Michael: First of all, I would like to, slightly belatedly by one day, wish you a very very happy 100th birthday …. Congratulations for that ….

Arthur: Thank you.

Michael: Could you tell me a little bit about yourself, to start off …. I mean, I know that you were born somewhere in this vicinity …. and you might talk a little bit about your parents …. and I know your Dad was in the First World War …. Is there anything that you would like to say before we go onto your main story, would you like to tell us something about that?

Arthur: Well, I didn’t know very much about the First World War because my father never discussed it …. and …. he …. he was bent on working to keep us going, wasn’t he? Four of us …. He worked in John Summers & Sons …. and what happened there …. was the fact that …. he’d been wounded in World War I in the shoulder here …. and I often looked at that …. seen that …. hole in his shoulder …. you know, I couldn’t understand that …. anyway …. that’s how we came out of World War I …. with a bullet hole in his …. side ….

He worked in Summers’ for a while and …. brought us up …. we were in Summers’ …. and …. he got burnt in Summers’ and he contracted pneumonia and he died …. Nothing could save him …. and a big hole in our …. my family life …. you know, my mother …. and the four of us ….

Anyway, we ploughed through it, off and on …. I done a little bit of scrumping and …. I had three jobs when I was 14 …. and …. it was all to the good, you know, it was all little bits and pieces going in to help my mother …. and then I got a job in Courtaulds …. that was a joke …. I had tried for months and months and months to get a job there …. I was told one morning to go back and “tell your mother to put you under the mangle ….” I never forgave that fellow for that after that …. aye …. He said, “Go home and tell your mother to put you under a mangle before you come to work here”, you know …. and bugger him, I never went near the place …. all I did then was to arrive with …. Castle Works ….

I went to Deeside Mill, Aber Works …. and …. that was the end of that till I got called up …. I got called up to the Spinning Room …. and it was no fancy job in the Spinning Room at Courtaulds …. you had no gloves to put on, you had no specs to put on your face ….

You had to put your hands in the acid to get the filament from the jet, you know the jet come out …. and it coagulated and …. and consequently it went into a viscose …. viscose thread. And that what they were producing in Castle Works …. viscose threads ….

Ah, that went on for a couple of years, you know, till we were …. the War come around …. Lads were going away to the War …. leaving the place, you know …. you thought “When is it going to be my turn” like, you know …. and by then, I had reached a reasonable job …. anyway, the time come around when I was in the Spinning Room …. my mother brought my brown letter …. from home ….

I knew what it was because the lads that were working there received these particular letters, you see …. for calling up …. aye …. I was …. I went …. the foreman says …. “Bloody hell, Arthur ….”, he says, “They are putting you in the RAMC ….” I said “What’s that? I put in for the RAF ….” You know …. and …. he says “Oh, they are going to make a doctor out of you ….”

I thought, you know I had to just laugh in his face, like, because being a doctor like, you’ve somebody there like, weren’t you …? And …. that was it ….

I was in work on a Sunday morning …. I was in South Wales on Wednesday afternoon …. but …. with the 53rd Welsh Division …. they were operating down there …. you know …. and …. that went on, the little bit of training that was done there …. and then the 53rd moved over to Ireland …. and …. to finish the training in Ireland …. went over the Mountains of Mourne …. walking …. well you had to walk, didn’t you …. and ….

Funny, you know, I had never been to Ireland before and …. it’s all little cobbled streets and …. cobbled rivers, you know …. and …. I was walking there one morning, on a Sunday morning …. there was a fellow on one of the bridges, there are small bridges, you know …. with little pebbles …. he’d hit his head on the wall and he’s bleeding, you know …. I said “Hell, I’ll have to do something to fix the bits like …. so that’s what I did ….

I cut my first field dressing …. from my leg, which you should never do …. that was for your own use …. I cut it out, I bandaged him up …. made him look respectable to go back home ….

“Thanks very much, lad”, he says …. I says, “That’s all right ….” …. but that same Sunday morning …. I was on Church parade, wasn’t I? We had Church parade on a Sunday morning …. you know, everybody had to go …. Shoes had to be pop …. brasses had to be cleaned …. you know, everything had to be spot on …. and I went, I was on parade …. and the old RSM come along …. and he has seen …. “What’s that fellow doing with that …..”

