Site hosted by Build your free website today!



Chapter 9 - Back in Chatham


The Royal Marine Depot Chatham


After 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.

I 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.

C 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


War Stories


Some 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.

Sometimes 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 followed up.

Being 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.


My Diamond Back Shirt


When 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.


On 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.

I 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.


A Job Application


While 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.

She 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.


My Wedding


I 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.

Ann 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.


Driver Training


I 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.

The 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.


Non-Driving Duties


My 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.

I 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.


The Silent Running Two Man Submarine


After 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 driving job.


There 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.

One 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.