and safe.

The famous Raffles in Singapore

Does anyone remember these little motorbikes.

They were issued to parachutists. They folded up really small into a cylinder that was strapped on with your parachute.

When you landed you would get out your little motor bike unfold it hop on,kick start it and ride away.

In Malaya


taken outside the garage workshop.
Just after this picture was taken I was thrown off the bike while testing it for a dispatch rider who had brought it to the workshop for repair. He said the brakes didn't work (and they didn't). I hit a greasy patch, couldn't brake and was thrown off and got covered in mud.

When I checked the bike over I found that the brake drum had been put in back to front.

The Mangle

My sqadron leader had this jeep flown out from India to Malaya and when he went back to England he gave it to me 'Sergeant Brook' for the use of. I clogged it to death.
Registration RAF 51506 and it seemed to do 60 miles to the pint.

The regiments mascot Corporal Scruffy.

This dog was a crafty beggar.

He would sit waiting at the roadside.
If he saw a truck or other transport coming belonging to the camp he would race up in front of it,and weave back and forth across the road to stop the vehicle passing him.

The driver had to stop and pick Scruffy up and give him a lift back.

On the left is a copy of a petrol coupon. Petrol was rationed.
When we were in Holland after the liberation the children were so hungry, when we went to the NAFFI/Mess for our dinner the lads would take a couple of extra slices of bread dipped in gravy and hide it at the back of our mess tins and then go round the back of the NAFFI where the kids were waiting and give them something to eat.
If the cook found out what you were doing you would have been in big trouble.

While I was in Singapore I had a bad accident. I was crushed by a lorry coming off a jack when it was run into by a driver running into the lorry and pushing it off the jack. (Accidentally).

I spent 4 months waiting for my de-mob to come through. I kept seeing the doctors but they said I was only bruised.
When I arrived back in Kirkham England I was immediately rushed to surgery.
They had to take out one lung and two of my ribs.
The sister asked if there was anything she could do so I asked her to save me the spare ribs.

After the war a mate of mine who was a cabinet maker made me a little coffin with a slider on it to store my spare ribs in.
A good conversational piece.

Back in Civvies

Back in West Burton up the back alley after the war with from left to right my cousin Reg on an AJS or a Matchless, John Furnish on a BSA 500 and myself on an ex-army surplus BSA M20.


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