How Grandad Went to War

   Philip Brewin recalls his part in the early part of WW2

How I Went To War - 1

Royal Artillery Badge
Royal Artillery Badge

"Everywhere, Where Right And Glory Leads",
Motto of the Royal Regiment of Artillery and most other
Artillery corps within the armies of the British Commonwealth.

"We waited anxiously on the crowded deck of the ship tied up to the quayside in the harbour at St. Nazaire as Jerry bombed the town and into all the harbour approaches.
It was a long, long night, then some time around 09:00 hrs the next day the ship eased out from her moorings into the river estuary and we were on our way back to England.
The date was the 18th June, 1940 and we were among the last remnants of the British Expeditionary Force [B.E.F.] to leave France before its final fall.   For many of those on board it may have been their first, but not their last expedition to a foreign soil in this war; for others - their last."

My Excusion to France
This is the route my father took on his "excursion" in France.
The red arrows and dotted lines sweeping across from the north-east show the Nazi advances.

My own involvement began in 1937 when I was working as a sales clerk in the offices of John Dickinson at Hemel Hempstead, a huge organisation involving paper making, printing, stationery and packaging supplies.
At that time I was living with my parents at St. Albans, about seven miles away, together with my brother Paul who also worked at Apsley Mills but in a different department.
We would cycle to work every day in company with two other fellows who worked in the packing supplies department; George Stockdale was one and the other was named Chinnery.  Both were keen racing cyclists in their spare time and it was always a struggle for us to keep up with them on our ordinary roadster cycles, but it kept us both fit.
There was another reason why George looked fit - he trained in the so called ‘Friday night army’ - the Territorials.

Apsley Mills 1906
Postcard of Apsley Mills circa 1906

It was during the summer of 1937 when George walked through our office on the way to his department.   He looked sun-tanned and I said to him:
“Where have you been then, on the Continent?“, knowing full well that few people in those days could afford a trip across the Channel.
“Oh” he said, “actually had a couple of weeks in camp with our Unit in Bude - blooming good, all found and I got paid for it” and off he went to his packing supplies department.

The year tipped over into 1938 and Paul and I were by then living in lodgings in Hemel Hempstead, closer to work and nearer to our leisure pursuits of swimming, Scouting and the occasional rugby game.  This was the year of Hitler’s Nazis threatening Europe and making war on other countries and it soon became obvious that a full scale war would break out and that England would be dragged into it as in 1914.
George had said on one occasion; ”Why not come along to our Drill Hall at Watford and see what we get up to?”

So in the winter of 1938/39, I did just that..

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