John (“Smiler Jack”) Bracewell was born in Bradford on 5th October 1922 and was around 17 years old when World War 2 broke out.

This interview records his childhood memories before the war and his experiences during the war in the Royal Army Service Corps and afterwards with the Parachute Regiment.

The transcript and the video are about 55 minutes long.

Recorded in Morecambe, Lancashire on 17th January 2018.

[Pauses indicated by ….]

Time codes on film indicated by Hour:Minute:Second for ease of reference between transcript and film on YouTube.

Transcript: –

Jack: My name is Jack Bracewell. I was born in 1922 in Bradford in Yorkshire. My Mum and Dad were from Keighley …. They boasted I were the only Bradford man in the family …. My brothers and sister were all born in various places, mainly Keighley …. Ingrow …. but, I had a happy childhood as I remember, we didn’t have a lot of money …. we didn’t have a lot of anything in them days ….

In 1922, there was a big cotton mill strike in Bradford …. and there were a lot out of work.

Jack’s Dad

My Dad’s …. an engineer, he was …. a steel planer in the engineering …. all his life, practically …. and, he was a good Dad …. I can never remember him laying a finger on me …. My punishment was me …. being made to stop in the house …. that was the worst punishment that could happen to me …. which went very well, I went to a Church …. a Church school …. in Bradford …. it were the …. that was when I was …. around 3 or 4, I were that young …. I just remember going to Christ Church School …. up in Manningham …. that’s just part of Bradford, like …. and …. well, well …. I were there for a few years, my brother was there …. and then my mother …. who had a bit of a gypsy in her …. she was often moving …. We always moved to a nicer house …. we moved from one part of Bradford where I were born …. up into a slightly better house …. still within …. walking distance but up the hills …. and it was a nice place, we …. lived there for a while, and I went …. from Christ Church School …. I went to Carlton Street Primary …. which was a step up like …. I were a bit older like ….

I were there for a few years …. I think I would be …. may be 9 or 10 when we moved again …. we moved to a place called …. over at West Bowling …. and I started another school …. which was Ryan Street. There …. another school, more friends …. more moves, I moved again ….

She certainly had a wander lust, these were all different schools, different houses …. and I finished up at Woodroyd Secondary School …. that’s where I finished my time, and I was 14 years older.

I left school …. at the age of 14 …. and I started straightaway working in a shop …. much to my Dad’s annoyance because he wanted me to go into the engineering …. and …. I must have had a mind of my own …. I got to work in this shop …. it was a fish and poultry …. all that sort of thing, like, which was good ….

He was a good man, who I worked for …. and the son …. they used to look after me, you know I were only a little lad …. about 2′ 6″ or something like that!  Anyway …. I worked with him for …. from 14 to just before I went into the Army. That’s when I was 17, he taught me to drive …. well, he let me drive …. and that was it, then.

No more cycling …. wheels …. oh …. at that time during the war, needn’t have to go pass a test …. you didn’t have anyone with you, you didn’t need to have ….

So, I used to …. he took me out once …. He said “Take it round like …. have a ride in it …. ” I had always been keen …. you know, what …. So, I set off in it and he said …. come back, he said “That’s it, now you are on your own ….” And I have been driving now, ever since like, you know ….

Well, got to be home, before I went in the Army …. and during the War, well, it was the LDV …. Local Defence Volunteers …. then they changed it into the Home Guard …. and we were fully kitted out then …. with Army uniforms and everything …. rifle and the lot …. and I were with them until I got my papers ….

Jack in uniform (RASC)

I was called up to a place called Malton, Norton Road Camp, near Malton and that’s where we started out training …. there were, I believe, about 60 Yorkshiremen …. all like me, all drivers …. and they just bunged us all together …. as a unit …. and that’s where we came into the RASC ….

Michael: What year was that, Jack?

Jack: ’42 …. January …. February …. Yes, that would be ’42, I were there …. there were 60 of us that were there …. all those survived were there to the end of the War …. together ….

So, we started training …. we were all drivers, but first and foremost …. we were soldiers …. trained as soldiers …. all the infantry …. tackled what you …. what you do …. like …. and, we were young, it were exciting like, you know …. it was …. all ….

We trained …. usual thing …. infantry training …. assault courses …. route marches, guards …. all this sort of thing …. and then driving, of course, we had to pass an Army test …. which we all passed, seemingly …. We all passed ….. and then it were just training, then …. basic training, and then we moved …. Now, I can’t …. I can’t remember exactly where I moved to from Malton …. but we did, I think we moved down …. I think it were down South …. went down South …. a place called Crowborough …. in Sussex.

