From Steve Dobson, son of Charlie Dobson 1st Bn HLI 1944-47
A few years ago, I was in touch with my Dad’s friend Angus McWilliam, who had remained in touch with my old man for many years, and was a whole week younger than my Dad. Angus had very kindly sent me some photos and memories to share on the HLI web site.
Angus and my Dad, Charlie Dobson, had remained friends since meeting on basic training in Northern Ireland in 1944. I’m told that there were three of them in their little gang with a Yorkshireman named Freddie Brannan making up the trio. Freddie Brannan took the photograph below, which shows Bob Hope, with his arm raised pointing at something. Bob Hope was with some American officers and was spotted by Freddie and other lads from the HLI, somewhere on the outskirts of Hamburg a few days before VE day.
Angus told me that despite the HLI being a Scots regiment, at least half of their number were Englishmen back in those days and that there was always lots of banter regarding the various football teams they all supported. Angus was in Hamburg when the war ended and he remembered that part of the Army rations given to the troops was a sweet ration of seven sweets a day. Angus, my Dad and their mate Freddie used to give their sweets, usually caramels, to the local German children. Angus said that the look of delight on the kids’ faces was wonderful to see.
The soldiers were also given a carton of 50, Woodbine or Players Navy Cut cigarettes a week and Angus, being a non smoker, did well trading them with Germans who were desperate for British cigarettes. The photo below is of Charlie Dobson with a pipe clamped in his mouth with a Scots guy who’s name neither Angus or my Dad could remember. My Dad gave up his pipe for a £5 bet when he turned 50, some 40 years ago.
Angus wrote that his memories of the HLI’s time in Palestine and Egypt are of extreme boredom and heat, being stuck in the desert for weeks at a time, with only the occasional jaunt into Jerusalem or Cairo to break the monotony.
Photo below is of Freddie Brannan on the right, with a soldier Angus named as Joe McDonald and was taken somewhere in Europe, Belgium or Holland or Germany, sometime in 1945.
Photo below shows a Corporal Murphy sat alongside Angus who appears to be doing a Winston Churchill impression and flashing the V for Victory sign!!
Angus McWilliam of Peterhead passed away 5th June 2013, three days after his 87th birthday. Angus had been unwell and living in a nursing home for some time. Sadly Angus’s wife, Helen, died only a few month’s previously. My Dad, Charlie (Dobson), thought that something was wrong because Angus and himself had always exchanged birthday cards as they were born only 7 days apart. My Dad had turned 87 on May 27th 2013, and for the first time in donkeys years no card from Angus. Angus had turned 87 on June 2nd 2013. Gone but not forgotten.
Provided by Steve Dobson
My Dad, Charles Robert Dobson, known as Charlie or “Scouse”, was in the HLI, his memory for names of his platoon and company members isn’t brilliant, but I’ve got a few more stories from him that I thought I’d share. Don’t forget that these stories are from a man who is 91, so exact dates and historical accuracy is not guaranteed My father remembers that in Hamburg, his company (A Company) had a Sergeant by the name of BARTELLI. The sergeant was from a Glasgow family who owned a Fish & Chip shop that was right next door to the Maryhill Barracks. Maybe some older Glaswegian’s may remember the shop? I believe that Glasgow was home to a lot of families of Italian descent. Another name he recalls from his platoon was a Geordie from Newcastle by the name of DENNIS COCKING, a guy who was football mad and a dyed in the wool Newcastle United fan. In 1946 a Newcastle player named Albert Stubbins transferred to Liverpool, my Dad’s team. At the time my Dad said it a major move for a record fee of £12,500 and this Dennis Cocking guy moaned and whinged for about two months after the move as he couldn’t believe Stubbins had deserted his home town team for Liverpool. Stubbins’ later claim to fame was an appearance on the front cover of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, the only footballer to be given that honour.
The photo below was taken approximately late 1946 or early 1947 and my Dad appears to be showing off fairly fresh tattoos. They don’t look anywhere near as crisp and sharp now he’s 91 years old.
My Dad also remembers a man by the name of MITCHELL, who won the Military Medal and if you asked him why he had been awarded the medal he would tell you that he got it for throwing snowballs at the Germans. I’d like to know why he had won it? Dad thinks that they had about six MM recipients in the regiment.
There is another reason that my Dad remembers Mitchell, was because their company were detailed as a guard of honour for a visit by the Emir Abdullah, the King of Jordan to the then High Commissioner of Palestine, General Alan Cunningham. The Commissioners residence was at the top of a hill, the King walked up and down the rows of the honour guard, stopping occasionally to speak to some of the soldiers. He stopped to speak to Mitchell who was two away from my Dad. The King said to Mitchell “How long have you been in the British Army?” Mitchell took a breath and bellowed at the top of his lungs “21 years, your Majesty!” The Kings face was a picture apparently.
