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NOW WE GET BACK TO THE STORY—LIFE WITH THE
From Berwick on Tweed I was posted to the 70th Battalion
of the Durham Light Infantry, (The good ol' D.L.I.), and
stationed in County Durham at Brancepeth and Barnard Castle.
Pretty spooky for a young soldier on night guard in an old
castle with peacocks.
Ever hear the spine chilling screeching
of a peacock, by the moat of an old castle, in the wee hours
of the morning. Very frightening.
During my time with the Durham's, I marched through the
city of Newcastle on Battle of Britain day--now here's an
interesting thing--we young Light Infantry soldiers marched
at an incredibly fast pace with rifles at the trail and consequently
had to give the rest of the parade a head start of ten minutes.
Honest, no kidding.
I spent some time at Tow Law, but for
the life in me cannot remember why.
I participated in a physical
training display which I was very proud of as I certainly
looked the part of a very fit, well trained, and disciplined
I certainly should have looked the part because
we, as a group, practiced incessantly.
I was also press ganged into becoming a member of a theatrical
group that performed a respectable rendition of Shakespeare's "Henry
the Fifth". "Once more into the breech dear friends
once more, or fill up the wall with our English dead".
I still remember those words to this very day.
Both of these
actions took place in the grounds of the Bowes Museum.
there are still old photographs in the museum of those two
momentous occasions of 1943.
Another thing comes to mind, the marching song of the young
members of the D.L.I.
"We are the good ol' D.L.I. We'll
meet the enemy by and by, every man in the Regiment is willing
to do or die - Cor Blimey".
What am I saying, I don't remember being willing, "to
do, or die", for anyone at any period, then or now.
As I remarked previously, my association with the D.L.I.
was of relatively short duration.
I joined the 70th Battalion
of the Durham Light Infantry in January of 1943, and left
to join the Parachute Regiment less than a year later in
September of 1943.
The 70th Battalion was a young soldier
demonstration Battalion to the School of Infantry. The wars
we fought on the North Yorkshire moors is nobody's business.
During my time with the D.L.I I participated in several exercises
involving live fire demonstrations to groups of Officers,
including the renowned General Wavell.
I remember well his
remarks after the demonstration, that we the young soldiers
of the D.L.I. had used more live ammunition in one four-hour
demonstration than his troops in North Africa used in a month.
Incidentally we had a five percent casualty allowance.
One exercise involved advancing under a creeping barrage
of twenty-five pounder artillery shells. On this particular
occasion one of the gunners laid back 100 yards, instead
of forward one hundred yards, a shell fell into a group of
people and we suffered several losses. I remember that occasion
well as I was a member of the burial party for one of the
Another exercise involved giving battle experience
to Churchill tanks by firing live ammunition at them as they
crossed our front.
One further exercise involved an infantry
advance behind Churchill tanks to breech a minefield.
troops were initially towed behind the tanks in small boat
like structures until we reached the minefield. Advancing
in this manner over rough moorland terrain was not the most
comfortable manner of transportation, to say the least.
reaching the minefield the Tanks would stop and the troops
in the "so called boats" being pulled behind
them would release pins located at the four corners of the
structure and the sides would fall away allowing the troops
The Churchill tanks equipped with flails, (A
large rotating drum with chains attached), would then proceed
through the concertina barbed wire obstacles and enter the
minefield. Their objective was of course to explode the mines
and allow the Infantry to advance through the gap created.
Much of the debris from the flails was thrown up into the
air and we spent a very uncomfortable period trying to dodge
the incoming missiles, churned up by the tanks, which were
now raining down from the heavens above in our direction.