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1939/40 - Edward Packe's diary of World War II

Grey background shows when Edward Packe was in Britain.

1939 DECEMBER

Dec 31 Left home at 8.50am with Bob and caught the 9.22am train after some bother and backchat from the booking cleric. We changed at Brighton and Fratton, arriving at Southampton Central at 12.36pm where the B.F. of a porter failed to take my valise off the train. We had some lunch in the refreshment Room while the R.T.O. did some hectic telephoning for my missing valise. Go down to the docks, saying good-bye to Bob at the Gate. The taxi driver couldn't find berth 27 for a time and I nearly boarded the wrong ship, eventually boarding the Archangel Harwich at about 2.15pm. and secured a double berthed cabin which I shared with an A.A. subaltern. We sailed about 3pm and after tea I went on deck and saw Calshot just showing through a sea fog with a lurid very red sunset behind it. There were a squadron of flying boats moored off Calshot of both mono and biplanes. The sea was like glass and from the sunset should continue calm all the way across. Found Jonah's brother on deck and talked to him. After supper went for a walk round the ship and noticed that hardly anybody was in battle dress. Finish my letter to Bob and then to bed. My cabin mate's name is Moynihan.

1940

1940 JANUARY

Jan 1st. Woke about 6.30am after a very good night and presumably a calm sea. Got up and had breakfast and then went up on deck to find that we were just entering Cherbourg (8am). There was only one other ship in our convoy and the escort was just leaving us. We berthed at 8.30am and there was a car to take us and our kit to the Gare Maritime. Col Roberts, also on his way to G.H.Q., and I had a cup of coffee and then caught the 10.15am train, after reporting to Movement Control who told us that we get no further than Paris tonight. We had a wait of twenty five minutes at Lison where we tried to get a glass of beer without success. At Caen we had to change but were unable to get anything to eat or drink. Roberts was given a ham roll which we shared but there was only my waterbottle to wash it down.

We arrived at Paris (St Nazaire) at 6.28am and went to the Grand hotel where we booked good rooms with baths attached and then went and had a couple of large whisky and sodas each. A dinner with oysters and turkey and a bottle of very reasonable Chablis followed by a cognac with our coffee put us on more reasonable terms with the world. I then went and had a long hot bath before getting into bed and slept like the dead.

In the beginning of the last war I went everywhere either in a
cattle truck or on my two feet, and I did it on bully beef when we did get anything to eat. This war so far seems a vastly superior one.

Jan 2nd. I ought to have been called, with breakfast, at 7am but none came, so I got up and had a bath and dressed and packed at my leisure. We had a job to get a taxi, but at last got to the Gare du Nord where I got a cup of coffee before the train started at 8.15am, and a very good train for a change. We passed Albert at about 10.30am with the new gilt Madonna standing upright again and holding her baby over the town. We went through Beaucourt and up along the Ancre valley to Puissieux, eventually arriving at Arras at 11a.m. The R.T.O. promised to ring up and find out about us, so we went over to the Moderne hotel, opposite the station, and had some food. On our return to the station the R.T.O. told me that a car would come for me in the morning and in the meantime I was to stay on at the Moderne, so I went over and booked a room. Later Whittaker rang up and said he would come and see me at 3.30pm. Four other A.I.L.O.s turned up and Whittaker took all five of us to Section 3 at G.H.Q. where we heard something about our job and they gave us some tea. We then returned to the Moderne. After dinner we made a party with three members of an Ensa party who are doing Alladin. The one playing Alladin was Betty Bucknell.

We were told at G.H.Q. that it was formed more or less in a day and sent over to France with nothing to eat except Bully Beef for forty eight hours; what is more, they managed to get soaking wet before embarking on their twelve hour train journey up here.

Jan 3rd. Surely as funny a day as ever was. At 9am we went round to I.A.5 and listened to Stephens on H.A. activities; we also discussed a ridiculous air exercise that was carried out in the Summer. We met the Camp Commandant (Major Sullivan) and the Commander of I.A.5 (Major Foljambe) who tells us we are entitled to the extra 5/- a day Staff pay which is good news. After lunch we went to Sections 1 and 2 and saw some very interesting things on Formations and so forth, this was in G.H.Q. itself, the Bishops Palace, a place that looks like the Crystal Palace and about as big. What a place to put G.H.Q. itself in. We also visited the Field Cashier who appeared to know less than nothing and that not very well. Then back to I.A.3 where I saw Wintle, brother of the Irish one. We then went back to the Moderne where we sank three Gins and Dubonnets while we made out our Claims forms. Then back to G.H.Q. for our interview at 6.30pm with the D.M.I. General MacFarlane then on to A.I.5 where we talked photographs. On our way back we went into L'Universe where we picked up Lord Donegal and another Daily Express man, both masquerading as Squadron Leaders. The back to the Moderne for dinner and bed.

I think the truth of the matter is that nobody knows what we are supposed to learn or how to teach us, so the result is that everybody pushes us off to somebody else as soon as possible. One thing is quite certain and that is that none of us five budding A.I.L.O.s have the least idea what we are supposed to do.

Jan 4th. Barrington and Bradford left at 9am to go to Rossierre and East and Proctor go at 10am for Quoi. 1 go back to G.H.Q. to A.I.5 and looked at photographs, back to the Moderne for lunch and afterwards Stevens agrees that as the car that is due to take me to 51st Wing till nearly 4pm it would be better to wait till the next morning, considering the ice-bound roads.

Went round to the N.A.A.F.I. to get some cigarettes and found the place shut. After an aperitif at L'Universe with a Commodoredore and a French officer, returned to the Moderne for a bath and dinner, then bed.

Jan 5th. After breakfast at 9am I found the car waiting to take me to 51st Wing at Abbeville. Not a very nice journey as the roads were covered with ice and there was a certain amount of fog which froze on the windscreen. We went through Doulens but I was unable to recognise any of it, on through Bernaville reaching Abbeville about midday. Reported at Wing and was given a guide to take me to 2 Sqn but of course he lost his way before we arrived at the Mess at Drucat where I had lunch. The Mess is a chateau belonging to a Contesse and looks like an ordinary English villa but unlike the English variety, the windows in the ante-room are broken and there is no running water. I had some trouble fixing up a billet, the only place available had been occupied by a pilot who had left his kit there. Madame and Monsieur distressed themselves lest Roger's kit should be deranged, but eventually 'tout s'arrangera' and I move in. Have tea and then play Backgammon with Goldsworthy, one of the A.I.L.O.s, also write letters and read, eventually to bed, shivering with cold. The Mess is bitter and the food not very good, but my bed is comfortable.

Jan 6th. Neville, my soldier servant, brings me tea and some very luke warm water at 7am, dress and have some breakfast about 7.45am. Do photographs and read Summaries till lunch time.

Play Backgammon, read and write letters after lunch, then go down to Abbeville with Drysdale (Royal-Scots) and have a bath at Le Tete du Boeuf where we meet Squadron Leader Morgan Wells-Smith and have dinner with him, quite a good dinner but shocking slow service; an excellent Brandy afterwards, said to be 1870.

