Transcript Of Interviews
Sgt. Roy William James Welland 5337618
1st Battalion The Royal Berkshire Regiment
was called up on Friday, 01 September 1939. I was actually called away from
work, in the middle of the afternoon, that’s how it all started. I was
ordered to report to the Territorial Army Headquarters at Hackney Town Hall,
which used to be the 10th London Hackney Gurkhas. We were allowed to take the
uniforms home, but not the weapons, we picked up the weapons when we done training
during the week. When I arrived at the Town Hall we were issued full uniform
and all the rest of it, then presented we were handed our rifles and then put
us on a bus and we were whipped over to, believe it or not, West Ham Football
Ground. We were stationed at West Ham Football Ground, in the player’s
dressing rooms, we could use the massive bar if we wanted to, in fact we stayed
there until, war was declared on the Sunday.
.....It would have been about a week or a fortnight after that when we were sent to Kessingland in Suffolk, which was a holiday camp apparently, huts and that all over the place. All we were doing there, believe it or not, was collecting up dead bodies that had been washed up from the merchant shipping that had been torpedoed, that seemed to be our main job, walking around on the beaches with No. 18 Wireless Sets on our backs, to keep in touch with platoon, or company headquarters about whatever, or wherever we found these different things, and bodies, and of course they all had to be collected up and put onto trucks and carted off somewhere, we were picking up quite a few along there at that particular time.
.....The 5th Battalion Royal Berks were then sent to a place called Saxmundham, and then another place called Darsham, all in the Suffolk area. We were getting a bit fed up with all this mucking about and kept our eyes on the notice board to see if there was any news on what we used to call, the ‘Standing Orders’.
.....On one particular day a notice had been posted, they wanted certain people, they had to be a certain age with no responsibilities and all the necessaries, because they wanted to form some special units, so George, Ron and I saw this notice on the board, and thought we’d have a go, so we applied to the company commander and asked if we could have an interview for this posting. George came from Stepney and Ron came from Bethnal Green, we were all mates. So they let us three go and there; we reported to a place called Evesham, I think. We were now enlisted into what they called an Independent Company, sort of special services company that was No. 3 Independent Company. Well we were learning all sorts of different things, tactics, unarmed combat and bits and pieces like that.
.....The Narvik affair was where the Germans had attacked Norway at that particular time and they were making their way towards Narvik, so that was our first little job, to nip over there and see if we could do something about stopping them. We were to meet up with the Scots Guards and part of the French Foreign Legion, and I believe the Sherwood Foresters. Well we didn’t, we only met up with the Foreign Legion to start with. We got there too late, the Germans had got too much of a hold on the place for us to do too much about it, we weren’t a strong enough force anyway. So we were ordered to go up into the mountains and come down the cuttings and do patrols, and that sort of thing. Well this lasted about five or six weeks, and we had to come back, because at that particular time the Dunkirk evacuating was on, the troops were being, so we thought, we can’t do a lot of good here, so we might as well get out of it as well.
.....We were to get onto the Lancastria, in fact we were at the time all in the open fields and we had plenty of support, or so we thought. Anyway we managed to get onto this boat. We were attacked by a Stuka aircraft that the Germans had got. The Stuka dropped a bomb straight down the chimneys of these destroyers’, I heard this from various sailors that I spoke to afterwards; anyway we got home. Then they shipped us to Hamilton in Scotland, now that’s where The Royal Scotts were. When we got there we were in such a state, dishevelled, uniforms were ruined and everything. My legs were all grazed up where I’d been cut by the razor sharp rocks. They sent us home then for three or four weeks leave and mum cleaned me up while I was there.
.....When I went back, we were stationed in the Town Hall. We slept on blankets on the floor actually; we’d slept a lot rougher than that, but there again that wasn’t very comfortable, the atmosphere was deteriorating between the locals and Italians’ after the Italians’ came into the war. The Scottish public weren’t too happy about that, the men in particular were going around wrecking all the Italian shops in that particular place and in Motherwell and places like that. So naturally we had to fix bayonets and go out there and try and stop this the riots the best we could. Well we did stop it actually, as soon as they saw us out there with bayonets fixed, they did show a bit of respect for us, but a lot of them Scott’s literally ruined them shops. The Italian families were really distressed. We got over that when the Royal Scott’s, who had their barracks and main headquarters there took over and said, well if you want to go back to wherever you want to do now will look after things from now on, and that was that little episode over.
.....The Independent Company had one colonel, a Colonel Newman, he was No. 3 Independent Company’s C.O., Major, then he got made up to Colonel when No. 3 Independent Company turned out to be, No.2 Army Commando and course we were all mates, all together just the same but we had so many dam different titles we didn’t know if we were coming or going, anyway it turned out to be No.2 Commando and were whipped up to a place called Achnacarry on the west coast of Scotland, and there we meet up with Lord Lovat. He was to give us all the necessary training and all the rest of it, field craft, i.e. Dear Stalking and things like that, how to creep about the jungle floor without making too much noise, we had to learn all that, other courses, we done quite a bit of climbing, particularly Ben Nevis in the background where we were to go up, mind it took a long time, but you used to get used to it, but then again I was only nineteen, well we all were, 19, 20, thereabouts. So we were able to sort of, take it in our stride, up to a point, I know it was still hard work.
Sgt. Roy Welland