Lest We Forget Continued (page 2)
At the end of August 1939 the Army and Royal Air Force reserves were called up and the Royal Navy was mobilised. Having been in the Territorial Army before the war, 915518 Gunner Reginald Frank BROCK was immediately assigned to the 77th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery and was posted to Southampton on Anti-Aircraft duty.
When the allied forces were evacuated from Dunkirk in June 1940, the invasion of Great Britain seemed more likely. In August of that year the Luftwaffe switched its targets to Southern England and the Battle of Britain began in earnest. More than 1,000 planes were being sent over daily. Southampton, like so many other cities, was feeling the full force of the German Luftwaffe. One of the most serious raids of the whole battle was that on the Vickers Supermarine Woolstone works, Southampton on September 26th. Woolstone was the main centre of Spitfire production. 70 tons of bombs were dropped on the factory during this raid. The Heavy Anti-Aircraft gunners were firing flat out. When the all-clear was finally sounded the gunners’ hands were raw-red, very painful and in need of attention.
After this episode in the war Reg and his mates arrived at Greenock, Scotland in December 1941, and set sail on the Empress of Australia bound for the Middle East. They arrived in Capetown in January 1942 and then diverted to Singapore but on the way, heard that it had fallen to the Japanese, and so landed in Java in February 1942.
While travelling on a train which was sabotaged and blown up, Reg was thrown out and badly injured. He was taken to hospital by the Red Cross and a Dutch doctor saved his life. While recuperating in hospital he was taken prisoner by the Japanese at the end of March 1942. He was transferred to a prisoner of war camp in Singapore for about six weeks. Reg then arrived in Sumatra at the end of 1942 and worked helping to build a railway through the jungle. Living conditions were very bad; poor food and hardly any clothes, just a loin cloth and no shoes. Reg suffered leg and feet ulcers, malaria, dysentery, berri-berri and diphtheria in common with most other prisoners of war. There were hardly any medicines – dreadful conditions. Only one Red Cross parcel received between twenty men.
Finally in September 1945, Reg and his fellow prisoners of war saw a landing craft sailing up the river with Sikh soldiers and Royal Navy sailors on board. They realised the war was over. They were taken to Singapore for rehabilitation for three weeks. At the end of September they sailed from Singapore on the SS Antenor, (a passenger freight ship) bound for Liverpool, England. They sailed through the Suez Canal and stopped at Port Said on the way, arriving in Liverpool early October 1945; finally back home.
Reg was demobbed end of November 1945 and was married to Margaret, (who had waited for him to come home) in January 1946. They had met when Reg was stationed at Southampton in 1940.
For many years Reg played cricket for Highworth Cricket Club, and both he and Margaret were very keen gardeners .
Active Service Record 1939-46.
890693 G. T. BAILEY (Ex Sergeant – Guns)
945776 H. A. COX ( Ex L/ Bdr. Driver – 336th Battery / 140th / 178 Field Regiments, Royal Artillery.
Joined 3651 92nd Field Regiment Royal Artillery (TA) in January l939. New Regiment formed as the TA was being doubled in May 1939. Now 366th / Field Regiment R.A. (TA) at Kennington, London. Then Clapham Common, London.
After being inspected by the King and Queen the 140th was ready for active service with the B.E.F. in France. The Regiment landed in March 1940 and was drafted into the 1st Division to give support to the 1st Guards Brigade with our 18-pounders. What illustrious company for a T.A. Regiment. Just prior to Dunkirk evacuation, sister Battery 367 was sent to Cassel and met overwhelming enemy forces. Many killed and wounded, remainder made P.O.W. On arrival back in England via Dunkirk the Regiment took up anti-invasion duties. Then given French 75 mm Field Gun for training. For a while 366 Bty was an independent unit and sent to Iceland attached to 143 Regiment Royal Artillery. Returned December 1941. Regimented in new 178th Field Regt. (3 Btys. 2 Troops each Btys). 336th/ 122nd/ 516th. January 1943, 178th Field Regiment sailed from Liverpool to Bombay via Cape Town. Training at combined operations. Attached to 72nd Brigade 36th British Division. Now with 3.7 Howitzers, saw action in two Arakan campaigns and finally Northern Burma campaign under American command.
Transferred to 23rd Indian Division for liberation of Malay but while on the water the Japanese surrendered, but still landed as invasion force. Next sent to Java to help hound down rebels. Demobbed March 1946.
Sergeant Bill Bailey and L/Bdr Harry Cox on retreat to Dunkirk 1940.
In May 1940 while on the retreat to Dunkirk, Bill and Harry‘s Battery was on the outskirts of Tournai near the Belgian – French border fighting a rearguard action. Being under constant attack from the enemy one of the gun-crew, (a close friend of theirs), L/Bdr Tom Bennett was killed by enemy action. All three had joined the T.A. in London and had been together from the beginning of the war. At that time the Germans were nearly upon them so they had to retreat quickly, leaving their friend behind in the dug-out. Bill and Harry finally made it to Dunkirk and arrived home safe.
“On learning that myself and a friend (Barry Newman) were making a visit to Belgium we were asked if we could find and visit their friend’s grave. This we agreed to do. On our arrival in Ypres, Belgium we made a visit to the Commonwealth War Graves office to find the exact location of Tom‘s grave. As always, they were most helpful in giving us the information we needed. L/ Bdr Tom Bennett is buried in Bruyelle War Cemetery which is situated a few kilometres outside Tournai on the road to Valenciennes ( N71), France. Our journey from Ypres to Tournai was roughly about eighty kilometres and virtually trouble free.
On our arrival we immediately found L/Bdr. Tom Bennett‘s grave, placed a poppy cross and signed the cemetery register on behalf of Bill and Harry. The following year with the Swindon Branch of the Dunkirk Veterans’ Association, Bill and Harry made a visit to their friend’s grave in Bruyelle War Cemetery.”