What I did, I cut the bandage out of my …. first field, to get the first field dressing …. you have to cut the bandage out, see …. it was a Vaseline gauze dressing …. Anyway, I cut it out, bandaged him up and sent him on his way …. “Thanks very much” …. and I never thought anything of it, like, you know it was just a slit down …. down the trousers …. Went off on parade …. see the Sergeant Major come along with the Captain ….

“What’s that doing there like that?”, he said to me …. “I bandaged a lad up, a fellow up ….”. “You’ve got no Bloody business to bandage him up ….”, he said, “It’s for your own use ….”

And I got 7 days CB [confined to barracks] for that! …. Cleaning all the football gear …. and for 7 days ….

I used to play football, myself, for the Regiment, see …. and …. that’s how I started off …. But you never stopped training, like, you know …. 29½ mile was the furthest I ever …. went on a route march …. 29½ miles …. and …. that was it …. so, carried on the training …. and …. found myself in hospital. I had thyroid …. thyroid operation …. and …. never had any trouble with it since, you know …. no ….

And …. when you went into hospital …. during World War 2 …. you were sent to a holding depot …. after you finished your hospital treatment …. You lost your regiment …. you know, and it was …. it was a hell of a blow really, because you know, I had been brought up with that regiment …. 53rd Welsh Division …. and …. from there, it went on …. training all over the place, South Wales …. up in Scotland …. everywhere …. down …. we were sent on a ship in Stranraer ….

The SS Volendam, it was called …. it was a Dutch ship …. and it was being used for transporting troops …. you know, from one place to the other …. anyway, I found myself on that, didn’t I? Oh, bloody hell! And …. no arguments, then …. that’s how it was …. and ….

I had never been on a ship, the size I went on, you know …. a real big ship …. the Volendam …. SS Volendam …. and …. that was it …. I went out on a convoy with this Volendam …. went …. right around South Africa …. you know, Cape Town, Durban, Freetown … all them places, you know …. places I had never heard of, you know …. and found myself in Egypt, didn’t I?

And …. I’d seen a hospital ship going out from Cape Town …. and …. all lit up, you know …. it’s marvellous to see it, it’s all lit up everywhere …. they did respect the hospital ships, the Jerry, you know ….

And went up the side of South Africa …. past Freetown …. Cape Town, Durban …. all up the coast until we got into the …. the what you call it, the Mediterranean Sea …. past that way ….

Michael: That would be the Red Sea ….

Arthur: …. landed in Egypt then …. and …. We’d done our training, hadn’t we? Next thing was, in an action squadron …. but, that was the start …. But we hadn’t …. that was the only little bit of action, I had …. that was bandaging this …. he was my first …. Army casualty …. the first one …. after that, I had done hundreds, hadn’t I? But …. He …. always forget that …. you always remember that fellow, you know …. and he come back, and he remembered me …. “What could I do for you, lad?”, he says …. “I can’t do very much, the way, I am, stuck in a barracks ….” …. an Orange barracks …. They were all Orange Barracks there then [Northern Ireland] ….

Ah, that’s where I found myself after, in Egypt …. finishing the training off …. in Alexandria …. and then I was a member of the 8th Army …. and was with the 8th Army all the way through the desert …. and all the time I was in the desert …. the Desert Rats …. and you know, it was funny …. we had a ‘W’ on here …. the Welsh Division, see …. we had to take it down …. We had to put a ‘T T’ on …. didn’t go down very well, that …. that was the Tyne & Tees Regiment ….

But …. that was the commencement of my action in World War 2 …. and the continued for 6½ years …. Well …. 6 years …. the other half a year was waiting to get de-mobbed …. lying in Schleswig-Holstein in German …. waiting to be de-mobbed …. The longest wait in my life, that ….

Michael: I bet ….

Arthur: Aye ….

Michael: Tell us a bit more about your desert experience …. because I mean …. am I right in thinking that you came across Montgomery?

Arthur: No …. no …. everybody, you know …. was talking how Montgomery was and all the rest of it …. The lads I was with would give you a different version of altogether …. He was always in his caravan about 5 miles behind lines …. he used to go in his caravan, you see …. Oh, he was a back-seat man, didn’t he though …. ah, the caravan ….

