World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

                        John Hodgson 

Norwegian Campaign

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: John Hodgson
Location of story: Norway
Unit name: 146 West Riding Field Ambulance...
Background to story: Army

 This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Julie Turner of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of John Hodgson.


Norwegian Campaign
John Hodgson

Yesterday (c. July 2005) I watched with interest the BBC D Day to Berlin Docu-drama. I don't remember how many times this has been shown, but it is always of interest to the remaining veterans who took part in this historic day. I took part in the D Day Landings with one of the assault 3rd Division.

We have also seen the Dunkirk evacuation and Western Desert war film footage.

However to a few Veterans who are left, all in our 80s, there was a campaign in which the 49th West Riding Division took part. In fact the Barracks where this Division had its HQ was almost opposite to where your present Leeds Studio is was called Harewood Barracks.

We had been mobilised on the 18th April 1940, about this time German Troops, without a shot being fired, occupied Norway.

As most divisions had been sent to France, this local Division was supplied with sheepskin coats which we could hardly walk in. By train we went to Gorock in Scotland. We got off the train here and walked up to the nearby jetty where a British Cruiser HMS YORK was berthed. We went straight onto the ship and sat down on the deck when we could find some space. As the last man boarded, the ship moved off. None of us had even been on a ship as it was buffeted with high waves.

We were not told our destination; we were told to go below decks in small groups where we were give a mug of hot tea - very welcome. We returned to the open decks crouching on the wooden surface. We dozed off a little. Proper sleep was not possible. After about 22 hours HMS York slowed down as we entered the Norwegian Port of Andalsnes. As we disembarked a voice in English told us, "We have had 19 air raids today." We did not have long to wait for the 20th.

I was Corporal in the 146 West Riding Field Ambulance. It was our job to give first aid to the wounded, then send them to the rear areas as quickly as possible where they would be evacuated back to the UK.

We did not see any German soldiers, but saw plenty of German planes which bombed and strafed us throughout the long hours of daylight. Anti aircraft fire was supplied by the Royal Navy with their Pom-Pom Guns.

We were evacuated on HMS Sheffield on the 4th of May. On returning to Scotland I was told our CO wanted to see me. He had not been to Norway as only about 20 of us from the Unit went. I did not know what to expect, his words to me, "What is your date of birth Corporal?" I told him 30.10.21. He told me I should not have gone to Norway. I was posted to Edinburgh Castle the following day.

A pity the Norwegian Campaign has never been mentioned by the media.

I should mention we were a Territorial Army Division, just part time soldiers. On my 19th birthday I was called by the CO of the castle and told I was being posted. I was sent to be attached to an Anti Aircraft Unit on the Orkney Islands...Sanday.




Working for the King.

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: John Hodgson.
Location of story: Norway, Normandy
Unit name: Field Ambulance Service
Background to story: Civilian Force


I joined the Territorial Army in Leeds and the medical check showed I was colour blind. I was informed I would be put in a Field Ambulance as a stretcher-bearer. I attended a Camp in Redcar in 1938, then on the 2nd August, 1939 I received my “Calling up” papers and reported to Harewood Barracks that day; we went on route marches every day. On the 18th April, 1940 our Division, 49th was sent to Norway. During the 22 hours of daylight, we were bombed. On the 4th May, we were evacuated. A few days later, I was told to see the CO who asked my date of birth, I answered the 30th October, 1921. He told me I should not have gone to Norway. The Division was going abroad and I could not go. I was posted to Edinburgh Castle where I was the PT and Drill Instructor. I also looked after the welfare of a few German POWs, I took them for exercise in the Castle grounds, out of sight of public visitors. One chap called out to me, “Are you the veteran who was in the Norwegian fiasco?” I did not reply but one of the POWs said to me in German, “Whereabouts were you, I was the navigator in the Lufwaffe and we bombed Andalsnes on the orders of Hitler, to completely destroy." He told me his name and address, which was in Munich, and said please contact me when the war is over. I remembered his name and address and did contact him about three years after the war.

He invited me and my family to Munich. We were there about 4 weeks; he really did look after us. Alas, we both lost our wives but did keep in touch. He came to Britain and I took him to the Castle in Edinburgh. He too died but before that, his daughter came to stay with me. She is the same age as my daughter. We went to London and stayed at the hotel where I had stayed during exhibitions. The Polish owner said to me, “One of your daughters speaks with a German accent." I said she was not my daughter, I did not enlighten him. This young lady lives somewhere in Canada and teaches English.

On my 19th birthday I was called to the CO’s office and told DI was being posted to the Orkney Island, attached to the 19/104 Light Ack Ack. After about nine months, I was posted to a Holding Unit in Leeds, then posted to the 9th Field Ambulance of the 3rd British Infantry Division which was training for the Normandy landings.

I was attached to the 2nd Lincolns and about 10 a.m., on the 6th June, we landed on Sword Beach. I think it was about the 8th June. I was told there was a wounded German officer to be collected at a Map Ref. which turned out to be a building near the Pegasus Bridge. I went to the Map Ref. and took the German officer to the beach where he would be sent to the UK.

The Division fought its way up through France, not much fighting in Belgium but this soon altered on the Dutch Border where our casualties were very high. Treating the wounded was a 24 hour job; it was our job, but we did manage a few hours sleep.

Apart from being shelled every day, plus the odd attack by German Fighter or Bomber Planes, life was very noisy. Just referring back to taking the German officer POW, one “Wag” in a trench called out to me, “Who have you got there Rommel?” I did not answer.

On New Year's morning, still in Holland, we could hear a new sound approaching, like a flash of lightening. The Germans had sent over their new jet propelled Messerschmitt 262. It dropped a bomb near our Divisional Headquarters. I do not know if there were any casualties, as we were forward of the Divisional Headquarters. We did the Maas River crossing with heavy casualties, but moved forward and crossed according to the Map into Germany.

A Londoner driving the Jeep, said to me in Cockney, “Cor Blimey, I fort Landon had been bombed but that is nafink compared with this, wait till I get back ome and tell them.” We were very near the German border, no signs of course, except we saw one as we moved up - Bremen, which we took. Some days later a German came up to me and said “Sie haben ein neu Bomb veil tousan leute sind tot.” I said, "Wait until you see the 20 engine bomber we are getting.” He looked surprised. Our Division took, I think it was Syke and a few days later someone said, “The war is over.” We were ordered not to fraternise with the Germans but when a German couple invited two of us into their house for a glass of red wine we did not hesitate. Coming out of the house about half an hour later two Redcaps were waiting at the gate. I was a medic and we did not have weapons, but I had found a small German automatic, I showed it to the Redcap and said, “We found this in the house.” He did not bother us any more. A few days later, we were told, “Prepare for Japan.” Shortly afterwards we were told, "Forget Japan." We were however sent to Egypt, then to Palestine where we had casualties. A few days later, the Orderly Room Corporal came up to me and said, “Your demob papers have come through Sarge.” A few hours later I was on my way home.