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The Men

Sergeant William Adrain - Diary and Biography

D. J. Bailie - War Diary and Photographs

Colonel Wm. N. Brann

Sgt. Thomas Herbert Coulter (Herbie)

Jimmy Cunningham's Private Army Comes Home

L/Sgt. Bertie Goodwin

Gunner Harry Grist

2/Lt. William George Hales

Gunner Herbert Hanley

Ken Heath

Bdr. William (Buttons) Hunter

Irvine Brothers 23rd Battery

Bdr. J. C. Irvine 23rd Battery

Bdr. Thomas Henderson Kane

Tommy and Albert Kinnon 21st and 23rd Bty.

 Gnr. Jim Lennon's War Records - Photos

Sgt. Joseph Harold Lynn (aka Harry-Joe)

Matchett Brothers 23rd Battery

L/Bdr. Harry Joseph Mawhinney 22nd Battery

Gunner Thomas Mercer 21st Battery

 Jimmy McKittrick

Bdr. Thomas McLaughlin

Colonel Harry Porter

Sgt. Billy Wilson 23rd Battery

Sidney Ernest Wright - Diary & Photographs

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Posted/Repatriated from 23 Hy.A.A.

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List of names, no addresses 23rd Bty.

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22nd Bty. Memorial Brochure  names, addresses

23rd Bty. Memorial Brochure  names, addresses

RHQ/REME Memorial Brochure, addresses

Nominal Roll 21st Bty. all ranks

Nominal Roll 22nd Bty. all ranks

Nominal Roll 23rd Bty. all ranks

8th Belfast HAA Nominal Roll 21st Battery

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8th Belfast HAA Nominal Roll 23rd Battery

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RHQ / REME Nominal Rolls

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SEAC March 1944

 

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Misc.

Obituaries  *  Memorials  Changi Prison Chapel

8th Belfast HAA History
by Colonel Murray Barnes, OBE , TD.

A short History of The 8th (Belfast) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment Royal Artillery (Supplementary Reserve)
by Harry Porter

Poems

Dean Houston McKelvey's Sermon
3rd October 2010

Extract from Coralie Kinahan's book
'Behind Every Great Man'
"Robin's War"

 

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~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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Cpl. William F. Davison

Belfast Telegraph Tuesday June, 6, 1944 Invasion

 


Behind Every Great Man by Coralie Kinahan

Front cover: Sir Robin Kinahan as Lord Mayor of Belfast         2nd Lt. R. G. Kinahan 1938           Back cover: Coralie de Burgh (Lady Kinahan)   
               Painted by Lady Kinahan 1961                                                                                                                by Herself 1948                        
     

Author's Note

The early memories are entirely from memories and photographs.
The last 15 years are from my diary and Robin's dictation - "But every eye forms it's own beauty",
so every mind forms it's own opinions.   -   Coralie Kinahan

Contents

although only the section entitled Robin's War is reproduced here I thought you might like to see what the entire contents of the book are incase you would like to buy it, I got my copy from Amazon - Mary

Preface   -   Robin's Beginnings, Family  -  Coralie's Beginnings  -  Robin at School and Work  -  Scotland, Coralie's Family and Other Animals  -  Robin Works his Vintner's Scholarship  -  Coralie, Life in Co. Durham and School  -  Robin's War  -  Coralie's War  -  Coralie in London, Painting and Dancing  -  Beginning of Robin's Political Career and Coralie's Trip to Italy, Engagement  -  Marriage and Introduction to Politics  -  Children, Holidays and Work  -  1st Year as Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Belfast  -  2nd Year as Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, Knighthood, Business Offers and Travels, Baking, Brewing and Banking  -  Last Years at Mill House, The Great Frost  -  Castle Upton  -  Business, Exhibitions, Family Life, Horses and Dogs  -  "The Troubles" Begin, Some Unusual Occasions and People in Power  -  We Become 'The Older Generation', Secretary's of State, Garrett Fitzgerald, Canada, Lord Louis, Leonard Cheshire  -  Visitors, End of Hunting, Effects of The Troubles, Bird Watching, Business in London, India, Army Paintings  -  "Funny Animals", and Retirement from Business, Robin Becomes Lord Lieutenant for Belfast  -  Lord Lieutenancy, More Secretaries of State and More "Funny Animals"  -  Family, Beliefs and "Still The Troubles Go On"

