Corporal Roy Middleton, 221 Field Company, Royal Engineers (20 July 1915 - 8 January 2008)
One Man’s War 1939 -1945
in his own words
TIMELINE (Roy’s war in a nutshell)
Joined Territorial Army, Royal Engineers, Motor Transport section. Driving lorries and escort motorcycles.
Mobilisation into Regular Army. War declared. Became a lance-corporal and given a new commandeered motorcycle. 18th went to France with the British Expeditionary Force. Lost stripe for failing to mount guard on vehicles.
Moved around France and Belgium constructing defences and hospitals. Regained stripe. Lived in cow shed during coldest winter for many years.
Germans invaded Belgium. BEF began retreat. Got blown off motorcycle by exploding bridge. Got lost with the Company rations for three days amongst refugees and dive bombers. Retreated to Dunkirk. Spent two days on beach being bombed and shot at. Bomb dropped in centre of my group destroying our radio but sinking in sand before exploding, injuring nobody. Found a dinghy and floated out to waiting destroyer. Given plate of sandwiches and woke up in Dover.
Battle of Britain. On exercise in various parts of the UK. Helped at RAF Manston pulling destroyed Spitfires out of hangar roofs.
On exercises in the UK. December, married Mary, a sergeant in the ATS.
In convoy of 25 ships from Liverpool zig-zagging across the Atlantic. 4 weeks to Freetown, West Africa. 2 weeks to Cape Town, first time ashore. 3 days off. First banana since 1939. 2 more weeks to Suez Canal and Egypt. Nothing to do on arrival as all our transport had been sunk en-route.
400 vehicle convoy to Iraq via Palestine, training and bridge building.
3,200 mile trek through Libya to join the 8th Army against Rommel in Tunisia. In action for the first time since Dunkirk.
Germans surrendered in North Africa.
Contracted sciatica in right leg and transferred to a tented hospital in Ismailia next to Suez Canal. 8 weeks convalescence.
Radio Operator’s course. Leave trips to Cairo. Corporal’s stripes.
Drafted to Italy to rejoin 8th Army.
Set up wireless networks for Royal Engineers in support of Canadians.
Liberation of Rome. Followed by 7 days leave in Rome with some old friends
Moving slowly north through Italy and resting for Spring Offensive.
May 2nd 1945
Whilst manning the radio in the back of the Colonel’s jeep, heard a freak signal from the BBC and Winston Churchill announcing the end of the war. Celebrated with some drunk Gurkhas.
Moved into Austria through bandit-infested Dolomites and was billeted in a farm. With nothing else to do, helped with the harvest.
4 weeks leave. First time in the UK for three years.
Back to Austria in time to be demobbed.
Roy passed away in January 2008 at the age of 92, which sounds like a long time to live. But he was such a beautiful person that for those of us he has left behind it was far too short. We miss him.
I’m Roy’s son, Ian, and I’ve put this site together to give Dad a wider audience for his war stories as he always enjoyed telling them. I find it amazing that ordinary people could have gone through such an experience as a World War and come out of it as kind, gentle and caring people, as Roy and most of his generation did. We need to hear the veteran’s stories to realise how precious life is and how easily it can be lost. If you’d like to contact me, there is an e-mail link on the About page.