Now, this time, we moved all over the place …. there were, when we got down Sussex, like …. we were down there for a spell …. still training, doing what we had to do with the driving …. supplies …. and the main thing then, they brought us up to Hull …. and that’s when the real training started really, like …. with the wagons, with each wagon, we used to waterproof …. We’d to waterproof the vehicles …. so, we knew something was going to happen then, like, you know …. We didn’t know what …. but we waterproofed the vehicles …. Half the time, we used to fettle them up …. you know, waterproof them …. and then we had to drive it …. through, there was a big tank …. down and down through a tank with water up [indicating level] …. to your neck, like, drive through …. and if you were lucky …. get through, and as soon as you got through then, like ….

It was cold, it were Winter time …. and you were wet and cold …. they all had a …. glass of rum ….. They’d give us rum to keep us going, like …. that were it, then …. and then we moved to a little place called Preston, it’s a village outside Hull …. and that’s where we were stationed for quite a while …. that’s when I started motor cycling …. because they didn’t take as much cleaning as wagons …. ah well …. it was as much motor cycle training as they would allow you …. dispatch riding and convoy work …. teaching us how to …. read maps …. have to go from one point to another …. and we used to just, we were like policemen …. we used to just led them …. these convoys …. to wherever they were going …. which were good, it was interesting …. I enjoyed that work.

Jack on motor cycle

This went on, this was all the time …. training for this …. one thing, seemingly …. Anyway …. apart from all this training …. oh, I did get a leave, I did go on leave …. from down South ….

00:08:56

Jack in uniform with dog

I think it was my 21st birthday …. just before we went to abroad, it was …. we had my birthday there …. and then we moved down onto the South coast …. now that’s when things …. started happening, I mean …. we moved down South Coast, we went to a place called …. we went to where you sail from ….

Michael: Southampton or Portsmouth?

Jack: near them …. Gosport!

Michael: Oh, Gosport ….

Jack: While we were round there, there were …. you wouldn’t believe it, there were thousands …. of troops and traffic and …. tanks …. wagons …. everything that you needed like …. we knew then, something big was on …. the books, like …. And, like I say, we were parked up …. on this road …. We might, we should have known that something was going to happen ….

We were parked up on this road and they just said “Now then, just get in where you can ….”

Neighbours called us in, we had …. cups of tea and were made welcome there, like …. I always remember, like this …. they came right into your wagons …. this happened for a day …. a couple of days or so, into your wagons ….

We set off in convoy, we were in this one road, like …. and we drove down this road, like …. going on towards the sea …. then went down a ramp …. and then went up a ramp …. and we were on a ship …. and then …. it all came …. we were there then, we knew what would happen then ….

Now, I know we were there all night, it were rough weather, it was …. raining …. We were up on the top deck …. and …. aye …. we were sat in my mate’s wagon like …. everything nice and comfortable …. then we set off ….

It was a fairly …. rough crossing, then, we knew then it were …. it was the scuttlebutt, we were on the invasion …. D-Day …. Well …. we set off …. I’ve never seen as many wagons …. you know, battlewagons that were thousands and thousands …. Well, there were hundreds literally ships in one big convoy. Now, naturally, the armour went in first, armour and the infantry of course, with them …. they were the first men in …. and …. it were quite a warm job, like …. when we came in …. it wouldn’t be D-Day, it would be …. either late or early D + 1 …. but we came off the ships …. onto the beach …. I must say the …. Germans were not right pleased to see us ….

We got a nasty reception but …. and we just pushed forward into a lager …. and to be honest, then, things …. they just seemed to be …. normal, you know you …. you did your job ….

You were straight away, you were on supplies, that were our main thing …. we had to deliver supplies and we supplied the troops …. Whatever they needed …. it were either …. ammo …. food …. petrol …. whatever needed, we took it ….

That were the start of it then, although we didn’t move far, we were only a few miles inland …. and things were not right …. we were ….  we saw a bit of mortar fire and …. shells, like …. nothing too …. we survived it anyway …. It was one of them …. you cannot expect any different, can you in a War? So …. there were a lot of us all together, all in the same boat …. Anyway, we were there for quite …. quite a spell …. moving about …. I know that at one point, I got moved up to a forward M.O. point …. and I were up there for a while like with a …. one of our REME lads, I think it was …. 3rd Mons …. they were all Welsh Regiments were our infantry …. There were 3rd Monmouthshires …. 4th KSLI [King’s Shropshire Light Infantry] …. and 1st Herefords …. fine regiments, all Welshmen …. great soldiers ….

Anyway, we got …. to know them because we used to take the supplies up to them …. and it were like that all through the War, more or less ….

