World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

Charles Hague's Story

Wartime experiences of Charles Hague – Part 1

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Charles Hague
Location of story: Sigglesthorn, East Yorkshire, Hornsea, Beverley, Sunderland, Seaburn, Harrogate, Hull, Bombay, India, Nasik, Deolali
Unit name: 8th Battalion East Yorks, R.A.O.C
Background to story: Army

 


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Charles Hague.
Wartime experiences of Charles Hague – Part 1
By
Charles Hague

I was called up for army service 24th June 1940 (age 25). Had to report for duty at Sigglesthorn East Yorkshire. From there taken to Hornsea by East Yorkshire Buses where we were billeted in a Girl's College awaiting for uniforms etc. After 6 days when we were kitted out, we were marched from Hornsea to Beverley in shirts - no jacket, too hot - 50 rounds of ammunition in a bandolier, with string on rifles (no straps !) Kept having a break now and again on route. Had to lay on our backs with feet above our head in the ditches to ease the pain. On arrival at Beverley railway station - first call was the Medical Room. Blood and blisters the main ailment, a good start to army life !!! Route marches and drills for weeks, plus night manoeuvres on Beverley Racecourse and target practice etc for 3 months - for each Platoon.

Posted to 8th Battalion East Yorks for coasta1 duty on N E Coast (Sunderland) in September. Billeted in terrace houses in Roker Park Road on arrival. More drilling and marching in the Park. Rifle practice took place on the cliffs at Seaburn also firing Bren Gun and tossing hand grenades.
Called out at 4 a.m. one morning and told to put denims on! Marched to Seaburn cliffs to 2 Destroyers aground (side by side). Boxes and containers with cordite tubes floating about. Our job, wading out and salvaging what we could. This went on for most of the week. This incident put the Platoon on night guard dudes until the destroyers were re-floated and taken into Sunderland, which took until early December. The destroyers were "H M S Ashanti" and “H M S Fame".

Was admitted to Sedgefield Hospital in March 1941 with Achilles Tendon problems. Had swollen ankle of left leg for quite a while. Spent 2 or 3 months there in plaster cast and then moved to Mytan Hall near York, a convalescent home for troops, moved around on crutches while there.

After approximately 2 months I was transferred to Queen Ethelburgers school for girls near Harrogate for physical exercises etc. and when fit to be posted to some unit. While there my youngest daughter (Sylvia) was born at my wife’s parents home at Apperley Bridge. I managed to get a pass for one day to see them. Unfortunately my wife was taken to hospital along with the baby when I arrived. Managed to see them fortunately.

Received orders from Hull to report to Wenlock Barracks Anlaby Road in February 1941 (not sure of date) on returning to Queen Ethelburgers. Arrived by train to Hull in late evening - complete black out here. Found Barracks eventually and reported to Orderly Room on arrival. Went to Orderly room the following morning. The officer in charge listened to my report of the past few months. On learning of the arrival of my daughter he immediately had a pass made out for me for four days leave and if conditions warranted it to call at Belle Vue Barracks for extension of leave! Didn't need extension.

From Hull for several months I was dealing with transfers for soldiers to different units in the country. Had myself received a posting to a new unit ( R.A.O.C.) in Nottingham but the S.Q.M.S would not let me go until the transfers of men was completed. Was finally released and went to Nottingham R.A.O.C depot. I'd only been there a few months when I was posted overseas. Left Glasgow around August/September on the SS Mooltan (Indian Boat). Had escort of aircraft carrier and two destroyers. The convoy consisted of 3 or 4 ships.

Arrived Bombay some date in October.

Boarded train in - Bombay. No idea where we were heading. When train stopped we were at Nasik, some connection with Mohatma Ghandi I was given to understand. Then came the shock! Fall in boys we are now going to march to Deolali On arrival there we were allocated to our accommodation, tents, no beds. Two blankets and your kit bag to use as a pillow.

Chaos reigned the following morning. On going to find the ablutions, one tent in uproar- shirts, socks, boots, blankets were flying everywhere. It turned out one soldier woke up to find a snake asleep under the neck of his kit bag.

On Parade that morning things turned out not as expected. Many had to report to the M I Room for treatment for bug and flea bites. Even after we got charpoys, (Indian Beds) wood construction with coconut matting crisscrossed to sleep on, plus mosquito nets things didn't improve. I don't know how long it was before we got orders to leave for Dehu Road just outside Poona. (R.A.O.C. Depot) but it certainty was received with acclamation.

