Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Rates of Pay in the Forces between 1942 & 1945

I have recently been helping someone research the wartime experiences of a relative.

At this particular point in time we are discussing rates of pay and I was asked "what would you have received on a weekly basis during that period".
My problem is that surprise, surprise, I couldn't remember.

Purely by coincidence, the person she was researching was, like myself, also a Corporal so I am doubly interested.

Tom was overseas at the same time as myself so I am looking to him for the first response.

Thanks Gentlemen !

92 Comments:

Blogger Tomcann said...

Ron -
as I recall - we all started out at 14 shillings per week - less 7 shillings for family allowance.... this increased after trade tests at W/op basic - then again after class 11 w/op to around 18 shillings per week - then the massive sum of 3 pence per day on landing overseas - note landing -

if sunk on the way - tough beans - then again the massive sum of 3 pence per day for being at the sharp end - cut immediately on wounding, death etc.

This of course was for the lowest of the low - I suppose the exalted ranks above that level were deemed to be rich ???

Wednesday, 22 August, 2007  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Further to your quest for rates of pay etc - I went trolling through my Historic Document system to find a pay book AB64 pt 2 - only to find Part 1 of the notorious AB64 - but - I did find a few gems viz - Pay form 79 - part 2 which indicated that on Python - i.e.leave at end of term overseas - I was awarded the munificent sum of 3 GBP 2 shillings and 10 pence - to spend freely on my term of leave- 28 days - from 8 Feb '47 to 7th Mar '47.

on further inspection it was noted that - at that time I was subject to a daily rate of pay of 5 shillings and 3 pence making up some 7 GBP and 7 shillings or 1GBP 17 shillings and 10 pence per week - as you know we were paid weekly - very weakly! PLUS a daily rate ration allowance of 3 shillings and 2 pence making up the sum of 4 GBP 8 shillings and 8 pence to withstand the horrors of starvation !

The total amount therefore was 11 GBP 15 shillings and 8 pence of which I was prepaid the sum of 8GBP 13 Shillings and 7 pence at the transit camp on leaving Austria ! The final 3 GBP 2 shilling and 10 pence followed and was paid into our local Post Office!

Yet another gem was the Pay Form R 16 ( serving) Post war Gratuity which indicates that I was awarded the gratuity for 44 months srvice at 10 shilling per MONTH - to a total of 22 GBP's PLUS the post war credits of 32GBP's and 13 shillings for the same period - all of course paid through the local post office.

The most ominous gem of course was the recall to the colours which arived informing me that I should present myself to the Penhale Camp at Newquay on 11th August 1951 for training with the Inns of Court regiment - just in case they had to go to Korea ! This was accompanied by a very stiff letter from the C.O. Lt Col. Scott - not exactly welcoming me but rather - was I good enough for such an exhalted regiment, as many Officers and senior N.C.O.'s were from the Life and Horse Guards with whom I had initially trained at Barnard Castle.

Unhappily (sic) I failed the medical when the Irish Doctor - resplendant in a 100GBP suit - (mine was only 25 guineas)squirted a liguid into my left ear whereupon this said liguid reverberated all over his lovely suit - much to his chagrin - he then investigated my war wounds- and pronounced me unfit for active service !

This was the time when I asked about the opportunity for a pension - only to be laughed at - which made me all the more determined to do without them !

A few days later came an equally stiff letter informing me that I was no longer fit for active duty and to send back their rail warrant - with a reminder that I was still on ZT reserve !

Without my noble assistance - we all know what happened at Korea - don't we ?

Thursday, 23 August, 2007  
Blogger Ron Goldstein said...

Tom

Well done that man !

As you've done so well I will ask a subsiduary question also posed by the person I am helping.

What was meant by "War Substantive Rank", usually shown as WS in ones's records.

To the best of my own recollection this was the rank that one "dropped" to at the end of hostilities and allowed, for example, civilians after the war to call themselves Major Mannering.

Have I got it right?

Peter and Frank, comment please.

Thursday, 23 August, 2007  
Blogger Ron Goldstein said...

Tom
With reference to your "ration allowance of 3 shillings & twopence" this rang a bell with me and I went back to my Army Album to find this under "Ration Allowance"

http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/stories/19/a5686419.shtml

which confirms completely the amount you mentioned.

Thursday, 23 August, 2007  
Blogger Tomcann said...

The war substansive bit Ron - was - as you say where everyone went back - if they were regular Army mainly.

This was yet another cheap ploy by the authorities to get the job done for a lot less money by making everyone acting - unpaid - and temporary ! So when the war ended everyone reverted to their original lower rank - at the same low wages !

Even Monty was unemployed at the start of the war when he got back from sick leave from Egypt, as he was due to take over 3rd 'Iron' Division, but the declaration of war suspended everything - he had to finagle the incumbent Maj. Gen. out to the Bahamas before he could take over the Division - just as well he did as he brought most of them back from Dunkirk !

I recall the tale of the Brigadier in Egypt who was in charge of entertainment - and as such was in high demand from his superiors to "lay on" the best entertainment avilable.

he had a letter offering him his old job back on release from his old employer - the LCC- but he signed on as a regular as he didn't fancy going back to be a bus conductor !shades of "Privates Progress" with Terry Thomas et al.

Thursday, 23 August, 2007  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Ron -
I should also mention that the Major rank was one which applied to regulars who had retired - time spent etc - or invalided out - which they could use - and publicise in retirement.

This was in contrast to the rank of Captain used after the first war of 1914-18

Thursday, 23 August, 2007  
Anonymous catherine L. said...

Thanks gentlemen for the major, lively, and most useful bits of info.
Now, all I need to know is how much this would be today, or how it compared with salaries or rents outside the Army.
Cheers,
Catherine

Thursday, 23 August, 2007  
Blogger Peter G said...

As to the value of those sums today, it depends on which year we are talking about.

Ron's army ration allowance (see the document here ) is dated 1947.

The current value (July 2007 RPI 206.1) of 3/2d is £4.41.

Taking the other amounts to be those of 1945, their current values are:

£3/2/10d = £87.50
£11/15/- = £331.74
£4/8/- = £124.42

For your own calculations:

One pound = £28.23
One shilling = £1.41
One penny = 12p (more accurately 11.75p)

Thursday, 23 August, 2007  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Ron -
I just knew we went in too early - we should have waited until this year - the Canadians serving in Afghanistan now receive as an overseas "hardship" payment of $C 2000 (952GBP) per MONTH ! - mind you they are home after six months ! it's a tough (!) posting

Thursday, 23 August, 2007  
Blogger Ron Goldstein said...

Peter
Many thanks for the masterly interpretation of comparitive cash values. I've been recommending your erudition to Catherine (my research enquirer revealed) and now she will know exactly why :)

and Tom
Thanks again for dotting the i's both for me and for Catherine

Thursday, 23 August, 2007  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Ron - more than welcome - what is the point of having knowledge if it can't be shared for all our benefit ?

Many of the "historic"
documents are beginning to show their age as two of the envelopes fell apart ! Bit like me really !

Thursday, 23 August, 2007  
Blogger Frank mee said...

Gentlemen,
War substantive rank was made Substantive rank after the war.
It was a rank that could not be taken from you without redress to a courts martial.
None substantive ranks could be removed by your own CO as was my first stripe.
I was on orders to move up to L/Corporal and on the same orders had to report to the Adj, office next morning on a charge. I tacked the stripe on and sure enough lost it next morning.
From there it was all up. I went from craftsman to Substantive Corporal which was a relief then Substantive Sergeant and on passing my eighteen month Armarts course to Substantive Staff Sergeant.
WO2 and WO1 are automatic substantive ranks in peacetime.
During the Suez crisis we were inundated with wartime reserve men who flooded the mess.
WO's S/Sgts Sgts all with a chest full of medals and an attitude, we peacetime men had a rough time for three weeks and then the hammer fell. They were firstly all reduced to their substantive ranks and some WO's went down to Corporal. That cleared the mess and got them off our backs, we were in charge once more. Then the second hammer fell.
Most did not have the army certificate of education and were made to sit it.
That got rid of a lot more and I found myself drilling ranks with so many medal ribbons they were weighed down.
They sent sent most of them home which was the best as being reduced from WO to Sergeant was bad enough for them but then to be reduced to the ranks because of the education certificate was cruel.
Needless to say we let them have it easy until they went, I really felt sorry for most of them.

Thursday, 23 August, 2007  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Frank -
It was the Suez crisis that finally made up my mind to emigrate as I could not beleive the idiotic decision of Eisenhower and Pearson of Canada in telling us to 'back off' the day before victory !

