Willie - Installment 3

It may seem obvious but, of course, I know more about each succeeding generation. If there's too much on Willie, just stop reading. BL

I’ll carry on with Willie’s story. (I think he’s about to turn into Bill)

Click on any photograph to see a larger version.

As I mentioned in the previous post, he had met a young school teacher, Nancy, at the amateur dramatics club. I think the “tree” character was “Heathcliffe” from Wuthering Heights, but can’t check. Nancy was teaching at Chaucer Street primary school which was the same school that Bill (Willie) and, probably Connie had attended as children. The school still exists, but has moved from the old buildings Bill and Nancy knew to a much more modern building.

Bill and Nancy were certainly together by August 1938. I have a lovely letter written to Nancy by Bill. Nancy was home in the English Lake District for the summer holiday.

The romance was interrupted by the war. Bill enlisted in March 1940. In his army Pay book his occupation was recorded as “Buyer”. His place of birth and parents’ nationality were blotted out by the censor for obvious reasons. (I just can’t think what those reasons are at the moment.) He was in for the duration of the war (D of W in the pay book.) Has anyone any ideas what the "Approved Society" is? Or indeed what that space is for?

I’m sure that the platoon picture is Bill’s equivalent of Harry’s squad picture from Rugeley. The legend on the back is ‘6 Platoon Recruits “A” Coy, Normanton Bks, 12/4/40. just under a month after he enlisted. I believe he joined the Sherwood Foresters, Notts & Derbys Regiment. The cap badge of the platoon Sergeant seems to confirm that. Normanton Barracks are in Derby, quite close to the old Derby County Football Ground, oddly named the “Baseball Ground”. Bill is 5th from the right in the middle row- next to the sergeant. A Sherwood Foresters battalion was adjacent to Harry's battalion for much of his service.

In April 1941, Bill and Nancy married at Nancy’s home village, Greenodd in Cumbria. Bill’s army paybook records a fortnight’s leave a few weeks after my sister Anita was born in July 1943.

I think we’ve been a lucky family as far as military service is concerned. Harry survived unscathed and my military career was too short to be much of a problem. Bill tells that tale of being on parade, ready to board lorries bound for Southampton and a ship to the far east, when he was told to fall-out and pick up a rail warrant to Aldershot to join the Army Physical Training Corps.

His comrades arrived in Singapore just before it fell to the Japanese. In February 1942. At best, Bill would have ended up a prisoner of war.

Instead, he became a PT instructor and stayed in the U.K. training soldiers. He tells of stints with Home Guard (Dad’s Army) as well as regular units. He always says that the real Home Guard was even worse than the parody we see in the TV programme. One group was issued with “weapons” made up of two pieces of wood with a leather hinge between the two pieces. Despite Bill’s misgivings, the C.O. decided to issue them to the men so that they could “try them out”. Half an hour later with several broken arms and dislocated elbows, the batons were returned to the store. (Another Home Guard veteran told me that, when faced with the threat of German paratroopers, he was to hide behind a hedge with a stick and, when faced with a paratrooper, was to “Whack him and whack him hard!”. No wonder Hitler cancelled the invasion.)

So Bill got through World War 2, gaining a wife and a daughter and without seeing combat.

The next instalment will take us up to the present.


arturosc said...

Willie was lucky indeed to not have taken the boat to the far east. Now I'll wait to your next post to present time. Cheers!

Albert Herring said...

The "Approved Society" was an insurance company or friendly society that provided social benefits before the introduction of National Insurance and that after the war. The National Deposit Friendly Society still exists, sort of, as a private medical insurer.

Just guessing on the other point, but I'm wondering if the censorship of the religion information and place of birth was to protect troops who were Jewish or refugees from Germany and the occupied countries in case of capture.

Anonymous said...

Experiences of an Italian Soldier

Anonymous said...

Re the wedding picture: your mother was a lovely young lady --- no wonder Willie/Bill is smiling!

Jan said...

What a fascinating read this blog is...