 

I think it was November when we arrived at Deku Road. Usual accommodation, tents, but conditions much better. Transport to and from the depot every day. Work consisted of using native labour in gangs of ten to load and unload cargoes for various destinations. The main one was Calcutta, then transported for the troops in Burma. Had a pickup truck to take us to Poona at weekends which broke the monotony and was a welcome change.

Settled down better at Deku Road and enjoyed the trips into Poona at weekends. There was a British canteen in Poona which we visited regularly. I can't think of the name but it was named after a Viceroy of India's wife, Lady ??????? canteen.

Unfortunately good times don't last long in the army! Another posting arrived for our squad to be sent to Gwalior - headquarters of the Chindits. This station is at sea level in Central India and this was in April, start of the summer. Well over 100 degrees F. Heard on our way to Gwalior that Major General Ord Wingate had been killed in a plane crash on return from Burma and that Major General Lentaigne took over command of the Chindits.

When we were called upon as non combat personnel we were dropping supplies from Dakota aircraft to the Chindits in Burma.

On arrival at headquarters we were dispatched to the 14th Infantry Brigade Workshops under the command of Major Threlfall. He told us we were no longer in the R.A.O.C. but in the R.E.M.E ( Royal Electrcal Mechanical Engineers). A few days later I was summoned to the Orderly room at Headquarters, (which was owned by the Maharajah) a large hotel used to house guests of the Maharajah when the Polo season opened and other sports.

Back to the interview with Major C M Bussey in the Orderly room. He asked me how I would like a position in his office having read my credentials I presume. I accepted the position which brought promotion etc. and I could see my buddies in the workshops who were not far away. My sleeping quarters were good. Brick built with thatch roofs. Little did I knew what lay ahead.
One pint of salt water was to be drunk before you sat down for lunch every day. The rise in temperature was unbelievable. We had a field bakery in the grounds of the hotel and I was told they had to ice the water down to tepid to bake the bread. You could get a good shave with water from the taps, it was so hot!

Temperatures were at times over 100 degrees in the shade. From getting up to going to bed, sweat simply poured out of your body. Then you would start with prickly heat (it felt like being stung with nettles). Remedy, camomile lotion!!!!! The shirts you wore lasted about 3 or 4 weeks. They turned white with the salt from your body and easily split. The Dhobi wallah didn't help either, knowing how they washed clothes.

By July things turned really serious. I collapsed in the Orderly room and was taken to the M.I. room. While there they kept rubbing you down with ice and wrapping you up in blankets. The ambulance they had couldn't leave for the hospital in Jhansi until after sunset, due to the distance , 60 or 70 miles. They had a water tank fixed on front of the ambulance and this was turned on to help keep inside the ambulance cool while travelling. I'm not sure how long I was in hospital, probably 3 to 4 weeks.

On return to headquarters I was told I was to go to a place in the foothills of the Hymalayas, a place called Nani Tal, for a months convalescence. This was run by the Army. Nice, cool and refreshing up there. Enjoyed the conditions - apart from bugs and fleas. I was sorry to leave there, I'll never forget that journey up and down the mountainous country.
Arrived back in Gwalior okay and feeling much better. The illness I had was due to heat exhaustion.

It was great news to hear of the defeat of the NAZIS.

Another set back when I awoke the following morning, the left side of my face was swollen around the ear. The M.O sent me immediately to the hospital in Agra. As far as I can gather it's possible I had been bitten by some insect. You can't get a lot out of these doctors. So here I was again in hospital and was beginning to get a little despondent to say the least Don't know how long I was in hospital but the treatment I received certainly worked. I could see the Taj Mahal in the distance and was hoping I may get the opportunity to have a look around it. Unfortunately this was not to be. When discharged, transported straight back to headquarters in Gwalior.

 

Glad to be back to ordinary duties again and keeping my fingers crossed.

News came through that the Japanese had been defeated - I think what was late August. Celebrations the order of the day. Unfortunately there was NO beer ration available but that was soon put right. Waiting now for news about repatriation. The first received was the disbanding of the Chindits. Major Bussy wanted me to go with him to Army headquarters in Delhi on the break up, but I refused. I told him I wanted to go back to the 14th Infantry Brigade Workshops under Major Threlfall and my old friends. I thanked Major Bussey for the offer but he understood my feelings. On leaving Gwalior made straight for 14th Workshops.

On arrival there Major Threlfall told me that the Workshops would be known as the 514 Infantry Brigade Workshops due to the fact that we were now coming under the Indian Army and they were paying our wages. The next few weeks was all travel until we reached Ranchi ( a semi-hill station with a lovely climate). The most interesting place we passed through was Benares by the River Ganges. I was informed that all the states in India had Bathing and Burning Ghats on the banks of the river here. Actually saw the ritual ceremony at a Burning Ghat.

