9 - Back in Chatham
Royal Marine Depot Chatham
my leave had finished I returned to the Royal Marine Depot in
Chatham. Before I had been captured as a POW I had been in C
Company and that’s where I returned.
was in the same room I had occupied prior to my departure to
Boulogne. My suitcase was still there but all it contained was the
Holy Bible. The half parachute and the ladies shoes I had been
presented with in Boulogne were long gone.
Company at that time was made up from new intakes and I was the
oldest Royal Marine in C Company.
After some home cooking in 1945
of the young marines were curious and would ask me what it was like
to be a POW and I answered their questions as best as I could. I
always told them to make sure they were good fast runners, as they
did not want to be taken prisoner.
the discussion about WWII did not start until you were in the bar
in the evenings. Some people would ask you where you had been
during the war. In response to one remark, ‘You didn’t see any
action’. I was able to inform the individual that I probably saw
more action at Calais in five minutes than he would ever see in his
whole life. I talked to them about the hundreds of Stukas and
Messerschmitts that had dive bombed and machine gunned our
positions in Calais and some of them wanted to know what a Stuka
was. The Stukas usually came in first and then the Messerschmitts
a POW did affect me but the Sergeant Major who was with us most of
the time in captivity drummed into us the same line, ‘Never give
up. Keep going’. Before the war I was just a cheeky young brat
like many of the recruits but after I was liberated more people
thought I was very quiet.
Diamond Back Shirt
we were liberated I was wearing POW dress and that’s the way I
dressed for a long time after the liberation. The mistake that
allowed this to happen took place in London. There I was searched,
de-loused and fed. Then, despite our protests, we were sent to
Portsmouth by mistake and returned to London without our new
clothing being issued. We should have been sent to Chatham, our
home base, where we would have been kitted out. I then caught the
train to the Stranrear ferry. At that stage I was still wearing the
uniform I wore in the POW camp. After my forty days leave in
Ballymoney I was posted to the Royal Marine barracks in Chatham
still wearing the POW uniform.
the second day in Chatham I was measured up for my uniform and it
was eventually issued to me with the exception of the shirts. All
the Royal Marine shirts in Chatham and Portsmouth were issued to
the Royal Marine troops heading out to Burma that month.
was still wearing my POW shirt after my home leave finished and I
was back in Chatham barracks. Some of the lads in my accommodation
were curious about the shirt I was wearing. It had a large black
diamond on the back. The diamond extended from both your elbows up
to the nape of your neck and down to the waistline.
I was at Chatham in 1946, a friend and myself put in an application
for an overseas job. We applied for a post as Royal Marine security
police in Germany. About
ten days later we were told to report to the schoolroom for an
interview with the schoolteacher. She asked us if we could speak,
read and write German. My German was just as fluent as hers and I
could converse with her in German without any problems.
then informed us that as we were ex-POWs we probably wanted to go
back to Germany to work because we were after revenge. We argued
with her and said that we wanted to go back and see what the
country was like in peacetime. But she was obstinate and refused to
interview us for the job because of the revenge factor.
was married on 15 March 1947 to Elizabeth Ann McKinney from
Ballymoney in the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Charlotte Street,
Ballymoney. At that time I was still at Chatham Barracks although
my wife never accompanied me on my Royal Marine travels. She
remained in Ballymoney because she had promised her dying mother
that she would look after her father after she had gone.
had three sisters and four brothers. One brother, called Johnny,
was a piper in the Royal Enniskilling Fusiliers and was wounded
during the D Day landings. He was discharged as medically unfit for
service. The younger brother Andrew joined the RAF VR at the age of
nineteen and was killed in action before the year was up. He was on
board the ill-fated troop carrier RMS Anslem in 1940. Every
man on board RMS Anslem was lost. Willie had a grocers shop
in Ballycastle and the other brother Sammy was a fireman in Belfast
during the war.
remained at Chatham with C Company for over a year, until VJ Day.
When I left C Company I was sent to a place called Alsager near
Crew on an advanced drivers course. It was a lovely camp owned by
Rolls Royce. I was there for quite some time and was stupid enough
to get drunk one night.
Motor Transport officer caught me when I was driving a truck the
next day still under the influence.
I was driving along the road and a motorbike passed me and
pulled me in. The MTO had been travelling behind me watching my
driving. He told me to get out of the drivers seat and drop the
tailboard. I gave him a hand to put his motorbike in the back of
the truck and he drove the lorry back to the depot.
licence was taken from me and I was sent back down to Chatham
before transferring to Lympstone, another Royal Marine depot. I
spent five months there on non-driving duties. In 1947 Lympstone
was the Royal Marine Tactical Training Centre. Corporal Hunter VC
was stationed at Lympstone at that time. It had yet to become
involved in Commando Training.
was working with the Royal Navy clearing the boom defences at
Exmouth harbour. I then worked with a Sergeant on small boats at
Plymouth. After that I was sent back to complete the Driving course
again but this time it was held at Portsmouth.
Silent Running Two Man Submarine
successfully completing the driving course I was posted to the
Headquarters Motor Transport pool in Portsmouth. I was only on that
posting for a short period before transferring to a Top Secret
was only a Royal Marine officer, a WREN and myself involved in that
job. All I had to do was park the vehicle at night and return to my
quarters. No one was allowed near the vehicle until the following
morning when the officer was picked up at the time he specified
that previous evening. We always had to go to different locations
each morning. We knew there was men and equipment involved in the
operation but it was never made clear to us what was happening.
evening the officer told the WREN and myself to report to the
swimming baths the following morning. There we would find out what
the operation was. The following morning the swimming baths area
was full of high-ranking officers from the Royal Navy, Army and
Royal Air Force as well as the press. Then two marines came in and
demonstrated a two man silent running submarine. They talked about
how the submarine was going to be used.