Thursday, 17 April 2014

Memories of Life in the Army by Chelsea Pensioner John Hynes

In memory of the late John Hynes 1920 - 2013

"I had four brothers; we were very close you know. Christopher – he was in Malta, right through the siege in Malta, and then he went to Africa, Africa to Sicily, Sicily to Italy and that’s where he finished there, when the war finished. Another brother went to France with me, and he was in right through to Berlin. And the other brother, as I say was with Monty. I was in the Engineers, posted to Haydock Racecourse. In those days, with all the people coming into the army, there wasn't enough space to train them really, so they took over Haydock Racecourse and we used to sleep in the stables.

"The fighting in France – the Germans drove us out of France really, and they would have invaded here but I think they went into Russia instead. If they hadn’t had gone into Russia I think they would have took over here. June 6th, we landed in Bayeux and we built an airstrip near Caen, so the planes could land and refuel so they could attack.

Caen - devastated in WWII

"They couldn't get back to England, you see to refuel – you had to refuel where you were. We were under shell-fire a lot, naturally, because the Germans had come over, taken photographs and they were trying to bomb the airstrip we were trying to build. It took about a month to get past Caen. Once we got past Caen, the next stop was a place called Argences. We built another strip there, and we were held up there by the Jerries. As we went further on into Belgium, where it was quiet, we put a strip down.

"The day the war finished, the Germans were coming through with white flags and our commanding officer said they’re going now to sign the surrender at Monty’s HQ. Now our George, my brother, actually put the table down where they signed the surrender.

On 4th May 1945, the German armed forces in Western Europe formally surrendered to Field Marshall Montgomery

"The Germans came then, four of them and they went into it and they had to sign the surrender. We were watching it, you know, we weren’t actually involved with it; we were just watching it from the outside. I got back to my unit and we made our way into Hamburg. We were the first troops into Hamburg and we got sent through a place called Langenhorn, it was like a big military hospital, for German troops that had been fighting in Russia, a lot of them with no arms and legs with frostbite, some of the men in a very bad way. Germany was in a very bad way then, you know. A lot of bombing went on in England but nothing in comparison to what was done there. Hamburg was obliterated.

"My youngest grand-daughter, Clare, she said, “Why not apply to the Chelsea Pensioners?” I said, “I’m 88 now, they wouldn’t let me in”, and she said, “Well I’m going to find out”. She did all the forms for me. It’s marvellous really the way we’re cared for, everyone is very good, marvellous."

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