Jan 7th. Rose at 8.15am, being a Sunday, and found I was too early to get any breakfast. Read up notes on Scaling Photographs. Go into Dieppe with Gallsworthy (Royal Fusiliers) and Drysdale as one of the cars wanted servicing. Had quite a good lunch at "Harry's". Got back to Drucat about 6pm and played Backgammon with Gallsworthy and made 30 francs. Bed about llpm.

Jan 8th. There was to have been a Scheme with 2 Corps near Lille but the weather is too bad with mist and rain; thank goodness its much warmer. Worked on photographs pretty well all day. Colonel Festing (Rifle Brigade) comes to dine. He is the son of the Captain Festing who interviewed me at G.H.Q. R.F.C. at St Omer about my application to be seconded to the R.F.C. Played Backgammon with Gallsworthy, bed about 11pm.

Lysander
Lysander
Jan 9th. Went up to the aerodrome with Gallsworthy to inspect the Hurricanes that have arrived, also had a look at Drysdale's Lysander. Had a lecture by S/L Geddes on Counter Battery work at noon. Work on notes after lunch. After tea there was a lecture by a chap called Newman on the Maginot Line which was interesting though rather melodramatic in parts, and our seat nearly collapsed through suppressed laughter. 'Smith' the Interpreter returns from leave, also Maurice Whitcombe our senior A.I.L.O. He seems a very nice chap.

Jan 10 1940 Put in my claim for the journey out (850 francs and 12/-) I don't I suppose I shall ever see the money. Read notes and discussed shoots with the R.A. After lunch went for a walk with Gallsworthy, we saw a trout in a stream also a number of hares and two coveys of partridges; the exercise made us really warm. Went into Abbeville for a haircut and bath then dined at a small pub in the country which produced some filthy Cognac.

Jan 11th. Start off with Gallsworthy in one of the Ford 10s at 8.30am to Perenchies, going through Doullens, Arras, La Bassee and Vimy. Found the 43rd in the middle of a Scheme and I saw Charles Colville also Harden, Whitfield and Jefferson. We left them about 1pm and had lunch at Armentierres. On the way back I looked in at A.I.5 and talked to Whitaker and Venner. I discovered some letters for me at I.A.X. and read them for most of the journey back; we arrive about 5.30pm.

Our Interpreter's name is Javelin Ginot and this is too much for 2 Sqn, they tried 'Rumbeling-Vomit' but decided it was too long so now call him Mr Smith.

Ayres (F/Lt) is back, quite a nice chap. Whitcombe starts another naked woman, I must get him to illustrate my E.A.F.

Jan 12th. Lecture on Cameras from the Photograph Officer, then as our office lorry is a bit full, I go up to my billet to read up notes. Went for a walk with Gallsworthy then go to Abbeville and have dinner and a bath at the Tete du Boeuf with Jimmy Drysdale and Wells-Smith.

Jan 13th. Went up to Hesdin with Whitcombe to see the Training Area Commandant to arrange a Scheme with 2 Corps. Had lunch at Area H.Q. there I found Major Lyson R.A. who had been in the R.F.C., it turned out quite a cheery lunch. Got back and had a fairly early bed.

Jan 14th. Tremendous flap about the Bosche invading Belgium. Had to go with the C.O. Whitcombe and Saward to 26 Sqn where there was a rambling discussion without point or conclusion. We then went to Wing. Had dinner at the Continental in Abbeville, but I wasn't feeling too good and couldn't manage more than soup.

Jan 15th. Pack up and drive the Ford 10 with Sapper Neville to Lille. Stop at Bernaville on the way where I find my Field Cashier's Cheque Book which appears to have been chasing me all over France. Go to G.H.Q. and pick up a couple of letters at A.I.10 then have lunch at the Moderne. Arrive at Lille at about 2.30pm and take my kit to the Mess where I find I'm to share an unfurnished room with two other people. The Interpreter tells me that there is an hotel quite close so I go there and book a room with H. & C. and a radiator and a comfortable bed for 12 francs a night, Go back to the aerodrome and have a look at the old fortifications into which we go should the Bosche start plastering the place, hope that it will be warmer weather before then as the galleries are like ice-houses After tea, Whitcombe and I decide to 'go places' in Lille. We try several and end up at Chez Freddy, quite an amusing place with drink at very moderate prices compared to England. The pick-up women were terrible and we refused to even give them a drink. After that we visited a place that had sent a card to the Mess advertising "Drinks, Dancing, and Games", it was nothing more than a brothel and the women were even more terrible than at Chez Freddy so we had a couple of drinks and then left. My hotel is called the Paris Lille and my room is semi-basement; I got to bed about midnight. Thank goodness its a little warmer.

Jan 16th. Went to the aerodrome and then took the Interpreter into Lille to do some shopping. A certain amount of snow falls in the morning but it is warmer, and I am in luxury here compared with Drucat and hope I stay here until the 26th when I am due to return to G.H.Q. The general flap about the Bosche invading seems to be dying down and about time too. Later in the afternoon the wind swings round into the N.E. and the temperature drops with a bump.

Jan 17th. The sun is shining but there is a simply bitter wind and in places the streets are covered with a thick sheet of ice.

Supervised the men filling used petrol cans with earth to form a blast wall to the entrance to the gallery in the ramparts which is our Office. After tea, Whitcombe and I go into Lille to have a bath, we have dinner at Les Huitriers. I eat Mussels for the first time, and very good they were. Rupert Connant (afterwards killed) was having dinner there, also Otto and Tony Summers. After dinner we went to R.10 for a final drink but it closed soon after we got there so we went home. The pavements very slippery.

Jan 18th. Went to 2 Corps H.Q. and saw the G.2. also to the I Branch. Got into an imperial skid on the way home and only saved by the curb. Go and dine with the 43rd who are in 82 Rue de Pots pres de Rue D'Hellenes. I chartered a taxi but the driver was so stupid I had to take charge. Found Whitfeld commanding, and Charles Colvill, Gloomy Richards, Rupert Connant, Clutterbuck, Warnock, and Stringy Blyth there. Had a very cheery evening. Of course my taxi did not re-appear so Rupert Connant put me on my way home.

Jan 19th. The weather is atrocious. After lunch inspect the old fortress with Maurice Whitcombe. I hear that Hugh Bailie is Camp Commandant of 2 Corps.

Hear there is a vehicle coming from Abbeville with mail and hope it is true. Starts to snow about 1.30pm and looks as if there's a lot to come, the thermometer at 10am was 11.6 degrees Farenheit. Some mail does come up in the evening including some uniform for me which started on the 7th. Maurice Whitcombe and I go to Lille to have a bath but there was no hot water. Dine at the Paris Restaurant and go on to the Miami.

Jan 21st. Rose very late, went to 2 Corps with Maurice Whitcombe, he hears that he is to go tO the Air Ministry as a G.2. I am very glad, he seems a most efficient chap. Such an event has to be celebrated, but we both find that we are short of funds, however we manage to collect some 200 francs and go into Lille. After a bath we have have an excellent dinner at La Poule with oysters and half a Spring chicken and Pate. We go on to the Rio (Chez Freddy) afterwards for a while, then back to bed.

Jan 22nd. More snow has fallen and the wind has gone back into the East again and it is bitter cold. Supervised the works in the Ramparts in the morning, after lunch went to see the C.C.M.A. Bed early.

