WW II, a British focus  



Memories of Mr Edwin Booth, Army no. 14404722


It was while at sea that word came that the war in east was over. So we were unloaded in Palestine at the port of Haifa at the time that the Jews started to create trouble for a homeland. It was not long after that we moved down to Gaza under canvas. It was not long after this that we were rushed into Tel-Aviv to take up guard duties, it was at this time that the Jews showed their appreciation for what we had done, if we had only known? But you cannot blame those that wanted out of Germany as they must have suffered terrible under the Nazi. I would say at this time our sympathy lay with them. But when the terrorists got into some houses across the road from a car park where we kept the trucks that we used for leave or nights out. We had nothing there for shelter but tents they opened fire from about 10 to 15yds on men in tents in the middle of the night our sympathy went out the door and we said it's a pity that Jerry never took more of them.

Then the order came out that we had to go out armed in pairs but you can only fire back if you are fired on, what chance do you have in a busy city. They can come out of a shop as you pass by, but then how many Jews was in the British Parliament at that time who wanted the Jews to get a home of their own. It was at this time that I refused promotion to the rank of sergeant as my girl friend was stationed at the R.A.F. base just down the road at Quastina. I was happy as things stood, in fact, I wanted to revert to the rank of private but they refused to allow it.

Just after this a notice came up on the notice board for a senior N.C.O. to be transferred to Division Headquarters as they were changing from glider troops to parachutist and those troops that did not want to become parachutist would be returned to their own mother units. I got in touch with friends in the orderly room to see if they could help to put my name forward and low and behold I got the move. I being a replacement into the defence company our main job was to see that the camp was safe and when the General moved out of camp to escort him where he wanted to go. This usually consisted of 8 men, four in each jeep one jeep in front and one behind his car fully armed machine gun at the front of each jeep. This was a grand job I could have done it for the rest of my life as I got more time to see my girl friend. I used to get back to camp in the early hours in the morning by travelling up with the Arab Police who guarded oil storage tanks near our camp. It was at this time that the demob numbers was slowed down. Where I had been expecting to be demobed before Christmas it looked like it would be a long time into 1947 and my girl friend would be going home long before myself. So when marriage was spoken about and it was suggested to get married in Palestine, she agreed. So I put in the application to my Commanding Officer who said yes and arranged for me to go Headquarters of Army Command in Jerusalem at the King George Hotel. When I got there at the desk I was told to go to room 504. On entering I was greeted by a voice on looking around I was looking at our old Battalion Padre who on finding out what I was there for said it's the best thing to happen to me. So wait there while I go next door for a few minutes. After awhile he came back and took me into the room he had just come out of and there sitting at two desks were three Ministers of a higher rank than him who asked me some questions signed the papers and wished me all the best.

On coming out into the other room my old Padre started to talk about old times. He got me to help him to bury some of our boys in temporary graves as at the time we couldn't get them back and there was no cemetery at that time. It had been a honour to serve with him. He then asked me where I was going to get married. I said I did not know yet. He then asked what about the English Church in Jerusalem? When I said yes, he picked up the phone and after he had spoke he turned to me and said go round to the Collegiate Church of St George-the-Martyr in Jerusalem right away the Dean is waiting for you. Thanking him for his kindness I departed.

Meeting the Dean and all things arranged I made an appointment to take my girl friend round to meet the Dean. So I went back to our camp and got in touch with my girl friend and told her what had happened. She was agreeable so we went and saw the Dean and set the date for our wedding. It took place under security as we did not want the Terrorist to spoil the party. It was not long after this that the wife was returned to the United Kingdom and I was notified that I had secured a place on the scheme to train for a civilian job. My leave for home came up [L.E.A.P], so I forsook the training course to come home on 28 days leave.

Landing in France and travelling through to Dover, then home to Aberdeen arriving on December 24th 1946 where my wife was waiting. It was about the 20th of January 1947 that I got a Telegram telling me to report to Aldershot to find that they did not know. As an advance party of the 4-5-6th battalions they said wait here until they come back. This suited me as there was only three more numbers to go for my release. I was a fortnight at Aldershot when I was sent on leave for ten days then to join the 6th battalion at Dorset. As I got there they did not know anything about me. As I was 6 Division Headquarters and not the 6th battalion. They said there must have been a mix up. I knew that but you always obey the last order. So I was told to hang around until the Commanding officer came back.

Waiting in headquarters company the QuarterMaster asked me to give a hand with logging of the stores which pleased me for something to do. When the Commanding Officer came back off leave he said stay where you are as you only have a fortnight to go for your release and the QuarterMaster is pleased with your work. That week the Battalion moved to Hungerford and a fortnight I was on my Discharged the beginning of April 1947. Looking back on my four and three quarter years in the army wasn't so bad as I met some wonderful chaps, which was a privilege to serve with. A lot of times I look back and wonder what they are doing now, what they look like, is their health good. One thing I do know, they will smile and no complaints.

We had some songs that only meant anything to the Paratroopers and they kept up the moral. I think I still remember some of them. Number one went like this.

First I went to P.T.S. my C.O. he advised
Bring lots and lots of underwear you will need them I surmise
But I replied by god sir no matter what befalls
I'll always keep my trousers clean when jumping through the hole

Chorus Jumping through the hole jumping through the hole
I'll always keep my trousers clean when jumping through the hole

I went into a hanger an instructor by my side
And on Ken Cardners circus had many a glorious ride
On these ingenuous gadgets said he you will learn to fall
To keep your feet together when jumping through the hole


They swung me on the swing boys they shot me down a chute
They took me to a high aperture I though it rather cute
Said he this apparatus will teach you I recall to keep your feet together
When you are jumping through the hole


They took me out one morning it was cold and damp and dark
They took me in a so-called bus bound for Tatten Park
In keeping with the weather I said to one and all
I take a dim and misty view of jumping though the hole


They fitted me with parachute a helmet for my head
The sergeant looked with expert eye it fits you fine he said
I'll introduce you now to Bess for that is what we call
The big balloon from which you will soon be jumping through the hole


Up six Hundred Five to drop said he
Five to drop good god I cried one of them is me
So clinging very grimly to the handles on the floor
I cursed the day I volunteered for jumping the hole


I hit my pack I rung the bell I twisted twenty times
Feet hung up in the rigging lines
I didn't care at all
For I had kept my trousers clean when jumping through the hole


There's a moral to this story and it's one that should be told. It's the keeping of the trousers clean when jumping through the hole.

Information about the song:
It came about from the aircraft that we used at the time. The aircraft at the time was a Whitley Bomber that we used to jump out of before we got the American planes. The Whitley carried ten of us and there was a hole in the floor where we sat, five forward and five behind of the hole. We could not stand up and the method was to shuffle along the floor then swing your legs into the hole then push off with your hands making out that you did not hit the other side with your face. If you hit this was known as ringing the bell it cost you a round of drinks to the rest of the crew plus any alterations to your face. In the song, "First I went to P.T.S.", refers to Parachute training school and C.O. to the Commanding officer the rest is plain sailing.

There was another song that we used to sing at the time it went something like this.

Come and sit by my side in a Whitley do not hasten to bid me ado
Just remember the poor paratrooper and the job he's trying to do
When the red light goes on we are ready for the sergeant to shout number one
When the green light goes on we are steady and ten seconds later we are gone
So come stand by your glass boys, be steady and drink a toast to the men of the sky
Drink a toast to the men dead already and three cheers for the next man to die.