How Grandad Went to War

   Philip Brewin recalls his part in the early part of WW2

How I Went To War - 12

20th May
After the exhausting night we were once again in action at 09:50 hrs when a Junkers 88 plane came over, but we drove him off eastwards.   We got a commendation from our C.O. Major Heber-Percy and the H.Q. at Le Havre.  News came through that Arras, Vervins and Boulogne had fallen to Jerry and that Abbeville had been bombed.
During the night of the 20th we were warned of an approaching low level aircraft with lights on coming into the nearby airfield.   We hold fire expecting it to be friendly but the French gunners shoot it down with their Bofors guns.  There was speculation that it may have been a friendly Blenheim bomber and that the crew of six had died.  Were they British, or were they Jerries attempting to fool the defences and to take over the airfield?  We never found out the truth but suspected that they were actually British.
21st May
Cookhouse fatigues with mountains of spuds to peel.  There was much discussion about the identity of the shot down plane.   Ted and I went to look at the smouldering remains from a distance but were no wiser.
22nd May
The general situation in France was looking grave and we were ordered to remove the sandbags from around the gun pits ready for a rapid evacuation.  Instructions were also given for ‘spiking’ (disabling or blowing up) the guns as a last resort.
We heard that all the military units except the 79th HAA Regiment were on standby to leave Le Havre.
23rd May
The day turned out to be miserably damp.  We had orders to move out and to cross over to the South bank of the Seine bound for Honfleur whilst our companion 246 Battery would take over at Octeville.  This seemed an odd arrangement to us.
The journey up the Seine valley to the ferry crossing at Quillebeuf was through some attractive countryside and the crossing to the other bank went without a hitch.

Le Havre Area
The Le Havre Area

On the way to Honfleur we passed through some quaint villages and as always children came out to cheer on seeing a military convoy.
We could see the lighthouse at Honfleur and beyond, towards Le Havre, the barrage balloons hovering over the docks.
There were many refugees on the road who had been travelling from Belgium for ten exhausting days; some of us were able to collect some bread and cigarettes from our group to give to them.
Our convoy stopped overnight at a brick works where we made ourselves as comfortable as possible and despite the dust in the brick kilns where we bedded down, most of us had a good night.
24th May
Ted and I managed to get on the cookhouse party in the morning so that we were sure to have the occasional snack and plenty of hot tea.
Then, out of the blue, came the order for us to return to Le Havre.  Some of us were to go back to Octeville and be attached to 246 Battery.
The same day, in glorious sunshine, we crossed over the Seine at the Hode ferry further down-river from Quillebeuf and here the approach was easier of access.  
Back in Havre again our group went to HQ at Sainte-Adresse for a hot meal before returning to Octeville.
[APB comment: I believe that this ferry ran from Berville-sur-Mer on the south bank to Route 182 on the northern side.]
25th May
On familiar ground once more we were soon to find ourselves doing the guard and piquet duties while the 246 chaps manned the guns.   They appear to be a very casual crowd to us as they wander around camp in shorts and they have creature comforts such as wireless sets and even flowers in their huts! Their cooks, however, laid on better food than we had so far been accustomed to.
26th May
I came off guard duty at 09:00 hrs to find mail from home and a parcel containing two pipes which would be useful to smoke my free ration of tobacco.
After dinner Ted and I went to have another look at the shot down plane before a walk to the beach.  A storm broke out giving us a good drenching.  Back in camp we find everyone watching a parachutist descending some miles away.
We have a convivial evening at Mme. Andrew’s cafe.

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