Jan 23rd. Start off for Abbeville but were late in doing so and the roads were icy and we didn't get to Arras till 1.30pm so we had lunch at the Moderne where I saw John Barrlngton and Jock Bradford. They tell me that we are going home on Feb 10.

Go on to G.H.Q. and spend so long talking to Stephens and Hunt that we give up the idea of going to Abbeville and return to Lille.

Jan 24th. Give up the idea of going to Abbeville as I shall have to come back to G.H.Q. at Arras tomorrow and the roads are so bad. Say goodbye to Maurice Whitcombe and see him off about 11am. Walk into Lille with Costa de Beauregard. After tea go in again with Williams to have a bath, but can't find anywhere with hot water so just have a drink in a bar where I buy a Caricature of Mussolini and then return to the Mess for supper.

Jan 25th. Williams drives me to Arras leaving Lille about 10.30am. The roads are still covered with ice and there are many examples of good crashes on the way. Visit the D.A.D.O.S. at Lens and arrive at Arras in time for lunch at the Moderne, where I see Dai Owen of the Welch Fusillers. After lunch go up to G.H.Q. and talk to Hunt, then back to the Moderne and unpack, thanks to Barrington's foresight a room had been booked for me.

Barrington and Bradford arrive about 5pm, we join forces with Lidley, an Imperial Airways pilot whose job is to fly V.I.P.s about. Bed about 11pm.

Jan 26th. Rise at 9.30am and go round to A.I.5 at about 11am where we do nothing but talk over a glass of Sherry. After lunch we look at photographs, and eventually to bed.

Jan 27th. Rise latish; East and Proctor arrive with a rumour that we are wanted at A.I.5. Go round to G.H.Q. and look through the 'Flap' file, in other words the operation orders for the B.E.F. in the event of a 'hot' war starting.

Jan 28th. Rose at about 10.30am. Hear we are to go to Rheims via Paris and there is general rejoicing at the news. Barrington is beside himself with joy because he has a little girl friend in Paris. The only snag is that the laundry has not come back and my washing is missing. Madame, monsieur, mademoiselle, even down to the diminutive Page Boy rush wildly in every direction bringing back different parcels of washing but alas none of it mine. Being a Sunday, of course the laundry is shut which doesn't help matters but right up to the bitter end the hotel Staff continue their efforts. Just as the train was due the small Page Boy appeared at the carriage door with another parcel, but this contained feminine articles of attire. I left some money for the washing to be sent after me. Prior to this Proctor and East had been to A.I.5. to get our Identity Cards and some money and we all had lunch at the Moderne, eventually we caught the 2.27pm train in company with Leslie Henson. We arrive at Paris at 5pm and Barrington hurries off to his 'little Girl' while Bradford and I go to Hotel Madison in the Boulevard St Germaine where we find very comfortable rooms. Have a drink and then a bath. After dinner Bradford introduces me to the wild night life of Paris, taking me to Le Sphynx where we have a most amusing evening. Bed about midnight.

Jan 29th. Get up about 9.30am and go to the Bank to cash a cheque, then back to the Boulevard St Germaine and have a drink and a croissant, then to the Station where we meet the others. We catch the 1pm train getting to Rheims about 3pm and go to the Hotel Lion D'or where we settle in. Have tea at the Cupole then back to the hotel for a bath. Meet some Press correspondents and go to the Palais de Champagne, this place only serves Champagne and serves as a sort of advertisement for the various champagne growers in the neighbourhood. We were able to buy a very reasonable champagne at 1/9d a bottle. Afterwards to the Cafe de la Paix for supper. On returning to the hotel I find Riversdale Elliott in the bar and to arrange to go and visit him tomorrow. Bed early.

Jan 30th. Go up to Panther, the H.Q. of thsqune R.A.F., and see a variety of maps, documents, photographs and so forth. Revisit the Palais de Champagne at 12.30pm with Bishop (Crime reporter of the Daily Express), and after lunch at the Strassbourg return to Panther. Quite a lot of snow fell during the night but this afternoon it began to rain and the streets and the pavements were awful. Was having coffee in the lounge of the hotel when Gerald Lathbury walked in. Dinner at the Foche and a very bad dinner it was and Barrington was with difficulty restrained from hitting the waiter over the head with an empty bottle. Went on to the Cupole and roped in three French officers. Had a long talk with Gerald Lathbury on my return to the Hotel.

Jan 31st. Rose at 8.30am after being disturbed by several visitors. First Barrington who was very peevish because Bradford had rung him up early, then East and Proctor. Send our luggage off in the cars and await their return for our bodies, the others go to 76 Wing and Proctor and I to 75 Wing at Hilaire-le-Grand, about 20 miles from here. I meet the Air C. in C. in the lounge (Ugly Barratt) and we talk about the R.F.C. days, he was in 3 and 16 Sqns. Had lunch at the Lion d'Or and then cars arrive and take us to Hilaire-le-Grand getting there about 2.45pm. We are shown our billets and then have tea. The Wing Commander's name is Group Captain Wann.

1940 FEBRUARY

Feb 1st. Looked at 'Most Secret Files' most of the day. The thaw has set in properly and the ice on the roads is fast disappearing. Changed my billet to the Maire's house as its much nearer the Mess but the lighting is bad and there's only a tiny basin. The Mess is kept impossibly hot. Sewed some buttons on.

Feb 2nd. Again looked at Files. S/L Rouse takes us up to the aerodrome to look at the Wellingtons. Wrote some letters and sewed on more buttons.

Feb 3rd. Did some work in the morning, after lunch went into Rheims with Proctor and had a bath. We then did the round of visits to Palais de Champagne, Le Cupole, then a good dinner at the Strassbourg. Met some of Riversdale Elliott's Sqn in the bar of the Lion d'Or and arrange to go to lunch there tomorrow, they are 88 Sqn.

Feb 4th. Got up late but did a little work and then off to Auberive to have lunch with Riversdale Elliott's Sqn. A good Mess and a well run show all round. Managed to charm a pair of flying boots out of the Equipment officer. On the way back we got a puncture near the Russian Cemetery and Memorial to the Russians killed in the last war and Proctor, who has a Russian wife, talked to the Russian Caretaker who was delighted to talk to someone who could speak his language. Had tea on our return and then an E.N.S.A. concert party arrive. They looked a pretty grim lot but put on a very (?good) concert indeed. They have just completed a three weeks tour at the white Rock at Hastings.

Feb 5th. Spent an idle day "killing time". The truth of the matter is that we have run through all that these people have to show us. No letters of course. I've only had two letters since Jan 15th, somebody ought to have his head crowned; crowned my own this evening leaving black-out. Talked to Rouch after dinner, then bed early.

Feb 6th. Packed up after lunch in readiness for our move to Panther, we started at 3pm and the driver drove like the wrath but in spite of this we arrived at the Lion d'Or in safety. Went out and bought some pyjamas and got lost for a bit. On getting back to the hotel found that Berry, Bradford, and East had arrived, Barry being rather ill. Also found the E.N.S.A. concert party having tea. Went round to the Palais de Champagne and then on to the Strasbourg where we had to wait ages for our dinner. Bed early.

