Unlike the unfortunate experience of the previous writer in this series, mine is a story of Huntin Shootin and Fishin. It began on 29th April 1942 with a journey, in company with Harry Bayliss, Alf Morgan and Jelly Edwards, to Hinckley where we were accommodated at a Lido. The transition from a comfortable home to service life was eased by a remarkable character named Cpl Ward, a Regular, who, each evening after we had retired to our bunks, told us of some of his experiences and also some funny stories. Space does not permit and this is not the occasion for more detail except to say that he had a copy of the Institute of Bankers Journal which he said was his Bible when he was in a Bank. I believe he was illiterate.
A move to the RAOC Clerks School at Saltburn followed, where we were told a little about the ammunition side of the Corps as few go to an Ammunition Depot. Needless to say, we did, and found ourselves posted to Yorkshire. There I was quickly posted to a Beach Landing Party which had been dormant for a couple of years but was at that moment receiving attention from War Office. Very soon the BLP moved to Shefford, Beds, and one hot September day we had to do a march in full kit. At a subsequent foot inspection I was told by the MO that I should have to report to hospital because of a hammered toe.
A few days later I attended at Hatfield House. Three months later I was still a guest by kind position of his Grace, the Marquis of Salisbury, and by reason of losing the joint of a toe which turned septic. In the meantime the BLP had landed in North Africa. After a wonderful three months convalescence at Wormleybury and Kingston-on-Thames, I returned to Shefford. A posting to Bletchley followed which led to regular home visits. Hitch hiking was the mode of transport and it varied from private cars to lorries, motor cycles, a Bren Carrier and, once, an amphibious vehicle driven by a man who had had a few drinks and would persist in doing 60 mph.
A move to a detachment a few miles away led to some of the huntin and shootin. The site was in woods near Woburn belonging to the Duke of Bedford and it became customary for us to take home for the pot a pheasant, rabbit or hare. The weapon was a .22 and many pleasant evenings were spent in this way. In the light of a full moon roosting birds really are a sitter if you have good eyesight. The inadvertent shooting of a small deer proved too much to take home and an embarrassment to the cook.
Then, one day in May 1945 as I was about to depart home on one of those elastic day passes, came the Call. This was a telephone call from HQ and meant that I was booked for overseas. The MO couldnt reveal our destination but advised take your rods and skis. Leave did NOT follow but a frustrating three weeks at Donington and Edinburgh did. At last the boat was ready and after three miserable days during which I realised that I was even less of a sailor than a soldier, we sailed up Trondheim Fjiord, landing exactly one month after the German capitulation. At first the Norwegians did not welcome us with open arms for they had suffered much and appeared not to welcome more troops. One day a girl of 16 called at the billet and said that her father, a Missionary, wished half a dozen of us to visit them. That was the beginning of a lasting friendship with a delightful family which led to many introductions. Week-ends were spent in exploring the countryside in that magnificent summer of 1945 when the weather was as fine and warm as any experienced in this country. In September five of us spent a memorable four days leave near Meraker and close to the Swedish border. Climbing and fishing for rainbow trout was the order of the day.
Winter came and with it the snow, the cold and that peculiar and beautiful phenomenon, the aurora borealis. Every youngster in Norway seems to skate and ski as soon as he or she can walk. The ice rink had been our football field in the summer and its making was accomplished simply by flooding the pitch with water. Ski-ing is at first a difficult sport and it is not easy to get up when one has fallen. But fair progress was made in grand surroundings.
For the few who were destined to remain through the winter home leave was arranged. This was another of those nasty sea trips from Oslo to Liverpool. I was due to reach Norway again in time for Christmas but, owing to a late train arrival in Edinburgh, I spent the time at home with my family and more than a fortnight in London waiting suitable flying conditions. When I returned to Trondheim after an absence of almost six weeks I found most of the Unit had gone home and my own departure for Oslo was imminent. The Capital had many attractions to offer including many fine concerts at the University. One week-end I went to a ski-jumping competition which I consider to be the most thrilling sport I have seen. On the 1st April - a date when no doubt many of you were busy - I went for a weeks ski-ing in the hills near Hamar. Our party of three was joined by a Norwegian whom we met and did our cooking. A report on this holiday was recorded under the title of I remember ..... in a book kept in the hut.
There followed a period when first an RAF team and then Aston Villa stayed with us as our guests in the Mess. The bar was closed regularly at 10pm and re-opened at half hour intervals until the early hours when we would decide to take a trip to Oslo to cool off. The football matches were also enjoyed by all.
Home leave came again in May, this time from Bergen after an interesting train journey from Oslo. It was arranged that my return flight should be expedited and this led to an enquiry from War Office for the reason. Time was running short! In July came my departure and the customary quayside drinking party.
From all this I received a Certificate from Prince Olaf thanking me for helping to liberate the Norwegians. It was a pleasure!
Bankers in Uniform - 2
by Bernard Hayward
Many of the Bank's staff served in the Armed Forces during the Second World War, and some ten years after returning to their banking careers, they were requested to share their experiences 'away from the BMB' with their colleagues. The recollections of three members of staff duly appeared in the staff's News Letter - this one by Bernard Hayward appearing in the Autumn of 1957 edition