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As I boy in Oban I have memories of Asking American soldiers for sweets - "any gum chum?" The Americans were stationed at Dunbeg to the east of Oban where they had built a dry dock and houses for the personnel. They also built a Communications centre at Gallanach on the outskirts of the town. A Boom defence net protected Oban harbour but the town saw little in the way of action. I do however remember the huge Sunderland flying boat landing in Oban bay and heading for the shipyard on the Isle of Kerrera.
I was a young boy growing up in the West Highland town of Tobermory on the Isle of Mull during the Second World War. I remember Tobermory bay being full of ships - mostly British frigates involved in anti submarine training. There wasn't a house in "Tob" that didn't have forces personnel staying with them. The ships' crews would come ashore for "Divisions" (Church parades) on a Sunday and also to have some R and R. The men would play football and visit one of the three canteens that had sprung up to accommodate them. There was the Women's' Guild canteen and the "dry" canteen where you could get a cup of tea or the "wet" canteen where you could get something stronger.
One night Lord Lovat's team of Commandos, which was stationed in Lochaber, mounted a mock invasion on Mull as a training exercise and firecrackers and "thunder flashes" were thrown onto the ships. The Navy however thought that it was the real thing and retaliated with live ammunition and hose pipes!
I was evacuated from Glasgow to Troon in Ayrshire at the start of WW II. My brother Norman and myself lived at 125, Portland Street, Troon. The lady that looked after us was a Mrs. Andrews and the owner of the property was a Mr.McMillan.
Was any one out there one of my co-evacuees? Fred McArdle, Joan Cruickshank are the only two others that I remember.
I will be most obliged if you can give me any information regarding the whole evacuation system from the Scottish viewpoint but in particular Troon.
Thanks Frank Warden.
Walter Harris began his time in WWII as a despatch rider. I found this out in 1970 when he hopped on my brand new triumph and roared around the block. He later drove a 6x6 for the 86th bridge company. One time while they were camped with a number of Polish soldiers they came under fire. As they sought refuge under the vehicles a Polish soldier was hit and lay in the midst of the barrage. Walter crawled out to drag the man to safety and in doing so was wounded in the legs with shrapnel. Scars he carried always, but rarely spoke of. I know that he was mentioned in Dispatch and was promoted to a lance corporal. But know little of his time in the war as he spoke rarely about it. For many years as a youth we travelled to Kincardine to visit with Jack White and his family. I learned later in life that Jack was one of his friends he met overseas. To all of those who served in whatever conflict or war GOD BLESS and know that each year we hold a Remembrance Service at our church and that stories and memories along with a display of artifacts is part of the day.
The following is but one of my memories. I was in the 87th Division. The division left Ft. Jackson in South Carolina, where we trained, went by rail to Camp Kilmer in New Jersey on our way overseas. This was October, 1944. It was dark when we moved to a pier on the Hudson River. I was astonished at the size of the ship we were about to board, and for good reason: it was the Queen Elizabeth, converted from a luxury liner to a troopship. The entire division, less an advance party, was accommodated, but not in staterooms. It was very crowded below decks, as you might imagine, and they kept us below until we arrived in Scotland. We crossed unescorted because by that time the U-boats had been pretty much defeated and the Queen was faster than the subs. We went in a zig-zag pattern.
When about a week later we dropped anchor in Scotland, Gourock, I think, we were allowed on deck. I clearly remember a very green hill, on which the morning sun was falling, with what appeared to be a castle along the top. It seemed stunning to me. When I turned to look fore and aft it looked like the entire US and British fleets were riding at anchor! It impressed this barely 19 year old who had never been away from New York City until he went into the army. We then boarded trains headed south.
My company was stationed in Knutsford, formerly Patton's HQ before he went to France to command the newly formed 3d Army. We remained a month. It was a lovely place, but I was preconditioned to like it anyway. In my early teens I discovered King Arthur and after that everything British appealed to me, although my own ancestry has nothing to do with Britain. (In 1985, my last time in Britain, I visited Manchester medical school and then took the train to Knutsford for a sentimental journey. It looked about the same as I remembered it, but I was unable to find the area my company occupied).
Finally, the division moved to Southampton in November to embark for Normandy and the war which by that time had reached the German border. I was a driver for a heavy machine gun squad; the jeeps and trailers were put on LSTs for the crossing, disembarking further up the Seine than the non-motorized troops. From there to entering combat in the Saar, when a few weeks later Patton moved the 87th into the southern flank of the Bulge about New Years day. But that is another story.
I said I became an anglophile, extending that to the UK in general. After the war, I earned a PhD in biology, taught at a university for about 41 years until I retired about two years ago. I returned to Britain for three sabbatical years at the University College, Swansea in south Wales. One the close friends I made earlier was a professor at Liverpool. He had been in the RAF, a bomber I believe, and was shot down over the Channel and rescued. When we visited him on the Wirral in 1971, the weather was very cold. My wife and I bundled up in blankets. He had no central heating! I thought he would have been converted to the idea when he was in New York. Never gets cold enough, he said. Sadly, he died a few years ago.
This is a memory without the terror of battles to come. At V-E day, my division had crossed the Czech border on our way towards Karlsbad, but were halted and turned back into Germany. The Red Army was headed our way and we were in territory that was to become part of East Germany.
As a schoolboy, the first German bombers I ever saw was in November 1939. Six Heinkel bombers overflew the town of Lerwick, Shetland. They were flying very low, and when I saw the iron cross and swastika I hid behind a stone wall. The town had no defences, and the air raid sirens had not sounded. The Heinkels bombed and machine gunned an RAF Sunderland flying boat which was moored in the harbour. The flying boat sank but fortunately the crew were all rescued.
When the Heinkels were no longer overhead I ran home to see if my mother was okay, I passed two elderly neighbours, both the ladies had their gas masks on. I didn't laugh about them until afterwards. After the Germans had departed an RAF Gloster Gladiator biplane fighter flew over the town.
A few weeks later I stood on the quayside and watched the ferry from Scotland land anti-aircraft guns on to the shore. "Jerry" would have to fly higher the next time.
An Addition to the above.
It suddenly occurred to me after visiting your web site that one of the stories rang a bell with something I am working on.
The man named Bill Watt who wrote about He-111s straffing the flying boat in Lerwick harbour, Shetland, actually saw, not a Sunderland get hit and sink,buta Saro London serial number L7042, Of 201 Squadron. He was correct in saying all the crew survived, and that the aircraft sank. This occurred on 22nd November 1939 when six Heinkel He-111s based in Norway conducted the raid on Shetland. I didn`t know about the Gloster Gladiator that had taken off in pursuit, but this was probably a 10 Group Fighter Unit that were based at Sumburgh. Research is still on-going on this London for a book on accidents on and around the Isles & Hebrides. I would very much like to include the information provided by Mr Watt in the book eventually, could you please ask his permission to do so. I am sure there must have been other witnesses to this incident, but of course they would have been either very young at that time, or are now either in their 80s or no longer with us.
Another incident involving one of the Gladiators occurred at Haroldswick, Unst,Shetland on 21st June 1940 when aircraft serial N5716 force-landed on a beach, hit shallow water and overturned, this was due to and engine failure in flight. Although the pilot survived this incident, and there was no fire. F/O Noel Inglis Chalmers Francis, was killed in another crash on 9th December 1941. He was only 23 years old, and is buried in St.Peters Churchyard, Stoke-upon-tern, Shropshire.
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