Feb 7th. Went up to Panther about 10.30am and found some letters for us, including five from Bob the latest being dated the 25th. Said goodbye and then went to the Field Cashier and then to the N.A.A.F.I. and from there, being frightened to death by our taxi driver, to the Palais de Champagne to restore our nerves. A very good lunch at the De la Paix and then do some shopping. Go and see Barry who is in bed, then out with Bradford to do more shopping. Back to the hotel and have some coffee and a bath then dine at the De la Paix and afterwards to the Coupole before returning to the Lion d'Or.

Feb 8th. Rise early as we are leaving at 9am. We reach Chauny at about 10.30am and get fixed up at the Hotel de la Gare, having reported at the Inter Allied Air Control Bureau. After a rather indifferent lunch go up again and meet Woodhall (R.A.) and are given the dope. I lost my temper when told that there were only four Squadrons of Single Seater Squadrons allotted for two Corps. Return to the Hotel about 6 pm and Wray of the R.A.F. joins us as he is Duty Officer; he gives me a very fine pair of gloves. Bed early.

Feb 9th. I went and have a. word with Colonel Woodhall and was rather pleased to find that he attached some importance to what I had said yesterday about there being so few Single Seater Squadrons. We are taken in cars to Tergnier at 10.50am where we catch a train that gets us to Amiens about 2pm. and go to the Godbert for lunch. We find most of the restaurant staff outside the front door who inform us that 'Mrs Simpson' is having lunch inside, and sure enough she was. She was looking quite charming and was entertaining some French Red Cross people. We were put at the next table and there was nobody else in the room. We catch the 7pm train on and don't reach Calais till 12.30am and have an awful walk to the hotel.

Feb 10th. Rise late, East does all the Ju-Ju for the tickets and the ship, the Cote d'Argent, sails at 1pm. Tiny Ironside was said to be on board but I didn't see him though I did see the D.M.S. Had some lunch then Bradford withdraws to a seat; about half way across we saw a mine. Land about 2.40 and I stalked past the Customs with the movement order to get the tickets, leaving the others to bring on the kit. I hid a bottle of Haig and a bottle of Gordons in my haversack. Everything came safely on shore and I managed to get a good carriage, but there was then an interminable wait before the train started during which I sent off a telegram to Bob. Eventually reach Victoria about 6pm and take a taxi to Whitehall to find Major Bowyer at M.T.1. but of course he had gone and nobody seemed to know what we should do so we decided to return to our respective homes and await further orders. Lack to Victoria and catch the 7.45pm arriving at Eastbourne at 9.20pm.

Feb 15th. No orders have arrived so I ring up the War Office (3/-) and hear that we are all posted to our I.T.C.s pending vacancies on a Course for A.I.L.O.s at Old Sarum in April. As we had been told that this Course was out-dated and quite useless and that our round of visits to all the V.I.P.s in France was to be instead of this Course, I felt utterly frustrated. I wrote to F.W. Festing at M.O.7. at the War Office, also to Geoffery Hunt at A.I.5. Received orders from the Depot in the evening to rejoin there on the 24th.

Feb 24th. Went to see Colonel F.W. Festing (R.E.) in Room 314 at the War Office at 3pm and had a most amusing interview. W/C Brooks was also there and I fairly blew my top about the Scanty supply of Single Seater Squadrons in France. After a long and sometimes heated argument they both laughed and said they agreed with me, but the higher up authorities thought otherwise. It is I think worth noting that what I foretold then, did happen, resulting in Dunkerque.

Festing told us that we should be going back to France almost immediately, and that we were not to be taken for any other job. Stayed the night at Hartsborne Grange.

Feb 25th. Reported at the Depot and am attached to No 2 Inf Coy (Smudger Smith) with a view to taking over a Shadow Company of 60 men due to report on March 16th.

March 4th. Harry Vernon marches out from Headington Hall at the head of his Draft at 4.20am on their way to France, to the tune of 'Roll out the barrel'.

Receive orders to report at Southampton on the 9th to join No 2 A.I.L. Section with No 2 Sqn B.E.F.

Go home on leave where I find a telegram from Jock Bradford.

March 9th. Leave home about 10.15am and arrive at Sothampton Central at 1.52, got a taxi without trouble, and go to Berth 20 where I am told to report to the E.S.O. at Berth 23 and to embark S.S. Vienna. As I drive up, I see Jock Bradford on deck and Escargot Proctor on the dock. I report and then embark and find East also on board, we all deplore the absence of Barry. Jock had got me a cabin next to his, so we cajole the Purser into promising us a bottle of whiskey as soon as the ship sails at 6pm. We leave the Berth about 4pm and move out to await the convoy. We get some whiskey from the Purser about 7pm. Bed about 11 pm.

March 10th. Land at 8.15am and the first person I see on the dock is McEnroy who is A.M.L.O. Wait till our kit is ashore and then go to the Officers Club, at the end of the Quai, where we have some coffee and hear that our train doesn't leave till 4.30pm, we also hear that we do not go via Paris and that there is no chance of getting any food on the way. Go for a walk with Jock and have a drink at the Normandie then back to the Club where I foregather with McEnroy and Bentley, now a Lt Col, who used to be Bde Major at Shorncliffe. Have lunch with Alker and Mallet and then order some food and drink for the journey. We entrain and travel through the night till 4am where there is a four hour wait and we manage to get a mug of tea. We saw the engine driver and his mate passing our carriage so we hauled them in and primed then with Gin in the hope they would drive the train a little faster. It was they who told us that we could get tea, and the brutes came back when we went for our tea and pinched my collapsible mug.

March 11th. Wake at 6am with a crick in most places in my body. We breakfast off cold hard-boiled ham and veal, and white wine. Manage to fill a bottle with hot water from a leak in the train's water supply and shave and wash after a fashion. We eventually arrive at Arras at 1.45pm and book rooms at the Moderne. Verney (R.B.) goes off to his job as P.A. to the D.C.G.S. Have a bath and in due course a good dinner and to bed early.

March 12th. Report to G.H.Q. at 10am and find that I am posted to No 2 A.T.L. Section with 4 Sqn. Go and do some shopping and then in due course the car arrives at 2.15pm. Proctor and East have gone off to their Sqns and I say goodbye to Jock Bradford who is doing Office Boy, to A.I.5. Arrive at Monchy au Gache near Peronne about tea-time and meet W/C Charles (later shot down in the Middle East} commanding 4 Sqn. After tea Charles takes me to meet the Wing Commander who is Group Captain Churchman.

A nice lot of officers and it appears an efficient Squadron. I have quite a good billet but it's some way from the Mess.

It seems that nowadays in the R.A.F. a Squadron Leader does not command a Squadron but a Flight and that in like fashion a Wing Commander commands a Squadron, and a Group Captain a Wing. All very nice for the chaps but a bit of a fast one on the tax payer.

Introduced to my office where I find I am to sit alone in my glory as the only other A.I.L.O. is up at the A.L.G. (Advanced Landing Ground). Its a bare looking place with the minimum of anything. Guy Charles takes me there and with a "Get all this organised" leaves me to it. I spend the day reading Plan D. The supposed solution of what B does, if A does something else.

