1941, My Year as a Young Soldier
Written by Mark Tapping
In October we entrained again. This time, for Stranraer in Scotland. During this long journey I remember trying to sleep on one of the luggage racks and finding it pretty well impossible as every projection on my uniform and equipment seemed to catch in the network rack. Upon arrival in Stranraer we marched to and boarded the ship which was to take us across the North Channel to Larne in Northern Ireland.
Yet another long slow train journey followed. The carriages were without corridors and some of the lads just had to relieve themselves out of the compartment door. At one stop in the middle of nowhere a little Irish boy stood watching, holding the hand of his younger, angelic-looking sister.
“Hey misthur,” he yelled. “Why don’f youse p*** in yer hon and put ut in yer pocket?”
My Company was billeted in a Georgian mansion called ‘Croaghpatrick’, after St. Patrick’s mountain in Co Mayo, just one mile south of Donaghadee in County Down. This house had expensive looking wooden flooring and I hate to think what the studs on our boots did to it. There were also moulded ceilings and linen wallpaper, which I had never seen before outside of a museum. Here all our rifles were chained up in the guardhouse and we went on guard duty armed with pick helves (handles) . My memories of our stay there are centered around Gallagher’s cigarettes and potato bread.
My year as a Young Soldier drew to a close early in 1942 and I requested transfer to the Armoured Corps. I thought I would then not have so much marching to do, not realising the disadvantages that service in a tank could entail. And, low and behold, instead of being posted to the Catering Corps or some such, in due course my transfer came through as a Trooper in the 108th (1/5th XX The Lancashire Fusiliers) Armoured Regiment! They were an infantry battalion which was being converted to an armoured role. And off I went to join them in Barnard Castle back in England.
My year as a Young Soldier was now behind me.
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Published in ORIGINS Vol 28, No. 3, September 2004.
ORIGINS is the journal of the Buckinghamshire Family History Society.