World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

                        Albert Kynock 

Here And There 1939 - 1945

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Albert Kynock
Location of story: Sheffield, India, Malaya & Burma.
Unit name: 14th Army
Background to story: Army

 

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Bill Ross of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Albert Kynock,

 

In June 1939 the first men were called up for National Service, and all men at the age of 20, had to serve 6 months in the Armed Services. I was nineteen years of age in the year 1939. I was employed at the firm of George Turton and Platts, Ltd in Sheffield, where I was a Drop Forger by trade, and had been at the firm since I left school at the age of 14. When war was declared on the 3 Sept, I was 19, and would have been 20 years old in November.

I would have been called up for National Service for 6 months, at the next intake, which was about January 1940. So as things were, I was not called up, and I was very disappointed. I had been looking forward to the change from the grind of the steel-works. The war starting 5 months earlier meant that I, who was in a reserved occupation, was tied to my job in the steelworks, unless I changed my job. That was a very difficult process, as getting release from my firm meant sending forms to the Labour Exchange, which were usually returned, but basically, I was not able to leave.

The first part of my story is concerned with my working life, and my struggle to get out of the works and into the Forces. Although at the early stages of the war, the civilians were not in the same danger as the Forces, but as the war continued, the civilians were the subjects of air raids over the country, and in London, there were a lot of them. So I will start with my story: I remember when war was declared, I was in bed having a lie in, which one did after a late Saturday night.

My mother called upstairs to tell me, and said there was someone using a rattle, which was the signal for gas being used. That was the state of tension which existed at the beginning. But no gas was ever used in this war so here was I, in a reserved occupation, wanting to go into the Armed Forces, but unable to do so. I then started to try to find ways to get out of the reserved occupation. A workmate and I went to the Cutlers Hall in Sheffield, where they were recruiting for the RAF, and we were told that they were recruiting for Riggers. We had no idea what that job was, but we said that it would be fine. The Recruiting Officer asked us our occupations, and told us we were in reserved jobs, and he couldn't take us. So that was the first rejection. One might ask why did I want to go in the forces, when I could continue in a fairly safe job. Well the forge work was very hard and dirty, and the thought of getting away from it, without considering the dangers, was all I could think of.

It must be remembered that having a job before the war was something to hold on to. Lots of people had not worked for years. At the beginning of the war things were not too bad; we had the occasional air raid warning, which interfered with production. Then we were told after a few months to carry on working until an air raid was inevitable. The first alarm would be a yellow, which would be an alert, then if it was thought a raid was fairly certain, it would be a purple.

We would shut everything down, and go to the shelters. In the early days food and sweets were quite easy to get. I used to go to a sweetshop, and I think the girl assistant liked me. I managed to get a box of Black Magic Chocolates quite often, which my girl friend liked; she actually became my wife. The rations started, and sweets became very scarce. The other things were cigarettes, they also became very hard to get. They were not rationed, but people had to queue for them.

When the Tobbaconist got his allocation, he would have sold out in a half hour. The word would go round and the people would form a queue, and if lucky, one might get a twenty packet of whatever he had to sell. Fruit, such as Lemons, Oranges, and fruits which had to come from hotter climates, were probably brought in by Sailors and I recollect they were often autioned off for charities.

All lights were covered at nightime, and if the Air Raid warning was sounded, the lighs were extinguished. In the forge where I worked, the blackout, as it was called, made the place extremely hot at night, and the sweat would pour out of one before work started. I like my workmates, did not need to go to keep-fit classes. It was possible to get a little extra to eat, by going to the Municiple Resturants, and smaller places, which would have small allocations of food, and so it was possible to keep one's strength up. It is said people were fitter at that time than ever. P2 Entertainment, which at the start of the war had been stopped, was allowed to be carried on, but with restrictions on closing times, and limits of crowd numbers.