Well, that went on, didn’t it, for a couple of years …. getting run up and down …. Egypt …. until in the end, we run him out …. I nearly got captured in Benghazi …. 20 minutes, I would have been captive …. because …. Derna, a place called Derna where we were operating from, is down an incline, you know …. like the side of a mountain …. and to get up, you go up a winding road …. up to Tripoli …. and …. we were told to get out as quickly as possible, you know …. and …. we got hammered like …. because the shells were falling, you see …. they were trying to cut the path off, weren’t they? Trying to cut the road off …. anyway, I managed to get out.

One hell of a dash down a desert road …. everything was moving …. you know …. the …. tanks were moving down …. 15cwt lorries, everything was moving down …. and that’s when they went right down …. but we’d been up before then, you know …. and …. everything was moving down and …. we went …. stopped in …. in the other side of Benghazi …. for the time being, that’s where a fellow lost his, well he never lost it …. he got it buried in the sand …. he had a glass eye …. and …. he used to put it in a tin mug, you see, at night time …. because you know, you get sand and grit at the back of the eye in it …. and he used to put it in …. and I was telling the lad, it doesn’t rain in Africa, but …. this particular night …. he put his …. glass eye in the car …. in his cup …. and …. it hammered down that particular night …. and the sides fell in …. so, we had to get out, didn’t we?

We were soaking wet …. we had to get out and get into a bigger tent …. the next morning, we went there digging it out …. he had a job to find it, didn’t he? You know …. all the sides had gone in and …. It were no joke, like. you know, it was …. he was there scraping away …. “Taffy, I’ve lost my eye ….”, he said …. I said “Well, you can see me, can’t you?” …. because he had one eye, didn’t he?  Aye …. funny old chap that ….

Michael: So, you never found it?

Arthur: No …. [laughing] …. I used to carry a chameleon about with me …. because when we, two of us …. put a tent up in the desert, part each …. and we used to put it up, see, over the hole …. and, while you were in the hole like, you were pretty safe unless you got a direct hit …. and …. it wasn’t too bad …. so that went on for a while …. getting run up and down the desert ….

Michael: So, what did the chameleon do? What did the chameleon do?

Arthur: What did the chameleon do? Oh …. he …. I lost him …. he went …. he more or less …. He wasn’t a bad chap …. Tustin, his name was …. and ….

Michael: Did he not catch flies?

Arthur: Oh, aye, well …. that was the trouble, wasn’t it? The Germans had been in these holes …. and we went in the holes, it was all flies, wasn’t it? That was one of our biggest troubles …. catching flies off, you know, knocking them off …. but …. I used to have a fly net …. wrap yourself up in a fly net …. I managed to get hold of a …. what you call it? …. a chute …. a parachute ….

Michael: You mentioned that you had to rescue someone in the Qattara Depression …. I don’t know whether you would like to tell us about that?

Arthur: Yes …. you are left, really, on your own during operations …. on my particular job …. it was sort of different …. to the infantry, you know …. because there were 3 infantry units in one Brigade …. and …. each brigade was attached to a unit, you see …. Ah, that was life …. you see how other people live ….

While we were in Egypt …. we went …. to the top of the Pyramids …. and Sphynx and all that …. but, the best one was …. what you call it? Taormina in Sicily …. and we had to go up to Mount Etna …. as part of the training to keep you fit …. that’s what they said …. to keep you fit …. the War had finished …. We had run them out, you see …. and …. we were there, waiting …. that’s where we lost our lad …. the old Captain from Flint …. come there a new one, hadn’t been in anything at all …. come there …. started ordering us about different places, you know …. put us on the side of a hill …. you know, there’s the hill there [gesticulating] …. there’s Jerry there …. you know ….

Aye …. I had a direct hit …. and lads used to sleep under the lorry, you see, and in the lorry …. I used to sleep in the hole …. I think that’s what saved my life …. because I had been used to sleeping in a hole in the desert …. so ….

It …. it gave me the insight on different countries, you know …. but I didn’t know how they lived in peace time …. you know …. That was the one thing that stood out a mile …. when we had done the invasions …. the one on Sicily wasn’t too bad, we lost a few lads …. and then we went up from there, through the Mediterranean …. and made a landing in Italy …. with the lads, Desert Rats …. and …. we come back off there …. and took us right down to the toe of France [Normandy via England] …. and that was when we started the invasion of France …. the units that went into France were all trained …. highly mobile, you know …. and …. I am just counting myself as well …. spotter planes, telling you what was going on below …. carrying people, going out and bringing them in ….

