Sunday, 26 March 2017

War Baby ......... stories by Eddy Newport no 26 ....

Another in the series by Eddy Newport taken from his book, History of a War Baby.

Ted went to war, in the same way, as his dad David went to war in 1914. This was to set up a line of defence with trenches to stop the enemy advancing.

The history of the war is well documented and I am no historian. Ted’s involvement was that his regiment got as far as Belgium before it was realised that the foe was far better equipped that the British forces were.  Ted did get to dig his field hospital.

As he was getting ready for action and his platoon were doing their stuff, when the order came down to abandon everything and get back to the coast and head for Dunkirk as soon as possible.

He and his men were responsible for some wounded and they had to be stretchered back over a canal bridge as quickly as they can, as they were going to blow it up.

Dad said in later life that an officer was decorated with a gallantry medal as being the last soldier to defend this bridge and being the last one back over it. Dad always maintained he and his group were, in fact, the last ones over that bridge.

So the rush back to the coast began and the army was in disarray with many units breaking up. Ted and his men were on their own. His wounded were taken off by trucks or ambulances but the poor old foot soldier had to make do with what he could find.

It was at this time that Ted fired a gun in anger. The story goes that an officer commandeered Ted and his men. He gave him the order to use an anti-tank rifle and to take up a position at a corner of a street and then wait for a German tank to poke its nose round the corner.

Ted’s job was to fire around at it to make it stop and hold it up for a few minutes to delay the advance. The effect on the tank with this weapon was like firing a pea shooter at a brick wall but it seemed to work. I asked dad what he did next. He said he took out the bolt, through away the gun and ran like bloody hell.

Another incident happened on the way back to Dunkirk. He and his men were running across a field and he came under mortar fire. Ted’s running for cover managed to lose his glasses and he stopped to try and find them. His mate Geoff Burchill asked what the hell are you doing and told him in no uncertain way to get a move on.

Ted had a spare pair in his pack, but it did not occur to him at the time.  On another occasion, he was approached by a French man who having seen Ted’s medical badges on his uniform asked to go to his farm house and his wife was in the late stages of childbirth. Ted did not have any experience of this but got things going with hot water and was about to do his best when a medical officer arrived and took over and told

Ted to get back with his men and keep going back to the coast. He always wanted to know what the lady had but never found out.

Ducking and diving into ditches to avoid the German air force that were doing their best to destroy them.

They managed to find Dunkirk beaches at last. He then joined the queues to the boats that were waiting to take them back to England.

At last, he managed to get on board a navy ship. Stripping himself of all his packs and making himself comfortable on the deck, he prepared for the journey home. When a German bomber came over and dropped a bomb straight down the funnel and exploded. The next thing Ted knew was he was in the water and trying to swim for his life. Ted was not a good swimmer and the fact he was not weighted down with his packs saved his life.

Dad said he did not know how long he was in the water but a French man grabbed him and got him to the beach. I ask dad about this incident and questioned him what he did next. Can you imagine, Ted was soaking wet with no pack or equipment.

He said he looked around and found a lorry with some uniforms in and put on a dry uniform. He later found a helmet and rifle from a dead soldier. Having kitted himself out, he once more joined the queue back to the boats. Queuing was a dangerous business as German planes were bombing and shooting up the beaches. On one occasion instead of running to the sand dunes for cover he just lay down where he was and a bomb exploded close to him.

Unharmed he got up and looked about him and realised he was on his own, so he ran as fast as he could and gained some extra yards on the queue. Eventually, he got on a smaller boat and finally got back to Dover absolutely knackered, he got onto a train going to London and once on board he fell asleep. Later he awoke to find the train had passed through London and was well on its way Cardiff. Finding himself alone he later found that the train had stopped at the Elephant and Castle and all the London soldiers got off.

No one woke Ted up and he was very upset that the train had stopped only a stones through from his home.

He could have gone home to his own bed and family.
 Eddy Newport ages one year 1941.

© Eddy Newport 2017

Pictures; from the collection of Eddy Newport

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