LIFE IN THE ARMY - World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

LIFE IN THE ARMY - Chapter 7 – My Stay in Norwich
By Actiondesk Sheffield
People in story: ARTHUR WARD, Dr Isaacs, Lt. Hammond, Bill Ward, Don Gregson,
L/Bdr Robinson, 2nd Lt Shimmin, Major Jarvis, Major General Wilson, Colonel
Suddards, Winnie Sewell
Location of story: Norwich Hospital, Norfolk.Aston. Aughton, Abbeydale,
Woodhouse, Waleswood, Sheffield, Wymondham, Shoeberryness
Unit name: 'C' Troop, 279 Battery 70th Field Regt. R.A.
Background to story: Army
This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk –
Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Arthur Ward, and has been added to the site with his
permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.
Chapter 7 – My Stay in Norwich Hospital
May 09, 1941
I went sick to the M.O with a large swelling in my arm.
May 10, 1941
I stayed in bed with a pain in my stomach. The Regiment M.O came to see me.
May 11, 1941
I was still ill so a Major MO came to see me. He sent me by army ambulance to a field
hospital which was not far away, in a large marquee. This was full so I was taken in a
"blood wagon" (army ambulance) to Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.
I arrived in hospital on a Sunday afternoon in the middle of a service held by the padre for
patients and visitors. They were singing my favourite hymn 'Onward Christian Soldiers' as
I was wheeled into the ward and put into a bed surrounded by curtains. I had an
examination (up my rear end) and was told that I had to have an operation for
appendicitis the next day.
The nurse came and shaved all the hairs from my tummy where the cut was to be made.
May 12, 1941
Prior to the operation I was examined by the House Surgeon and he put off the operation
for 48 hours whilst I was put on a strict diet. He said that I could not have an operation
until the swelling on my arm had gone down.
May 13, 1941
The pain had eased and the operation was cancelled.
A typical day in hospital was:
06:00 Breakfast and medicine.
06:30 Wash and shave.
07:15 Beds made up.
08:30 Sister came on duty.
09:00 Doctors examination.
10:00 Milk, cocoa or coffee.
12 noon Dinner.
15:55 Tea.
18:00Hot milk or Bourne Vita.
Visiting days were Sunday, Wednesday and Saturday from 1500 hrs to 1600 hrs. During
the time I was in hospital I did not have any visitors and did not receive 1 letter, although
I was able to write home but I did not let them know at home that I was in hospital. Every
3 days I had a blood test and an injection.
I also had 2 enemas as I was not going to the toilet.
May 23, 1941
Out of bed for 1 hour's exercise in pyjamas and dressing gown and slippers (all issued by
the hospital).
Each day gradually having more exercise in the ward.
Whilst in hospital, I heard on the radio that the Battleship HMS Hood had been sunk by
German gunfire. This was a great tragedy.
May 25, 1941
Sunday. Nurses took us into the hospital church for a service.
May 26, 1941
Given my uniform back, I dressed and left hospital at 1230 in a truck to Hingham. Before
leaving the hospital, Dr Isaacs gave me a letter with a recommendation for me to have 14
days leave.
May 27, 19417
Took the letter to the Regiment MO - He said I could have 14 days in a convalescent camp
near Cromer or 7 days at home - I accepted the latter.
May 28, 1941
Hingham 0830 to Attleborough. Left there by train at 0905 to Ely, Peterborough,
Grantham, Retford, Waleswood at 1730.
I walked home (about 2 ½ miles) just about in a state of collapse.
As I hadn't told anyone at home I had been ill, it was quite a shock for them as I looked so
However after a few quiet days at home I felt much better.
May 31, 1941
Nessie came to see me - I met her off the train at Sheffield station and we went to the
Regent and saw "No No Nannette", then I took her to Abbeydale where she was staying
with friends. At this time she was working in an ammunition factory in Birmingham.
June 01, 1941
I caught a bus to Sheffield at 1315, met Nessie in Fitzallen Square and brought her home.
After tea we had a walk round Aston and Aughton. I took her back to Abbeydale and
caught 2230 bus to Woodhouse, then walked home. Next day she returned to Birmingham.
June 03, 1941
Went to Hippodrome in Sheffield and saw The Marx Bros "Go West". I went on my own and
had to stand in a queue for 1½ hours. The sirens went for an air raid alert but it must have
been a false alarm.