The Mid East has been in a state of chaos ever since leading to all sorts of weirdo's popping up all over the place - now we have another one in Iran !

We had decided to visit the old colonies for a few years before returning as we had been married for seven years - without issue - I went out to Toronto in January '57 with Veronica scheduled for March when I had found my feet as it were - one of the first letters I received was - "Dear Tom - we are pregnant " - so Simon was born in Toronto !

Thursday, 23 August, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Peter G. for the calculations. I do not find the pay to have been ridiculously small, I expected worse, though of course it was nothing when one considers the risk. Am I right in thinking 331 GBP was a weekly pay? In that case, it is not that far off from what the Canadinas get, is it?
Thanks Ron, and also Frank and Tomcann, for the rank explanations. I may have to re-read the lot a few times. Up until recently I had no idea what the difference was between a corporal and a sergeant (???).
And congrats on the decision to become a Canadian: the same decision the cousin I am researching made. Some day I may consider relinquishing my French citizenship !
Catherine L

Friday, 24 August, 2007  
Blogger Peter G said...

Hi Catherine

£331 per week? £1,324 per month? In 1943 values that would have been £11/11/2½d per week, a fabulous sum. Men on reserved occupations would have been clamouring to get it.

Privates, on joining, were paid 2/- (two shillings) per day - 14/- per week. In current values, £20.04.

Friday, 24 August, 2007  
Blogger Frank mee said...

Catherine,
All ranks up to WO1 (Warrant Officer first class) are none commissioned ranks.
All Officers are commissioned ranks.
Lance Corporals and Corporals have it the worst, they have to live with the men they command, if they do not have a rapport with the men it can be a bad situation.
Sergeants and above move into the Sergeants mess which means they have an escape from the men although in action and some other situations you still live with the men.
WO2 and WO1 are usually apart from the other NCO's but when in the field have to live among them.
The CO and WO1 of a unit do not have to do any duties (Orderly officer, fire Officer) but in the field we normally did a turn to give the others a rest period.
Hope this explains it a little.

Friday, 24 August, 2007  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Catherine -

It must be remembered that the British were probably the worst paid soldiers in that whole war - apart from the Italians that is at 2/- per day or as Peter says - current value of 20 GBP per week - and I very much doubt that they are paid that much - even to-day !

The best paid of course, were the Americans who were - "over paid - over sexed - and over here".

They were followed by the Canadians who were never short of a bob - and their release gratuities closely resembled the that of the USA - with a choice of a four year FREE university education - OR five acres of land to build a life - a far cry from the British 10/- per MONTH !

There is little doubt that I made a good choice in emigrating as I would have been waiting for people to die in the U.K. before any advancement - and the whole ambience to progress was not good.

Canada was growing and needed people and had a different outlook - more enthusiastic, cheerful ! Don't wait - do it now !

That ambience is still here with the constant cry for people to work hard and progress - it's so bad in Alberta that they recently imported 20 chefs for the Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets - from FIJI ! and are paying them $20:oo per HOUR - the minimum wage is $8:oo.

It's the same in B.C. we are short of ALL building trades as we are preparing for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler - billions are being spent !.... and we could use a few Doctors as well as all ours in Agassiz have resigned !

So - come and join us - you will be a shoo in as you are French !

Friday, 24 August, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry for being so hopeless with figures, and thanks to all of you for clarifying everything.
My cousin was a Corporal, now I understand why he became so independent having had to live with all these soldiers for so long!
Don't tell me more about Canada, Tomcann-and BC in particular, or I'll hop on a plane. Vancouver is my very favourite city, I was there again in February, and of course I am aware of the immense opportunities there.... Who knows....?
And what is your rank, if I may ask?
Catherine

Friday, 24 August, 2007  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Catherine -
you are indeed a good judge as Vancouver has just been nominated as being best city - all round - ahead of Geneva and all others - by the Economist no less ! Algiers being the worst which both Ron and I would heartily concur - just for the smell alone !!!

No doubt you were ski-ing at Whistler - so you know how the other half live !

My Rank - ? - lowest of the low at Trooper - this rank is for members of a Tank Battalion which is a throwback to the Cavalry - Private for Infantry - Craftsmen for REME - Signalmen for Signals
- Gunner for Artillery etc.....

Trooper had the advantage of being a member of - usually a five man crew - in my case as the wireless operator,with a Lance Corporal as gunner - Troopers as Driver and Co- Driver/Gunner and Sergeant as Commander - with three tanks with a Corporal in charge of one and a Lieutenant in charge of the Troop of three tanks with 14 men under him.... part of a squadron of five troops of three tanks and four tanks at H.Q.with a Major in charge plus two other Squadrons making up a Battalion with a Lt.Col in charge - we were then part of a Brigade of three Battalions which supported the 1st Canadian Infantry Division all through Italy from Ortona.

being at the very bottom of the pile they couldn't do much to hurt you -

Friday, 24 August, 2007  
Blogger Boabbie said...

except get you killed
luckily not so in your case.

Friday, 24 August, 2007  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Boabbie -


believe me - a lot of them tried - very hard indeed !

Saturday, 25 August, 2007  
Blogger niccar said...

Comments on army pay as usual the request for assistance has already been answered
so I couldn’t attempt to offer any more but would like to add a few comments of my own firstly the pay for the lowest of the low i.e. yours truly 14 shillings per week half to mum leaving 7 shillings, barrack room damages 2 shillings and six pence I think Sherlock Holmes would have a job to find any damage but it was stopped anyway I remember we did get a free issue of V cigarettes when we were in Africa and nobody could convince us that they were not made from camel dung never the less
they were Ok to barter with until even the Arabs refused them. I remember in the field pay days were not all that often as there wasn’t any need to have money and when we did get paid if my memory serves me right the exchange rate in Italy was something like two thousand four hundred Lire to the pound so if you were not rich you felt like you were shades of innocence .as infantry there wasn’t any way to enhance your pay
so the first bit of the saying poor bloody infantry seems to fit but the thing to my mind which is priceless was the humour both bawdy and normal without which many would have had a hard time getting through each day when I feel a bit low even now
and on my own I often recite the legend of dangerous Dan M’grew or In the street of a thousand **** holes that’s the working class coming out in me to which I might add I am fiercely proud on that note regards to everybody and to Frank I would add that all the soldiers that fought and died in Italy they never had or needed an army education certificate

Saturday, 25 August, 2007  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Too right Niccar -
I didn't smoke until September '44 although I do remember the comments regarding both the "V" and the "Cape to Cairo" cigarettes - whereas the V's were made from Camel dung - the Cape's were alleged to be made from Dehydrated Monkey Muck - as well as some of the bedding!

Barrack damages were always a factor to lessen the burden of having too much money - which we didn't really need until we got to the flesh pots of Naples (sic) and Rome ! Then the rate of exchange was such that a barrow was needed to cart it all off parade !

Humour was always a major factor - no matter how dire the situation and kept us all going !

Just as well there were no educational exams in those days as no one would have shown up to fight ! Our largest amount of casualties in the Tanks were Troop leaders - mostly University types - who never did learn to keep their heads down !
Cheers - good to hear from you again

Saturday, 25 August, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Am I glad I asked the question as it led to lots of interesting details that are not all about money.

Looks like you are all competing for the lowest of the low - just remember that it's sometimes best not to let any school interfere with education !!!

I can see that your humour is still there, great!

Also competing for the lowest grades were the AMPC - they were not British, were not even given guns to fight with at the beginning of the war -which brings me to my next question and cry for help:

Has anyone of you seen them at work in Sicily, or in Italy ? The relative I am researching was part of an AMPC Palestinian company then and later transfered to the Palestine Regiment, itself attached to the Buffs.

Thanks for any tip, clue, lead etc...
Catherine L.

Sunday, 26 August, 2007  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Catherine -
sounds like a pioneer outfit - no guns - just picks and shovels - there were a number of them around in Italy - remember seeing a bunch of men who claimed they were Basuto's from Africa - who were involved in making roads etc - all labouring jobs - which we low lifes escaped for once !

an old friend of mine was ordered to meet the Abbot of Cassino to help clear the site after the bombing,

he "volunteered" a battalion of pioneers as he was Chief Engineer to 8th Army at that time. They might have been any nationality - but were turned down as the Monks did the job themselves - by hand !