Aye …. it was experience, you know …. something like you would never come across again …. That’s what your paper says, doesn’t it? You wouldn’t find a fellow carrying another one two and a half miles on a stretcher, would you …. while you could get it on a lorry or something like that. That’s how it finished off …. aye …. Waiting was the thing ….
Michael: You landed at Normandy, didn’t you?

Arthur: Oh, yea ….

Michael: Tell us about that, and D-Day 6th June ….

Arthur: Well, it was a hell of a morning, let’s put it that way …. and we were a mile out on the LCT …. LC …. LCI …. Landing Craft Infantry …. and we were well out …. and …. the assault boats come in …. and …. picked us up from the LCI, you see …. so that they could get onto a flat-bottomed finish …. surface on the beach …. and …. I never seen fellows there afraid …. because we had done two others, hadn’t we? We’d done one in Sicily and one in Italy, see …. and ….

There was one case where we …. where we did fear for our lives …. We got on a boat, after we had got into Sicily …. and …. it was …. you had to be quiet like to go into these landings …. You didn’t have to cause any trouble, or anything like that …. but this particular lad …. big mate of mine, he was …. nice lad …. He used to write every night to his girlfriend …. and his mother got a letter one morning …. before we went into Sicily …. they used to give us these letters …. because it sort of bucked you up, you see …. that was the idea of it …. all those letters …. and his mother told him that an American had run off with his girl ….

You would have never seen anything like it in all your life …. we had to be quiet, didn’t we, going in …. and he was shouting and bawling …. In the end, a fellow had to go and sort of keep him quiet with a bayonet …. that lad got killed …. you know …. just as well because his life would have been different …. aye ….

After that, it was just France, wasn’t it? On D-Day …. it was a hell of a morning, though, as I say …. and …. we were getting tossed about …. we were only on a small boat, see …. the assault boat …. the other one was a big boat, we come on …. LCI …. and there’s Landing Craft Tanks …. Landing Craft this, Landing Craft that, you know …. So …. but …. when I look back …. at it now, and see the operation as it went …. massive operation, wasn’t it, you know …. all you could see was boats …. but …. one thing we couldn’t see …. was, what was on the side of us …. and, you know …. television comes up sometimes with …. what was on the side …. and I could see, like, where I was and what I was doing, you know …. but …. took us a while to get to …. Caen …. and then it was just one flog after, wasn’t it? Aye …. but on the beach itself …. there’s …. there’s a book in there ‘D-Day Landings’ …. It’s a universal book …. and in that book …. there is a paragraph where an officer was coming along the beach …. and he said …. to me …. he’d seen me bandaging a lad up …. on the beach …. on the 6th of June …. you know, just at the top of the beach …. “I see you are doing a good job, there ….”, he said …. ah, you know …. but 50 yards up the road after that …. I found him dead …. that’s how it was ….

[‘The D Day Landings’ by Philip Warner published by Mandarin ISBN 0-7493-0367-0 – Chapter 8 The Medical Services – Memory of the Reverend John G. White, then Private White RAMC, 200 Field Ambulance – page 255]

Michael: Oh dear ….

Arthur: You were seeing people and then, you know, they were dying …. aye …. but he took all the particulars of what I was doing …. under fire, like, you know …. could have been knocked off a few times …. and …. he put it in that book …. I didn’t know …. one of my mates …. that lives in South Wales …. he got that book and sent it for me …. and it’s just a paragraph, about that much of it …. telling you about what I was doing …. “Man from Flint”, they called me …. Aye …. “Man from Brun ….” but …. things went after that, you know ….

Normally, you had the old bombardments and bombing …. when going through …. you know …. and I will never forget the faces of these people …. they’d been under the hammer for 6½ years, hadn’t they? …. You know …. and when we were going through these little villages …. and towns …. they were throwing stuff at us, you know …. throwing all sorts of stuff …. aye …. it is …. you know, I don’t know, it give me more encouragement when I see how these people were, you know …. and that was the same everywhere we went …. where we give …. people out, you know …. and all …. All the people were the same ….

Michael: Tell me …. you had a near escape ….

Arthur: Oh, aye ….

Michael: Tell us about that ….

