We had now nearly spent two years in Wiltshire Somerset and Dorset completing our training and equipment, we were really ready to go into action. The second spell of our stay in England now began - the powers that be decided that it was time for a change of scenery and the whole Regiment moved in an easterly direction to establish itself north of London. RHQ went to Ampthill in Bedfordshire, 227 Battery moved to Cold Brayfield in Buckinghamshire whilst 228 Battery went to Leighton Buzzard also in Bedfordshire.
To begin with 228 had the best of the deal as the whole Battery occupied Stockgrove Park which must have been about the Army,s best billet. The mansion was built only a few years previously by Mr Kroyer Keilberg, chairman of the United Molasses Company. There 228 dwelt in considerable luxury especially as Mr Keilberg had stipulated that the oil fired central heating was kept in operation throughout the winter months, though we heard that in a later year the WD could not get the heating oil and some of the piping was damaged. However luck this could not last and "C" Tp found themselves at Biggleswade whose chief claim to fame was that the local brewery sold their PA draught beer at 4 old pence a pint - - real fourpenny beer.
In December 1941the whole Regiment moved to a firing camp at Builth Wells in South Wales, though this was a bit of a construction job as the range was still being built. After we had been there for a few days a blizzard set in and in one morning we woke up to eight feet of snow and we had to dig paths between the huts, cookhouse,latrines and the NAFFI !!.
When the thaw came we embarked on the building of roads up on the ranges in brilliant sunny weather, where at altitude we wielded our spades and picks stripped to the waist. Then back "home " RHQ and 228 to the same places and 227 to Milton Ernest in Bedfordshire where they had moved to just before going to Wales.
The next move for 228 Battery was to Wotton house, Wotton Underwood near Aylesbury. This was a water-logged piece of country, making exercises with Medium Guns difficult. Aylesbury was 10 miles away, the nearest village 3 miles and the nearest pub 2 miles. we were in huts connected by a sea of mud and the Guns/Vehicles sat under trees up to their axles - good training for an Italian winter. In March we gave up our 6" Howitzers and became one of the first units equipped with the new 4.5 (227) and 5.5 (228) Guns which we took to firing camp at Tilshead.
We returned to Wotton Underwood and as spring and early summer arrived we added to our farming experiance by being hired out in gangs to help with the haymaking, for this work the farmer paid us 5 old shillings a day. Though we did hear a rumour that the Army took enough from the farmer to make our 5 shilling up to an agricultural workers minimum wage.
In July 1942 the regiment left 3 Div and came under command of east Central district as Army Troops and we now came back together as a Regiment at Bower Wood Camp which was at Beaconsfield on the A355 between that town and slough.
The highlights of our peaceful stay there, were two practice camps at Hunstanton in Norfolk in September and at Sennybridge in south Wales in November. Then at last the Regiment was ordered overseas and embarkation leave began in December.
One last recollection of Bower wood camp still amuses !!! The Gunner is a careful chap by and large but he does know that a shell when not fuse is pretty harmless. So when he unloads them from a Gun tractor he tends to put a couple of sandbags on the ground, drops the shell onto them and then they are carried away. Across the road from the camp was a row of quite nice villas, a nice elderly lady resident saw this going on and she was worried - so she wrote to no less a person than the prime Minister. There were repercussions but nothing more than " if you must do these things then for goodness sake dont do it where Joe public can see you"
We entrained at Beaconsfield in the small hours of January 15th 1943 for an
SOME THOUGHTS SOFAR
The Regiment that left Beaconfield in january 1943 was very different from the one that which had left Edinburgh two and half years earlier.
As time went on we received numerous drafts of men in all sorts of different trades, most of them were English with just a sprinkling of Welshmen, obviously they had an effect on the Regiment but nevertheless it was always a Scottish Regiment and successfully assimilated the Sassenach element. of course from time to time people were posted away and on this subject I can quote one of our officers who wrote :---
From time to time we were required to post away a number of Gunners,Signallers and drivers and other categories as reinforcements for units overseas and of course one held on to the best men. When in december the Regiment left Bower Wood camp to go overseas, I remember thinking that if we were required to post anyone else away it would be impossible to know who to send as all the men were now first class and highly trained.
One of the last drafts to reach us before we went overseas came from a Signal training Regiment in Yorkshire. One of them has since expressed his feelings as follows :---
"We found them to be quite clannish and apprently not overjoyed to have more Sassenachs among them. We soon found, that although they had not been at school any longer than we English they appeared to have had a better education and were much more able to express themselves. Obviously they had not been subjected to our "shut up and be quiet" form of teaching.
I soon discovered that these Scotsmen were fanatical in their love of their Country and particularly their capital city of Edinburgh. Princes street was not only the best in Britain but the finest street in the World. It was quite sad to think that the English could,nt feel so fevently about their homeland.
My first impression of thes men from north of the border proved to be incorrect and although it took a good while to fit in with them, eventually they became true and trustworthy comrades and my best friends were scotsmen""""""
Copyright © 2003, Chris Dunham . All Rights Reserved