1940 MARCH

Went up to the aerodrome and visited the various Flight offices. All pretty grim and cold as there is a lot of ice and snow about. Do some work in the office and after tea Charles takes me up to Wing to meet the Secretary of State for War (Street). It was a foul day and the old man was late.

March 15th. Charles tales me up to H.Q. 2 Corps to meet the B.G.S. (Ritchie) who is annoyed because I have not been on an A.I.L.O. Course. I tell him what I was told at G.H.Q. that the Course was out of date and that we had been sent on a tour instead of doing the Course but he doesn't seem at all satisfied. Go on to the Mess there where I find Hugh Bailie and Perkins (killed by a bomb a month or so afterwards) who used to be on the Rhine with us. Go on to the A.L.G. where I meet Denis Carey (R.A.). Dine on the way home at the Moderne with Stevens and Venner.

March 17th. Did some work in the morning then went and watched a Rugger match between 4 Sqn and a French Squadron. They beat us easily but it was most amusing to watch. Tea on the way home at St Quentin, I was last here in 1914.

March 18th. Not much to be done bar the usual routine. Went into St Quentin and had my hair cut and a bath.

March 21st. Rang up the A.L.G. and left a message for Carey to meet me at the Moderne. Tried Field Cashier at Bernaville on the way up but of course he was out. Met Carey and had lunch on him, then went and saw Geoffery Hunt at A.I.5. also Bradford. Managed to catch the Field Cashier on the way home. Seys (Wing Photographic Officer) comes to supper.

March 22nd. The day is devoted to the official welcome of Ugley Barrett the A.O.C. He remembered meeting me at Rheims and was quite pleasant but the first good morning for photographs that we've had for weeks was wasted on his parade. A few photographs were taken in the afternoon.

March 23rd. Nothing much doing. In the evening Charles takes Fuller, Maffett, the Doctor, and myself up to 13 Sqn for Churchman and Gray's promotion party, held in their cellar which is decorated by a dado of semi nude women. Quite an amusing party.

March 24th. Went to early Service which was held in the Canteen Reading Room, only three in the congregation. After tea took Fuller, Maffett, and on of the new boys into St Quentin for baths and dinner. We had a bath at the Hotel Moderne, a drink at Cafe Moderne, and dinner at the Garre. Home about midnight.

March 26th. Hear a rumour from Carey that I am booked for that damned Course. Tried to ring up Geoffery Hunt but the line is out of order. Rang up Featherstone and Mathews at 2 Corps but couldn't get any confirmation. A Canadian Air Commodore came out to pay us a visit and he turned out to be Cuffe who used to be with me in 32 Sqn in 1917; the whole party became a riot. After tea Fuller, Bencher, Campbell Voulaire, and Maffett and I went into Peronne and dined at the a la Paix. My car goes dud and I have to leave it there.

March 28th. John Fuller takes me up in a Lysander. We fly over Beaumont Hamel and Marieux but owing to constant snow storms were unable to do the whole 8th Corps front of 1916.
R.F.C. wings
R.F.C. wings


The whole Squadron have been constantly urging me to put up my Wings so today I do. Maffett and I go into St Quentin and dine at La Paix.

March 30th. Did some photographs and then had to wait about for the rewiring of the car to be finished. We didn't get started till 2.30pm but eventually get to 2 Corps H.Q. at Phalempin. Saw Pemberton who got Huxley from his tea and we discussed Tip and Run raids and Sorties. Talked to Featherstone about priority of photographs. Stated back about 5.30pm reaching Monchy at 8.15pm.

March 31st. Do some photographs in the morning, then Bencher and I go out and visit Beaumont Hamel on the ground, also Hebuterne and then back to Marrieux where our aerodrome was in 1915. We then go down to Doullens where we have a bottle of Volnay 1923 of which we approve so much that we take one back for supper.

1940 APRIL

April 1st. No news of a relief arriving for me so I ring up A.I.5. but can get no information. Go into St Quentin in the afternoon and have a bath. There is quite a good Cinema in the Canteen in the evening with Pluto and the Crazy Gang. Wing Commander Churchman comes to dine.

Hard at work on photographs in the morning. Huxley of 2 Corps comes over for lunch, but has no news of my relief. Go into Peronne with Pearce to a N.A.A.F.I. concert in the evening. Quite a good, if dirty, show.

April 5th. Pack up and get money from Bencher. Drive Into Amiens with Pte Woods passing Villers Bretonneux on the way. Catch the train getting to Boulogne about 3.45pm. Have some coffee and a bath. Find Wing Commander Oakley at the Bar also Roger Morton now a Lt Col commanding a Battallion of M.G.s. Bed about 11.15 pm.

April 6th. Get up at 8am to find that there is no Cold water. After breakfast go down to Ship and find old Proctor there and share a cabin with him. He tells me that East and probably Barrington are also coming on the Course which is a great cheer. Sail about 10.45am and land at 12.45pm (again with a bottle of Gordons and Haig). Proctor goes and gets seats while I get the baggage through. Get up to London about 2.45pm and catch the 3.45pm down to Eastbourne where I find Bob waiting for me on the platform.

April 7th. Catch the 4.32pm from Eastbourne getting to Victoria about 5.30pm. Have a sandwich at Waterloo and catch the 7.30pm to Salisbury arriving about 9.30pm, a filthy crowded train with no Restaurant car. Get up to Old Sarum about 10pm to find Proctor and East already there, but no Barrington. Have to share a, room with Huddlestone, a Captain in the R.H.A., but he is going to live out as from tomorrow.

April 8th. The First A.I.L.O. course starts.

April 9th. Longly takes me up and we go down to Southampton Water, a very nice trip lasting about 45 minutes.

May 4th. A.I.L.O.s Course ends.

1940 MAY

May 11th. Heard the telephone at about 8.15am and went down to find that it was a telegram from the War Office recalling me. Caught the 10.57am train for Dover, and after changing at Hastings and Ashford, arrived at Dover Priory. Nobody thought to say that this train didn't go on to the Marine, so I was carried on to St Martin's Hill before I found out what was happening. Fortunately there was another train going back soon which I caught and arrived at The Lord Warden Hotel, Dover, at about 3pm, to find that the boat sailed at 1.45pm. The acting Staff Captain at the Lord Warden turned. out to be Grubb who was in Melvill with me at Haileybury. The Hotel is used as a Rest Camp so I booked a room and then went for a walk. After Mess talked to Grubb and then to bed.

May 12th. Rose late and took an easy morning. Said goodbye to Grubb and embarked on the S.S. Queen of the Channel at 12.45pm. Found Featherstone on board, now G.S.O. 2 Air, having been recalled from Old Sarum. Got some sandwiches on board which I eat with some of the Press, and explained to them what "Heavy Gunfire" meant. The usual turmoil at Boulogne, so I join with Featherstone and Fox, a subaltern in the Coldstream, in chartering a taxi in which we embark after having a meal at the Folkestone, and start off for Arras. The crossing from England took about two hours and we only saw one mine on the way which was just off Boulogne. At Arras the 'All Clear' was going, and immediately our A.A. opened fire but at what, heaven and they alone knew. Looked in at G.H.Q. where everyone had gone to earth, and saw Geoffery Hunt, Steve, and Jock, I also had a look at the War Situation map. On to Phalenpin and 2 Corps where I rang up our A.L.G. and in due course Griffiths arrives with the Ford at Au Garcon Vert and in due course arrive at Lille about dark. Go to the Office in the Fort and talk to Coombes (R.A.) our new A.I.L.O. Then to the Mess where I get some food, and then to bed, its the first time in this war that I sleep on a Camp bed.