June 04, 1941
Left Waleswood station at 1538 and arrived at Hingham at 2155.
June 05, 1941
Went to see the MO and passed me fully fit.
June 06, 1941
Church Parade then football, 279 Bty. 4 v RHQ 1.
June 10, 1941
Regt. Concert Party at the Grammar School in Wymondham. Poor show.
June 11, 1941
Baths at Wymondham then to see an ENSA Party which was very good. Digging trenches
and building blast walls round Don Troop billets.
June 14, 1941
Football 279 Bty. won Shield for Regimental Tournament.
On guard at 1800 hrs. Orderly Officer Lt. Hammond.
June 15, 1941
Cousin Bill Ward (in the RAF) came to see me with his pal. I managed to get a day off so
we went to Norwich. We visited Seaton Park and the Carlton where we saw Joe E Brown in
"The Gladiator".
June 17, 1941
Regt. Sports Day.
Dance at the Cock Inn - Poor.
June 19, 1941
Loading ammunition ready for manoeuvres.
June 20, 1941
Reveille 0530. Breakfast 0615. Battle Order at 0835. Moved off 1000 hrs via Watton,
Stanford into a large wood. We made camouflage nets. This was a very tedious job - we
had a large net almost 20 ft x 20 ft made of Jute (like thick string) interwoven into squares
about 4" x 4" and we had to weave a cotton jute about 2" wide in and out of the squares.
The jute was painted black and Khaki. They were then spread over guns or vehicles, so it
was difficult to see anything from the air. We spent days at this job at various times.
We then took up anti tank positions. This scheme was to practice how to deal with enemy
parachutists who were supposed to have landed in Norfolk.
June 22, 1941
Our Eric was 21 years old.
The weather during this scheme was very hot and sunny and we all received plenty of
insect and mosquito bites which caused red swellings.
June 25, 1941
Returned to camp thankful for the decent bed, although we slept on a wooden floor we
were used to this by now.
We heard afterwards that during the scheme actual parachutists were used although we
didn't see any. Also, 30 squadrons of bomber and fighter planes, and tanks were used.
These were together with 170,000 troops and 20,000 Home Guard. It had been the largest
scheme ever held in England.
June 26, 1941
Visit to Wymondham for baths.
June 29, 1941
Church Parade. We had photographs taken on The Green.
Don Gregson was promoted to L/Bdr.
June 30, 1941
My birthday I was now 22 years old. I received parcels from Swallownest Methodist
Chapel, British Legion and cards from Mother and dad, Eric and Eva.
July 01, 1941
One day on manoeuvres. We fired blanks from the guns. L/Bdr Robinson was our No. 1 (he
was later killed in action in Africa).
July 02, 19411
Firing Bren guns at imitation tanks.
July 03, 1941
Visit to Wymondham baths for swimming.
July 04 & 05, 1941
More manoeuvres near Stamford.
July 08, 1941
The caravan came again with gas chamber. Had to go inside and have a small whiff of DM
- Result - pain in the chest, vomiting and we felt depressed for about 1 hour -Terrible!!
July 09, 1941
On guard in Cock Inn car park. Orderly Officer 2nd Lt Shimmin.
July 12, 1941
Inspection of guns by BC Major Jarvis.
July 13, 1941
Rained for the first time in a month to end the heatwave.
Church Parade then half day off duty.
July 14, 1941
A one day scheme near Watton. We were dive bombed by RAF Blenheims (practise).
Our Divisional Commander was now Major General Wilson.
July 15, 1941
On guard. Inspected by the C.O who was Colonel Suddards.
July 16, 1941
Leave for 7 days. Attleborough 1121. Home 2145.
July 20, 1941
Cycle ride with Winnie Sewell and several of the old group of lads to Winster. We rode for
58 miles in the day.
July 21, 1941
Saw Old Mother Riley's Ghost at the Regent, Sheffield with our Eric and Keith Spencer.
Walked back home to Swallownest with Albert Edwards - He was a stoker on the Battleship
HMS King George V.
July 23, 1941
Waleswood 1545 on a crowded train nearly all the way. Arrived at Hingham at 2200 hrs.