Finally arrived at our camp in Ranchi. Nothing unusual - Tents and what we called Bashers ( wicker basket type with thatched roofs). The climate was excellent, warm but always a nice cool breeze. Had a beer ration for the troops now and again which occasionally brought trouble which was soon quelled.

Finally received my papers for demob. First instruction was to return to Deolali where further instructions would be given. That was the last place on earth I wanted to see again!! The fact that I was on my way home eased the shock. Major Threlfall gave me a character reference in my army book and the Sergeants Mess presented me with a Tankard with inscriptions on it. Got a good send off from the boys. Arrived Deolali two days later and got further instructions. Catch a train from Bombay to a place called Cochin at the southern-most tip of India and to catch a boat from Ceylon - "LLANGIBY CASTLE" was the name of the boat.

It took us somewhere around three or four days to arrive at Cochin. Lived on American K Rations all the way.

These rations ( in a cardboard box) contained a small tin of Spam, tea and coffee, 2 biscuits, some cigarettes and matches. The only time we would have the tea or coffee was when the train stopped and the engine driver would mash the tea or coffee with steam from the engine. Was I glad when I boarded the boat. Glad to say goodbye to India. One thing I noticed about Cochin was the beauty of the place, palm trees and lovely beaches. Reminded me of the South Pacific Islands I'd seen on photographs.

Went through the Suez canal again on the way home, no escort this time. Left Suez 20-21 December on a calm sea, like a duck pond. The next day was terrible, never been in seas so rough. These conditions lasted about three days. Mess deck more of less empty most of the time. I did better than expected, never missed a meal.

Christmas day arrived when we were nearing Gibraltar. The rough seas had quietened to much better conditions. Was sitting down on the mess deck having my Xmas dinner. Watched the Rock from porthole.

Arrived Southampton on the 26th December. Stopped at Northampton and Oxford to be checked over and told about our release and where to contact the Army if needed when arriving home.

Finally got home, which was now Apperley Bridge, West Yorkshire on my youngest daughter's birthday 31st December 1945.

 

THE “YORKSHIRE OBSERVER” NEWS LETTER No.2 October 1943 to May 1944 Page 2

Letter received from Charlie Hague, dated 13 January, 1944:
Delighted to receive your most welcome letter and enclosures for which I am deeply grateful. Kindly convey my sincerest thanks to all the members of the Chapel.
I think the. News Letter a great idea and I thoroughly enjoyed, reading it. I hope you continue with the idea.
One of the first places I visited on arrival here was Deolali, noted for the remarkable number of cases among the inhabitants of sunstroke. You no doubt have heard the expression "That fellow's a deolali" - meaning light in the head derived from this village in India.
My present station is not bad at all, the climate being very good and at the present time I am getting plenty of exercise; playing football regularly with the Depot team. Rather a warm pastime even in the close of the evening, but it breaks the monotony as there is not a great deal of entertainment in the camp at the moment as it is quite new.
Someone told me that I could see some of the marvelous sights of the old world - the Taj Mahal at Agra, etc - while out here. Granted, but, believe me, I'd sooner see the Roebuck at Greengates than all the wonderful sights here just now. Thanks and kind regards to all.

 

THE “YORKSHIRE OBSERVER” NEWS LETTER No.4 October to February 1944-45
This issue included illustrations and photographs including one of Corporal C. Hague on page 1

Letter received from Charlie Hague, in India, dated 10 January, 1945
Many thanks for your welcome letter and my warmest thanks to the staff for the enclosure.
I am keeping in good health at the moment - thanks to the cold weather, and believe me, it does get cold - and making the best of life out here.
I appeared before a Medical Board a few weeks ago and was down-graded to B1 (permanent), and I am now awaiting treatment recommended by the specialist.
I had my first experience of flying yesterday, and I am pleased that I took the opportunity of going up. It's quite an experience - but not a job I would care for. Give me terra firma every time. I am pleased to see my old friends of the Reading Room are contributing regularly to the News Letter. Keep it up, fellows.
So cheerio and the very best of luck and health to all at the office and my absent friends wherever they may be.

