Friday, February 24, 2006
Training to be a Driver/Wireless Operator
Photo shows: Ron's first Army Photograph, Whitby in Yorkshire
During my first few weeks in the army we were given various aptitude tests and it was discovered that I had an affinity for reading Morse code for when the course was finished I found myself posted to the 52nd Driver/Wireless Operator Training Rgt. at Whitby in Yorkshire
I arrived at Whitby in mid November '42 and first impressions were very favourable. It appeared as if we were to be treated like adults here as opposed to the training camp we had left behind at Bury St.Edmunds
We found ourselves billeted, six to a room, in small houses scattered around the town. First thing every morning the troop corporals to whom we had been allotted called round each of the billets in turn and we 'fell in.' outside and joined an ever lengthening group of marchers. When we were all finally assembled we marched to a local church hall where breakfast was ready for us.
After breakfast we marched to an imposing ex-hotel on the cliff top, the Metropole, which was to be our training college for the next three months. Here we were to learn the rudiments of both radio transmission and driving, in almost equal measure.
We soon learned that the purpose behind the course was to train us in the then newly established role of Driver -Operators and to send us out to the Middle East to join Anti-aircraft units. Apparently the War Office had decided that communications in the Artillery needed speeding up.
In the past, whenever a unit commander wished to pass a message to one of his gun crews he would use a motor cycle dispatch rider who would deliver the command and then return with a confirmation. The new idea was that every battery would have a small wireless truck as part of its establishment and this truck would be in permanent communication with both H.Q. and every other battery in the Regiment. Each truck would have a crew of three men and all the crew would be able to both drive and operate the radio.
I enjoyed the course, I particularly enjoyed learning to drive and the hilly roads of Yorkshire were ideal for this purpose. At least three times a week we would be marched to the Metropole car park and formed up in the centre of the square which also doubled up as our parade ground.
Round the outside of the square a wide variety of army vehicles would be lined up and on the command "To your vehicles --- dismiss!" all assembled would make a dash for their favourite vehicle or instructor.
Almost at the end of the course I was due to take the driving test that would enable me to call myself a qualified army driver. As luck would have it on the same morning as I took the test I had a dental appointment and so by the time this had finished it was about eleven a.m. before I could get to the car park where I was due to meet my examiner.
To my horror when I arrived the only vehicle left in the car park was a huge tank transporter.
When the examiner saw the petrified look on my face and I had explained the reason for my lateness he laughed aloud, took pity on me and gave me a two minute course on how to handle this monster with its complicated gear changes and its huge turning circle. He also gave me a pass at the end of what must have been for both of us a very alarming ride!
Quite apart from our training we were also called upon to man pillboxes along the coast against the always threatening German invasion of England. Despite our best intentions we could never take this very seriously particularly when we found ourselves manning a pill box on a deserted strip of the coast outside Whitby armed with only a Lee Enfield rifle and five rounds of ammunition.
At the end of the course my comrades and I proudly sewed on our Driver/Op. badges, a stylised hand grasping forked lightning and we were posted to various anti-aircraft regiments around the country.