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 turns 85 in two months, 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 85 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 Civvy 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.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed Dad’s stories.
Looking for any info on my uncle and the events leading up to his death 8th April 1941, during the latter stage of the East Africa Campaign
His army No. is 3309718. He is buried at ASMARA WAR CEMETERY
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