Arthur: Well, as I say, like …. the escape was in Benghazi, wasn’t it? See, we gone up the desert …. and …. we’d sort of settled down in the …. Derna, a place called Derna …. We’d put up a little shop there …. bandages …. you know …. and …. we were told to get out …. that wasn’t the first time, like, you know …. we were told to get out, and we had 20 minutes to get out …. get some of our stuff up and set off …. that was one escape …. the other one was when we went out into the desert ….

We’d had a message from these here …. what do you call it? …. aeroplane spotters …. Told us all …. they’d seen a fellow waving his hands …. I thought “Well ….” …. there’s no …. you only went on reference points there, see …. never went on little villages or anything like that, you went on reference points …. and I went out with a RASC driver …. see …. I never had a gun …. I just, you know, I just had bandages and things like that …. morphine and that sort of thing …. and …. this particular time, like, we …. I don’t know …. it was …. either you or me …. that’s how it worked out in the beginning …. and everything was jumbled up …. you know ….

I remember one time …. I am going away from it now …. We had a …. we were stuck just outside Villers-Bocage, it was …. a little village in France …. Villers-Bocage …. it was all trees …. and I was detailed to do a bit of guarding …. guarding without any gun like, people used to laugh at us …. You know, I’d got no gun …. only a stick …. you couldn’t do very much with a stick, could you?

And I was on guard one night, and …. we’d been hammering this here Villers-Bocage …. there had been a big fire there …. and …. flames were flickering on the trees in the woods …. as they were coming out …. you know, you could see the flames flickering ….

Aye …. and I was …. I had to do the guard …. I had to do the guard …. and I said …. I went …. “Hey …. somebody coming out.” What it was …. it was the flickering of the light in the village, on the trees …. giving you the idea that the people were moving around …. coming out, you know …. and I always remember that …. I woke them up, didn’t I? They played hell, didn’t they? Oooh…. I got a right ‘rollicking’ for that ….

Michael: Going back to lucky escapes …. did you not …. were you not on the receiving end of a sniper?

Arthur: On the what?

Michael: On the receiving end of a sniper, did a sniper not try and kill you?

Arthur: Oh aye …. Oh, I was on the end of that …. aye …. I got a bullet …. on D-Day morning …. in me …. have you ever seen a compressed and triangular bandage? They are very tight …. and when they open them out …. you know you can use them for a …. [indicating a sling] …. well …. I was going along, fixing this lad up …. and …. I’d been there, oh, about 10 minutes or more …. and …. I felt a sharp bang …. it spun me round, you know …. I thought …. what’s the hell that like …. I had to pack it up ….

This fellow, I was bandaging, I had to sort of leave him for a while …. and when I looked, there was a bullet …. in the triangular bandage …. in the compressed triangular bandage …. the bandage saved my life …. Oh, aye …. no doubt about that …. that was one escape ….
But you had to be very careful where you went …. and use the reference points according to the spotter planes, you know …. but …. the first place we did when we landed anywhere was …. look for a place to operate from, you know …. aye ….

Michael: I mean, yours was a very special job really ….

Arthur: Oh, aye, it was …. you had to know what you was doing like and …. you had to try and help people, you know, that was my job …. and I had sort of …. cottoned on to this helping people …. But there was a lot of nice people knocking about ….

Michael: I mean, you travelled from France into Belgium? Did you travel …. I think you …. when you went from Caen …. you went to Belgium, did you? And then onto Germany?

Arthur: Yea, we went onto Germany up the …. you know …. the …. main highways, they call them …. They had some smashing roads in Germany, you know …. we were …. ours weren’t a patch on them …. You know …. they were 4 roads …. and, you know, you could see for miles …. and that’s how I think he …. manoeuvred around pretty quick …. with his …. you know, his tanks and things, and …. and …. and …. and different vehicles …. oh, aye …. he ….

He had some smashing railways …. and, and roads …. aye …. but …. he ….

Michael: Were there any unpleasant experiences that you had?

Arthur: Oh, aye …. on my job?

Michael: Yes ….

Arthur: Oh …. You know, I was coming across lads who had no lives in them …. You know …. little I could do like, only …. put a bandage on them and let them get back again as quickly as possible ….

We had a CCS, Casualty Clearance Station …. and …. a first part where you got them, you know …. and the Casualty Clearance Station …. and then there was a …. you may not believe it, but a Field Hospital …. they done a good job, you know …. you know, you were only 5 …. 10 minutes away from them, you know …. They were all following up one another, see …. we were the Field Ambulance …. then you had the CCS …. and then you had the hospitals …. and they all worked together, you see …. and ….