Preface

Castle Upton, May 1992      

"Behind every Great Man ...?"
by Coralie (de Burgh) Kinahan

     Many people were unable to perceive the shrewdness and iron integrity hidden beneath his gentle courteous exterior, and wondered WHAT was the secret of ROBIN KINAHAN'S success?  Why should a young Wine Merchant, recently back from the War, rise up so quickly to become Councillor, Alderman, M.P. and Lord Mayor of Belfast; Chairman or Director of six of the most prestigious Firms (not to mention Charities) and Director of The National Westminster Bank, London?  And to enjoy the doubtful honour of being (temporarily) top of the I.R.A.'s Kidnap List and eventually be chosen to be Her Majesty's Lord Lieutenant for the County of Belfast?

     His dedication to his Country is well known, but few remember his two years working as Vintner's Scholar for 1937, in the cellars of Portugal, France and Germany before the War and Spain after it.  In Germany he lodged with the English wife of a German Bank Manager who had two sons in Hitler's S.S. while his best friend was a young Jewish Doctor.

     This led to him joining the Emergency Reserve Army at the Munich Agreement, followed by seven years in the Royal Artillery, The Eighth Belfast Ac-Ac.  In and out of France, to Coventry and London during the Blitz, and then three and a half years in India and Burmah; followed by his long slog through unfashionable Local Politics in order to serve the Country he believed in.  At the same time never losing his sense of fun or his enjoyment of social life.

     He became a key figure in Ulster, served reluctantly on William Whitelaw's Council for Northern Ireland, and with pride and admiration on the Advisory Council of the Ulster Defence Regiment.

     His family came from Berehaven, Co. Cork, to Dublin where his Great, Great Grandfather was High Sheriff and Sovereign of Dublin during the Great Famine.  His grandfather came further North to start the family Wine Business in Belfast where his Maternal Grandfather was Dean of Belfast when the building of the Cathedral was started, and Bishop of Down, Connor and Dromore at the signing of Ulster's Solemn League and Covenant.

     ROBIN KINAHAN married CORALIE de Burgh, youngest daughter of the youngest son the "The Ancient and Noble family of de Burgh" from whom the three Earls of Ulster were descended in the 13th and 14th Century's, and Isabel daughter of the Rev. E. F. Campbell of Killyman, Co. Tyrone.

     Due to her Father's Royal Naval career she had an unconventional up-bringing and a curious War.  She developed a passion for horses and country life, a strong talent for Portrait Painting and illustration, and an equally strong sense of the ridiculous ... none of which was particularly useful for the experience of Civic and Business life which she now faced.

     Nevertheless she produced five children, became Lady Opener, Lady Mayoress, President of the County Antrim Red Cross, Chairman of the World Refugee Year in Ulster, Hostess to a fascinating variety of people who Did Things, and in between she restored one of Ulster's oldest and most Historic Castles, made a large garden out of a Tip, trained numerous young horses, became Joint-Master of Hounds for two Seasons, painted and sold well over 1,000 pictures, runs her own Gallery in the Robert Adam Stable Yard, published two Historical Novels about Ulster, researched and wrote an unpublished Biography of her Husband's cousin Canon James Hannay, alias George A. Birmingham, the once famous and controversial Author; travelled all over the world Bird-Watching and painting and keeps Peacocks and a small herd of very wild Chital Deer, and Guanacos.

     This book is an observant and witty account of a couple who lived through hopes, happiness, sorrow and adventure at an Historic time for their Country and gives an insight into Behind-the Scenes of Business and Politics and History over more than seventy years.

     Sir Robin Kinahan was Chairman of Lyle & Kinahan's Wine Merchants, which he sold to Charrington Breweries, and on to Bass-Charrington and Bass-Ireland, being retained as Chairman.  Chairman of the Ulster Bank, Ireland and Director of the National Westminster Bank, London.  Chairman of Gallahers Cigarettes, Ulster.  E. T. Green Ltd.  Rank Hovis McDougall Ltd., Ulster.  Standard Telephones, Ulster.  Old Bushmills Whisky Distillery and Mundet Tipping Ulster.  Chairman of the Confederation of British Industries, Ulster and Director of Abbey Life, Ireland.