From that time on, we started moving …. things were static at Caen …. there was a big battle in Caen …. We were there for a while, a week or two and all our tank men …. they went in …. and the German Tigers …. they …. murdered them like they …. they knocked the tanks out, in fact …. we were told our tank men were fighting as infantry ….

Anyway …. eventually, we won …. the battle was won for Caen …. and it came to a place called Falaise …. and that’s when …. they were captured …. the German Army …. thousands of Germans …. they were surrounded and captured …. And after that then, it was the big bulge then …. and they set off ….

In the meantime, it’s all backwards and forwards, supplying …. but I always remember …. this company south of our convoy …. and it was called the DIV Centre Line …. All it was …. one road …. heading North …. It was on the way to Belgium …. and I can’t tell you how long …. how many days, it was …. going up, just this one …. main road …. and it …. it were just wagons, solid …. aye …. it was …. It was a boarding do …. it just get to the end of a bit of a …. the Germans were on either side …. but the infantry men were sorting that out …. it were just …. the main thing was through …. which we did …. eventually …. that was …. it were on that convoy …. there lost first 3 men of our lot that we lost …. and it was almost their own fault. We were told …. “You don’t leave the convoy ….”

But there were farm …. eggs …. go looking …. didn’t come back. They never came back from that little venture, so, that were …. them three …. they were all kaput.

But, we carried on …. still going backwards and forwards …. went up to Belgium …. and Belgium …. It was …. it was an amazing time, that …. you were surrounded with people there …. climbing all over you, over the vehicles …. pleased to see us, flowers …. wine ….

It were good …. we enjoyed that bit, it was a bit of change from …. what we had been doing ….

So, that carried on …. went on through there, what could I say? We were …. we travelled on, backwards and forwards, filling up with …. petrol, moving back, moving on …. and then we got into Holland …. Yes, into Holland …. I remember Holland very well …. we were stuck for quite a while in a place called Helmond …. by the people there …. we weren’t parked in the town …. but we were just outside the town and the people befriended us, like, you know ….

One particular family …. I got to know them through a little girl, a little girl called Tooja Coombs …. she was a girl from the town …. and I was in there, back to their house …. and that’s when I discovered …. Pannekoeken, they called them, like an apple pie thing …. and …. they were good like, we used to …. always about, we used to see them and talk to them ….

Anyway, we moved on from Belgium finally …. Holland rather, through then …. were over Nijmegen, went over the Nijmegen bridge …. which is, I believe, Pegasus Bridge, now, isn’t it? [Pegasus Bridge is actually in Normandy] But we went over the old bridge. I’ve seen the new bridge [called The Crossing in honour of the War], we’ve been there since …. [His daughter Lynne commented after that he got a little confused, he should have said that they went over the  bridge first, then on to Holland, Belgium and Germany.”]

We went over the old bridge and then, moving forward …. I can remember …. over the Pegasus Bridge at the German border …. around Arnhem, went over the Rhine …. went through the Reichswald Forest, I always remember the Reichswald Forest …. because there were trees burning, you know, sparks flying …. I went up through this forest, through the night ….  and they were …. no sooner you get through, you are going back for more things, you know …. you are always backwards and forwards …. That was the job, that was what we had to do. So, we did that, we carried on …. into Germany ….

I went …. up the Harz Mountains …. I always remember the Harz Mountains …. I went up this road …. and up at the top …. could see where that had been a Tiger tank …. burned out …. It were clear at first …. you know …. first view at close up, it were burnt out …. but when we got to it …. you really saw what happened …. you know, there were a German, I suppose it were a driver or …. come on to it, it was an across the bonnet thing …. It were dead and shrivelled up, it were about …. 3ft long, it had shrunk, burnt to a crisp, you know ….

That was tank men, I know they suffered with that …. and our tank men …. did that because them Tiger tanks …. They used to call the Sherman “Tommy Cookers”, because they hadn’t much chance with Tigers …. They had to do a lot of crafty work with them, but they managed …. marvellously did the Tigers …. Shermans …. And then we kept on going up …. over the Rhine, up through the forest …. Things were getting to the end now, anyway …. I always remember this point …. Christmas, 1944 ….

Now we were in a …. this big forest, this wood …. and it was certainly …. lively up there like, you know ….

00:20:07

Things were happening  …. however …. we just …. two of us …. they said …. “Get your kit, you’re going on short leave ….” This were 1944, mind you, Christmas …. and I got 3 days short leave in Brussels ….