Sunday, 26 August, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Tomcann, am trying again to post a comment, they sometimes get lost somewhere; don't know why...
So, along with my renewed thanks, a question:
do you remember where / when you saw that Basuto company? My relative was posted with them in Egypt in 1942-43. I am not sure if they were part of the Sicily landing (he was).
You are right of course, they were Pioneers, with shovels - but also guns in France, Greece and Crete...
Did you also have to do such labouring jobs yourself?
My best to the whole of BC!
Catherine L.

Monday, 27 August, 2007  
Blogger Frank mee said...

Niccar,
I joined up in 1947, the certificate of education had been brought in and it went towards promotion.
You were not at that time forced to take any education classes later it became essential.
At Suez it was used as a ploy to remove many of the SNCO's who arrived making the units top heavy.
The panic call up swept all sorts into the net including many married men with high paid jobs in civvy street who definitely did not want to be there.
There were some very nasty incidents at the time best left in the cupboard.
They managed to get things sorted in the end but that was the last such call up, the army became more professional.
We got new weapons and machinery, new tanks and vehicles.
Pity they put the worsts engine ever made by Leyland in the tanks so REME spent many hours changing engines in the field.
That is the army one step forward two steps back.
In the middle East we got 50 English cigarettes and 50 of the V's or Camels. I never smoked so they went towards increasing my wealth which we could only spend on Stella beer if we were in the Garrison.

Monday, 27 August, 2007  
Blogger niccar said...

Hi Frank
after re- reading my comments concerning forces pay it seems that my last remark seemed rather sarcastic it wasn’t meant to offend anybody and I hope it was taken in the context it was meant. That they were still issuing the V Cigarette ration in 1947 was no surprise I would think that it was still being issued to the lads today so perhaps a cull on camels might help anyway your service in the forces was different to mine
Inasmuch as yours was a career move whereas mine was for the duration and then thank god back to the old east end of London I did have to manufacture a different
birthday like lots of other lads as I was under age by eighteen months so I feel privileged to have two birthdays like the Queen but I can’t remember my unofficial one at the moment I am sending away for my army records so that will tell me along with other things what I got up to at the time and how much pay I was stopped in the process (only joking) there are so many memories that come flooding back lots of comical moments and stories away from the bad times that we try to forget but I will not bore you with them now

Regards

Niccar

Monday, 27 August, 2007  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Catherine -

It must have been around the Fabriano area when we met up with the Basuto's who were building a secondary road for tanks only - to get us towards Jesi for the kick off for the Gothic Line - that was in the August of '44. We never got stuck with those jobs thankfully !

Niccar - with the "fire brigade 36th Bde" of 78th Div - you had your share of bad times along with the laughs- east and west kents plus the 8th Agiles had enough to do along with a pioneer group

Monday, 27 August, 2007  
Blogger Boabbie said...

this thread is starting to take on the mantle of the pegasus flash saga. We need some more like it.

Tuesday, 28 August, 2007  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Boabbie -
at least we are not going around in circles wondering who did or did not give authority - never did get to the bottom of that saga...

and no one on this site is muddying the waters with incorrect "facts"..... we have our share of good threads...

get Peter going on the 100 years war - or Ron on his diary - or Frank when I was supervising him on the best way to shovel s... er snow near Barnard Castle when he was a raw recruit in the April of '47 !!! lesson #1 - "first - have a tot of rum - #2 - heat the shovel " !

That's always good for a few comments !

Tuesday, 28 August, 2007  
Blogger Frank mee said...

Niccar,
I was not upset in any way, you were right when they were needing them they let education slide, when they were feeding them (ha Ha) it all came back to peacetime routine.
That was a joke because there was no peace, no one would call it war any more. When you got home no one wanted to know, you had just been swanning about chasing good looking camels.
I was reading about the Helmand province yesterday, our troops are surrounded yet again.
Every war we have fought in since 1945 we have been surrounded. Palestine Korea Malaya Kenya Suez and now Iraq and Afghanistan. It seems because they will not call it war but more a holding action we have to fight an all round defensive battle.
Tom lad I told you, my old hands loaded everything for our comfort on the half tracks apart from the shovels.
They sent a track back for them and the driver was told if he came back too soon they would dig a hole in the snow and bury him up to his neck.
Meanwhile they cracked the big brown jug with me seeing a court martial on the horizon, those lads just did not give a monkeys for anything. They taught me a lot in a short time.

Tuesday, 28 August, 2007  
Blogger Boabbie said...

Tom do you mean something like. How did the French win the 100 years war OH! i forgot they had the Scots on their side.

Tuesday, 28 August, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not really a comment, another couple of questions really, prompted by what you said:
1) did you have to pay for cigarettes or were they given (they were given to French soldiers, for instance). If you had to pay for them, were they expensive (or did they seem to be?)
2) What was the required age to enlist?
and ... 3) Niccar, please, more details about the East Kent rgt - or where can I find them?
4) ... not a question, just a remark: though you are all talking coded to me, I try to follow and enjoy the arguments, thks for letting me eavesdrop and for answering my questions (Tomcann :-)

Catherine L

Tuesday, 28 August, 2007  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Catherine -
To answer your questions - no we did not buy our cigarettes - we had a ration of 50 - in a round tin - of Players each week - cigarettes were always in great supply as no one knew about cancer in those days !

Age to enlist - it was held to be at 16 for the boy's service but for wartime emergencies - 18 years old which we never went below although the Germans brought in 12 year olds at the last mainly as snipers !

East Kents - try Googling for "The Buffs" 1st 2nd and 5th battalions fought in Africa - Sicily and Italy

Tuesday, 28 August, 2007  
Blogger Frank mee said...

Catherine,
Free issue meant you got them free. In the Middle East as it was classed a combat zone we also got soap and some chocolate free plus the extra 1/6 per day.
I never smoked but duly got my 50 players and 50 V's or Camels which I saved until the lads who smoked ran out and then the bargaining began.
I was a hard mam when it came to parting with them so a mere chap on his knees slobbering all over my legs would be passed over for the man flat on his back about to exhale for the last time.
They would be willing to part with more chocolate.
Oh it was a cruel life and to see a smoker beating his head against a tank when he ran out of fags soon palled, I liked to see them fall on their bayonets first.
It did make me realise what a drug smoking was.

Tuesday, 28 August, 2007  
Blogger Ron Goldstein said...

Catherine
With regards to cigarettes......
You will find that it is rare for ex-military types to talk for any length of time without the dreaded weed being mentioned.
On the BBC WW2 website we would quite often have a thread running about various scams that used to take place when "flogging" our rations to the local citizens.
I've dug up one such story that you might find amusing.

I was replying to another veteran who had seen tins of "pretend" ciggies being sold to the locals:

You talk of half filling cigarette tins with soil... let me tell you a 100 per cent true story that I witnessed myself whilst on a train in North Africa. For details see my story:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/stories/60/a1996860.shtml

As we made our way to Tunis, the train at times was moving at walking pace and the lads aboard were bargaining,swapping and selling their '50 cigarette' tins to the local Arabs.
The 'double sting' that I saw went as follows:
One of the lads had cut each cigarette into three and had packed the lower part of each tin of 50 with toilet paper. The cigarettes were beautifully arranged so that when the sticky tape that sealed the tin was peeled off and the lid removed, the tin was seen to be completely full.

The Arab trader,in turn, was offering what appeared to be completely genuine Egyptian Piastres which he counted off in front of the soldier who was selling the cigarettes. The sting, from his end, was that each note had been carefully cut into two pieces.

Each party to the sting held on to their goods until the last possible moment until the train speeded up and then the Arab gentleman beat a hasty retreat whilst the English squaddie whooped with joy at what he thought was another good deal, until, that is, he checked the notes!.

On consideration, the Arab trader had the best deal, at least his cigarette ends were smokable. The squaddie lost completely out because his money was unusable. A classic case of the Biter being Bit!

Wednesday, 29 August, 2007  
Blogger Ron Goldstein said...

ADDENDUM:
NEVER trust your memory.
I now remember correcting the "ciggies" story to read Francs and not Piastres, the Piastres were not used until we arrived in Egypt in 1944.

Wednesday, 29 August, 2007  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Ron -
That famous walking speed train from Algiers to Tunis could tell a few tales especially about "fresh" chickens which had been bartered during the First War - and some of the eggs which had been laid about the same time.

But the ones I always got a chuckle over were those of the bartering which went on when we got to Vienna..... trading a cheap alarm clock complete with double bells for a fully jewelled wrist watch.... made in Switzerland.... as the Russians thought that bigger must be better !

Wednesday, 29 August, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, now I understand why and how you gentlemen won that war for us! You swindled everyone out of their victory!