Another soldier Dad remembers from his platoon was a chap called HARRISON who was a tall, blond lad who came from Keithley in Yorkshire and loved the game of cricket. Many years later watching a TV programme about the bombing of the King David hotel in Jerusalem, there was photo of Harrison stood with his rifle outside the remains of the hotel were 80+ people had died. At the time of the bombing the battalion were in the Allenby Barracks, which was just up the road from the hotel. Several members of the HLI, Dad included, were called out to help get the wounded and dead out of the ruins.
Dad remembers quite a lot of trouble surrounding the issue of demobilisation, a lot of soldiers had been through WWII and now they found themselves in a hot, desolate country, miles from home, whilst others were returning to their wives and families, some of the soldiers got a bit disgruntled. At this time the Battalion had come out of Palestine and were stationed in Egypt. In late 1945 or early 1946 a number of Royal Army Service Corps (RASC) men barricaded themselves on board some barges they were unloading in Port Suez, Egypt, they were protesting because of the slow demob. Some days after they were forcibly brought out of the barges and found themselves posted to other regiments in the area. The 1st HLI received about 20 of the RASC soldiers who were told in no uncertain terms that if any trouble started in the Battalion, then they would immediately have to report to the Company Office for duty, if they failed to report they were told that they would be tried and shot for mutiny.
Some time later in 1946 Dad and a number of other soldiers from the Battalion, including the Commanding Officer, Colonel Rose, were sent home on a 21 day leave. On their return to Egypt they were told that whilst they were away the Battalion had formed a mass march from their camp to take part in a meeting, with other Regiments in the area, at an open air cinema, they too were protesting about the very slow demob. The story goes that the RSM tried to stop the march and had ordered the soldiers on guard duty to fire upon their mates; they refused and let the march pass through. The HLI had been led on the march by a Provost Sergeant named SLOPER, for this act Sgt. Sloper received a term in the glasshouse, my Dad doesn’t remember how long his prison term was. All this had happened under the watch of the 2IC, a Major whose name Dad can’t remember, the Major was very quickly posted away.
Conversely, another story tells of a group of men with age and service group numbers as low as 6 or 7 who were being demobbed, sat on the front of a Jeep crying like babies as their Jeep was towed along by another Jeep. These men were in their late 40’s or early 50’s and the army had been their life since they had left Glasgow years before. My old man said that at the time Glasgow and indeed his home town of Liverpool had terrible slums and these guys knew what they were going back to and preferred army life, harsh as it was.
Finally all that association with Scots must have rubbed off on my Dad, because after he’d returned to Civy Street he met and married a half Scots girl, my Mum, who can trace her family roots back to the early 16th century to the island of Fetlar in Shetland.
Provided by Steve Dobson
My name is Steve Dobson and I’m submitting this information on behalf of my Dad.
I’ve just come back from visiting my Father, who from 1944 to 1947 belonged to the HLI, City of Glasgow Regiment. My Dad, who turned 91 in May, still talks about his days in the HLI. He had recorded a programme which had been on the Yesterday Channel as part of a series called “Infamous Assassinations” this particular programme was about the death of Israeli Prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. The programme gives the back story to the setting up of Israel and about 12 or 13 minutes into the programme, it talks about the Peacekeeping Force sent into Palestine to try and keep the Jews out. The camera flickers showing Jews in Jerusalem and pans across to a group of British soldiers stood by a Bren Gun Carrier, with the number 62 on its front. There are five soldiers, all members of the HLI, Tam o’Shanters on heads and rifles in hands. There amongst the group, second on the right, is a 19 year old Charles Robert Dobson, my father. Or at least we’re 98% sure it’s my Dad, who was a Bren gun man. The image only lasts seconds, but we paused it and sure enough it looks like my Dad, or at least photos I have of him at that age. My Dad tells me that the White Triangle on the arms of the soldiers shows that they belonged to 1st Division, and Dad was in A Company of the HLI. However he can’t recall the names of the other guys in the group, apart from he thinks one may have been called Ballantine. I thought that HLI Association members might like to watch the programme as it is bound to be repeated.
My Dad’s details are Charles Robert Dobson, born 27th May 1926, Liverpool, England. Service Number 14986559, A Company, 1st Battalion, Highland Light Infantry, City of Glasgow Regiment. At the time of the photo, which my Dad thinks was in the winter of 1945-46, because their wearing full uniform, if it had not been winter they would have shorts on, my father was a Lance Corporal and by the time he was demobbed in 1947, he was a Corporal.
My Dad was one of only two Liverpool lads in the HLI (at that time) and of course he was known as “Scouse” or as the Scots guys called him “Scoose” in their Scots brogue. His best friend was a guy called Angus McWilliam of Peterhead, Dad is still in contact with Angus. The only other Liverpudlian my Dad can remember was a guy called Charlie Warwick, who was a Bren Gun Carrier Driver and was in S Company.