Now that was luxury …. we were only going to Brussels, like …. we went, just as we were, covered in …. dirt and muck and [laughing] …. things how you were …. you didn’t wash every morning …. you didn’t have time, sometimes …. Anyway …. then we went to Brussels and were …. in …. a civilian house, like, they put us in …. There was …. this nice house, I remember it …. 19, Avenue des Aleraise in Brussels …. I think it was …. Mrs Smith …. Smitt …. they were nice people …. a nice daughter …. they used to …. show us around like, you know ….

As I say …. we were rigged out in new clothes …. smartened up …. we had a lovely 3 days and all these …. Belgian people, all they would say …. “Brussels …. Don’t let the Germans come back ….”, we didn’t know ought …. anything about this Ardennes ….

Anyway …. the Ardennes were rum like and it had been a bit nasty and … they were a bit worried …. anyway …. it fizzled out  …. the Americans had a rough do, I know our division …. were there …. and the …. there was 15th Scottish Division and the Guards Armoured …. they were 3 Divisions, we all worked together …. and that went up to the Rhine …. which we crossed eventually ….

And there’d been the …. Market Garden had been the parachute jump then …. previous like …. these all things that were happening …. you didn’t know exactly …. what was happening …. you were doing in your little space, what you were doing …. while everybody else knew what you were doing …. Anyway, finally …. it became near the end of the War …. and we were going to a …. We seemed to be stuck in these here forests …. we were in this forest and this …. we knew we were getting close to the end ….

Anyway …. I was …. I got 7 days leave to England …. which was good …. so, went back, had 7 days leave in England …. and it were …. I can always remember like …. it were nasty, like, in the forest …. went on my leave …. me and Wilf Noble [Chuff Noble was his nick name. He never swore but said “chuff” instead!] …. my mate …. he went to Barnsley, I went to Bradford …. and …. we had 7 days and then we came back …. but then, going back …. you know suddenly, end up at War …. and you’d remembered what it were like …. It were just a bit of a worry inside, for a bit ….

However, we got back …. carried on …. to the end …. of the War, finally …. finished, and we went up to a place called Schleswig …. That’s a town about 20 miles south of Denmark …. the Danish border …. and from there …. we were stuck there, then …. That was the end of the War. It was just normal stuff then like …. supplying and …. We were there for a few months and then …. the Division broke up ….

I met some friends in Schleswig, German people …. and there were good people as well as bad ones …. and the lady of this particular family, I got to know …. through the daughter, I got to know her …. Marie …. I used to go to her house …. and her mother …. and her sister …. they were all there …. all, made you welcome, like ….

Anyway, I got …. we got moved to these Car Companies …. driving officers ….  So …. we moved from Schleswig then, but were still friends with these people …. and we went to a place called Plön …. Anyway …. and he got short leave, they were under short leave, the officer had to be taken up to Denmark …. on a little holiday ….

Of course, I had to go with him ‘cos I were driving …. up to …. Denmark …. I didn’t forget these people and I had a week up there in Denmark …. Everything were like peace time …. but when I came back …. we came through Schleswig, like, on way back …. and the officer, I were driving, he were a young fellow …. he was not much older than me …. a young fellow, he knew my …. he knew these people in Schleswig …. and it was on the way through to Plön ….

So, I went shopping …. in Denmark …. and I picked up butter, coffee, tea …. things they had never seen …. I did a nice little parcel …. and took it down to this family. The big surprise, when I got there …. knocked on the door …. and I was greeted by a German sailor …. one arm, he had one arm blown off …. Anyway, he was the same as me …. the War were finished …. and you, I didn’t know what to expect ….

He was all right …. he were a German soldier, he’d got demobbed…. he were disabled …. he were back with his family …. he was happy about that …. and a bit, quite happy about the little parcel, that I took, like …. it were nice …. but then, I didn’t see them anymore, from Plön ….

I were there for a while like, driving officers about …. a nice little Brigadier, Medical Officer …. Aye, he was all right, a nice little fellow …. and with a General, can’t remember his name, he was a big noise …. I drove him …. about a fortnight …. I didn’t care for that …. we used to take them out on a night …. to these parties …. had to sit and wait for them …. No nights out for a Driver J …. so, I soon got off that job …. blown it, anyway … not long after then, we moved out to Lüneburg …. That’s where we finished up, in Lüneburg ….

So, into Lüneburg …. we were in the Scharnhorst Kaserne …. a big barracks, it was …. and the …. and it was literally, we had nothing to do, really …. then, you know to …. lounge about, you were just …. waiting for your turn for demob …. and I, being single …. we were kept to the last …. young marrieds were sent first …. And I finally got my demob …. 1943 …. October ….

Michael: Nineteen forty ….

Jack: 1946 ….

Michael: 1946 …. that’s right, yes ….