Still, a sentence struck me: Frank Mee writing about the reactions of people whan you got back. Did you feel that they were not able to fully grasp what you had gone through?

On the other hand, did you yourselves feel like explaining or talking about the harder stuff?

I have admiration for your ability to share it all. One of you wrote (somewhere else, I forget where!) that the young will not listen, if only they did. True, I am not that young myself, but I am trying hard to learn as much as I can and very quickly too, I am aware I should have started asking questions much sooner, for my benefit.

What strikes me now is the realization that you could have a good laugh at times, in spite of what was going on around you. One knows that, but here it sounds so true, and it makes it so... real.

Tomcann, you mentioned the Canadians getting free education after the war. The Brits also provided free courses to their troops: my cousin was given a two-year course in journalism prior to being discharged and this became his profession
afterwards. The men could choose from a list of courses.

One more (maybe obvious) question concerning maerial things: You carried all you had in your kit, right? How much would that weigh?

Catherine L.

Thursday, 30 August, 2007  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Catherine -
for your cousin to be offered a two years course in journalism before he was discharged sounds odd to me as we were not offered anything prior to being discharged -

but on our final interviews at dischrge - we were offered courses - I asked for a university course and the Major nearly had a fit... instead he offered me a six weeks course in how to repair boots and shoes..for which I thanked him very much - but declined his wonderful offer !

All Canadians who served overseas were given the option of a four year University education OR five acres of Land, which they couldn't sell for 20 years thus giving a family a good start in life...growing their own vegetables - raising chickens - pigs - sheep - cattle -etc

Unlike others - i. e Infantry etc - we never had to carry our kit too far as we always seemed to have a vehicle handy and we had the Tank to carry our kit - but I would say that normal kit weight would be around 70 - 80 pounds (35Kgs)

However an Infantryman in action could be saddled with a Bren gun - or 2" mortar - shovel - extra ammunition - small pack with change of socks etc - personal shaving , cleaning kit - shovel- water bottle - enough to drag him down over five miles which was not an uncommon march - sometimes they got lucky and they had a ride on the back of our Tanks. They were not called the Poor Bloody Infantry for nothing !

At times all anyone ever had was an inate sense of humour - sometimes black - bawdy - unconscious - but a good laugh - see my tale of "Tank Brigade at Rimini" for humour !

Thursday, 30 August, 2007  
Blogger niccar said...

Tom Catherine and co

This thread about money has opened up a real can of worms and it seems to me that it could go on for quite a while as to entitlement and Tom of course you are right we weren’t entitled to anything and that’s exactly what we got except for what was called a rehabilitation course telling us to go in my case to Swindon and have a refresher course on your previous employment as I was only an apprentice in a dying trade anyway they didn’t cater for that particular trade French polishing so I could try cabinet making for six weeks thank god both I and the people that had been in that trade had a sense of humour so the instructor on that course told me to hide myself for the whole six weeks but keep out of the way of the sergeant major which took some doing there was building metal work and quite a few other trades but I spent most of the time peering through a window of the art class where a young lady was employed as a model for the budding artists so as I had done some time with an officer during the Italian campaign as the observation carrier it came in very handy in camouflaging myself this has been written with tongue in cheek and not meant to be taken too seriously but can assure you completely true

Thursday, 30 August, 2007  
Blogger Ron Goldstein said...

Niccar

You last piece set me in mind of a favourite limerick which went:

There was a young man from Iran
Who's poetry never did scan
When asked for the reason
For this form of treason
He said... I like to get as many words into the last line as I possibly can !

One further word on the subject of cigaretes.

Tom mentioned that we did not buy our cigarettes.

Partly true, but the heavy smokers amongst us would have been badly served if we had just relied on getting our "free issue".

In my case I would manage to get through the following in any one week.

Free Issue 50
Naafi Allowance 100 (Bought)
Parcel from home 50 (est)
Parcel from my CD (Civil Defence)
50 (est)
Non-smokers 50 Bought

That's about 300 per week and I took this habit with me into civvy street, we hadn't heard about lung cancer in those days !

Thursday, 30 August, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tomcann, I have little reason to doubt what I have been told on that course, though it may have lasted a little less than two years: it started when he was in Austria, in Villach, then in Klagenfurt, working in the interpreters' pool, and he volunteered for another 6 months to continue the course. He was only discharged in October 1946 as a result. (I have his service records)
It was a correspondance course, it implied assignments etc... and definitely taught the basics of the profession he kept to all his life.
He said there was a choice of such courses to choose from - while continuing Army 'work' - to prepare them for civilian life.

I have no idea why he got that priviledge, however, having in his younger years dealt with carpentry himself!

Thanks for the answer concerning kit-weight. and please follow the worms out of that can, I'll read on!
Catherine L.

Thursday, 30 August, 2007  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Catherine -
I do not doubt your cousin in the slightest but this sounds MOST unusual for the British Army - but then the Interpreters pool might have been laws unto themselves -

all I ever got in Klagenfurt was some lessons in German at the local Gymnasium - which was the local High school..
Niccar appears to back me up with his tale of skiving in Swindon !

Villach was a bit better as a pal called Danny O'Neil would sing "Returno di Sorreento" every night at the NAAFI Club until some tone deaf Divisional Artillery types started throwing things at him - which cut off our free beers !

Thursday, 30 August, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tomcann: besides being an interpreter interrogating former Nazis (and their victims) he ALSO gave German lessons...there ! Remember who your teacher was? Wouldn't it be strange....
Catherine L.

Thursday, 30 August, 2007  
Blogger Boabbie said...

Hurry up Tom and let Catherine know the name of your German teacher. Truth is invariably stranger than fiction.

Thursday, 30 August, 2007  
Blogger Tomcann said...

No such luck in this case baobbie - he was a grizzled old Austrian teacher who was tickled to bits with my Scottish accent as it is in some cases rooted in the Germanic vein and the accent is equally gutteral in places.

he was a nice old chap though and tried hard but was fighting a losing battle with most of his students many of whom dropped out very quickly.

Suffice to say that my knowledge of the langauge has deserted me owing to lack of use.

I recall on picking up one of the village girls to go to a dance at Friesach - she was smothered in perfume - one of the lads told her " du stinken sehr gut" whereupon she belted him !

We thought it was good German !

Thursday, 30 August, 2007  
Blogger Boabbie said...

In Germany in peace time I might add I went about with two mates and our most used phrase was
drie grossen bier bitter

Thursday, 30 August, 2007  
Blogger Frank mee said...

Catherine,
The reaction to soldiers after the war was, we have had six years of it.
We were also in the front line during the bombing raids, we are now sick of it lets get on with our lives.
I remember being in pubs (well under age) and some one from the forces would start to tell of their experiences, a call would go up "swing the lamp lads we are going to get a war story" that would usually shut them up or start a fight.
The people at home wanted a new start, to get on with their lives. The people from the front wanted to forget the horrors they had seen so we got a wall of silence that lasted nearly sixty years.
I came home on leave from the Middle East then Cyprus in 1949. I found most of the village lads who had not gone in the forces, all my old pals were still children, they had not grown up as we had.
It was "Hello frank where have you been" some one said "he was swanning around in the desert with all those belly dancers" end of conversation as it turned to horses girls and things that meant nothing to me any more.
In the end I went back off leave early to be with my own kind.

I started in the Infantry and you did carry your life on your back. Being Light Infantry you marched to the start line then dropped your heavy gear so you wore only your battle webbing.
I had a Bren gun 10lbs with four magazines in my pouches. My number two had a rifle 9lbs plus ammunition for that and more Bren magazines plus the spare barrel and tools for the gun.
My number three had a rifle more ammunition and sometimes four bombs for the mortar section.
When you next see a film with soldiers firing off thousands of rounds just think, some one has to carry that into action as you leave the start line and advance to contact as they quaintly called it.
As Tom said we never went anywhere without our small shovel, not that silly entrenching tool. You could dig yourself under the ground faster than any one would believe possible when you had to.
A life Catherine that people who have not done it would never believe.

Thursday, 30 August, 2007  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Frank -
I can hear the next question - "what's a light infantry ?"

Light Infantry ususlly means a battalion of shorter than average men who march at the rate of 140 paces - Medium Infantry - slower who march at 120 paces - then the Guards invariably the "heavy mob" who marched at 110 paces -

then there were the Tank men - IF you could get them to march anywhere but the cookhouse - at a rate of around 80 paces.

Saluting was always a giggle in a Tank - as regulations spelled out that the right arm came up the long way until the fingers - facing the front - were one inch above the right eye - then descending the short way down.