May 13th. Got up about 7.30am and had a good deal of trouble in getting a wash. After breakfast go down to the office and have talk to W/C Charles who tells me that the Belgians are retreating faster than they were supposed to do and the whole situation is in a state of flux. The Huns have got as far as Tirlemont but it isn't known if they have yet occupied it. The Belgians keep streaming back. Various 'Alerts' sounded during the morning and afternoon and one Flt Sgt swears he saw a Hun flying low down. Did some photographs during the day.

Young Vaughan is missing. He went up at 0715 hrs, it is now 2315 hrs. I am taking duty A.I.L.O.

May 14th. Charles went up to 2 Corps last night and hadn't returned by midnight so I tried to get Corps on the telephone and found that he was still waiting for orders so I couldn't go to sleep. Eventually I do get Corps again about 0315 hrs and get some orders for the morning. Charles returns and the pilots start coming in for briefing. Go and have breakfast about 9am and spend the rest of the day as usual. A party with Wells Smith turns up and wants to be carted to the Carlton which I do. Wood did a special sortie going as far as Looz, fifty three miles east of Brussels, and could see nothing, even as far as Tongres.

May 15th. A rumour comes through that the Dutch have chucked their hand in but this turns out to be untrue, and it's only one Division that was surrounded. Hear that I am wanted up at our A.L.G. at Aspelaire so get ready for the move. Wrottesley arrives, sent us by Geoffery Hunt who didn't know what to do with him as he has only had a Commission about a month and knows nothing about either the Army or the R.A.F. Go into Lille for a bath and pick up a New York Times Correspondent who lends us his bedroom at the Hotel to change in. The town is filled with refugees going goodness knows where.

May 16th. Wake up at 6am and send Griffiths off to pick up Bakke's Kit, Start at 9.30am and get to Aspelaire about 12.30pm seeing many refugees on the way. During the afternoon a Junkers 88 comes and shoots up the roads. Hear in the evening that we shall be moving back to Lille. Our journey up to Aspelaire was via Tournai - Leuze - Ath - Enghien - Ninnove. Am on duty and up all night, most of the A.L.G. going back to Lille, and the Squadron's Rear Party, still at Monchy au Gache, moves up to Lille. Wood is missing. The Army starts retiring from the River Dyle to the Brussells Canal.


May 17th. A fairly quiet day except that I get repeated calls from the Mayor of Ninnove asking permission to allow the Refugees to proceed, to which I reply that I have no authority to grant permission. The poor man sounds as if he was in tears.

Charles comes back from a Corps conference about 0800 hrs and tells me that we are to go back to Lille. I leave Aspelaire about 2200 hrs with the remnants of the A.L.O. and as no lights are allowed on vehicles it is quite a problem to find one's way as all the main roads are crowded with streams of Refugees walking half asleep all over the road, not to mention their vehicles which vary between big wagons to small wheelbarrows. I get my two D.R.s and explain on the map to them the way I want to go, then taking the bulbs out or their headlamps, make a small hole in the blackout on their rear lamps so that they are just visible; then I send them ahead to leap-frog each other. It's a nightmare journey as the Refugees are everywhere. We cross the Escault at Pecq, thereby avoiding Tournai, and arrive at Lille about 0230 hrs. I try the Mess first but find the building deserted, so go on to the Fort where I find the whole Squadron 'standing by' to clear out altogether at thirty minutes notice. All ranks to stay in the Fort. Get to bed about 0400 hrs.

Today the Army retired from the Brussells Canal to Dendre; the 3rd Div being at Alost and the 1st Div at Grammont.

May 18th. Woke about 0830am and did some briefing. On the whole a quiet if busy day. Charles arrives with the rear party from Aspelaire and he decides quite rightly to let us all go back to the Mess proper, instead of trying to pig it at the Fort all the time. I go off with Charles to Corps to get instructions for tomorrow and of course we are directed to the wrong Corps H.Q. but eventually -,we find 2 Corps at Renaix, going through Tornai, which was burning in several places. We have to hang about and are invited to dinner in their Mess which is in a Chateau. The owner of the Chateau comes in with his arms full of bottles of Champagne which he implores us to drink, so as to save it falling into the hands of the Bosche, quite drinkable stuff too and we do our best to assist him in his amiable intention. Eventually a conference gets under way, and we start back for Lille about 2230 hrs getting horribly mixed up with the convoys retiring from the line of the Dyle. We were diverted to avoid passing through Tornai as the Bosche had bombed it again and it said to be in flames. Both Charles and I went to sleep, and when I woke up I realised the driver hadn't a clue where he was; woke Charles and we had a look at the map and discovered we were in Orchies and heading for Hunland. Eventually we got back to Lille and held a conference; Finally got to bed about 0400 hrs. Ford missing.

The Army retired from the Dendre to Escault.
Hurricane
Hurricane

May 19th. Woken at 0920 hrs and got up, had breakfast and went down to the office. Two of our young pilots were shot down while taking off from Lille Marcq aerodrome, otherwise there have been no casualties today to the Squadron. Three Hurricane pilots were shot during the day but all of them baled out. One of them had lunch in the Mess after he'd landed and seemed in grand spirits. I am in night duty tonight; and this has been the first opportunity I've had to write this. A Hurricane landed on our aerodrome today, the pilot being wounded, but he is quite O.K.

The retirement to the River Escault was completed in good order. The Bosche appear to be very slow in following up when we retire and prisoners, subsequently taken, say that the Bosche army are pretty exhausted and have been unable to get much food up.

The day started quietly enough till five Hurricanes, flying low, came over our aerodrome and then started to shoot up a convoy in a road about 1000 yards away. This seemed to me to be pretty ominous and, as Charles was away at Corps, I got hold of Bill Maffett and consulted with him. He told me to get the Squadron transport on to the road ready to move off while he went up and made a recce to see if the Germans were within a mile of us or not. Bill goes up and gets well shot up for his trouble as soon as he gets anywhere near the place where the Hurricanes had done their shooting. I get the Squadron transport on the road in convoy and heading in the right direction when Bill returns and reports that he has been unable to see any but our troops for many miles to the East of us; I suppose the Hurricanes boys had either misread their maps, or had received Third Column orders over the telephone. Anyhow everybody calms down and life returns to normal.

The first mail for many days arrives and I get three letters from Bob which makes so much difference to one's outlook on life.

Got to bed at 9 pm and slept for twelve hours.

May 21st. Had a bath in the Mess despite the almost continuous noise of Lille's s air raid sirens which never seem able to agree upon what is happening as two will sound the "All Clear" while the other three sound the "Alert". This has been going on for the last day or two. I send Blood down to Wizernes with two Flights. There is a lot of rumour flying around of despondent kind which we discountenance. An archie nose cap descends with a horrible whistle quite close to us, which causes a considerable amount of 'consternation and dismay' amongst the Squadron. Reynaud makes a very good fighting speech on the wireless which puts good heart into one. Hear we may be moving tomorrow. Sit up and wait for Dennis Carey who has gone up to Corps.

