How Grandad Went to War

   Philip Brewin recalls his part in the early part of WW2

How I Went To War - 7

The early part of February found us at Aldershot being kitted out to join the BEF (British Expeditionary Force) in France.

We travelled by night from Southampton docks bound for Le Havre and were quite unaware of what was going on; sad in a way because it was the first visit overseas.

Le Havre map
Le Havre Environs

Our Battery was divided into two Troops manning two different sites, one on the Mole (‘Pip’ site) on the seafront close to the jetty and the other (‘Uncle’ site) to which our Troop was sent was at the village of Octeville-Sur-Mer some four miles to the north of Le Havre.

Octeville map

Both sites were already established with guns in place, Nissan huts for our accommodation and surrounded by barbed wire fences.

A farm was close to the site and we were just a few hundred yards from the village.  Our role here was the AA defence of the local French airfield, but we rarely saw any French airplanes, or many of their soldiers (Poilus).  Here with T.A.  (Territorial Army) pal Ted Suggitt and Militiaman Alf Monnery as close buddies, I spent two months of the ‘Phoney War’, whilst up North the Nazis were waging a fierce attack against the Belgians, the French and our own troops.

The Spring weather was lovely and the countryside was alive with new growth.  The smells seemed here to be so different from home: garlic, bad drains, Gaulloise cigarettes, the aromatic coffee and the perfumes on the women — all so novel to us.

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