folks, as you seem to be entertained by my army career, I will continue
where I left off with a Birds
I had many interesting experiences in my time at sea, too many to mention,
like submarine scares, dodging bombs and mine fields etc. but the funniest
to me now is when we challenged what we thought was a Japanese raider
in the South Pacific. Our lookout spotted a ship on the horizon and
we were called to action stations. Imagine a cargo ship with only two
50 calibre Browning machine guns, two 20mm Oerlikon machine cannon and
a World War I, US 4" naval gun challenging a ship which, even at
that distance, was obviously much bigger than we were. As it got closer,
we could tell it was a cruiser with eight 8" guns and God knows,
how many smaller calibre guns but we couldn't make out the nationality.
Thank God, it was a US ship. They wished us good luck and carried on
their way hunting Japs. When I think back now it seems funny but at
the time it was deadly serious.
big POW camp. When we were at Stavanger airport, we had a bit of fun as
the Jerries (Germans) had left a lot of small motorcycles there, so we
filled them with high octane aviation fuel and zoomed around the airfield
until the exhausts melted, working our way through all of them until eventually
they were all burnt out.
Redford Cavalry Barracks, Home of the Black Watch Pipes and Drums
during the Edinburgh Royal Tribute 2000 and the Edinburgh Tattoo
2000. Picture courtesy Black
Watch Pipes and Drums
After my service in the maritime, things quieted down. When they
wanted volunteers for the Airborne, I volunteered and became a
paratrooper. I went through the tough training, fairly easily
as I had already done my P.T. instructor's course at Redford
Barracks in Edinburgh.
On the day the war in Europe ended we were sent to Norway to
search for SS men and other
undesirables. We also freed the Russians in a
From Stavanger we went by jeep over the mountains then south
to a town called Arendahl. It was a beautiful scenic journey and
one I will never forget. We were billeted in a large hotel, where
the King of Norway sometimes stayed. Since there were not many
of us there at the time, we sometimes became bored and tired.
We had a soccer match "England v Norway" which I was
part of. The final score was 2 - 2. During my time in the Maritime
I spent nearly two years on a Norwegian ship so I understood a
bit of Norwegian. I think they are lovely people and I wish I
could have spent longer there but unfortunately I made a big mistake
which I became ashamed of . . . and still am to this day.
Johnny Blenkinsop (your left) and Joe.
Johnny Blenkinsop was a stoker in the Royal Navy and was taken
prisoner during the war off Crete. The photo was taken in Sept,
1940 just after he had joined up.
Click the image for a larger view
I was sent on a guard detail with four men to look after a building
which was really a storehouse for rare wines, brandies, Art and Artifacts
which the Germans had collected for themselves. Well, sending soldiers
into a place like that was simply asking for trouble! We started to
sample some of the wines and liquors and the inevitable happened. We
all got sozzled (drunk!) and as I was the guard commander it was my
at Ron Rowley's house in the summer of 1999 - he lives in Carlisle
which is NorthWest England. Joe is from North East England. They
try to visit each other at least once a year.Click the
image for a larger view
When we got back to our billets in the hotel, we used the lift
(elevator.) It was a novelty to use a lift and considering the
state we were in, we got carried away and wouldn't let anybody
else get in. To make things worse the C.O. wanted to use the lift
which was now occupied by five drunken squaddies (slang word we
British soldiers call each other)! After they got us out, all
I can remember is the CO's voice saying "I'll see you in
Next morning I was up in front of him and said how sorry I was.
He said "I know how sorry you are but I still have to punish
you - you know that. You have two choices, either to be sent to
Oslo to the Glasshouse (Army prison) or they want NCOs to go to
the Far East to form an independent parachute brigade." As
I didn't fancy the Glasshouse, the next day found me on my way
back to Bulford near Salisbury (England) for training with a new
battery. After two or three weeks I was on a troopship from Liverpool
bound for the Far East. It was a route I had been on before but
this time we went through the Mediterranean, then the Suez Canal
through the Red Sea to Aden where I had the bad experience with
the box kite (see Birds
Halfway between Aden and Bombay we were told that the Japs had thrown
in the towel so we carried
on to Bombay. During our stay in a transit camp at a place called Kalyan
just outside Bombay, we were visited by the Minister of War, Jack Lawson,
who happened to be my local Member of Parliament, an ex-miner, who I
knew well. After about a month, we left Bombay by train over Northern
India to Calcutta, which was the worst train journey in the world, we
were packed in like sardines on utility wooden seats.
him, I found what looked like a slab of toffee approximately 9" long
3" wide and 1" deep. I had no idea what it was but my interpreter,
who was a young Malayan, knew exactly what it was. He said it was opium
and he showed me his thumb nail explaining with that amount of Opium you
could make love for a week! I sent the Indian under escort to the MP's
and never found out what happened until two months later when I was in
After another few days we were on a trooper (troopship) to Singapore.
We were billeted in Changi Barracks near the infamous Changi jail.
The balcony of my room overlooked the graves of some Australian
nurses who had been badly treated by the Japanese.
Later I was sent as a guard to the Number 4 gate, the main outgoing
dock gate and while there I stopped an Indian soldier who was
a sergeant in civilian clothes. While searching
Joe and Ron Rowley during reunion. Ron served with Joe in Java
as part of the 4th Air Landing Brigade Click
the image for a larger view
The troops out there used to get a monthly magazine called S.E.A.C.
filled with odd bits of news from that area. One article caught
my eye of how the MP's in Singapore caught a man with a stash
of Opium and were rewarded and highly recommended for their work!
While serving in Java ( mopping up the Japs who were training
the locals to fight against the Dutch, for their independence)
we were involved in a small battle called Gombal Hill which involved
taking a small howitzer gun to the top and firing a few rounds
in the enclosure which was being used by the Japanese and their
terrorist friends which lasted a few days and then we returned
to Singapore. On the way back I had another rotten job. Even at
this late stage, men were still cracking up and two men in the
brigade went nuts. Four others and I had to look after them.
voyage it was rumoured that the MP's were searching kit bags for souvenirs
so I decided to get rid of my acquired Walther P38 not wanting to get
into anymore trouble and much to my disgust on landing at Southampton
we never even got searched! After leaving Southampton, I had a couple
of days in Reading and then off to York for demob.
|When I got back to Kangkar-Kahang in
Malaya even though there was trouble brewing with the Commies (Communists)
my tour of duty had ended and I spent a week or two waiting for
a ship back to England. I returned on the Winchester Castle, a luxury
liner and had a great time. During the
The Winchester Castle.
link is no longer there
It was only then that I found out that my choice of punishment for
the lift escapade in Norway could have cost me my life. We had found
out that the task for the independent parachute brigade we had newly
formed was a drop on Sumatra with expected 60% casualties and I count
my blessings that the Americans dropped the bomb when they did as I
am certain it prolonged my life as well as many others and enabled me
to have a good life and family.
Read Joe's A
Bird's Eye View