Sidney (Sid) Miles
The day we went to France we marched down Dyke Road with the band playing to the railway station. My Mum and Dad were there to see me off but I was not allowed to break ranks to talk to them.
We boarded the train and set off for Portsmouth, where we boarded an old tramp steamer called Ben-My-Cree. We sailed out of the harbour and anchored off the Isle of Wight until midnight. It was a clear night with a full moon, not the right sort of night for a troop ship bound for Le Havre.
Immediately on arrival, we marched off. I was carrying one of our Bren guns but the pin from the shoulder strap fell out. I then fell out to look for the pin and was joined by a number of French people intent on helping me.
I caught up with the Battalion at a warehouse, where they had stopped for a meal. After eating we boarded a train for St Saens. Here we changed transport to lorries and headed out to a small village called Rosay.
We camped there under canvas. As I was an SP, I was fortunate to have ‘Camp Duties’ and thus avoided guarding the Ammo dump. One day I missed the CO’s parade, which everyone had been ordered to attend but I got away with it.
We stayed in Rosay for a month. It was very quiet, so quiet you didn’t know there was a war on!
On 18th May, we were taken by lorry to St Saens, where we boarded a train. Unfortunately, I lost my 50 rounds but they were found by Corporal P Wright who said that, at any other time, I would be on a serious charge. We eventually reached a station called St Roch just outside of Amiens.
We pulled into a siding there for a meal and, before long, heard planes overhead and the whistle of bombs falling. All the soldiers were in the doorway when one end of the truck was hit. There was blood everywhere.
I dived out and went under some more trucks until the next lot of bombs fell. I then ran across the road, which was being strafed by planes. Luckily, I wasn’t hit though and I managed to crawl into a pipe under the driveway to a house. There was another soldier already in there. I don’t know who he was but he must have been one of our mob. He said his knee hurt so I tore his trousers at the knee and found he had a very wide ‘V’-shaped cut out of his kneecap. So I bandaged him with my Field Dressing.
When all went quiet, I put him on the road where the First Aid was going on. Then I walked down the road towards a railway bridge. I was completely alone. By the bridge was a cul-de-sac of about three small cottages. A man came out of one and spoke to me in English. I was invited into his house for coffee and wine. He told me he was a British soldier, who had stayed on after the 1st World War and married a French girl.
After this welcome intermission, I walked on to the wood where the rest of our Battalion were. Here I learned that the first bombs that fell hit the engine and carriage that held our officers. Some were killed and some wounded. That was bad news, being short of officers.
We stayed in the wood overnight. Had a shave in the morning, before moving out. It was 19th May. We took up positions in ditches on the Poix Road. The road was crowded with refugees leaving Amiens.
The next morning, 20th, we moved on to higher ground and watched Amiens being bombed non-stop. Orders came round that every man was to take their boots off and have a shave, it was about midday. No sooner had men obeyed, than all hell broke out and there was a mad rush to get our boots back on and to collect up equipment. What a mess!
We retired to a sunken road, where there was an officer from the RASC. He ordered us to ‘fix bayonets’ and advance across the field. Bullets make a cracking noise as they go by you, you know, and there was plenty of cracking all around.
I noticed two French machine gunners quite close by but the next time I looked, they were dead. Now German tanks began to appear. I saw a man fire a Boyes anti-tank gun but the half-inch shells were just bouncing off the tanks.
I was taken prisoner and spent the rest of the war is various POW camps; Schubin Teschen, Posen and in a coal-mining camp, somewhere near Katowice.
When we were liberated, I went by air from Landscutte to Brussels and then on to Oxford. After repatriation leave, I went to Chalfont St Giles for eight weeks, then to Colchester, then Bacton, afterwards to Aylesbury and, finally, the civilian resettlement unit at Kingston.