If you wanted a broken arm - that was OK - but we had to go up the short way and down again the short way - which we still did even out of the Tank - which horrified some RSM's !

Digging in was always painful in Italy as everywhere seemed to be made of rock - so all the infantry could do was pile up the rocks in the old Indian "sanger" way or make a bee line for the nearest tank.

Which the infantry hated to do as they always claimed that we attracted the enemy shellfire - which we did - but not intentionally!

Frank is right about the silence after the war - everyone had enough of it and it is only since the 60th anniversay of D Day which has unloosened the memories. Too late for too many old sweats - and their relatives who have missed out on their stories - this is why we were called in to assist them !

Friday, 31 August, 2007  
Blogger niccar said...

Frank

Your last comments concerning an infantry mans lot was really enlightening and only those that have been there would understand were you were coming from the nerve ends as taught as banjo strings let nobody tell you that they were brave going into battle it’s a fallacy except in Hollywood films and even as I sit at this computer just thinking about it starts me trembling all over and that was over sixty odd years ago
But humour as we have said before in large doses is a tremendous healer and sometimes even things that wasn’t really funny seemed to calm you down a bit with reference to the men telling their experiences to other people is something I could not and will not do but it wouldn’t do for us all to be the same

Friday, 31 August, 2007  
Anonymous catherine L. said...

Thank you all for sharing this.
Indeed, going back to people who did not have a clue of what you had been through must have been unbearable.
Don't you think the civilians' reactions may have had to do with a reaction to an overdose of WW1 veterans' stories?
I think this is what happened in France (but I am referring to Holocaust survivors here, of course).

Another question, Tomcann: what was the idea behind the German lessons (which obviously helped you a lot!)?

Frank Mee, your explanations send a shrill up my spine, I can just see it and feel the weight myself as I write.

As for the silence.... I was the fortunate recipient of details no one else in our family had heard : hence my research to put in context and write the whole chapter in detail.

Niccar, pages should be written about the notion of bravery, I understand what you mean. Still, you all deserve even more respect than others.

To get back to the thread: money - you did not get any official help when discharged, right?

I have found out that those who had enlisted for the duration (like my cousin, and he stayed for almost 7 yrs) were not eligible for any pension, unless wounded in action. Did you get any other
benefits in Britain if you were in that situation yourselves ? (not Tomcann as I understand you made a career of it, and in Canada, too, right?)

Thanks and cheers to all,
Catherine L.

PS what is 'the RSMs' ????

Friday, 31 August, 2007  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Catherine -
I'm a bit confused here - " I made career out of it " ?

It was the last thing I thought about - I couldn't wait to get out after five years of it all.

RSM's were Regimental Sergeant Majors - the bedrock of the British Army - they ran everything - ask Frank - he was one !

Friday, 31 August, 2007  
Blogger Peter G said...

Catherine

you said ... a sentence struck me: Frank Mee writing about the reactions of people when you got back. Did you feel that they were not able to fully grasp what you had gone through?

To which Tom replied Frank is right about the silence after the war - everyone had enough of it and it is only since the 60th anniversary of D Day which has unloosened the memories.

It is difficult to explain to younger generations what the war was like (it was always the war, never the Second World War), it was a war like no other, a total war involving everyone be they civilian or soldier.

Some soldiers fought in battles others were necessary troops miles behind the line. Thousands of civilians fought in battles in the various partisan and resistance groups. Towns, cities, were destroyed with many thousands of European (I include Britain) civilian casualties. The merchant navies of all nations suffered terribly, and so on.

Don't forget too that civilian men in their fifties and older had most probably survived the trenches of WW1, as a mere 20 years separated these two colossal conflagrations.

The result was that in 1945 the whole of Europe was heartily and totally sick of the war and a sort of voluntary mass amnesia descended. We had all well and truly had enough. When I got back in 1946 after spending five years in Italy neither my grandmother (my parents were still stranded in Italy) nor my two maternal uncles asked me about my experiences nor did I think this at all strange.

My elder uncle, Louis, had served in Africa, Italy, and France but he never once spoke of it. My other uncle, John, was an officer in the Merchant Navy. I only discovered many years later, after he had died, that he was at sea for a few days in a lifeboat when his ship crossing the Atlantic was torpedoed.

For many decades people talked of events happening 'before the war' or 'after the war'. It became a blurred event that divided life and the bit in between was never discussed.

Friday, 31 August, 2007  
Blogger Frank mee said...

Peter,
Very well put, you are saying the people of Europe were war weary in the extreme. I say Europe as that was the area we knew though it should be world wide.
In your case it was an experience beyond imagination and yet so many people of Europe had their whole lives disintegrate around them.
At the end we wanted change, something new and the word was "do not look behind move forward".
The problem with that was, we then entered a stage of austerity much worse than we actually had in war time.
I think there were a lot of reasons for wanting to forget the war.
My Uncle Ron Tighe who went the same rout as Tom and Ron, Africa Sicily and Italy to Austria, never would answer any questions I put to him until the day he found out I was going in the Army. He then gave me a lecture on keeping my head down and another on booby traps. It seemed that in Italy it had been the cause of many casualties.
It is a thorny subject Catherine and one that those coming after would never understand. As Niccar says you have to live it, and even then you do not fully understand it, you certainly cannot explain it in simple terms.

Friday, 31 August, 2007  
Blogger Peter G said...

Frank

The reason I said Europe, and not world wide, is that although world wide forces made a magnificent and costly (in terms of lives) contribution, the experience of civilians in such countries as the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa was entirely different from that experienced by Europeans (including the USSR) and Japan.

Friday, 31 August, 2007  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Catherine -
The last three postings sum up the general feeling after the war when no one would talk about what had happened and - I think - it was an attempt to hide the madness which had overtaken much of Europe brought on by the biggest madman of all - and the hope that it could not happen again despite the difficulties by trying to live a normal life.

The main reason to learn the German language was to exercise the mind, and to communicate with the civilians whom we were assisting by sharing our rations - keeping warm by lumberjacking in the woods - and finally entertaining at the Vienna Tattoo which raised enough funds to send 2400 deprived Viennese children into the country for a holiday with good fresh air and even better food.

So it was worth the effort at the time

Friday, 31 August, 2007  
Blogger Frank mee said...

Peter,
I would agree with your idea if it where not for the suffering of civilians in the Philippines, South East Asia, Sumatra, China and all those many places over run by the Japanese.
We tend to think of those allied to us but there were so many more.
I think we can say world wide abhorrence of war and mean it.

Friday, 31 August, 2007  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Frank -
I do think that Peter made that point but he did emphasise the fact that the US - Canada - NZ - Oz et al did not suffer at home by beimg bombed - shot at etc - but were short of food e.g - the Canadians did NOT have beefsteak for every dinner !

The world wide abhorrance of war did not last too long as the Kores "police action" took place just five years afterwards and since then of course we have had more wars and conflicts than at any comparable time in History

Viet Nam - Malaya - Cyprus - Kenya - Northern Ireland - Bosnia - Iraq - Afghanistan - Pol Pot - and now the new and improved Muslin attempts to dominate the world !

Which only means that History is being forgotten once more and thus we shall continue to repeat the errors of the past !

Friday, 31 August, 2007  
Blogger Frank mee said...

Tom,
There in lies the problem. As you well know Soldiers abhor war yet they have this feeling of duty.
Our lads in Afghanistan and Iraq will realise as did those of us in other conflicts it is not the answer.
The first and second world wars had a definite reason most of those since have not had that definite reason, they seem to be whims of the politicians.
It is to our credit we have still found the men and women who felt it their duty to carry out those duties, often with poor equipment and at times training.
It takes special people who once the order is given will get out of their safe holes and move out, or move off in their tanks to contact, or fly their planes in harms way and take their ships to sea.
Why is that I wonder, is it in our psyche or our genes. What ever the answer should the call ever come again I am sure we will see the lads and lasses lined up to sign on yet again.

Friday, 31 August, 2007  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Frank -
therein lies not only the problem but the tragedy of mankind in refusing to accept humility and place duty - that nebulous feature of all of our lives - above all.

The contientious objectors came close in their refusal to kill - and to accept the humble acts of carrying out the most dangerous tasks of all - collecting and caring for the wounded - as did all the medical people.

We do not learn too easily, except when it constricts our freedoms - then the Politicians become close to genius in their stupidity.

Friday, 31 August, 2007  
Anonymous Catherine L. said...

Sorry I misunderstood you, Tomcann, I somehow thought you had pursued a military career in Canada - apologies!