May 22nd. Didn't get to bed till 0315 hrs but was up and breakfasting 0900 hrs. Charles goes down to Wizerne to see what the condition of things are like there. I get my Section's stuff packed up and ready to move. The R.A.F. seem quite happy to leave behind a lot of stuff, some or which we collect, including a whole lot of drink that the Mess Sergeant seemed to think was not worth taking. Featherstone comes over from 2 Corps to see Charles and Huxley rings up to say that he is to stay with us till Charles comes back, so we keep him for lunch. Charles returns and reports that Wizerne is a bad place, it has been bombed and shot up, so instead of going there, we are to go to an airfield beside the Foret de Clairmarais which I used to know in 1917.

I manage to get on the move with my little convoy of two D.R.s, two Ford 8 h.p. cars, and the office lorry, before the Squadron does. I have chosen a route of Lille - Armentierres - Hazebrouck - Ebblinqhem - Clairmarais. This cuts out as many towns as possible and avoids the main roads, in the hopes that we shall meet less Refugees and also be less likely to be dive-bombed by Stukas. In spite of these precautions there was an awful lot of transport in the roads including refugee staff. We passed through Nieppe of
1914 memories and of course nearly all the district was familiar. We saw the Brothers from the Monastery on the Mt des Cats evacuating, and I felt like stopping to expostulate with them. After Hazebrouck which had been heavily bombed, we kept a sharp eye open for Hostile Aircraft, and I appointed Griffiths, my soldier servant, A.R.P. warden, to keep on eye on the sky through the car's back window. We saw three Ensigns, flying very low, coming from the West and going in the direction of St Omer. On arrival at Clairmarais, I parked my convoy in the wood and went off with Gerry Coombes in my car to try and find a billet for the Section.We found a farm and went into it but found it was absolutely crammed with refugees. As we left the farm there were some H.A. overhead and I suddenly saw something white leave one of them. I pointed this out to Coombes and with one voice we shouted "Parachutists", and leapt into the car to give chase. The white objects had disappeared very quickly and I said to Coombes that I half thought they must have (been?) bombs after all, when some stunning explosions a mile or two away made further comment unnecessary. Some of the bombs dropped at this time must have been time-bombs these went off in the early morning and woke Coombes; but for this, we should have been left behind and caught by the Germans.

Just then, the three Ensigns we had previously seen re-appeared on their homeward journey, and at that moment a flight of about 10 Messerschmidts dived down on them, and after the Messerschmidts came about 8 Hurricanes and a grand dog-fight ensued, with the usual ending of the machines running out of ammunition and breaking off the battle but there was an exception to this battle. One Hurricane got well and truly onto a Messerschmidt's tail, and every time the Hun tried to turn East, the Hurricane fired at him. Eventually the Hun was forced down to tree-top height and eventually landed behind our forest, the pilot escaping into it and presumably sharing it with us during the night.

I then made a recce of the airfield, and hearing that it was constantly shot up, chose a site for my Section that was out of the easy line of flight for an attack, and yet close enough to be handy to the Flights. In the airfield I found Campbell from A.I.5. with disturbing news of the Fourth Column in general, and of two armoured cars and four tanks in particular who were supposed to he in the immediate neighbourhood of the Foret. Campbell wanted an immediate sortie but the Squadron had not arrived and Hankey was the only available pilot; I was in no position to order him up. Luckily Wally Barton landed shortly afterwards, and himself want up again to do a recce. On his return he reported that he had been heavily fired on from the area round Desvres, but the failing light made it impossible to ascertain the nationality of the firers. So the night comes, and we settle down under the canvas flaps of our office lorry, for lack of better accommodation, at about 2300 hrs. And, as Dennis Carey said, 'The Hosts of Midian prowled and prowled around'. By this time the Squadron had arrived and had come to ask for the drink we had salvaged from the Mess at Lille.

Young Pence was shot down in the morning, bringing our causalities in the last eleven days to eleven pilots and eleven air gunners. Bill Mallins had gone up early to do a pre-arranged shoot with a troop of 6" Hows on a bridge which the Germans were trying to build near the Faubourge de Valenciennes, S.E. of Tourmai, but was driven off by Messerschmidt 109s. We were asked to try this shoot again later, as it was said to be very important. We asked for fighter protection and was told that it was not available, so Pence was sent up to do the shoot. He was shot down by 109s over the troop that he was supposed to to the shoot with. Several times we had asked for fighter protection during the last ten days, and each ime we were told that it was not available

May 22nd 1940 - AN APPRECIATION

Looking back on the events of this day, I am tremendously impressed by the good fortune that enabled us to avoid capture by the Germans. When we arrived at Clairmarais in the evening of the 21st of May, we had no idea of how precarious our position was, nor were able to get any information in the general trend of events.

Our good luck started when the bombs went off in the early morning of the 22nd woke up Coombes. Secondly, the mist that was dense enough literally to prevent the German recce unit seeing us make our get-away, was low-lying and not thick enough to prevent our aircraft taking off. Thirdly, very heavy storm of rain that came on, before we went down the Docks at Dunkerque to embark and continued till we were clear of the harbour, sent all the German aircraft, that had been bombing the dock area, home.

Talk about a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of smoke by day! The Israelites had nothing on us.


(The dates of the above paragraphs don't seem to tally with the diary below. I haven't changed anything, since Edward Packe sometimes got dates wrong in his diary as he often wrote it up later. I'm not sure which the correct dates are! Ed.)

May 23rd. Woken up by Coombes at 0330 hrs who told me that we have to get packed up and started in 15 minutes. It seems that he had been woken up by some bombs going off and gone out to relieve nature and while doing this, had heard the D.L.I. Guard of a Corporal and six men falling-in. He asked them what they were up to, and they told him that German armoured cars were imminent, and they were getting out of it because although they had an anti-tank rifle, they had no ammunition for it. We had the hell of a job to get dressed, packed up, and get everything into the office lorry, but we managed it in good time. Even my Ford car, which had been the hell of a jot to get going in the mornings, behaved itself, and we tagged in behind the Squadron which was just moving off having forgotten all about us. The weather was just right for the occasion; the aerodrome itself being clear enough for the aircraft to take off, their orders being to land at Dunkerque if the aerodrome there was all right, but if it wasn't, they were to fly back to England.

The Squadron moves off in thick mist but before we'd gone a mile, Charles remembers that we had not set fire to the petrol, so he and Faulkner go back on motor bikes to do so. They manage to get the petrol dump going and as they were coming away, they see the first German motor cyclists arriving on the other side of the airfield. We move on again, with various maddening halts due to other units cutting in, and go through Ochtezeele - Pollezeele - Bergues, to the outskirts of Dunkerque where we halted. The journey had been a nightmare as the heavy mist had made the windscreen very wet and the dust from the convoy on the un-metalled roads made vision practically nil.

