World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

Mr Burditt 

Destruction of Monte Cassino Monastery

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Mr. Burditt
Location of story: Monte Cassino
Background to story: Army

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Katherine Wood of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Mr. Burditt.

Destruction of Monte Cassino Monastery

February 15th 1944. My division plus the New Zealanders and Americans were poised to attack Monte Cassino. We were informed that at 9 o’clock in the morning there would be a massive air attack. At 11 o’clock there would be a barrage of all guns followed by infantry attack at 1 o’clock in the afternoon. It was a fine morning with a wintry sun shining. I and a few other gunners climbed a small hill, and with the aid of binoculars we could see the beautiful Monastery which would be perhaps two and a half miles away. Just turned 9 o’clock, bombers of the American Air Force started high level bombing. Within half an hour we witnessed this beautiful building reduced to rubble, and dust was rising to a few hundred feet in the sky. We returned to our gun position, to get ready for the barrage at 11 o’clock when one of our officers shouted a warning. It appeared bombs were hurtling towards us. Bombs fell on the small hill where we had been and straddled our position. Luckily no one was injured from our unit but we learned that a few gunners from the unit behind us had been killed. So friendly fire was heard of in World War Two. For all the bombing and terrific barrage, it caused so much destruction, the attack when it came was a failure. The Monastery when it came was a pile of rubbish and Cassino was not captured until May 1944 by Polish troops. We pulled out of Cassino on my 20th birthday, 26th of March. Historians argue, ‘was the destruction of a work of art necessary?’ It appears after the War it came to light no Germans occupied the Monastery.

 

One of the tragedies of World War Two, The sinking of H.M.T. Rhona.

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Mr Burditt
Location of story: Liverpool, Straits of Gibraltar, Philipville (North Africa).
Background to story: Army


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Katherine Wood of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Mr. Burditt.
One of the tragedies of World War Two, The sinking of H.M.T. Rhona.

I embarked on H.M.T. ‘Duchess of Bedford’ on the morning of November 14th 1943 from Liverpool, bound to destinations unbeknown to me and my fellow passengers. Within a few hours of boarding they asked for a few volunteers to man the guns on the voyage under the orders of Royal Naval Ratings. Being an R/A gunner I volunteered. This action was to prove that I witnessed the ensuing tragedy. We were at sea, part of a large convoy, when on the eleventh night at sea we passed through the Straits of Gibraltar. This brought us to the morning of November 26th, when two more ships joined the convoy off Algiers. The convoy proceeded on its journey, when we were attacked on the afternoon of Friday 26th November by German bombers. Half an hour into the attack the ship on our immediate left was hit by a missile (bomb, torpedo, anybodies guess) from one of the bombers. There was just a massive flash and after a few seconds the sound that she had been hit. Straight away our ship was engulfed in a smoke screen laid by escorting war ships. The attack must have lasted another one and a half hours, and then it was finished. The next morning (Saturday 27th now) we disembarked at the port of Philipville, North Africa, and after a few weeks the incident was just an incident I had witnessed. Luckily I survived the war, and resumed civilian life. Thirty years later, sometime in the early seventies, I saw an article in the National Newspaper from an American gentleman asking if any reader witnessed the sinking of H.M.T. Rhona of Friday 26th 1943. I took up correspondence with this gentleman, who had been a survivor of the Rhona. I learned the said ship was one of the ships that had only joined our convoy on the Friday 26th November, sailing out of Oran bound for India. It transpired what I had recently thought ‘an attack’ and thought of as an incident had resulted in the loss of 1192 men. By any description a terrible tragedy which had taken over thirty years to be brought into the open! By information given to me by other survivors from America I learned they had also landed at Philipville on Saturday November 27th 1943. This is just one of the many tragedies of World War Two that needs remembering if only in memory of 1192 men who gave their lives.

 

The Act of a Friend

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Mr. Burditt, Alexander George Alldis.
Location of story: Florence and Greece
Background to story: Army

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Katherine Wood of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Mr. Burditt.

In November 1944 we were pulled out of the front line south of Florence in Italy. We were stripped of our guns, and our division was going to Greece to try and avoid civil war because the Germans had pulled out of the Balkans. Half of our unit was being shipped over in L.C.I.’s (Landing Craft Infantry). Half were going on the troopship “Empire Dace” with our lorries. I was picked to go on the troopship, for some reason I wanted to go on the first ship, so my friend Lofty said. He did not mind changing with me. This we did, little realising the consequences this action would have. We landed safely at Missalonghi opposite Patras. “Empire Dace” came two days later but on entering the harbour she hit a mine. My pal Lofty paid the supreme sacrifice and he lost his life. His name is on the Athens War Memorial, ‘Alexander George Alldis Gunner Royal Artillery’ who died 1st December 1944 aged 20. I can’t ever forget till the day I die my name could easily have been there instead.

 

‘Guy Fawkes Night’ with the Kiwis

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Mr. F Burditt
Location of story: Cassino, Italy, Sheffield, England

The above photograph shows the two New Zealanders with members of Mr. F Burditt’s family standing in front of the bonfire before it was lighted on ‘Guy Fawkes Night’ November 05, 1945. This would be the first time that the anniversary of the foiling of the ‘Gunpowder Plot’ would be celebrated by the lighting of bonfires and the setting off of fireworks since the start of the war and the subsequent ‘Blackout’.

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Mr. F Burditt.


‘Guy Fawkes Night’ with the Kiwis

By
Mr. F Burditt

In 1944, five friends and I were isolated from our unit, south of Cassino in Italy. A unit of the New Zealanders befriended us. They gave us blankets, a tent and fed us for three full days. I exchanged home addresses with two of the Kiwis, never thinking that when we parted, if we survived the war, we would ever meet.

In November 1945, after the war had ended, my two Kiwi friends were given a month,s leave in England and travelled to my family home in Sheffield. They gave my family a big surprise when they arrived at our door because at that time I was still stationed abroad.

It gives one a warm feeling for our friends in New Zealand to think that when they were thousands of miles away from home, they still remembered a chance meeting in Italy and for the help that they willingly gave to strangers in hard circumstances, when it was needed.


Pr-BR