Peter and Frank: I can see what you mean when you say no one can understand what it was if they did not live it.

However, the sympathy element exists that allows one to share feelings that have not been experienced. None of you, gentlemen, has given birth, yet I am sure you sympathized and were at one with the woman you knew who was experiencing it herself.

I am using this as an example because I am sure that you would not have started speaking about your experiences if you had not felt that many around you were ready, and even eager to listen, that they were in sympathy with you (in the Greek acception of the term).

So Frank, you write ' a life that people who have not done it would never believe'. I do not agree with you - Sure it is not what we, post war generations have lived, but fortunately imagination and love can make up for lack of first hand experience. All it takes is the desire to share, on both sides.

Please keep sharing so people can recoil from the mere thought of such events happening again - and will want to put an end to the new warfare.

Thanks for soing so.

Saturday, 01 September, 2007  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Catherine -


while I would agree with you that none of us chaps have ever given birth - it was not for lack of trying by the Army Authorities that we failed to do so !

We gladly share our experiences with the younger elements unfortunately they appear to have been de-sensitised by TV and the Movies with people shooting guns which hold one million or more bullets - and in the midst of all this death our hero emerges
unscathed.

There is no romance in what many divisions went through at - for example -Ortona - Salerno -Garigliano - Montecassino - Anzio - Liri Valley - Gothic Line and many othermuchsmaller "skirmishes".

That kind of sharing is not for loved ones, and a very wise man once said - "there will be wars and rumours of wars" - while we await the next big one !

Monday, 03 September, 2007  
Blogger Frank mee said...

Catherine,
There are things that will never be told and some things that can never be told because they cause too much pain to your self and others in the remembrance of them.
60 years on and with much more experience we handle such things ourselves.
I cannot see how being counselled for breaking a finger nail helps anyone and that is the way we were brought up deal with it yourself.
Who counsels the counselors and where did they get the experience to delve into peoples pain.
I suppose we are only talking now because suddenly people want to hear those stories from those that were there.
Reading or listening to those stories will not give you the feelings of the person involved. The fears the adrenaline rushes the times you think "this is it, I will not get out of this" and the sudden feeling of calm that comes with it.
The depression after an adrenaline high that sometimes caused suicides for no reason. The horror seeing that and not understanding why.
You cannot put that on paper and you do not want to bring it all back up again so you give a sanitized version of events.
We will do it our way Catherine and it will not be House of Hammer style.

Wednesday, 05 September, 2007  
Blogger Ron Goldstein said...

Catherine

Tom says "while I would agree with you that none of us chaps have ever given birth - it was not for lack of trying by the Army Authorities that we failed to do so !"

You may not have heard of the phrase KRRs.

This stood for King's Rules & Regulations and these were contained in a massive tome entitled The Manual of Military Law.

By the use of these regulations the Military Authorities could legally charge the poor serviceman with a myriad of offences that he may or may not have known existed.

At one time serviceman would say "The Army can do anything it likes to you except give you a baby !"

This was later ammended to "The Army can do anything it likes to you including giving you a baby, but it can't make you love it" !"

Wednesday, 05 September, 2007  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Catherine -
If you do really think that sharing a trauma or two is a good thing - then you should have no trouble in reading to-day's episode of Gen. Mike Jackson's serialised version of his book in which he relates just one incident where 16 paratroops and 2 Scottish Infantrymen were blown to bits in Northern Ireland

This incident took place at Warrenpoint which is the coastal town nearest to the country town of Newry, where my wife and I spent our honeymoon in 1950 - such a lovely peaceful spot !

Wednesday, 05 September, 2007  
Anonymous catherine L. said...

Hey, gentlemen, stop shooting, I surrender!
You must be right... lesson taken.
Thanks all the same for everything, even though we seem to have gone a long way from the money matters!
In the meantime I have progressed enormously with my research and so I may have different questions to ask you in the future - unless you have had enough of mine?

Thursday, 06 September, 2007  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Catherine -
You have done us all a great deal of good and exercised a few minds in having to think ....which is good in itself...as if - "you don't use it - you lose it"

WE - and I am sure I write for all of us - welcome your questions as it has turned this blog around...so Thank you very much and happy researching !

Tomcann

Thursday, 06 September, 2007  
Anonymous Catherine L. said...

See Tomcann, Ron & all, I am back already!

That phrase you used Tomcann... I never thought it applied to the mind - a Canadian version, maybe? (;+)

My question today:
I read with interest (as usual) the references you made to hospitalization on this or that site. I hope none of you had to go through too much pain if admitted there.

I was wondering, what does the term hospital 'field ambulance' refer to exactly?

Thursday, 06 September, 2007  
Blogger Tomcann said...

uyvtCatherine -
that term I used is applicable to all organs - I have just promoted the mind !
It was said of Ex president Bill Clinton - when he visited Oxford - his old alma mater - in order to install his daughter -that it gave Oxford the opportunity to study his least publicised organ - his brain !

Hospitals in the main near the front line were called casualty clearing centres - were exactly that - "clearing centres" to be ready for the next batch of wounded -

in my own case - I was thrown out after three days - to a convalescent camp(sic) where my wounds rapidly became more evident- and so back to the CCS - thence to a base hospital at Bari and finally to Catania Sicily for surgery !

A field ambulance was invariably a jeep adapted with four stretchers
which carted you off to the CCS as soon as possible - sometimes overnight ! It was always fun and a confidence booster to see them lined up as you went into a battle.

Thursday, 06 September, 2007  
Anonymous Catherine L. said...

Tomcann, how interesting, first the letters CCS now make sense to me. So, if someone was admitted to a field hospital and then carted off to a CCS, it usually meant that he'd been wounded, right? - or would it be possible to have been there for some disease?
Another aspect: how many wounded could be 'handled' in a field hospital?

Sure, it must have been nice to think that the medics were waiting for you to have something to do with their time!

Thursday, 06 September, 2007  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Catherine -
I don't think too many medics stood around the water cooler chatting - they were usually run off their feet.
There was all the usual illnesses to deal with Malaria - trench foot - scabies - lice - appendicitis - stomach aches -jaundice was rife over there - all the usual PLUS 600 wounded per day as well as 150 dead during the month long Gothic line Battle where I got my comeuppance.

The nearest CCS to where we were fighting at Coriano was at Ancona on the coast 30 miles away, and at least one Hospital ship per day was taking people down to the base hospitals - note the plural - at Bari where I undestood there were 3500 beds available but mostly full and so many were shipped direct to Africa and the U.K. - except me of course who was thrown off at Catania as there was surgeon there who could do skin grafts et al.

No medics had the luxury of doing nothing and they were all worth every penny they were allowed !- except the nurse who daily forced a Mepacrine/Atabrine/Quinine pill on me to cure malaria - she enjoyed inflicting horror !

Friday, 07 September, 2007  
Blogger Frank mee said...

Tom,
You forgot the salt tablet, I woke up tied to a frame in BMH and the nurse said "you are not allowed any solids for a few days but here is your Mepacrine and salt tablet".
With the logic of an 18 year old I said "but they are solid" with one of those looks she said "oh so they are" and went off. She came back a few minutes later with them crushed up and a caraffe of water so the only solids I got were mepacrine and salt.
A few weeks so later I was in Kabrit Convalecent camp doing guard duties in a bathchair.
Monti Python would have had a field day.
You are right about the Medics, I reckon our two medics gave me the long life I have had, as they were all there was between us and a long desert ride to the Canal Zone and the BMH.

Friday, 07 September, 2007  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Frank -


Monti Python would have been too much for 8th Army as we had enough trouble from Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe... plus all the comedians at Staff headquarters who thought we could all fly over great big mountains as if we were still in the flat desert !

They never did learn !

Friday, 07 September, 2007  
Anonymous Catherine L. said...

Frank, please, what's a bathchair? (I am only a poor, ignorant foreigner - besides being a woman....! oops, just jokin')
BTW, did any comedians visit you there? (besides your OCs?)
No, forget that last bit....

Tomcann,
I never meant ANY disrespectful comments towards medics, I know too much about their jobs in regular hospitals to think they had time on their hands at such moments. Seems I should not have joked there!

Please, tell me more about the 'comedians at Staff headquarters' - I'd like to know how communication passed between them and you etc...

Saturday, 08 September, 2007  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Catherine -
no need for apologies - except from me as I mis-interpreted your statement of " the medics hanging around waiting for us " - this was in regard to the line up of field ambulances at the start of a battle.
These ambulances and converted jeeps were driven by the Drivers of the Royal Army Service Corps ( RASC) - no medics were near them.