It still happens today, that …. I was talking to a fellow across the road …. and he said …. “Yes, Arthur,” he said, “it still works on that principle.” …. aye ….

Michael: While you were in Germany …. I believe that your experiences weren’t wonderful there, particularly ….

Arthur: Well, there was Belsen, wasn’t there ….

Michael: Right ….

Arthur: You know, we …. went onto Belsen …. and we knew that Belsen was a bit of place, you know …. and when we got there, it was a bit of a place …. our leading tank went straight through the iron gates …. and I went after them, didn’t I? I was part and parcel of the forward thrust …. they give me 2 days of just …. pumping DDT into people …. you know, that bad ….

Michael: To clean them up ….

Arthur: Just like ….. you know, skeletons ….

Michael: Dreadful ….

Arthur: Anyway, our leading tanks rounded them all up …. and made them all comfortable you know, made …. the guards, and the people who were there …. made them look after them, you know, made them comfortable …. and that went on for a while ….
And from there like, you know, it was religion …. there was nothing you could do, he was on the move, wasn’t he?

Michael: Yes ….

Arthur: You know, he didn’t have time to settle down …. so, kept on going …. we went on going as well …. after a couple of weeks, you know …. got the place sorted out ….

Michael: Mind you, the war was just about to come to an end, then, wasn’t it?

Arthur: Yes …. yes, it was …. Yes, around about that time …. and …. Nagasaki and Hiroshima …. them two places …. packed up about a fortnight after …. Japan ….

Michael: That was when you left Germany?

Arthur: No …. no, I was in Germany when it happened ….

Michael: Oh, right ….

Arthur: The war come to an end in Japan ….

Michael: Yes ….

Arthur: while I was in Germany ….

Michael: That was late 1945 ….

Arthur: Oh, aye …. we’d run them all up into Denmark …. but …. we had to come from Denmark because it was a neutral country, you see ….

Michael: Yes ….

Arthur: So, they all come back from there, didn’t they, but …. You know, the Army give me …. a lot of confidence in myself …. I didn’t give a bugger for anybody when I should …. you know …. after it was over ….

Michael: No …. no, no ….

Arthur: But the worst part of it was …. waiting to get demobbed …. you know …. I always made a habit of lying in a hole if I could find one …. and …. just lying there at night time …. and nobody to talk to …. and everywhere quiet …. no guns going …. no searchlights …. it was a really really trying time …. you know …. but …. that was it …. I come back …. got demobbed …. after about 3 months …. war had finished then …. and …. I come home in the Post Office van! And the man in Chester …. what we did, we come to Euston …. and I got from Euston to Chester …. got demobbed and then we made our way home, didn’t we?

Michael: Yes …..

Arthur: and …. I said, you know the fellow in the station, Chester Station …. I said, “I want to get to Holywell ….” “Oh ….”, he said, “There’s no train going to Holywell ….”, he says …. he said, “But there’s a Post Office van going in the morning,” he said, “2 o’clock ….” “Oh”, I said, “that will do ….”, so I come home in a Post Office van …. from …. you know, from Chester …. aye ….

Michael: And I bet you got a great welcome when you got back ….

Arthur: Well, you know, I had to see my wife, wouldn’t I and …. That was …. a big thing like, I hadn’t seen her for a couple of years, had I?

Michael: Not, just tell me a little bit about that, because …. you met your wife …. whilst you were working, before the war, is that right?

Arthur: Yea ….

Michael: And then war interrupted ….

Arthur: Well, it interrupted for everybody, didn’t it? You know, you had no qualms or anything, no excuses …. you went to …. you went to get your …. get …. seeing if you were all right, you know …. and you were called up …. that was it …. went for your medical …. and that’s how it stood for 6½ years after ….

Michael: But you married during the war, didn’t you?

Arthur: Well, I found confidence, and …. a hell of a lot of confidence …. I didn’t …. I didn’t care for anybody …. and what I wanted, I strived to get …. and in the end, like, I managed to get it …. what I wanted …. but …. I always come out with the notion that nobody was better than me …. and they were …. weren’t better than anybody else, like …. that’s …. that’s how we finished ….

