social enterprise perth history memories elderly soldier musician


We are delighted to have had the opportunity to speak with such a fantastic and interesting man.  There was so much morethat we wanted to hear from him but unfortunately we have not yet had the time to hear his whole story.  Our storyteller was born and raised in County Durham, UK in the 1920s.  Extremely talented at languages and music, he was a professional classical pianist as well as a teacher.  Over the course of August we will be releasing his memories of being called up during World War II.

"I was called up to serve in the British army on 16 October 1939 and served with the Royal Engineers Corp.  I didn’t realise that I was ‘in the war’ when I first got called up.  I was trained immediately.  It's funny, but I can still remember my 7 digit army number today.

Royal Engineers was a non-combatant unit.  We did about 6 months in France – that’s all the British forces lasted for there.  At one point I was within 8km of the Siegfried Line, a famous loading off point for the army.  

When the unit was retreating to the north of France, my commanding officer suggested that if I wanted to save all my music I should put it with the office papers and it would be taken with everything carried below. I remember the lump in my throat as we marched out of Brest, leaving my music behind in an effort to preserve it.  It was all music I’d picked up in various leaves, as I’d moved about quite a bit in the north of France.  That’s when I saw the unit base going up in flames.  That’s how the Germans dealt with any allied possessions that they came across."