What happens in those cases was on being wounded - one walks or is carried to the Regimental Aid Post
where the chaps trained on first aid were - usually they would then call up the ambulances for onward
transport to the CCS.... these RASC men did a great job of driving - under sometimes hazardous
circumstances -

this was a rough job for them as they were mainly employed in bringing supplies from e.g. the docks etc to a base depot ready for pick up by various divisions - brigades et al.

Meanwhile - depending on the advances of the army - the CCS would move forward - and so at times the drivers were left scratching their heads as to where to go !

A bath chair on the other hand had it's origins in the various spa's in Europe when people would gather to treat their various complaints in the sulphuric waters
and then relax alongside in a chair - usually made of bamboo basketware with wheels - and long enough to lie down - sipping their gin and tonics

Saturday, 08 September, 2007  
Blogger Frank mee said...

Catherine,
Believe it we all have a sense of humour so joke away.
A Bath chair was a high back wicker work chair with wheels on and a quaint steering mechanism on the front, a bent handle to a tiny wheel.
It was about as much good for being pushed over a stony desert as a chocolate fire guard would be stopping sparks from a fire.
In the Army you have to read orders every night even if you are dying, imagine my confusion at the convalescent camp reading orders and finding I was on guard duties.
Being me I went straight to the office on my crutches and complained they had it wrong.
I was told in no uncertain terms they had not got it wrong, I was to parade at six after drawing a sub machine gun and ammunition from the armoury.
I could have died laughing at the line of the halt and the lame lined up outside the guardroom if it had not been so serious.
Behind us lined up were German POW's with pick axe handles.
We were paired of with the Germans, I had two and told off to our posts.
The Germans who were actually waiting for repatriation to Germany and were in our camp to socialise with us so we all ate and drank together and obviously did guards.
They pushed me to the dugout at the side of the canal where we took turns sleeping and keeping watch.
They had cleaned my weapon and loaded the four magazines. I told them if anything happened to use the weapon to hold the position while I scooted off in the bath chair to get help.
They were great guy's and managed to rustle up hot tea and sandwiches during our night watch, it gets very cold at night in the desert so it was welcome.
And so it was for the rest of my stay there, the shortage of men at that time as the wartime men flooded out of the army meant we did strange things and being on guard though unfit was one of them.
We had some good nights in the canteen where there was an old piano and they discovered I could play Lily Marlene and the Horst Wessel song among other things.
The odd thing was although we were on a strict regime of medication and exercise they never stopped us drinking.
So it was Germans and Brits would end up singing sad songs and crying into our beer with homesickness.
The old wartime hatred for all things German got cured in that camp and also at Genifa German POW camp I was posted to later.
Funny old world ain't it.

Saturday, 08 September, 2007  
Anonymous Catherine L. said...

More thanks - loved the wicker chairs stories, and the 'reconciliation' bit.
Shall be coming back for more, as I need details on sleeping conditions around Cassino. See, there's always something new coming up, as you are the only ones I can rely on for lively and accurate accounts these days!
Also, what do Narni and Assisi remind you of?

Sunday, 09 September, 2007  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Catherine -
I am not too clear on what you are meaning with Narni and Assisi - but to 8th Army types - it was another escape route for two German Armies when the US General Mark Clark in his ultra egoism to be first into Rome - instead of acting like an Anvil at Valmontone to our Hammer approaching from the South - turned left and off the Germans went through Narni - Terni and Rieti by passing Assisi and finally getting back beyond Foligno to set up behind the Gothic Line.

Assisi of course, was the home of St. Francis and his sister St.Clare and where he founded the order of the Franciscans who played a major role in the rebuilding of the Church - St Francis mis understood his instructions from above and rebuilt a very small Church which stand to-day in the Nave of the Downtown Cathedral and below the Basilica's of both Francis and Clare.

I spent a few months in Rieti( as did Ron) after hospital learning all about Armoured cars which allowed me to haunt Rome and St Peters nearly every week end.

An abiding memory of Assisi was when we spent a few days there in '78 - we went one day to the top of the mountain to a stable for lunch - I think the animals were taken out as we arrived !

The menu was on the wall of the
booth/stall and looked to be at least 50 years old and so my son started reading from the top and he was half way through when I noticed that the waitress was writing it all down on her pad. The Vino was also made 50 years ago - great for a frontal lobotomy !

Monday, 10 September, 2007  
Blogger Ron Goldstein said...

Catherine

Do I take it that you are planning to visit Cassino ?
Do you use TripAdvisor for holiday queries?
I do, and to date it has never let me down.
Look at it's reader's views on the hotel/hotels there and as you can see they are not impressed.

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotels-g194714-Cassino_Lazio-Hotels.html

I would suggest staying in Rome, as I did, and taking the train south. It's about 100 miles and takes two very comfortable hours.
Once there you can take taxis both to the cemeteries and the Monastery.

Assisi is worth a visit but only if you are in the area.

Monday, 10 September, 2007  
Anonymous Catherine L. said...

Great tips.Tomcann you have answered my curiosity perfectly well, thks.

Ron, thks for the info, too, I'm saving it -I was not thinking of a trip right now, but will certainly retrace some of your footsteps (and my cousin's) when my research is quite over and the planned trips to BC and California next year are behind us!
(The great advantage of having family all over the place!) - Italy we can also drive to, not being that far away...


By sleeping conditions I really meant during the fighting. Tents? Barracks? Tanks? Olive groves? Trenches? What else?

Monday, 10 September, 2007  
Blogger Frank mee said...

Sleep, if and when you could get any, was where you were when your eye's closed.
You never slept under anything, tanks and vehicles can sink in sand or mud and even normal looking fields that turn out to be floating on a hidden lake.
In my first run up to Palestine I was driving a ten tonner with petrol in cans for the tanks.
Sleeping in the cab I noticed the fire flies until the Sgt shouted get down, they were tracer bullets.
After that I slept as far away from the truck as I could.
With our ARV's we had a half tent section we fixed to the track guard so we slept beside the vehicle making sure we were not in the line of any other vehicle. Tanks have been known to run away taking everything in its way with it as it went.
In Germany we had tents although with my exalted rank I got to sleep on the platform of the machinery truck which was complete with cooker and heater.
Other times we dug holes and hoped we were above the water table if it rained.
The idea is the tanks are kept rolling no matter what and if that meant you only slept on rare occasions so be it.
We made up for it back at Garrison, go in any barrack room when there is a break in duties and you will find rows of men chilled out on their beds.

Monday, 10 September, 2007  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Catherine -
Sleep was a seldom commodity at Cassino as Frank says - it was when your eyes would close which was not too often as they were usually wide with horror.

I was luckier than Ron - who was in the thick of it while we waited 20 miles away at Presenzaro awaiting the outcome of the fourth battle - it was the noise mainly - of 200 Tanks negotiating for space as well as a million guns going off at the same time.

...... and yet in the midst of all this madness the song of the Nightingale was heard clearly in a few moments of peace... it was re assuring that all was not lost !

Monday, 10 September, 2007  
Blogger niccar said...

Tom
Re the nightingale singing in a quiet moment
In 2000 we visited some of the wife’s family in Calgary and was taken to see all the local sites and of course the Calgary Stampede and a Military museum came up as a place to visit as I showed interest was asked by the wife’s sister if I had done any military service to which my wife replied yes as a soldier during the war, the museum brought back vivid memories as we fought alongside the Canadians as the
Battleaxe division the 78th right up to the Sangro river so I was asked what it was like being in the front line and as I have stated before there is no way I could answer that
So not wanting to be reduced to a gibbering wreck I sat there for a few minutes and said you know that as you get nearer to the line in the quieter moments there is an electrifying silence waiting for all hell to break loose and not even the birds sang to which she got up went to a bookshelf and handed me a book called And No Birds
Sang by Farley Mowat a young officer in the Hasting and Prince Edward Regt
(The hasty pees)
I can endorse Frank and your own statements regarding sleeping and think only the poor lads that bought it as the saying went in those days that slept peacefully

Wednesday, 12 September, 2007  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Niccar -
know that museum well as it is in the Currie Barracks which is the home of the PPCLI's - Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry - the only permanent force Regiment in the Canadian Army from the Western provinces, and leader of 2nd Bde, the 2nd Batt. is now in Afghanistan.
While the ( Hasty Pees) Hastings and Prince Edward's were a reserve (teritorial) Regt in 1st bde.