Michael: Is that part of the secret of a long life?

Arthur: Well, I don’t know, because …. I’ve had a pretty rough life in the beginning, you know …. with having no father …. and four of us to bring up …. pretty rough …. and I, you know …. I tried to get little jobs to fill the gap …. I know my mother used to bake the bread …. and I used to take it to get made into loaves in our Ellis, the bakers, in Flint …. you know, that was one thing, you know …. but …. It was one of things, isn’t it, lad ….
But the …. nicest thing I have ever seen was the smile on the people’s faces going through the villages and the towns …. because they had been under the hammer for 6½ years …. you know …. and they were glad to see us, weren’t they? Aye …. but …. as I say, I was in the Medical Corps and I didn’t see much of the fighting there, after that …. Well, I was dabbling with the casualties, like, you know …. we were still getting casualties then …. but …. Everything was all jumbled ….

Michael: So, after demob, what happened next?

Arthur: Well, I was asked to go to Chester Royal Infirmary, to work there …. but I’d had enough of it, didn’t I? 6½ years of it ….

Michael: You didn’t want to be a doctor ….

Arthur: I didn’t want to go …. you know …. I would never have been a doctor, never had the qualifications, you know …. but …. I could do what a doctor did …. in the way of breaks and, you know, and …. all that …. but …. I do it now, don’t I? Aye, a couple of times I’ve sort of …. I know I went to Blackpool for a holiday …. on the North Shore with Mary …. I found a fellow had got knocked down on his bike about 200 yards away from where I …. Mary and I were coming back …. I automatically leapt there …. went to see if he was all right, you know …

Michael: Yes ….

Arthur: and …. fair enough, like …. I had a big handkerchief, I used it to wrap around him …. and …. but …. I have had a couple of …. dos up here with the kids …. getting hit on the bikes …. It’s surprising how it comes to you, you know …. just automatically …. yea ….

Michael: You never forget it ….

Arthur: You can’t, can you? …. Aye …. Oh, I should have been knocked off a few times …. carrying people over open ground …. you know …. you had to do it because there was no …. reasonable roads …. It never done me any harm …. it …. done me a lot of good, I think …. you only, you know …. I am just lucky to be here …. I am lucky, there’s no doubt about it.

Michael: After …. having been offered a job with the …. hospital, you …. I think you went back to Courtaulds, didn’t you?

Arthur: That’s right …. They asked me to go back, so I went back there …. and then …. they’d lost a lot of people, you know, and …. and there were a lot of vacancies there …. and …. I went back to the old job …. and then I got promoted, didn’t I?

Michael: Oh!

Arthur: Oh, I got promoted, yea …. I was …. I used to do the machines …. operate the machines, you know …. work on them …. and I was under a machine with oil on my face …. doing this here job …. and I could see 2 pairs of shiny shoes …. underneath, by the machine, you know …. I couldn’t see who were there …. anyway, when I went out …. they said to me, “What are you doing under there?”

I said, “What the hell do you think I am doing under here?” You know, that’s how the confidence you had in yourself …. you know ….

“Well, we want you off there ….” …. “Well, who’s going to mend this?”, I said to them ….
You know, it was a bit like a cam …. only going up and down …. Anyway …. “Come from under there,” they said …. and when I come out, the Manager and the fellow from Coventry were there, you know …. He said, “What were you doing under there?” I said, “I am fixing the machine ….”

“Well,” he said “I want you to go on the Manager ….” He said, “I want you to go home ….” “Well, who’s going to do this?”, I said ….

That’s the confidence, you had given yourself, you know ….

He said, “I want you to go home anyway and put your best suit on.” I said “I haven’t got a best suit. I haven’t a best suit, only a demob suit ….”

You know, they give you the whole lot, like …. they give you a suit …. demob suit …. a trilby hat …. and a pair of shoes …. socks …. they give you the lot, like, you know …. I said, “That’s all I’ve got ….” “Well, go and put that on ….” they said, “and come back ….” I thought to myself “This is weird this ….” …. You know, what am I going back to? And I come back, and I …. made me a foreman …. and I stuck that, all the time I was in Courtaulds …. and I reached the senior foreman …. and they couldn’t get any further …. only …. the manager, like ….