So how did a lad from Liverpool, with no Scots ancestry end up in the HLI? Well, in 1944, Dad signed up for the Navy, then it was decided that soldiers rather than sailors were needed so he was transferred to the Army, he tells me that the 149 at the start of his Service Number show that he was a transferee. He was send over to Northern Ireland for his basic training, In the County Down area, not far from Newcastle. Whilst there D Day happened, and after training in about August 1944, he found himself amongst a party of 100 soldiers shipped from Tilbury Docks in London on an American Troop Ship to Belgium. Once in Belgium, the 100 were spilt in half, 50 went into the HLI and the other 50 others ended up with another Scots regiment, possibly the Black Watch or Argyle and Sutherlands. My Dad heard that these 50 guys were all killed later in the war.
The HLI were at time part of the 53rd Welsh Division according to Dad and they went into Germany in February 1945 at a place called Goch, which is south east of Nijmegen in Holland. He ended up in Hamburg near the end of April 1945 and he tells a story of being posted on guard duty at Hamburg Cathedral on May 8th, the night the war in Europe ended. The place they were particularly guarding was the wine cellars below the Cathedral; you can imagine the chaos that eschewed with a load of young Scots lads and a Scouser guarding a cellar full of wine!!
After the VE day, Dad was on guard duty at a barracks were Josef Kramer and other prisoners from the Belsen camp where held. Then about July or August they were flown in a converted Stirling Bomber from Brussels to a place called Heliopolis near Cairo, Egypt, for one month’s acclimatisation to the heat before going into Palestine. Dad remembers that VJ day, August 14th, happened whilst he was out there, as he remembers discussing the Atom Bombs etc. Anyway he ended up spending about 2½ years out in Palestine in various locations. Dad remembers the footballer and later manager,Tommy Docherty, joining D company at some point whilst they were in Palestine.
After the war, he was one of many reservists, who were called up because of the war in Korea, luckily he was never sent to Korea and went back to civvy street, working as a tram and bus driver in Liverpool. Dad remained in the TA for many years but was then attached to the Royal Artillery; by the time he was discharged from the TA in 1960 he’d reached to rank of Sergeant.
He was able to put his time in the Army to use, because of an organisation called the Royal Artillery Association. Through which he managed to get a job as a chauffeur to the Managing Director of a shipping company.
Luckily despite being 91, his memory is fantastic, so hopefully he’ll come up with some more interesting stuff.
On behalf of his Son, I am hoping to trace the Army Career of my Father -in-Law Ernest William Brown. Ern died in 1975, but often spoke of his time in the Army. He was born and lived in Consett County Durham, and said that as a teenager he joined the HLI in Durham in the late 1920s. He often said, he thought he was joining the Durham Light Infantry!!! He served in India, and left the army in 1935/36 when he married.
The only personal possessions of his time in the Army are the photo’s shown below. One of Ern in uniform, and the other of his Regiment perhaps in India.
Is there someone who can confirm that the uniform is that of the HLI. It would also be helpful to know if the marching column is thought to be that of the HLI.
Any information would be helpful, including any link where we could find his Army Records.
Provided by Owen Masters
I am hoping to trace the Army Career of my Father -in-Law Ernest William Brown. Ern died in 1975, but often spoke of his time in the Army. He was born and lived in Consett County Durham, and said that as a teenager he joined the HLI in Durham in the late 1920s. He often said, he thought he was joining the Durham Light Infantry! He served in India, and left the army in 1935/36 when he married.
The only personal possessions of his time in the Army are the photo’s shown here. One of Ern in uniform, and the other of his Regiment in India.
Provided by Lee Ruffell
My Grandfather John “Jack” Brooks served with 1HLI 1944-1946.
Initially he was in training for aerial gunnery in the RAF. He was transferred to Infantry (it was that or the coal mines) and somehow a boy from Kent ended up with the Scots.
He was among the first of the 53rd Welsh troops to land at Arromanche at the end of June 1944. He got a weeks leave after getting some shrapnel in the leg and went home to get married.
At sometime during the fracas he and and some other guys were sheltering in an old farmhouse which got mortared. Afterwards there were dead cows everywhere, so being a butcher by trade he went out and cut some steaks. While cooking them up with some onions from the fields the Officers appeared to see what was going on. Eventually some ended up with the CO and he made my Grandfather his cook!
After Hamburg he went to Palestine with the Battalion.
Grandad cooked for about 200 officers on the 27th August 1946 at Suez the occasion was Presentation of Colours held by General Sir Miles Dempsey. Have got a booklet with officers names in and the Ceremony (would be nice to find out a bit more if possible).
Unfortunately he came down with TB while out on patrol and was repatriated back to Preston Hall. After treatment he was finally demobbed in 1949.
This is a brief history, he has lots of stories, some getting a little hazy at the ripe age of 84.