Memories of the War and VE Day by Alan Matthews

May 10th, 2020

Memories when from when one is very young, certainly in my case, tend to be like still photographs.

One clear picture I have, is walking up the path in 1939, to our front door and my Mother saying “ I wonder if it has come” and picking up an envelope.

My Father was on reserve because he had been in the RAF from 1921 to 1929 serving in Iraq as a mechanic on Rolls Royce based armoured cars and Model T Fords for hack work so was a very good fitter/mechanic. After leaving the Air Force he married and for ten years he had been working as a maintenance Engineer for the Hutton Poplar Schools Home and seemed to do most things including the plumbing, electrical work and keeping the steam powered electrical generator going and the letter (telegram?) was his dreaded call up papers.

In 1939 I clearly remember walking up our unmade road holding his hand as he went for the train which resulted in his being sent to France with the expeditionary force in Fighter Command as a Motor Transport Flight Sergeant.

As the Germans beat us back across France I learned that he was the senior NCO of a small group whose job it was to destroy any thing on our air fields which might have been of use to the enemy.  His small group were in an open truck trying to get to a boat from Boulogne, when a French driver stopped them and said that the Germans were only a mile down the road in either direction and that he would guide them to the Port via local tracks.

While standing in the truck father caught a big apple thrown by a French boy which came apart in his hands. To his surprise inside was a note, a copy of which is attached above.

When they reached the harbour there was a battle going on and one destroyer there, It was the last boat out with 1500 standing on the deck and the Germans firing rifles at them as they left.

They made it OK, though the destroyer was later sunk.

Father got a Mention in Despatches for getting his guys out and later another for organising Military transport for workers in Coventry after the bus station had been destroyed by bombing.

He then went to Egypt and across Africa to Morocco when Rommel was being beaten and finally to Germany after D day.

When D Day was being celebrated in Hutton where we lived, there was a party in a small field near home and the local ladies made some “treats” using the very limited food available.  I cannot remember much about the occasion except that there were some spherical pink things I did not recognise and was told these were very good to eat.  I took a big bite and it just turned into a sweet choking dust and was told later it was called a Meringue – if this was what we had been fighting for I doubted if it was worth the trouble !!