I did have …. extraordinarily enough …. I went to Flint the other day …. and I met …. I met a woman there whom I had been over …. I thought, I never thought I would see this, you know …. but …. I keep seeing, I’ve been keeping seeing them over the years, you know me …. up and down Flint …. because they are all from Flint and Greenfield and Connah’s Quay and …. but …. it’s an experience and …. giving you the idea of how people live …. you know …. It’s a …. there’s a lot of wrong ones knocking about and all, you know ….

Michael: Yes ….

Arthur: Oh …. Out for what they could get, aren’t they? You see, with the War being finished …. there were a lot of empty spaces ….

Michael: Yes ….

Arthur: and they wanted to fill them empty spaces, didn’t they? If they could …. That had nothing to do with me, I was off on my own, like …. bringing my children up …. aye …. And that’s what it has been ever since …. on the move …. up …. aye ….

Michael: Do you have any …. you’ve told us one or two funny stories; do you have any other funny stories that you might have …. that you might want to tell us …. anything

Arthur: About what?

Michael: Well, anything that comes to mind that was quite a funny experience ….

Arthur: Oh, aye …. well, I had quite a lot of experiences, really, different things, you know …. but …. as I say …. the main ones, like, stand out in your mind …. the others, like, you sort of forget about them, don’t you …. but …. I think the Army taught me a lot of things …. it taught me how to look after myself …. That was one thing, they gave me …. and I didn’t give a bugger to anybody after I come out …. I just went on living ….

Michael: Would that be your …. would that be your philosophy, Arthur? …. I mean, you’ve had a long and very …. good life …. good …. well mixed life, I suppose, but …. what would you think is the …. If you were to speak to a younger person today, what would be your advice to them?

Arthur: Well, I would say “Hold your chin up, don’t let anybody bother you ….”, you know, “and …. just carry on. But carry out what you were told and …. that won’t cause any trouble”.

I found that by treating people with respect, they’ll treat you back with respect …. and you get the best out of people …. see …. I’ve always found that …. yes ….

Michael: Well, I think we’ve probably come to an end, but I would like to thank you very much for sharing your memories with WarGen ….

Arthur: Oh, there’s a lot of them ….

Michael: and here’s to an even longer and happy life ….

Arthur: Well, you know, I’ve …. it’s one of them things, isn’t it, you are just lucky to be alive …. I am, anyway …. You know, I mean, I count myself lucky …. because, you know, when I …. this lad [pointing to his son, Russ] took me to Normandy a couple of years ago …. and …. I went along the graves, like …. and I’d seen some of the names of the lads …. in my unit …. you know …. them are the things that sort of …. you know, make me feel a bit, I went off, didn’t I?

Aye, Normandy, that was one of the places, I went …. but …. we could have gone again, couldn’t we lad?

Michael: Ok, thank you very much, Arthur ….

Arthur: That’s all right, lad, …. sorry I couldn’t give you any [more] memories …. because they’ve gone now, haven’t they?

Michael: Yes, it is all in the past, sadly, but ….

Arthur: It’s gone now …. I’ve had a …. really speaking, I’ve had a varied life …. you know, I’ve been at the top, I’ve been at the bottom …. and …. It just comes one of those things, doesn’t it, lad …. you know, nearly captured and shot at and ….

Michael: And you still survived ….

Arthur: Well, I’m still here, you see, and I count myself lucky, don’t I?

Michael: Yes, indeed ….

Arthur: …. you know, and not only that …. I’ve seen some parts of the world that I’d never see if the War hadn’t started …. You know …. the top of Mount Etna …. you know, Loch Lomond …. Pyramids, you know, places like that …. places that I had seen in school …. I never thought for one moment that I’d be able to see them ….

Michael: Well, thank you very much, Arthur ….

Arthur: That’s all right, lad …. if I can help you, I will …. it has always been my nature …. help people ….

End of Transcription

Arthur Davies was born in Bagillt, Holywell, Flintshire on 1st August 1917.
He was 22 years old when War started in 1939.
Edward Arthur Davies died peacefully in his sleep on Sunday morning, 6th August 2017, just five days after he had celebrated his 100th Birthday. His family were keen that he should be immortalised and it is hoped that this transcript plus the film of his interview and his book, a “Soldier without a gun” will help to do this.

Interview recorded in Bagillt, Holywell, Flintshire on 2nd August 2017, one day after his 100th birthday, by Michael Thompson, Hardy Productions UK, Manchester, for WarGen.

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