Jack: 1946 …. [Laughing] …. 1946, I got my demob there …. aye, I can always remember that …. It …. I know we went from Lüneburg down to a place called Cuxhaven …. and we sailed then to Hull ….

Now on the ship, we were all warned …. no weapon, if you took a …. any weapons, and if you were caught …. you were back in the Army …. So, I reckon there were more …. pistols and things in …. on the Estuary than there were in Germany!

Anyway, I didn’t have one, as a matter of fact …. I didn’t have …. any weapons on, seen enough of them for the time being ….

Anyways, I was into Hull and then, really sent then to York …. York where …. new clothes …. we were dis-mobbed, demobbed from there …. given our papers …. sent off home …. that was the end of my Army …. I thought …. then it were back to Bradford ….

Guess what my job was? …. Driving …. that were my first job, and a brother driving, he had been exempt during the War, one of my brothers …. He drove coal from the collieries to the mills …. so, he got me a job there, so …. I tried driving with him like, you know, in that ….

00:29:18

And we were off …. on the coal job, it were all right for a bit …. and …. no mates …. I was dropping me mates …. you know …. no mates with me …. I missed them ….

Anyway, another young fellow started with me …. a lad called Ernie Rhodes …. he started driving …. …. we got pally because we were both just out of the Army …. and we got chatting …. they were advertising for …. at Thornbury Barracks …. there were Parachute Regiment there ….

So, we had a discussion …. and “Do you fancy it?”, “Aye, I’ll have a go.” So, we went down to this Thornbury Barracks …. and we joined the Parachute Regiment …. It were great that!

So, we went into training again then …. it were different, parachuting …. it were a different sort of training to …. what we had been used to …. But we were doing our parachute training there like …. went down to a place called Abingdon …. that’s where we did our parachute jumping like ….

We were down there …. we were down there for a …. few week …. it to do …. I was to do 7 jumps to pass …. 6 for the Queen, no, 6 for us for the Wings and 1 for the Queen.

Jack in Parachute Regiment

So, that were it, we were parachutists …. and I were in with them for nearly 9 years …. and we did a lot of …. we even did …. a jump into Germany …. on the Rhine …. same as what the regulars had done …. So, we jumped on the Rhine and we had …. a mock battle with the Seaforth Highlanders …. they were young lads, young conscripts …. and …. they were a bit …. a bit scared like because were all camouflaged up …. and yelling and challenging, shouting …. you know, how you do …. usual thing …. anyway …. it were a jump …. nice little war …. that were finished …. and then we flew back to England and …. that were about the first time I landed in a plane we had gone up in …. It were up and jump …. ah, that were it, we were up in the air about an hour …. nearly 9 years, I were in the Parachute Regiment …. and they were good years …. we trained …. young conscripts came up, you know …. they enjoyed it, that were National Service, weren’t it?

Parachuting

They would get called up and the …. young regulars came up to join …. our lot, we was in the 12th Yorkshire Batallion …. And we finally joined up with the …. 13th Lancashire Batallion, so that were like Yorks and Lancs …. aye …. and we trained together just the same like, you know …. pottered about, mind ….

Anyway, I finished driving with the coal job …. because I started driving a smashing, a really good officer …. I used to drive him as a regular …. and fortunate, we used to go …. looking at DZs, Dropping Zones …. We used to go all over the country, like …. finding places for parachuting …. which were good ….

But, I lost him, he was …. he was on holiday in Ireland …. in a place called Cork …. and he was holidaying there with his wife and children …. lovely people, I knew them all ….

Anyway, it seemed a man got into difficulties, swimming …. and the C.O. went in for him …. and they both perished …. didn’t get out …. so, I lost him …. he were a good man.

Things just went on and on then …. until I finally …. had enough. I think …. my wife and daughter had had enough …. because I don’t think she had a proper holiday for 9 years …. because it were all camps …. a fortnight’s camp every year …. So, she wasn’t sorry when I packed up like …. So, then it were back to the driving again …. still on same job …. coal …. until …. They sold out, did this man, he sold …. no, he didn’t sell out …. he bought another company …. and they were …. what you call, wool men …. they used to …. drive wagons that carried coal …. from the ports to Bradford …. Bradford …. they used to process the wool ….

We used to go to Hull and Liverpool …. pick these …. wagon loads of bales up …. bring it to Bradford …. it was conditioned …. combed and ready to …. tops and all sorts of things …. but the finished article …. then, we used to take it …. back to port to ship abroad, aye …. and that’s …. what else can I say about that?

Michael: Just to go back, back into when you were with the Parachutists …. and I right in thinking that you spent some time abroad?