 

THE “YORKSHIRE OBSERVER” NEWS LETTER No.5 February to June 1945

Letter received from Charlie Hague, in India, dated 1 April, 1945:-
Just a few lines to convey my warmest thanks to you all for the welcome enclosure and the latest edition of the News Letter. The illustrations have certainly added lustre to this issue, which I think is first class.
I was pleased to hear that Fred Thompson had arrived home on leave, looking fit and well. I am hoping that by the time I become eligible for leave to the U.K. the wheels of the Reallocation of Manpower scheme will have been set in motion. Should it be so I would not take leave, as I most certainly don't like the thoughts of having to return to this country. Once I got out I would want to stay out.
As I write this the temperature is 105 degrees F in the shade and I am preparing myself for the inevitable " Turkish Bath " I experienced last summer. Salt water has soon found its way into the daily menu. At lunchtime the bowls are filled and the orderly sergeant on duty makes sure that everyone takes his dose.
Since I last wrote I have been on three shooting expeditions for wild game and the " bags " have been very good. The majority of the game is blue bull, sambhur, cheetah, and chinkara, all very good eating, especially the latter, and most welcome change to the issue meat we get-mostly goat, Quite a few panthers have been brought in from these shoots but I haven't had the fortune to have been with any of these parties.
There was an accident occurred on one of these expeditions when they wounded a panther and they had to go track it down. An Indian who accompanied the party unfortunately came upon it unexpectedly and was badly mauled before it was finally disposed of.
We have seen quite a few panthers and leopards but have never been able to get within range to make sure of a "kill". I don't fancy stalking a wounded beast.
I will conclude with best wishes to all at Hall Ings.

 

THE “YORKSHIRE OBSERVER” NEWS LETTER No.7 October to January 1945-46

Letter received from Charlie Hague in India, dated 8 November, 1945:-

Well, here I go at last with a few lines in answer to your welcome letter of 20 August, 1945, enclosing P.O. and News Letter No. 5, and my warmest thanks to you all.
I must apologise for the long delay in writing. Had I written much sooner informing you of my change of address your letter of 20 August would have reached me in quick time and, not taken approximately nine weeks and travelled thousands of miles up and down India as it did before it finally found me. I received it on 26 October, 1945.
My station at the moment is Ranchi, approximately 200 miles due east of Calcutta, and the best station I've been in for some time. The climate suits me fine, and I have quite enjoyed my stay here. Our camp is nine miles from Ranchi, but we have Liberty Trucks running regularly into town, so the distance is no handicap.
At the moment I'm kept pretty busy with repatriation and demobilisation work, and much of my time is occupied on these subjects. I hope to commence preparing my own documents for release at the close of this month, so I should be seeing you all sometime in January or early February at the latest, and, believe me, fellows, I'm certainly looking forward to it I expect to embark next month, so the next few weeks will be pretty hectic for me packing, etc., and getting various matters settled.
I'm enclosing a snap taken at the foot of Hundroo Falls, 30 miles from here, during one of the unit's swimming excursions there.
The falls are Toughly 100ft. high, and the view from the highest point of the rugged countryside and the valley below is most impressive. I did manage to obtain a few snaps add to my meagre collection. To obtain films out here is a most difficult job.
Well, fellows, I must draw to a close now, so for the present my best wishes to everyone at the office and in the Forces.
Hope to see you all in the very near future.

PHOTO
CHARLIE HAGUE (seated) at Hundroo Falls, Ranchi.

 

THE “YORKSHIRE OBSERVER” NEWS LETTER No.7 October to January 1945-46

Letter received from Charlie Hague, at 1011, Harrogate Road, Apperlev Bridge, Bradford, dated 24 January, 1946:-
Well, fellows, here I am back in "Blighty" demobbed and settling down to civilian life once again. At the time of writing I have just completed three weeks of my release leave and-well, need I tell you how much I'm enjoying it?

I had quite an enjoyable trip back to " Blighty," and, believe me, was more than surprised to find myself just 24 hours after disembarking complete with demob. outfit, "one-way ticket," and on my way home. A great day.

The itinerary: Sailed from Cochin 4 p.m., 9 December, 1945: docked at Southampton 1 a.m. on 29 December, 1945 (warm reception at Southampton with dance band in attendance on the quay side and the N.A.A.F.I. preparing tea and sandwiches and a free issue of cigarettes and chocolate for all); disembarked at 6.30 p.m.; overnight stay at Oxford: demobbed Northampton 6.30 p.m., 30 December, 1945.
To all my friends still serving abroad and at home, may the day you yearn for soon be upon you. Meanwhile, I wish you all the very best of luck.
In conclusion, I would like to thank, most warmheartedly, Gilbert Spence and all who have worked so untiringly to compile the News Letter, which. I am sure, did a splendid job in keeping us in contact with each other during our years of service. I thank you.
To all the staff my grateful thanks for the "little extras" which arrived so regularly.