Now I was able to go to Dance Halls, and the Theatre. That of course, was when I was on the day shift, or on a Saturday. In my case working hours were Monday to Friday, 7am to 5pm, and Saturday, 7 am to 12 noon, and the following day, Sunday night, lOpm to 6am Monday. The rest of the week, I was on at night, Monday night to Friday at 7pm to 6am, finishing Saturday morning at 6am, then a break until Monday morning at 7am. So, it can be seen that my contribution to the war effort was good. I continued to keep sending my applications for leaving my job, but to no avail. The first heavy Air Raid on Sheffield came on the night of the 12th and 13th December, 1940, and that night I was with my girl friend at the Sheffield Empire Theatre.

We had gone to see Henry Hall and his Orchestra, and he stopped playing a tune called 'Six Lessons from Madam Lazonga', then told us we had to leave as a major raid was starting. We made our way though town, keeping close to the side of buildings, until we reached the house of a friend. Her husband was on the night shift, and she was very pleased to see us. We had to dodge some shrapnel on the way, and a few fires had started. We sat on the steps going down to the cellar, and a bomb hit the house two doors away.

All the ceilings in the house came down, and we were covered in wood and dust. We halped our friend to gather her important things, and stayed with her until the 'All Clear' was sounded. I then left them both, and went home to see how my family were. They lived nearer to town, and I was very worried. Lots of fires were around buildings which were destroyed. When I reached my home, I found a bomb had dropped on the front of the house, and it was at a drunken angle.

My family were in the shelter at the back of the house and had escaped getting hurt. We now had to find somewhere to live and I was transfered to another firm, as the one I was working at had been damaged, in fact it was closed for a few months and the firm I was sent to was far better than the one I had been working at. So I became very unhappy at the thought of going back to the old firm when it became ready for production again. But I had to go back and after some more applications to leave, was allowed to go. That is another story, but it was not long after, that I was called into the Army, which is what I had wanted for years.

But civilians in the War had tremendous hardships to bare. Air Raids, food shortagers, unhealthy working conditions, and the constant fear that their loved ones might not get home again. So now in the year 1943, I was going to use the tools I had helped to make. I was now on the other side of the fence, and I was really looking forward to the experience. P3 I was drafted to an Infantry training Regiment in Scotland. Every recruit had to have basic Infantry training. I weighed only 9st when I went into the army, that being due to the working conditions, and food shortages.

I did really thrive on the fresh air, exercise, food and training. I can honestly say, that I have never felt fitter at that time, or since in my life. It was hard work, but interesting, and it suited me down to the ground. After 8 weeks, all the recruits were sent to different branches of the Army, and I found myself sent to a Driver Training Regiment in the Royal Artillery at Rhyl in north Wales. That was a very extensive course, and if I had to pay for a course like that today, it would really be very expensive. I started on 15cwt vehicles, and went on to Jeeps, lorries and Gun-towing Quads, as they were called. We did exercises in all sorts of conditions.

I moved to Northumberland, for advanced training, crossing the river Tyne over a Pontoon bridge, towing a vehicle out of snowdrifts, and allsorts of hazards. So came the time when the Army decided it was time I had to earn my keep. I found myself on a draft to India. There, I was to join the 14th Army, 'The forgotten Army', as it became called. It was considered secondary to the one in Europe, but the Japanese Army was no secondary, as we found, and I am sure the Americans did. The Japanese was a cruel Army, and was very much underestimated. I boarded a ship named the SS Strathmore at the port of Liverpool in March 1943, along with other reinforcements for other Army units. We, being Royal Artillery men, were manning the Orlicon Guns on the top deck.

I was on NIO. We set sail up the Irish Sea, and joined a convoy at the Forth of Clyde, comprising Troop ships, Aircraft Carrier and Destroyers, and sailed towards the North of Northern Ireland, and out into the Atlantic. The weather was very rough, and lots of the troops became sick. I managed to go quite sometime before I joined them. We were in sections on the Mess Deck, and there were 19 men in our section. Out of them, only one man was able to eat. His name was Jukes, and at breakfast, he had the choice of as many of the eggs or other things as he could eat. At that time I was unable to swim at all, but I never at any time felt afraid. I think its the feeling that people have that ".....it could never happen to me."