Jack: We went …. we used to go abroad, we went to …. we flew …. I don’t know whether you were in on, but there were a film …. called …. it was, it was …. “The Red Beret” [1953] …. it was a film ….

Now, we flew over to …. Germany …. it were a mass drop …. and it was said that we …. we were filmed …. on that drop …. for this film …. Alan Ladd was in it, I believe, I never saw him …. [laughing] …. he weren’t with us …. However, that …. we jumped on the Rhine, like, you know …. That’s when we had a little battle …. with the Seaforths ….

But, then again, we used to …. you know what …. go round attacking airdromes, then …. we had a go with the Americans …. We had a nice little battle with them …. in Fairford …. Fairford …. Aerodrome …. the Americans were there ….

So, we did a jump on them, like …. and a battle with them …. shot a wounded missile bearer …. a gas cylinder …. that you shot with your rifle, like, you know …. only, I were a bit gormless with it …. and I fired it …. and it wounded part of my leg …. Oh, but nothing serious …. we won the battle …. and then we had …. a very good meal, jovially …. with the Americans …. They were good lads, they’d give you anything ….

Michael: What year did you finish with the forces and go back into Civvy Street?

Jack: After the Parachute Regiment?

Michael: Yes ….

Jack: Well then, I was older then, wasn’t I? And of course, I met my wife then …. I met her on the buses …. I did a spell on the buses ….

Michael: Oh, Yes ….

Jack: and she was a conductress …. [coughing] and I took a fancy to her …. So, I got chatting to her …. eventually, you know, cheeky …. so …. I were not like I were before the War, I weren’t frightened to …. talking to a woman …. but, I liked her, Dorothy, I just …. got chatting to her …. and we were finally …. started going out …. I’d been going out with another girl …. that I’d met, like …. In fact, I were doing a bit of taxiing for her mother …. spare time ….

Anyway, I told Dot, like …. Dot says “Well …. that’s it, finish, get rid of her …. or you finish with me.” So, I got rid of little Audrey …. 6 weeks, we were married …. and we had 65, 67 years …. didn’t we? 67 years together …. Then, she died …. there were ten years before I had …. my daughter Lynne …. and then …. that was the best thing that ever happened …. and from that …. our Lynne got married …. and produced 3 great sons …. who produced …. some great grandsons ….

Jack and his wife Dorothy

Michael: So, they keep you busy?

Jack: Oh, they do …. from my grandsons, then came …. five, well 4 great grandsons and a great granddaughter …. they keep me busy, they are up there, 3 of them [pointing] …. So, life’s good …. I have a good daughter that’s looked after me all …. ever since …. Dot died …. which were a hard thing, she was a …. good lass, she stood …. she stood a lot from …. me …. I know that ….

I don’t suppose I was the best of husbands, I wasn’t the worst, either …. we had good times ….

Michael: It must have been, I know you went …. after the War, you went into the Parachute Regiment, but, I mean …. it must have been difficult for you …. to come out of …. those …. those conditions …. into normal life again ….

Jack: Well, it was in a way …. but don’t forget then, I had a wife then …. She encouraged me to pack in …. I’d had enough, like, I had been …. [sighs] …. I don’t re….

00:39:28

I had done a lot of parachuting …. I’d got …. I had had enough like, you know …. and I were …. what was I then, I was …. getting on …. thirty…., getting on for 40 then ….

Michael: Yes ….

Jack: It were time …. time to slow down a bit …. which I did, apart from driving job …. it has always been back to the wagons …. [laughing] …. it’s been my life, anyway ….

Michael: I mean, you, if we come on to more recent times …. I believe you’ve been back to Normandy ….

Jack: Ah, yes …. Well, I was informed that I …. could …. I was ….  entitled to …. the Legion of Honneur …. as I landed, was part of the D-Day landing …. which I was very pleased about, like, you know …. I never did anything spectacular that I could see …. but I landed on the beaches in Normandy …. that entitled me …. to the Legion of Honneur.

In Normandy 2017

Had to wait a fair bit for it, I believe …. it felt like, waiting but …. but finally, a French lady …. got in touch with Lynne …. She had read about it, she knew about me …. she said “Well, just leave it in my hands …. ” She worked for the Government something or other …. She said “I’ll sort it out …. for you.” They were going to …. France for this trip …. which we did and …. I have never …. I have never had such a welcome, anywhere …. You wouldn’t believe …. how the people treated us …. you couldn’t spend any money …. when we landed there …. we were ….

Lynne and Jack

You couldn’t move, there were people …. patting your …. sign this, sign that …. We were taken down to a little office and we were all …. 12 of us …. we were all …. a big party …. 4 of us were due for the Legion d’Honneur …. but we were in this office and we all drew …. 100 …. Euros …. £100 …. Euros a piece …. just given us free to spend …. You had a job spending it …. you know …. I ….

