Many skills were needed for the war effort. This page contains memories of a skilled carpenter from Hemyock whose talents were employed around the world. It is an extract from the book Memories of War. Other pages in this series:
Seeing the late Mr. B. walking through Hemyock, you could easily assume that he was just another elderly man bowed low by arthritis. But why did he have a photograph of the Japanese Surrender in Singapore?
Mr. B. grew up at Cornhill in Hemyock. He became a skilled carpenter, but with war imminent had joined the Territorial Army on May 1st 1939 for 6 months full time training followed by 3 1/2 years part time. Many fellow Hemyock villagers joined the armed forces and saw service around the world.
On the outbreak of war, the TA were the first to be called up. His first job was guarding an Internment Camp at Paignton, Devon. There were all types of people in the camp, mostly German nationals. Some internees used to insult the guards calling them all sorts of names, whereas others were very polite. He was the Commandant's Escort. He still remembers that he was not issued with a greatcoat to wear on the motorbike he rode to escort the Commandant — he had to wear his own coat! He still has the whistle that he was supposed to blow to call for help if there was any trouble!
He married early in 1940. At this time most of his TA Unit transferred into the Devons but being a carpenter he was transferred into the Royal Engineers. (He has a photograph of 6 of his former TA unit - 4 of them were killed in Italy.)
In the Royal Engineers they built Army Camps in England, mainly in Kent. One time, while working on Nissan huts at Dungeness Point in Kent, a couple of Messerschmitt planes came over the top of the water trying to bomb the camp and lighthouse. He lay flat on the ground. The bomb skimmed over the water and hit the lighthouse and hut. This was the nearest he came to death.
Next they were transferred out to Gibraltar to prepare for the North Africa campaign. He went out in a convoy, meeting someone from Culmstock (near Hemyock). In Gibraltar he worked as a shuttering carpenter, shuttering up the tunnels behind the tunnellers. The Rock of Gibraltar became a warren of tunnels where stores such as fuel, water and lorries could be kept. Their last big job in Gibraltar was to make an airfield on the Race Course. They worked on this more or less non-stop for 14 days, with only about 2 hours sleep in any 24 hours. One of their jobs was to take the cables for the generator through the Rock tunnels to supply the stone crushing machines with power. Gibraltar's power station was located in the Tunnels.
Spitfire aircraft were delivered in crates. Whilst unloading these, a pile of crates fell on top of him. He was injured. His fitness was changed from A1 to B1 category.
Sadly, while Mr. B. was in Gibraltar his father was killed in an accident: His father’s pony had bolted and over-turned his cart. Mr. B. was given two weeks compassionate home leave to return to England. He went back in a convoy but one of the two coal furnaces in his ship was out of action, so the convoy soon left them behind. It took 12 days to get back to England. To avoid enemy attack they went due West, straight out into the Atlantic for 4 days. He remembers the ship was loaded with oranges. Troops had even thrown their kit away and filled up with oranges to take as presents to their families in England.
Continued on next page: Transferred to Burma.
The memories were published originally in 1995 as a 65 page, A4 booklet, illustrated with many photographs. All profits went to the Royal British Legion.
The text has been extensively re-edited and republished in Amazon Kindle format, in aid of Hemyock's Blackdown Support Group charity, it is equivalent to about 115 A5 pages. The photographs have been made into online slideshows.
For convenience, the photos have been arranged in four groups, forming four slide shows, each lasting about four minutes. The slide shows have been uploaded as 1080p HD. This means that they can be viewed using most types of computer or mobile devices and at any of the resolutions supported by YouTube. Contact us for a DVD version of these slideshows, or versions in other formats.
Hemyock Castle, Hemyock, CULLOMPTON, Devon, EX15 3RJ, UK.
© 2001–2015. Prepared and published by Curlew Communications Ltd