World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

                         John Gaughan 

Dangerous Silence

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: John Gaughan
Location of story: Northern Gemany
Unit name: 182 Company RSC
Background to story: Army

 

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Alan Shippam of the BBC Radio Sheffield Action Desk on behalf of John Gaughan.



April 1945
Over the Rhine and into Northern Germany, the war was very fluid, the fast advance had left behind areas of unknown as far as danger was concerned. With a small truck accompanied by two Staff Sergeants and a Corporal, I was driving under their instructions as a forward party for our platoon's next location. After a few miles of open countryside, we came upon a stone walled town which had a gateway entrance, beyond was a very pretty cobbled area with attractive old medieval buildings. There was not a soul in sight and the silence was eerie. I had a feeling that out of every one of those buildings, eyes were on us, and to go through the entrance we were sitting ducks. The senior NCO called, “Lets get the hell out of here, “ and we quickly got back in the truck and retreated back along the road we had come. To this day I do not know the name or location of this town of Silence.
We took another route and entered a village, it was now getting dark and the first building was an inn, where we slept on the stone floor for the night. In the morning I had a wash in a stream running alongside the inn. Gazing up at the side of the inn, I was shocked to see a large unexploded shell sticking out of it. Further into the village was a fork in the road where an abandoned German Tank stood and to add further to the fortunes of the place, an RAF plane had dropped a stick of bombs scattered round the centre and all of them had failed to explode.


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60th Anniversay visit to Merchtem Belgium

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: John Gaughan
Location of story: Merchtem Belgium
Unit name: 182 Company RASC
Background to story: Army

 

The attached photograph (above)shows John Gaughan and his wife on the 60th Anniversay visit to Merchtem. John was granted the Freedom of the Town. The lady in the photo is the same little girl that is on the Photograph with John Gaughan taken in 1944 and also on this web site.


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"My Longest Night" sailing to the Normandy Beaches.

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: John Gaughan
Location of story: Sailing to the Normandy Beaches
Unit name: 182 Company R.A.S.C.
Background to story: Army

 

We boarded our LST (Landing Ship Tank) at Gosport and the ship put to sea. We put on our lifebelts, which were tubes about 3 feet long placed over our shoulders, making sure it would hold your face above water and not force your face down. The next morning found us anchored off the Isle of Wight, waiting for the rest of the convoy and our destroyer escort to join us, and sail for the Normandy beaches at midnight. We were issued with an emergency ration, a tin of very hard chocolate, and a special heating stove and fuel which was very light in weight, and we were lectured on what to expect when we landed. As midnight approached, four of us were looking towards the English coast wondering if we would see it again.

We were waiting to weigh anchor when an Officer came up to us and said we had to take turns down in the hold on Fire Picket, 2 hours each in turn. I was the first to go down through a steel door on the deck and climb down a steel runged ladder, which was fastened to the ships side, then into the front to rear space of the ships hold. It was full of our Company’s vehicles chained down by their wheels to the floor of the LST. The eerie noise of the stretching chains as the ship moved from side to side, and the waves striking the bow of the ship, was not a pleasant experience, and I walked around the hold to pass the time until my spell of 2 hours was up.

I did not have a watch and was expecting my relief to take over at 2 a.m., but time passed and no one came. I attempted to climb the ladder, but one moment I was leaning against the ladder and the next my feet were in mid air and I was swinging with only my fingers wrapped around the rungs of the ladder. It was an impossible situation; luckily I had not gone far up and I was able to get back to the floor of the hold. I realised I could not get up and no one could get down to me. I climbed into the cab of one of the vehicles, and after a time, which seemed like an eternity to me, the swish-swish of the water and the rattle of the chains subsided .The roll of the ship steadied and I climbed up the ladder and daylight hit me as I opened the door. To the left of the ship was the coast of France and flashes of what seemed like gunfire came intermittently from the shoreline. The other ships of the convoy were in lanes with the destroyer escort in between the lanes, the shoreline moving as we zigzagged to our destination. For D-day the 6th of June has been cited the “Longest Day “ for me the sailing to Normandy a few weeks later was my longest night.


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Oldenzaal

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: John Gaughan
Location of story: Oldenzaal Holland
Unit name: 182 Company RASC
Background to story: Army

April 1945.
Our Army was now driving deep into Northern Germany, and our unit was on the outskirts of the German city of Breman. I was given orders to take a truck back through Germany and into Holland to collect three new motorcycles from a supply dump at map reference X.
As I was to make the journey on my own through possibly hostile country, I decided I would reach Holland before resting overnight. At the time there were rumours about Werewolves (German saboteurs given this name), creating problems, so I was very wary travelling through the miles of open country without seeing any British. I was pleased when the white bedsheets hanging outside the buildings of the villages turned to the flags of Holland and Union Jacks of greeting as I crossed into Holland.
As I stopped in the town of Oldenzaal the curious children gathered round to greet me and I was invited by one of the locals, who could speak English, to spend the night in his home. I could sleep on the floor of the sparsely furnished living room. The children entertained me with their local anthem of 'O Oldenzaal', which was sung to the tune of 'The Red Flag'.


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 The Beginning of the End

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: John Gaughan
Location of story: Hamburg North West Germany
Unit name: 182 Company RASC
Background to story: Army

 

The beginning of the end of WW2 May 1945

As the war in Europe was drawing to a close, in the British sector, the ravages of the war in North West Germany were very evident. Bridges were destroyed; telegraph wires were trailing dangerously across rubble-strewn roads. Towns and Cities were devastated and very few civilians ventured away from what was left of their homes. The transport system, roads and rail were non-existent. As we crossed over the River Elbe bridge from Harburg to Hamburg, attempts to blow the bridge were very evident by the large cracks in the roadway.

In Hamburg itself, progress was both difficult and dangerous through the rubble-strewn dusty streets, burnt out shells of building with hardly one intact from one end of the city to the other, many appearing to be in danger of collapsing. As our convoy progressed, clouds of dust arose from every vehicle creating a fog like atmosphere, which added a ghostly look to the surroundings. There were piles of rubble with black crosses daubed across them, for reasons that we could only guess at the time. Our destination was a suburb of Hamburg, Wansbek, where we took over the Herman Goerine Caserna (Barracks).
Over the last few weeks, time and dates had meant little as one day had run into the next and it was very difficult to say what day of the week it was. The fast changes in mind, direction and atmosphere had suddenly come to a stop. The hyped up feeling of danger, excitement and alertness had come to an end.


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