Farley Mowat of course was a significant author in post war Canada and wrote many books of his experiences.

The Sangro was noted as a bad one as it coincided with the onset of the monsoons which took all the bridges out more than once, and was Monty's penultimate battle before heading off for the Landings in France after Christmas.

Our two Tank Brigades 25th and 21st took over the Tank support of 1st Cdn.Div after the Christmas battles of Ortona and did the initial training with them at Lucera near Foggia, when the sun finally came out again,and all the birds were singing once more.

Wednesday, 12 September, 2007  
Anonymous Catherine L. said...

No way any comment can be made after that. I think I shall never hear the birds singing in the same way - but shall appreciate the fact that they are singing by my window.
Another one of my silly questions, regarding food this time - I have read in some of the reports on the BBC website that fruit and vegetables were more available in Italy than before in the ME. I have read about the rations, M&V etc...But your direct answers will be more precious.
So, when you had time to eat, what did you think of the food and also, was everyone given the same food? (I mean was there a difference depending on the ranks?)
Were you given vitamin supplements or have I dreamt those up?

Wednesday, 12 September, 2007  
Blogger Frank mee said...

That was a story told about Belsen, no birds sing there.
In Germany we often took young soldiers to the Belsen camp and museum.
The camp was burned within days but the mounds remain with the people who never left. There is the wall of remembrance and the entrance museum.
The lads would be chattering and laughing as we bussed them in and that was the one fact they seemed to know, the birds never sing.
Once inside after going through the museum they had gone quiet. The next shock they got was the mounds with the number of Toten in them and then they realised the place was full of birds singing and twittering as they flitted about.
They came away very quiet indeed as they had realised the horror of it all as best they could.
They knew that nature never stands still, the birds did sing.
I go with Niccar though, it is uncanny how animals birds and even insects seem to sense something going to happen. They all go quiet even the crickets stop chirping.
Another unexplained mystery.

Wednesday, 12 September, 2007  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Catherine -
when it comes to a discussion of food - four things have to be remembered - there were different rations for 0fficers and Other Ranks, in barracks in the U.K. where the food was invariably good, filling and sustainable - overseas food in camps - overseas food in Battle....strangely - the food in battle was usually the worst when it should have been the best !
In Tanks of course - we had Coleman propane cookers and Benghazi Kettles for tea making - always a plentiful supply of tea and the makings - endless cans of 1914 era M&V - bully beef etc augmented by sometimes fresh vegs and fruit which could be stolen en route - halting under a peach tree and filling up with same cost me three weeks in hospital with Gastro-enteritis !

one classic case was when we were given a seven pound tin of marmalade - on the West side of Algiers and somehow it was traced all the way back to the East side of Algiers via New York - Southampton by Merchant Seamen risking all for that tin of marmalade !

Another time we lost a Tank and had to walk back to the Forward Delivery Squadron for another one - and were invited to stay for lunch - which just happened to be a "regular" menu of Roast Beef - Yorkshire pudding and all the trimmings followed by pineapple rings and cream - we all volunteered for duty with them but there were no vacancies !
Another feast was when a commando joined us in the transit camp at Cap Matifou - near Algiers
- he disappeared to return minutes later armed with this feast - which was disposed of in seconds and during a clean up - all hell broke out - someone had stolen all the officer's dinners !
.... and then there was the saga of the "Dehydrated Meat" which you can read in my tale of "Tunisia 1943" from the BBc war series !

Food was a constant subject for discussion - even before girls !

Wednesday, 12 September, 2007  
Blogger Frank mee said...

Catherine,
Having been on wartime rations supplemented by having our own small holding with pigs hens geese ducks rabbits and the odd goat. Plus the fact Dad was a supreme gardener in our walled garden that produced food two weeks before any one else in the area, I did not know what hunger was.
When the war ended, much to every ones shock the rationing got worse and food much scarcer as the Americans stopped all aid.
In 1947 I went in the army and found the food plentiful and good, then to the Middle East.
We had been short of fruit apart from home grown in season plus the odd orange or lemon, apples from Canada or Australia brought by boat at the risk of seamen's lives.
The Middle East was to us young lads a garden of Eden. All kinds of fruit growing on trees or in the fields. I had never seen fresh figs, an orange lemon or grapefruit off the tree was a taste beyond belief.
Banana's Water melons sugar melons and other fruits we had never heard of were all plentiful in the big garrisons, we just helped ourselves so like Tom we all had the runs until we got more used to it.
Then came the Desert patrols and LofC duties. You took what you could get on the trucks between the tools and the spares.
Fresh food lasted one day in the heat so we were down to dry and tinned food.
We had all the usual M&V, Bully Beef, Spam, dry cabbage and potato circa 1914 as Tom said. We had tins of flour bacon and egg (that was awful) but we had tins of bacon alone which were good.
There was the dried biscuit circa the battle of Waterloo.
Then dry figs apricots currants and raisins.
Out of that lot we cooked a breakfast then an evening meal, in the heat of the day you did not want to eat, bully ran out of the tin like some kind of soup.
We had someone as cook for the day who did his own thing with what was available, no bread remember so you had to eat something.
Every one whatever rank attached themselves to our little platoon messes.
The Officers often had something extra to put in and when I was cook for the day mothers training came to my aid.
You soaked the dried Cabbage and made up a mix with the pom (dry potato) crushed biscuit (shake the weevils out first) and bully or spam. Fry them off in the plentiful olive oil and with some mash made with pom carnation milk and oil sometimes a tin or two of beans made the main meal.
I crushed biscuit and with dried fruit soaked overnight in a bucket made a pudding that we wrapped in a cloth and hung over the constantly boiling billy of water for tea. That went down with Carnation milk.
I could make a fast rice pudding by first cooking the rice with just a drop of water until it had soaked it up then oil to coat and add a little at a time milk and water mixed, you had to stand and stir it for nearly an hour but it was worth it.
The cook then relaxed whilst the rest washed up and cleared it all back on the trucks in case of a fast move, Officers did their turn too. It got that by a vote I was elected cook most of the time but as the dry rations ran out it got a bit difficult.
Sometimes we would stop Arab trucks coming down from Palestine with fresh food and vegetables then we had a feast. Often we were on the very last of everything before we got relieved.
That was the period when I found out what it was like to be hungry.

Thursday, 13 September, 2007  
Blogger niccar said...

Catherine

As a private soldier I was never privy to reading Kings Rules and Regulations but I
heard somewhere that the British army guarantees a hot dinner to its troops every day but as a day is 24 hours it could be at any time day or night hence in the front line it was taken to the front line troops in difficult situations for instance in the Apennines by mules and at night at Cassino because you were under observation all the time and even at night you had the vary lights being shot overhead lighting up the front so even
the proverbial MandV tasted like a banquet at two o/clock in the morning.
Every one knows that you always want what you can’t have and my own obsession was bread so from Algiers till a field bakery could be set up we lived on what was described as dogs biscuits hard tack and lucky we were all young and had healthy teeth but even with a spoonful of jam on top they were terrible but the tins they came in were handy cut in half they made good washing basins.
A particular occasion comes to mind when the line was static and the weather was holding things up it was Christmas day and the cook had been given some tinned Turkey from the Quartermaster probably donated by the Americans so the cook who was a Scouser and Army Catering Corp trained put the lot into a large cooking pot
And cooked it but it was already cooked so when it came to dishing it up all that came out of the pot was a load of mush and loads of bones as we sat there looking very despondent our officer came over to see why and when he saw the meal he went berserk what else have you got in the truck he enquired they can’t eat that on being told that all the cook could provide was bully beef that is what we had for Christmas dinner but in all fairness they did us proud when we finally got our Christmas dinner in February.
We watched the cook prepare a meal one day he was chopping a cabbage in half with a machete and put it straight in the pot when we said it had not been washed and there was soil on the outside leaves he said don’t worry it will make the gravy thick (talk about Ma I miss your apple pie) even if the Germans never killed us the cook had a good try hence the saying “who called the cook a P*** who called the P*** a cook”

Thursday, 13 September, 2007  
Anonymous Catherine L. said...

Frank mee -
your recipe for sweet risotto would make anyone salivate! At least the set-up made you resourceful and you probably enjoyed getting proper ingredients later on.
I must say your descriptions make me wish someone had written a book of recipes to hand over to young husbands...
Thanks Niccar and Tomcann for the tales of candle-lit (!!) suppers in spaces enclosed or otherwise. I have never come across such vivid, interesting details before on the matter - except the bit about the runs!
I am saving those carefully, believe me.

Thursday, 13 September, 2007  

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