Sharing Stories
Jeff's Military Service

Jeff

During training one of the worst things was mustard gas, you had to get it off quickly because it would burn through to the bone and you did it by swabbing with lots of water. It was yellow in colour and not unlike mustard to look at and it was reckoned that if it ever got into the rivers it would stay there forever. They used to lock us in a shed and turn on the gas taps to see how long we could stay there before choking. The point of this was to get you used to gases. They built a 6ft. wide trench and told us to jump it but I could never manage it. One night they filled the trench with barbed wire and the next day they told us to jump it. Everybody jumped it with clearance! We were being trained to go to Japan where we knew we would face open hand to hand fighting with bayonets etc. and just when we were on our way there the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. We had got as far as India so we were deployed there to help with partition. Because we were infantry we were moved about a lot and I have a map of the countryside marked with all the places we were and we really were all over north, south, east and west.


Mabel

In 1995 we went back on a visit. We heard about the National Lottery financing a trip to India for ex soldiers of WWII so we sent off Jeff's details and they paid for us and Jeff's wartime pal and his wife to go. We only did the Golden Triangle at the top we saw Delhi, Jaipur which was lovely with decorated elephants and camels and Agra where we saw the Taj Mahal.


Jeff

I went back to the hospital at Red Fort where I was ill in hospital with dysentery and the cure was to be injected with penicillin, which was very painful. There was a plaque there commemorating my old regiment the Beds and Herts and I was so pleased to see that.


Jeff

I was all over the place in India. I was there during partition and we were the last of the infantry left there. One religious group was going north and the other was coming south there was no choice about it and most of them didn't want to go and of course what happened was a big clash when the two sides met in the middle there was so much hatred and it was our job to try and keep the peace. It got very nasty. It was reported in the papers here as a peaceful changeover but it wasn't. In one of the streets in New Delhi there was a body hanging from every street lamp it was awful. One of the biggest troublemakers was Pandit Nehru he caused a lot of trouble and riots and we were often called out in the night to stop them. We used to form a square block; a body of men in a square with our sharp shooters in the middle and we would advance slowly and anybody causing trouble was shot. We were constantly moving around the country so we slept under canvas and whilst bedded down we would frequently be invaded by people who were after our weapons. They would first cover their bodies in oil then come into our tents naked to steal our weapons but when we tried to hold on to them they would just slip out of our hands. We had a battalion of Ghurkhas in our brigade and they were very well thought of. If they drew their knife then they had to have blood on it before they put it away so if they hadn't killed anybody they would cut themselves to put blood on the knife.