July 26, 1941
Inspection of guns. We now had 18/25 Pdrs in place of the old 75 mm guns.
July 27, 1941
Inspection by Lt Frewer, 2nd Lt Warnes and B.C Major Jarvis, then Church Parade.
July 31, 1941
2 days manoeuvres. Raining.
August 03, 1941
Church Parade then half day off duty.
August 05, 1941
Reveille 0550. 8 Quads from various batteries formed a convoy to Swaffham, Kings Lynn,
Holbeach, Long Sutton, Market Deeping, Stamford, Grantham (great north road), Newark
and Doncaster to KNOTTINGLEY, arriving at 1630.
Captain Dudley Fletcher in charge.
We had dinner, then were given the night off.
I travelled by truck to Bradford, then bus to Horsforth and spent the night with Cliff Teale,
his wife and family (Cliff had been demobbed a few weeks previous, for a reason we never
found out).
August 06, 1941
Next morning I left Horsforth at 0900 by bus to Bradford then back to Knottingley.
We were issued with new 18/25 pounder guns to be given to the newly formed 449
We travelled back via Doncaster, Retford and Newark during a thunderstorm.
We stayed the night in Sleaford where we slept in a Dance Hall.
August 07, 1941
We left at 0830 and arrived in Hingham at 1645 hrs.
August 08, 1941
Baths at Wymondham for swimming.
August 09, 1941
Played football at Attleborough.
279 Bty 4 RASC 4
August 10, 1941
Digging trenches and blast proofing walls.
August 11, 1941
On guard. Orderly Officer, 2nd Lt Shimmin.
August 24, 1941
Reveille 0630 went on an advanced party via Norwich to Worstead Camp about 30 miles.
We erected tents and marquees and worked until 2100 hrs.
New address is: Worstead Park Camp
Nr Norwich
August 26, 1941
Main party arrived with the guns. We slept six men per tent.
August 29, 1941
Digging trenches near Coltishall aerodrome ready for engineers to bury phone wires. We
visited the aerodrome canteen which was a smashing place.
August 30, 1941
Still digging trenches but we were given a ½ day off duty so we visited North Walsham,
went to the pictures and saw Will Hay in "St Michael's Ghost".
There was a WVS canteen in NW where they served lovely white bread and tomato (home
grown) sandwiches. A real treat!!!
August 31, 1941
Church Parade at Worstead Church.
Played football.
279 Bty 4 449 Bty 1
Walked to North Walsham to the canteen again. North Walsham is a large village with an
old fashioned bundy cross which is a round building with a roof over in the village square.
We saw a Hurricane fighter crash in flames about ½ mile away. We had to walk 4 miles
each way.
September 02, 1941
I passed a gun laying test supervised by Captain Green.
Football, 279 Bty. 2 v RHQ 1.
September 05, 1941
Blast proofing tents.
This meant that we had to dig large holes 2'0" deep, then erect our tents in the hole and
fill sandbags with the excavated earth and build them round the tents as an extra
protection from blast.
September 06, 1941
Back to digging trenches near Coltishall airfield.
At this time we were due for leave but it kept being postponed.
September 07, 1941
Reveille 0400. Moved off with guns at 0530 via Norwich, Yarley, Great Blakenham,
Ipswich, Colchester, Chelmsford and Southend-on-Sea to Shoeberryness.
Here we were on a small island which was cut off from the mainland when a swing bridge
over the road was lifted. This was supposed to stop any enemy gaining a foothold during
an invasion but I do not think it would have stopped anyone. The actual area was called
Foulness and here we fired live rounds at imitation tanks which were on the sea shore, so
any shells missing the target fell into the sea.
We slept overnight in some disused factory buildings.
In the area, we saw coastal defence guns and large Ack Ack guns which were used for the
defence of London, as we were near the entrance to the River Thames.
September 08, 1941
At 0830 we returned by the same route to Worstead, arriving at 0430 hrs after travelling a
total of 280 miles.
September 09, 1941
We received a new issue of Battle dress.
September 10, 1941
Pay Parade then to North Walsham and saw "Mark of Zorrow".
September 11, 1941
On a scheme in wheat fields near Thetford.
