Gunner Leslie Todd was an ordinary soldier who fought an ordinary Second World War like millions of others.
A Territorial volunteer, he served on anti-aircraft duties in the Battle of Britain and landed in Normandy a month after D-Day.
When Leslie died in 1985 I discovered his war diary. He was a man of few words, just over a thousand of them in the whole notebook. There were photos, too. I found the record of everyday life as interesting as the battles.
Research unearthed the regimental diary for the North London-based 90th (Middlesex) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery, TA.
It seemed a waste to tuck all this away in my genealogy files so I published GUNNER as an ebook and paperback. All proceeds go to a military charity.
To mark the 75th anniversary on VE-Day, here’s an extract.
APRIL 10, 1945: Troop came out of action at 1900 today.
APRIL 12: I am attached with Capt Thomas, Sgts Clarke & Stanbury to AMGOT (Allied Military Government for Occupied Territories), first job to control 150 DPs (displaced persons). Came in contact with Germans, Poles, Russians, Italians, French, Dutch etc, all forced labour (although I have my doubts about some). Very servile crowd and simple to manage.
MAY 1: At Osnabrook had similar job with 16,000 Russian DPs. Several Germans murdered a day here. Also check up on Germans who were doubtful.
MAY 7: Move to Uelzen (in advance party) and found the war was over. Took it calmly. Sgts mess here is a house (large) and fully furnished and comfortable – what a reverse from Normandy. On VE day entertained officers in mess with German wine.
MAY 11: Move again to Hittfeld where the only talk is demob and post war plans – worst time in a soldier’s life. Have had many walks round various villages here – a nice time of the year.
April 10: Regiment brought out of action at Xanten bridges and ordered to provide 12 officers and 480 other ranks for general duties. 284 Battery is assigned to GOCH, military government Hamminkeln.
April 12: Lt Col Saunders, Major W N Marshall and LT F Harris notified they have been mentioned in despatches.
April 14: Regimental accounts audited.
April 16: Captain G L Thomas now in charge of DP camp at Bislich.
April 17: Rev J Jones (RC) posted to 6 Air Landing Brigade. One German taken prisoner and handed to 2nd Army PoW transit cage at Weeze.
April 20: CO emphasises the regiment is not being “overlooked” in operations and that current duties are important.
April 23: Medical and signals officers, ‘made journey to Belsen concentration camp to get first hand experience of widely publicised and terrible conditions prevailing there. The object in view is that these officers will then give a series of talks to men of the unit and get the story across with far more conviction by virtue of having themselves seen evidence of inhuman methods employed.’
April 26: Regiment moves to Osnabruck to take up garrison duties.
April 29: Proposal for mounting extra guards to counter looting by displaced persons on May Day.
MAY 3: The commanding officer addresses the regiment on their duties and prospects for the occupation of Germany. Lt J L Warhurst gives a lecture on his visit to Belsen. Weather: Fine.
MAY 7: The regiment moves from Osnabruck to Uelzen, 284 is stationed at Ebstorf.
MAY 8: VE Day. Midday: CO asks for authority to issue, ‘a tot of rum to all ranks to mark this historic day.’ Permission refused. 3pm: Prime Minister broadcasts to announce the Germans’ unconditional surrender to Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union. 3.10pm All ranks join in three cheers for HM The King. 284 Battery moves to Fleestedt.
MAY 10: 11.15am: Official cease fire message received.
● ebook: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00LGSZQTU – 99p
● Paperback: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/152326750X – £3.80