Tea and haversack rations were produced for the R.A.F. other ranks but as usual the Officers were given nothing. So seeing a Cafe across the road, I sent Griffiths over to see if they would let him use their fire which of course they did, and we had breakfast off the tinned sausages and things we'd brought from Lille, together with numerous 'Coffee Cognac'. Then after a wash and a shave, we went and got a bit of sleep on the canal bank. There had been various air raid warnings and some bombs had been dropped but the weather on the whole was not conducive to hostile activities of that sort. About 1000 hrs we returned to our Cafe to have what Coombs called a 'midday Stoup'. They produced some quite pleasant Alsace wine and we drank it in the garden at the back of our Cafe where we joined by Merryweather (R.E.) and Beek the interpreter, also a Flight Lieutenant of 13 Sqn. It was very pleasant sitting there in the sun in spite of the odour that came from the local latrine, after the bustle and uncertainty of our departure from Clairmarais.

At about 1100 hrs we fell in again and by an M.P. on a motor bike, we drove into the Bastion in Dunkerque. Here I was told that we were going to embark on a destroyer and that the only kit we could take was what we could carry. I got my valise and cricket bag off the lorry and I picked out what I thought cost the most, it seemed an awful lot to carry but I thought I could manage it. We then hung about and I suddenly saw Charles's kit being put on to another lorry whereupon I called Griffiths and we re-packed my kit and put it all on the same lorry. It now started to rain as grim earnest which was just as well as we had had several Air Alerts and shortly afterwards a number of lorries arrived to take us all to the docks. We were in the last lorry and having boarded it found there was no driver. We waited quite a long time and at last Faulkner said he'd drive the thing and off we set. There was a narrow bridge over some water which was just broad enough to take the lorry and while crossing this, Faulkner confessed to me that he had never driven a lorry. However we reached the docks in safety and drove along H.M. Destroyer 'Wildswan' (subsequently sunk). We embark, with my kit; everything suddenly seemed so safe and serene with just a radio going. As soon as I got below I lay down and was just going to sleep when I was woken up by a sailor who told me that I was lying on the ammunition hoist and that as we were just sailing it might be needed and I was in the way. He suggested I went to a cabin along the alley-way which I did and there found Coombes and Faulkner, we had a party and then went to sleep on the floor. In due course we arrived Dover Marine and disembarked, and Charles decided to stay here for the night, the other ranks being marched up to the Rest Camp. I send Bob a wire, and then we seek the Refreshment Room and got some coffee and sandwiches. While we were eating these the Air Raid Alarm went and they tried to bundle us all out, as they said they had to go down into their cellar. We refuse to be parted from our grub and go out and sit in the edge of the platform to eat it. A policeman then arrives and tried to drive us into the Shelter but we'll have none of it and finally finish our meal in peace: of course nothing happens.

We find that the Lord Warden Hotel is full, so we go to the Grand where I ring up Bob. The long faces of the people listening to the 2100 hrs News on the radio were infuriating. Have dinner and a bath, and then to bed. The crossing was done at 30 knots and took about two hours.

We catch the 0920 hrs train for Victoria by the skin of our teeth. The Doctor and I go and cash a cheque and then have lunch at Victoria, afterwards catching the 1545 hrs train for Ringway aerodrome, near Manchester.

May 25th. Fly down with John Fuller in a Percival Q.6.. (passing over Windsor Castle on the way) to Heston where we landed. I had a talk with two pilots who were flying two of the Ensigns I had seen near St Omer on the 22nd; they told me that they had no armament of any sort and had been taking stores out from England to St Omer. I eventually got a car to take me up to the W.O. and then caught the 1545 hrs train to Pevensey

May 28th. News of Belgium chucking up the sponge. Apparently the King of Belgium capitulated, but the Government refused to acquiesce.


1940 SEPTEMBER

Sept 28th. I had been notified that The End House had been broken into, so I got leave to qo down and see what had been taken.

I left Helmsey about 0900 hrs and drove to York, looking in at the aerodrome on the way to pick up a gas-mask, and then caught the 1000 hrs train to London About half way to London the Guard come along to say that the train would not go to Kings Cross, owing to bomb damage, but would decant us at Wood Green. I had a good lunch on the train for 2/6d and eventually the train did take us to Kings Cross in good time. There was an air-raid in progress as we left our carriages and a dismal voice on a loud-speaker asked us to make our way to a Shelter. Ignoring this, I found a taxi to take me to Victoria. London seemed much as usual but very empty. Buck house looked the same except for a crater, and a section of railings missing from the front. Got to Victoria in time to catch a train for Eastbourne but we had to go by Brighton where we changed. I was told at Brighton that there was a U.X. bomb at Eastbourne and that we would be thrown out at Hampden Park, but the train shunted there and took us to Pevensey where I got out. There was another air-raid in, and bombs were dropping on Eastbourne. I walked from Pevensey Station and tried to take the usual short cut through the Castle but was stopped at the Westham end by a sentry who demanded my Identity Card and made me sign my name in a book before he would let me in; the usual exit was blocked by a concrete gun-post and I had some trouble in getting out. I would have walked across the Marsh but I wanted to send Bob a telegram from the Pevensey P.O., knowing that the one at the Bay was closed. I got home about 1900 hrs and saw to the Black-out and lit the boiler, then went round to the Bay Hotel where I saw Bambridge and then went on to the Castle. On getting back to the End House I found the Guard from the Boxes had pinched my kit so went there and cursed them.
Celia Packe
Celia Packe (later Dibblee) daughter of Edward Packe.


Sept 29th. Had a thorough check-up and found that all that was missing was some food and Celia's bicycle. Mrs Whippy came round and amongst other things told me that me that the Guard at the Boxes had been very good about looking after the house, so I went round there. I found the Officer (Curtis) who was in charge and thanked him for his trouble and also apologised for cursing the Guard last night, and asked him to meet me at the County Club that evening. Spent the day gardening and checking up etc.

Sept 30th. Woke to the sound of bombs from the Bexhill direction followed by Beaufors and small arms fire so leapt out of bed and out on to the balcony but could see nothing. Returned to bed for a short line, then got up and made some tea and had breakfast. About 10 am I heard aircraft above the clouds and then saw bombs bursting in Bexhill. I counted eleven bursts but there might have been more and I heard after that there were thirty. About 11am three Messerschmidt 109s flew past the pylons under 200 ft up hotly pursued by a Spitfire. One of the 109's appeared to be hit as he turned back and landed on the Marshes near the Pevensey - Bexhill road but was able to set fire to his machine.

After lunch I saw a grand dog-fight over Eastbourne which drifted away towards Newhaven. About tea-time the whole sky was filled with the roar of engines but the aircraft were over the clouds and I couldn't see them. I think there most have been between fifty and sixty of them.

I arranged with Bambridge to find out where the London train would leave from and to come and fetch me tomorrow. I hear that two German aircraft were brought down in the sea, and another one that landed near the Pevensey - Eastbourne road. Another one too that came down near Hailsham.

Oct 1st. Bambridge arrives about 9.45am and takes me to Eastbourne Station and we see the 109 that was brought down, it landed near the Searchlight station.

We have to make several detours to get to the Station and when we do get there, the Air Raid warning goes, however the train leaves on time.

The Seaside part of Eastbourne had caught it quite a bit, also several houses near the second-hand furniture place, also in the Technical School place near the Station. The streets appeared to be much as usual though there were fewer people in them.

Caught the York train at Kings Cross and after a good lunch on the train got home in time for tea.

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