Tag Archives: Royal Welch Fusiliers

Pillbox Heaven – #CampTramps2016

Here’s a fishy tale! So yesterday, we arrived at the next stop on #CampTramps2016,  a small village called Barmston, a few hundred metres from the E. Yorks coastline, south of Bridlington. The site, Rectory Farm is fine, adult only (couldn’t eat another kid) and comes complete with showers…so Yippeee….sorted. The areas very flat, but with a warm easterly breeze it’s very pleasant, and an ideal base for some local exploring.

Rectory Farm

Rectory Farm

The Dog Walk

The Dog Walk

Yesterday after parking up the Chucklebus, we wandered off for a walk towards the beach. En-route we noticed an info board, that mentioned World War 2 Pillboxes (Fortified bunkers, providing coastal defence). As the font of all knowledge and keen to claim bragging rights in our little group, I mentioned to the other half, that my old battalion had been based near Bridlington in WW2, having suffered a severe mauling during the Dunkirk Withdrawal in May 1940. “Oh yes pet, what would you like for tea tonight?”

So, once we got back to the van, I fired up the laptop and well, you could’ve knocked me down with a feather! It only transpires, that my old rifle company…A Coy 1RWF had been based in Barmston during that period of 1940. How amazing is that! Who knew? Well, that put a different perspective on this part of our travels, such is the adaptable nature of the Brit ex-squaddie, that I quickly re-roled this stopover into a full-blown battlefield tour. The Other Half’s face was a picture of absolute joy!

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Today, I was up like a firecraker, with possible pillbox locations marked into the phones mapping, we set off to explore, trooping through the centre of Barmston,  Me, the Other Half and Mutt the Dog.

The Story:

1RWF had a tough 2nd World War. It started at Dunkirk, with almost 65% of its strength killed, wounded or captured during those bloody two weeks of May 1940. Figures indicate some 260 + men made it back to the UK.

Initially they were sent by train to Huddersfield, to recover, regroup and get back up to manned strength. This was in the crucial period when it really was expected that the enemy would invade, the Battle of Britain was raging and we needed to defend our shores.

A lonely place

A lonely place

By the middle of June, the battalion was sent to provide coastal defence along the East Yorkshire Coast concentrated in the Beeford and Barmston areas. My old rifle company Alpha Company, came here to Barmston, Later Delta Company also operated from this location. The soldiers lived amongst the Barmston population in pubs, digs, anywhere they could, they even occupied the now empty caravan sites in the Barmston and Lissett area. They were tasked to man the pillboxes hastily constructed along this part of the coast, camouflaged from the air and supported by beach wire entanglements, anti-tank blocks and various other methods to slow down an invasion or seaborne/para assault.

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For the men, this was a relentless, serious task, the country faced a very real threat. During their period at Barmston they were subjected to numerous air raids, and were required to provide anti-aircraft fire against enemy fighters and bombers, sometimes on a daily basis. In one occasion in Aug 1940 they even assisted in shooting down a bomber. During those summer months they often witnessed dogfights between Spitfires and German fighters overhead. Heady times.

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This was ideal training for the men in operating their rifles and Brens, especially as most of them who had joined the battalion Post-Dunkirk had never experienced actual combat. But because of the nature of the task, it restricted the more detailed training the new men required, so by the October of that year, they were relieved and moved on to the next stage of their war.

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This would involve sailing to the far-east in 1942, fighting the Japanese at Donbaik in 1943, again suffering heavy casualties, then, less than 12 months later in Apr/May 1944, the hell that was called “Kohima”, where again they endured heavy casualties and terrible hardship. I’m sure that some of them in 1944, crouching down in their trenches on Summerhouse Hill, Kohima, looked back to those days amongst the folk of East Yorks with great fondness and appreciation.

If anyone fancies a look around the area, this stretch of coastline is rich with the remnants of its WW2 past. To assist I’ve plotted the seven pillboxes I visited north of Barmston.

 

Some of the Pillboxes North of Barmston

Some of the Pillboxes North of Barmston

Tomorrow we head onto the N. Yorkshire Moors, no more battlefield tours for this callsign on this trip!

That is all.

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A Footnote in History – The Destruction of a Battalion – October 1914

A story close to my heart, the 100th Anniversary. If your touring near Ypres this year, spare thought for these young men……

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Burma Star Veterans AGM 2014 – National Memorial Arboretum

Sometimes you have days you know that you’ll never forget. Yesterday was one such day for me.

The Welshpool Branch of The RWF Comrades Association, escorted two of their Burma Star Veterans; Harold Jones & Ted Jones MM to the Burma Star AGM, held at the National Memorial at the Arboretum, Stafford. Seven of us in total, all from different eras of the regiments history. On arrival our two boys were immediately approached by Viscount Slim and Lady Slim. The lads were so pleased and they all happily had a picture taken together.

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Harold & Ted MM with Viscount and Lady Slim

A short time later the boys attended the AGM escorted by myself and another “younger” veteran, looking around there was about 50 people in the hall, with about 10-15 of them actual holders of The Burma Star….Years ago, the Association would have in excess of 3000 men sitting down for the AGM!! Today the meeting was addressed by Viscount Slim, son of “Uncle Bill”, himself a soldier of pedigree, Gurkhas, SAS etc . You can see that Lord & Lady Slim thoroughly enjoy meeting up with these old soldiers.

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Viscount Slim addresses the Burma Star AGM 2014

We then attended a short service at the Burma Grove, whereupon Harold laid a wreath in remembrance of ALL Royal Welchman who never returned from the Far East conflict. Later as a Branch, we gathered together at the RWF Memorial Tree, as Ted MM laid a wreath in remembrance of all the Welshpool men of the regiment who never returned.

The Welshpool Branch

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Ted MM & Harold at the Burma War Memorial

Ted and Harold were brilliant company, two old soldiers, who speak the same language as us more modern versions, the same jokes and punchlines, knowing nods as we pass a pretty girl, plenty of mickey-taking and a genuine expression of happiness of being around other Royal Welchman. They are impressive men and on days like this you get a glimpse into their characters. Priceless.

That is all.

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May 22, 2014 · 10:23 am

The Battle of Kohima – 70yrs On

The Battle of Kohima: Sitrep 1RWF(Royal Welch Fusiliers) 2 May 1944 – 2200hrs

At 1800hrs yesterday evening 2 x Hurribombers (Converted Hurricanes), bombed and strafed Kukis Piquet. 2 x Bombs landed on the RWF positions on Garrison Hill, additionally C Company and Bn HQ were subjected to friendly fire strafing! 1 x 250lb UXB later detonated by the Royal Engineers.

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Note:

Harold Jones, a current member of Welshpool RWF Comrades Association was at the latrine when the bombing run started. I had a drink with him last night 70yrs on, he’s in good spirits and very healthy for his age. He remembers this night very clearly.

Looking through his written account of the 2nd May 1944 he recalls that the guys had been briefed that anyone above ground after dark that evening should be considered enemy and shot. So just before dark, he visited the latrine and was making his way to his dugout when the earth in front of him started ripping up. He was spun around and thrown to the ground.

Harold was wounded in the arm. The Padre helped him to the dressing station where he was bandaged up and then placed in a trench, without his weapon, his arm in a sling, to await evacuation in the morning.

During the night the enemy breached Garrison Hill by the cookhouse and although the Fusiliers managed to fight them off. Harold still recalls how scared he was, sat in the bottom of the trench, watching the enemy running past his trench. He describes it as the longest night of his life.

Harold was a signaller with B Company, that wound almost certainly saved his life, over the next three days many of Harold’s friends would die on Kohima Ridge.

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