Receiving Legion d’Honneur

There were a couple of times when …. Lynne will tell you …. they …. “No, you’ve done enough ….” Don’t take your money. Did spend it eventually, like …. but …. it’s the way of the world, you know, they couldn’t do enough for you.

They were great people …. and what that surprised me after all them years …. you know …. that they …. still carry this on. And …. I mean they …. must have got a pounding in them days …. in Normandy …. as they all did on beach, but …. They’ve never forgotten, every year …. they’ve got a big do, next year …. the 75th Anniversary, I ….

Michael: Yes.

Jack: I …. hopefully I will get there …. keep your fingers ….

Michael: Well: keep your fingers crossed, certainly …. I mean, you’re going back again this year, aren’t you?

Jack and Lynne in Normandy

Jack: Yes, we’re going in June …. June: 3rd, I believe …. Lynne, Lynne said! [laughing] About 3rd of June, we’re … 5 or 6 days there, like, you know …. as long as you are there for 6 …. we are going independent this time, we were in a party …. last time and it’s not working like …. last year …. last time …. So, we’re going private …. yes …. Philip’s driving us there ….

Well, Philip’s never been and he’s …. wanted to …. he’s spent some time at a party last year …. in plain Portsmouth …. and he’d like to go over there …. and see the place …. so, he’s going and he’s driving …. We’ll be a bit independent this time ….

Michael: Yes ….

Jack: Not that it weren’t good, last time, I mean …. Everything were done for you …. every single thing …. never …. We never had to pay a penny ….

Michael: No, no ….

Jack: That’s they were …. some Trust or other …. for Veterans. And this had been going on for years, I never knew ought about it.

Michael: There are certainly, I mean, I am aware, going back to the 1990s …. and …. because there was a big …. event, I think, it would have been 1994, so that was 30 years, sorry, 40, no …. It was 50 years after the event …. so …. but the great thing is that people still remember ….

Jack: Yea ….

Michael: Because a lot of sacrifices were made, weren’t they?

Jack: They were, yea …. One picture that sticks in my mind …. in Arromanche …. there is a big white wall …. and on it was painted …. a little boy and a girl …. facing the wall …. “Please, No More War.” You know, touching job, that was, wasn’t it …. I nearly looked at our Lynne then …. [laughing] …. it were touching like ….

But what touched me …. most, we went up to …. Juno Beach …. where Canadians, and British were up there as well …. They’d got part of us on Gold and part on Sword …. now, went up to Juno where Canadians had been …. Oh, they showed us, we saw a film …. it were like wicked, like, you know …. their war, they being on the Dieppe …. you remember the Dieppe Raid?

Michael: Yes indeed ….

Jack: Now, they’d been on Dieppe Raid …. and the people there …. I mean, it didn’t work out, did it? But the lads that were left, they were slaughtered …. they were murdered …. so, these Canadians, there were no mercy …. They were landing, there were no mercy then …. for the Germans …. but the …. the stuff they had to …. the things they had to fought with, rather …. killing ….

You can’t realise it …. when you look back on it …. aye, sometimes …. you get a bit upset ….

Michael: Yes, of course …. I mean, one would hope that the human race would learn from the lessons that were learnt …. at the time …. but you have to wonder, don’t you, sometimes?

Jack: Aye ….

00:46:44

Michael: I mean, let’s just think about …. that, I mean …. if you were starting off in life today …. what would your advice be to youngsters, to try and …. make it a better world, if you like, what sort of thoughts have you got …. there? It is quite a tricky question, I appreciate, but ….

Jack: It is when you think of the …. youngsters of today …. the teenagers …. I think the worst thing they did was stop the …. calling the young men up …. to learn discipline in the Army …. because, there is none now, is there? You can’t even chastise your own children ….

Michael: No ….

Jack: There is no discipline …. There is no respect for the police or anybody else …. but what advice would you give them?

Michael: Yet, you yourself said that you …. that you don’t recollect your father ever …. raising his hand to you ….

Jack: Never …. no …. The main thing …. I was an out bowler …. I went out ….

Michael: Yes ….

Jack: and if I had done ought wrong …. he wouldn’t let me go out …. and that was the biggest punishment ….

Michael: Punishment of, yes, quite ….

Jack’s Dad and Mum

Jack: Aye, he was a good Dad …. and a good Mum …. I mean, we had nothing in them days ….

Michael: Yes ….

