Outbreak of War & Call Up for the Armed Forces
The 3rd of September 1939. An announcement on the radio from the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, which included the words “We are now at war with Germany.” Those were the fateful words which were broadcast to the nation on that beautiful sunny, Sunday morning. How many of us thought that it would be nearly six long and bitter years before we would be at peace again and how many would never see the end.
I was in our sailing club house on the beach at Eastbourne with all the members listening to the announcement. I don’t think it had sunk in what changes to my life this would bring. As soon as the announcement was over I, with several others, pushed off in our boats for the usual days sailing. It was a lovely day with a good steady sailing breeze. We hadn’t gone 500 yards when the air raid sirens started wailing the warning signal. (It turned out that they went off all over the country as a test). We didn’t know then and thought “Blimey they soon got over here”, but we kept on sailing as we thought it was no use going back; there was no time to get to shore before the planes could arrive and we would be just as safe where we were anyway. Within a few minutes the all clear was sounded.
On the 18th of September, two days after my 21st birthday, I received by post an official letter from the War Department stating that I was to attend for a medical examination for the Armed Forces at Hastings on the 25th of September. On the day, I arrived at Hastings in high spirits. It was a good job that I didn’t know what was in store for me in the future or I wouldn’t have been so eager to join up. Arriving at the centre we had a very thorough medical test, which I passed A1. I then signed a form stating which Armed Service I wanted to join, Army, Navy or Air Force.
Naturally I wanted to get into the Navy, so I signed accordingly, with a second choice of the Royal Tank Corps, as it was then called. I then received the princely sum of one shilling, plus five shillings extra expenses, which works out at 30p at today’s rate. I was still in pocket at that time though.
On the 11th of October I received my enlistment notice to report to Chichester, Sussex for service in the Royal Sussex Regiment on the 16th of October 1939 at 10am. So much for me signing for the Navy or the Tank Corps. The last unit I wanted to be in was the Infantry. (Still I suppose walking keeps you fit!). I was also sent a P.O. for four shillings (20p) advance pay. I was rich.