WWII Autobiography. “A Full Life” Stanley John Doughty. 12th Royal Lancers

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Page 19 forgotten. Air activity increased considerably. There was now no longer any chance of a night's sleep. The light was worked most of the night without any conspicuous success and daytimes were spent in manning the Lewis gun and the occasional firing at "low flying intruders" as the jargon had it. A London taxi arrived for our use to run an anti-parachutist patrol. We mounted apiece of gas-barrel alongside the driver (these taxis had a roofless luggage space beside the driver) to take the spigot of our Lewis Gun. This meant that the site had no gun of course since weapons of all sorts were in very short supply but you can't have everything. Our rifles were made up to one a man with a variety of bores mostly .303 Ross rifles. One I remember was a .300 bore which only had 12 rounds as it was an unusual bore. I suppose that after you had fired those 12 you were supposed to throw the gun at the enemy. We were told not to fire it unless it was absolutely necessary. Up to this time the rounds had been counted religiously before payday -every Friday- when an officer came to pay and inspect the site. If around was missing it had to be explained and accounted for in a book. Now however with the Lewis inaction most days a little more sense was injected into the site and .303 ammunition was available on demand. Roadblocks were mounted and the credentials of people bypassing established. With the whole coastal area evacuated except for locals and the services travellers were mostly local civilians going about their day-to-day business most of whom we knew by sight anyway. Nevertheless while old men and women were allowed to pass unhindered young women were stopped and chatted up at every opportunity. It helped to pass the time anon otherwise boring stint and talking to soldiers was considered quite respectable by now. The anti-parachute patrols were more interesting. We picked up both R.A.F pilots who had bailed out as well as German prisoners and delivered them to the appropriate authorities stood guard over crashed planes until relieved by the R.A.F. and made ourselves generally useful. It was my first introduction to violent death. Where bodies were whole it was not too bad but where crashes had shredded bodies into bits it took a bit of getting used to. However one can become blasé to practically anything in time. After the inactivity of the past it was strangely welcome. The Battle of Britain was now well underway and fleets of aircraft high up were an everyday occurrence. We could do nothing about these of course but often had a squirt (a burst of fire) at a low flying fighter or bomber which was probably in trouble anyway. I had one or two 48 hour passes about this time and used to pickup a lift quite easily. The Sharp's toffee lorries from their factory in Maidstone were always willing. On one occasion and for some reason I caught the train intending to get off at Orpington which was a regular stop but it didn't do so and I finished up in London only to be grabbed by Redcaps (Military Police) and impressed into a labour gang shifting rubble from bombed buildings somewhere in the East End. Needless to say I didn't think very highly of that was hardened now and vanished as soon as I could but one couldn't just vanish and leave people buried as long as there was a hope. I made sure never to use the trains again though. Somewhere about this time I was called to the Company Office and told that my transfer to the Royal Armoured Corps had come through and given a travel pass to the 57th Training Regiment R.A.C. at Warminster Wilts. On arrival I found surprise surprise that Len had already been posted to the 8th Battalion Royal Tank Regiment and in fact I never did see him throughout the entire war even less serve in the same Regiment but the ploy had served its purpose. The routine was predictable. Square bashing and lectures on armaments radio equipment and the mechanics of tanks. Apart from one Valentine which was a modern tank at the time there were 6 to 81918 and between the wars tanks which were used to give practice on Salisbury Plain. These were so large that they even had a indoor the back into which you entered. The engine occupied the central space in the tank and the guns one either inside sponsons were operated from the same space. They
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