So there was I serving on the guns on the long journey to India. On one occasion a Depth Charge was dropped in the sea, and being on the top deck, I was able to see it. The journey became uneventful and we arrived at Bombay. Before then I asked a soldier if he had been to Bombay before, and he said he had, and that I would smell it before I got there. How true it was. The sweat was the strongest I have ever smelt. The sea at the port was covered in debris of all kinds, and although I had seen lots of poverty at home, nothing compared to India in those days.

I seemed to have gone back in time about 200yrs. We were put on a train to a place called Deolali, which was an army dept, and where one was expected to get the Deolali tap which was a condition of mind that one developed by being there. I think it was because of the heat, and other conditions, which were there. It was very hot, and when we got off the train, everyone rushed for the water tap, I don't think anyone cared whether the water was fit to drink or not. We had been inoculated against most things, and I did not feel any the worst for drinking it.

All our uniforms were changed for what was called Jungle Greens, and our underwear was thrown into a large pan of black dye. All webbing equiptment was blancoed in black. Brasses did not have to be polished any more which we all thought was a very good thing. After a few days some of us were put on a draft to the 50th Reserve Division, which was stationed around Ranchi, near the Burmese border. It was a long journey to there, and I think it took around 3 days. After another week or so, six of us were sent on to the other side of India, to a place called Lahore, on a Bulldozer course. The temperature was over a lOO degs, but we were getting very used to the climate. Its remarkable how the body adjusts to conditions.

The course lasted about 3 weeks. Now I and the other men on the course were sent to the 96th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery, which had 25 lb Field guns. This was a part of the 7th Indian Division, which became known for the battle of the Admin Brock. It was nearly surrounded, and fought its way out to the Indian border. At that time the Japanese had earned a fierce reputation. Lots Of the problems, were caused by the severe shortage of War Materials, over which other Theatres of War had priority. P4 Of course the war progressed and the Japanese were pushed out of Burma, and the Regiment was pulled out of Burma to invade Malaya, which was expected to be a very costly business in lives. We were now in the 25th Indian Division in 1945.

The war in Europe was over, and we had to waterproof the vehicles, ready for the invasion. As everyone knows now, the Atom Bombs were dropped on the Japanese mainland and we landed in Malaya without any bother. Now our job was to round up all the Japanese and guard them, taking them to the work which had been given to them. We treated them in a far better way than they had treated their prisoners of war. Now it was a case of wanting to get back home, and the time was spent on guard duties, which became very often, due to men in demobilisation groups going home. On the Bulldozers, we were clearing away the damage the Japanese had left.

Rubber Plantations had been overgrown. On one occasion a Tennis Court had been dug up, and used to grow Tapioca, and we had other things to clear. Any spare time was spent playing football. We were now in Ipoh in the State of Perak. There I became a member or the Battery football team, in the Ipoh and District Football league. In 1946, we won the League and the Cup, and won every game we played. I did play for the Regimental side on a few occasions, but never seemed to do as well as I played in the Battery games. Once, the Regimental team played a touring team, that had a number of professional players in it.

I remember two of them, one named Eric Haywood who played for Blackpool at the same time as Stanley Mathews, and Roy John, who was a Welsh International. I think for a time he played for Sheffield United. The Regiment lost the match 2-0. The reason I have mentioned the game was to show just how the standard of the team, which was chosen from an ordinary regiment was. They did play to the final of the Malaya cup, and drew 3-3. So owing to the fact that lots of troops were going home, it was decided that each team would hold the Cup for 6 months each.

So after all the mosquitos, hornets, and other nasty things, plus a couple of close encounters with snakes, I finally left Malaya in June 1946. I sailed on the Johan Von Oldenbarnveldt, which was a Dutch Liner. It was supposed to be a fast ship, but it was not fast enough for me, and I think it was sold to a Greek line, and caught fire a few years afterwards in the Wst Indies. So there are other tales to tell, I returned home -via Southaaapton, demobbed at Guildford then, I went to London and eventually, Sheffield and a Cbicken dinner, which I was too excited to eat. What an experience it was. There are no regrets, it was an experience I don't ever regret, but one I would never like to go through again. Pr-BR