September 17, 1941
Boarded 3 ton truck with driver and travelled 25 miles to Great Yarmouth where we loaded
up 3 tons of hardcore from the bombed houses. Also we collected 7 stones of fish for the
battery cookhouse which cost £4-4s-0d (often referred to as four guineas - £4.20p).
The hardcore was used to make roads and hardstandings in the camp, and the fish was
cooked as a treat for our tea. It was smashing!!!
September 18, 1941
Digging trench for signaller phone wire. Had a visit to canteen in Aylesham.
September 19, 1941
Digging a new trench at Brompton near Aylesham. It was raining.
September 20, 1941
Kit inspection by the BC Major Jarvis. I left camp at 12 noon. Train from Worstead station
at 1300 to Norwich, Attleborough, Peterborough, Leicester to Birmingham at 2145.
I met Nessie and her brother Tom (he was in an infantry Regt). Then went to her digs and
met Mr and Mrs Ladkin and their daughter Betty who was in the ATS.
We had supper and I slept on the settee.
September 21, 1941
Sunday. Went for walk with Nessie, Tom, Betty and Mr Ladkin. Went to pub for a drink.
Had dinner and tea at Ladkins then went with Tom to the station as he was returning to
his unit at Croydon.
I took Nessie to the Paramount Cinema, We saw Gordon Harker in a good film.
September 22, 1941
Up at 0900, had a walk round Handsworth with Nessie. Caught a train at New Street
Station at 1535 and arrived back at Worstead at 2330 hrs.
September 23, 1941
Gun Drill then maintenance.
September 28, 1941
Large Church Parade in an open field taken by the Regimental Padre.
September 29, 1941
On manoeuvres near Thetford, Brandon, Cambridge, Bedford, we were driving
in the night to a position near Northampton.
October 02, 1941
Nessie's Birthday, she was 20 years old. My Mother sent her a black handbag for me.
We moved into a gun position near Cambridge.
October 03, 1941
Returned to camp at 1815 hrs.
October 04, 1941
Pay Parade then swimming at Wymondham baths.
October 05, 1941
Church Parade.
October 08, 1941
Went on a cross country run - about 5 miles.
October 09, 1941
Raining so had a lecture on Bedford Lorry engine.
October 11, 1941
Trip to cinema at North Walsham and saw'Target for Tonight and Jackie Cooper in 'Gallant
October 12, 1941
Church Parade then on guard at night.
October 13, 1941
I was appointed Limber Gunner, as well as being the gun layer, I was responsible for the
maintenance of the gun, and had to ensure that it was fit to fire at all times.
October 14, 1941
Driving instruction, first for a long time.
October 16, 1941
Lecture by Lt. Warnes on progress of the war in Lybia.
October 17, 1941
Pay Parade, Physical Training then baths at Wymondham.
October 18, 1941
70th Field Regt. 1 Durham Light Infantry 0.
At this time I was a regular goalkeeper for the troop, Battery and Regiment.
October 19, 1941
Church Parade. Half day off but stayed in billets due to heavy rain.
October 21, 1941
Train at 2255 to March and Peterborough (during the night).
October 22, 1941
Home at 2145 for 7 days leave.
October 24, 1941
Letter from Nessie to say she couldn't come for weekend as arranged.
October 25, 1941
Went to Hillsborough! Sheffield United 3 Sheffield Wednesday 1. 9,000 spectators considered good for wartime.
Empire Theatre and saw Norman Evans, Leon and Kimberley, Billy Scott and his
Grenadiers. We arrived home at 2100 hrs on last bus.
October 29, 1941
Left Waleswood at 1538 arrived at Worstead just before midnight due to train being 1 hour
October 30, 1941
Laying 'duck' boards due to ground being flooded.
November 02, 1941
Church Parade then played for Regiment, 70th Field Regt. 8 v Field Brigade 3.
November 07, 1941
Lecture on current affairs by Capt. Green.
November 12, 1941
In the afternoon cleaning up the camp.
November 13, 1941
Reveille 0530. Moved off 0745 via Norwich, Thetford, Linton, Stevenage (114 miles). There
we slept in trucks overnight.
November 14, 1941
Through London escorted by Police at high speed in cars and motor bikes. Dartford tunnel
under River Thames. Rochester Way, Chatham, Maidstone, Charing. Here we ran out of
petrol and we had to sleep in the 'Quad' all night - very uncomfortable.