Barrington's enlistment into the armed forces
The Spanish Civil War had broken out in 1936 and it was obvious that, with the rise of Hitler and Mussolini, there would soon be another war so, along with many of my contemporaries, I joined the Territorial Army.
I enlisted as a Gunner in the 83rd Welsh Field Regiment Newport at 18 years of age. On 2nd September, 1939, my 19th birthday and the day before war was declared between Britain and Germany, a sergeant came to the door with my papers and I was mobilised for war with the 83rd Field Regiment. This was the beginning of seven years of service. There was a demand for T.A. Gunner units to form second line regiments and we in the 83rd formed a second line 133 Field Regiment.
By virtue of exemption from London Matriculation, I had been posted to an officer producing (OPU) section of the Regiment and shortly after mobilisation we had our first Regimental Headquarters at Clytha Hall near Abergavenny. Fourteen of us had quarters on the first floor with straw palliases for sleeping! We then proceeded to Tenby where we formed 133 Field Regiment. We were billeted in a private house and even had coke-fired central heating, though we still slept on the floor.
In November 1939, I was sent to 121 HAC Officer Cadet Training Unit at Wellington Barracks in Aldershot and whilst there underwent six months of the hardest training, both physically and mentally, in my experience. Three years work was crammed into those six months. I was commissioned on 4th May, 1940 – there was no official ceremony. We had an allowance of about £84 which covered the essentials of service dress, boots, great coat, valise etc. I had my father’s “Sam Brown” belt.
I was only too aware that the Germans had ended the so-called “phoney war” and were in fact breaking through into Holland and Belgium - the war really had started.
In May, 1940, I found myself destined to go to France and join a Field Regiment in the 3rd Division of the British Expeditionary Force then commanded by General Montgomery. I and a fellow Gunner Officer set off in the train to Dover - our valises in tow. However, in the House of Commons, the War Minister – Hore-Bellisha - in reply to a question, gave an assurance that no further British soldiers under 20 years of age would be sent to France. Hence, my journey was frustrated and I found myself back at the Young Officers' Course on Salisbury Plain wondering what was going to happen.
Rumours were rife – a favourite was of German spies being dropped dressed as nuns etc!! The whole of Europe seemed to be collapsing. France capitulated, as did the King of the Belgians and we were left on our own, having suffered defeat ourselves in the Norway campaign. Then came the withdrawal of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk with disastrous loss of all the equipment, vehicles and guns – not to mention life - between 27th May and 3rd June 1940.
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