Jack: But if there was food to be had, we had it …. even if they didn’t …. I can remember it now …. I can remember a lot of things …. I could …. I always remember …. I’d be …….. by 11 to 12 …. there were a big downstair kitchen …. and my mother had a big square table …. She used to bake …. and Tuesday were baking day …. I can still see my mother baking …. on that table …. She used to make me my favourite …. Quaker Oat Pasta …. People will have never heard of that now ….

Michael: Quaker Oat Pasta, wow ….

Jack: Yea …. things similar …. it’s a bit like an Almond Tart …. I suppose now with jam and things on it …. They were lovely and she used to bake it ….

Michael: I mean, during the rationing, things must have been difficult for your Mum?

Jack: They must have been, you see, but I wasn’t with them, was I?

Michael: No, no …. no ….

Jack: I was in the Army …. and even after I came out of the Army …. when I were running to the pits …. we could go in with the colliers into their canteen …. and have a meal with them …. that usually with shift coming up …. the canteen were open and have liver, onions and ….  potatoes on a morning for breakfast …. food taken, you know colliers ….

Aye, they had a rough job, the colliers …. I wouldn’t care for that …. not underground …. I’d rather be up there [pointing] …. in the air. That’s how it went …. with me Mum ….

Michael: Just to recap on your Dad, I mean …. he was in the First World War, wasn’t he?

Jack: No, my Dad was never in the War ….

Michael: Oh, he was never in the War ….

Jack: I’ve got 2 brothers …. Walter …. he was a regular before the War ….

Michael: Yes ….

Jack: and he was in the Tank Regiment …. he was in Egypt …. and then, once War started, he came back to England …. they brought him back to England …. and then he …. well, I think he was in York then, I don’t think he went …. when he came back from Egypt, he’d been away …. 4 years or so ….

I don’t think he went abroad again, he trained …. and he came out of Tank Regiment …. and went into REME …. Electrical and Mechanical Engineers …. he finished up in that …. Sergeant …. Sergeant Walter ….

He took me into his Mess once over in York …. he were in Fulford Barracks …. in York …. and I had to go in in Civilians, I couldn’t go in …. dressed …. but went in in Civilians ….

Dougie …. he’s always been a driver, all his life …. and he …. right up to the end, he were driving, but …. or until he finished working …. aye …. Mary, she worked in Engineering …. My sister, she was and eng…. …. she worked in engineering …. during the War …. and so, our Dot, my wife, she …. she was in …. engineering doing gear cutting for a fair while …. making tank parts …. things like that ….

But, say, while they were on ration …. I were being trained in the Army, weren’t I?

Michael: That’s right ….

Jack: But even when we come out of it, we managed …. like I say, people would help you in them days ….

As we are now, you didn’t see …. any fat lumps like you see walking round Morecambe now …. When you sees …. young people …. enormous, aren’t they? Men as well as women ….

Michael: That’s something to do with diet, isn’t it, I guess?

Jack: That’s it …. they …. well, it’s all this …. fast food job, isn’t it? If they had to be cooking like they used to do …. I’d say that for our Lynne, she’s a cook …. Aye …. She fills me full of vegetables …. that girl ….

Michael: Keeping you healthy ….

Jack: Well, she has done so far ….

Michael: Are there any sort of funny moments, you can think of? Anything that ….

Jack: Lots of funny ones, a lot, I can’t tell you …. [laughing] …. There were some funny ones, I can say that …. the Cointreau job …. That were good …. the Germans had it …. and our Infantry captured it …. the RASC carried it …. claimed it a bit …. We had it for quite a while …. it did get distributed …. eventually, I mean …. we couldn’t drink a dozen bottles …. but we didn’t do bad…. a dozen cases rather …. we didn’t do bad, but we did have them …. we had lots of parties ….

Michael: Ah, so you drank it, did you?

Aye, ooo aye, wasn’t enough for a bend …. well …. We were single …. we’d nought to worry about …. you didn’t know what were going to happen the next day, at all ….

Michael: Quite …. the spoils of War ….

Jack: Yes, aye …. that were good ….

Michael: Perhaps on that high note, Jack, perhaps we ought to come to an end, but unless you have got anything else, you would like to say …. but …. thank you very much for being prepared to …. talk to and …. bring back your War memories in particular, but your memories as a whole …. very much appreciated, and …. thank you for allowing us to come and see you ….

Jack: You are welcome, thank you …. It’s a …. if it does any good, I mean …. Like a lot of us said …. I was one amongst thousands, wasn’t I? And we all did our job …. some of us were lucky …. A lot of good lads weren’t …. and that’s what I am sorry for ….

Michael: Of course ….

Jack: Aye ….

 

End of Transcription

 

Interview recorded by Michael Thompson, Hardy Productions UK, Manchester, for WarGen.

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