     Of Charities he was President of the Samaritans, Ulster.  Abbeyfield Homes, Ulster. Treasurer of The Friends of Belfast Cathedral.  Clifton and Old Park Working Men's Clubs.  The Ulster Defence Regiment Widows Fund.  The Orange Widows and Orphans fund and countless other Good Works.

     He was given a Knighthood in 1961 and was made an Hon. Lld of Queen's University in 1963.  Lord Lieutenant of Belfast County in 1983.

CHAPTER FOUR

ROBIN'S WAR

     Robin returned from his Vintner's scholarship training fired with enthusiasm to bring Lyle and Kinahan up to date and put his newly acquired knowledge to advantage. His father must have been very glad that the Christmas rush was just getting cracking, and even the fact that the war with Germany was beginning to look extremely likely, for it tempered the setting in motion of a good many of his son's great new ideas. Away from his ambitions for the firm and fresh from Koblenz and Hitler's occupation of the Rhineland, and harassment of the Jews, Robin was appalled when Chamberlain came back from Munich waving his agreement with Hitler and proclaiming 'Peace in our time'. So irritated was he that he wrote to express his views to the Belfast Newsletter and at the same time wrote applying to join the Naval Reserve, as represented by HMS Caroline, an old hulk of a Battle Cruiser used for training purposes, though securely moored to the side of the dock and probably stuck firmly in the mud as well. The Commanding Officer duly interviewed Robin. He was a rather relaxed nobleman, Commodore, the Earl of Kilmorey, who told Robin they would 'consider him when vacancies arose', which was not quite up to Robin's ideas of the seriousness of the situation, and before they got around to noticing if any vacancies had arisen he was rung up by his good friend Robin Reade from Muckamore telling him that Col. John Patrick, the Unionist MP for Ballymena, who was still on the Regular Army reserve, had been asked to form a Territorial Regiment of anti-aircraft gunners, and would like young men with Certificate 'A' qualifications in the Officer's Training Corps to enroll as 2nd Lieut. officers.

      'This seemed sensible, so I applied for a commission and was told to report for a medical test to Col. Dan MacVicker, who was a distinguished surgeon and specialist in osteopathy, attached to the Army Reserve. I went to his consulting room on the Malone Road and was offered a glass of sherry and we talked for about 20 minutes and I was passed fit (I had been to him before with tennis elbow!), and 1 August 1938 was posted to the 23rd Battery of the Eighth Belfast Heavy Ac-Ac Regiment. There were probably 40 of us young men, potential officers, who paraded at Dunmore Park on the Antrim Road. We were paraded in blue dungarees, and were chased round the Parade ground by PSI (Permanent Staff Instructors) who were sent from regular Gunner regiments to train us. RSM Simmonds, the Regimental Sergeant Major, used to march us up and down and give us typical Sergeant Major advice! He was a very good Sergeant Major and did his best to make us realise what sort of responsibilities and situations a young officer at war would be asked to cope with and how to do it. Though I took the training very seriously, I could not help but be amazed when our Battery Commander, Major Unsworth, called me in and told me I was now the Battery Transport Officer as I knew nothing at all about what happened under the bonnet of a car, let alone a lorry, and told me to take out a large Scammel gun Tractor and teach some of my men how to handle it! Stifling my surprise, I drove this vehicle successfully out of the car park and on to the Somerton Road near my home and was just beginning to feel rather proud of myself, when there was a squeal of brakes and a car overtook and pulled in right in front of us shouting that we were on fire! That, I must say, took me aback. Certainly there was smoke when I looked round. Upon inspection, I learnt that there were 3 brakes on this vehicle, one of which was for the Gun Trailer (which was not attached) so I had evidently set out with this transmission brake full on. Fortunately for me, two of my pupils were vehicle mechanics from Belfast garages, so in no time at all they were teaching me, and I retained my post as Transport Officer.

     I was next sent on an Officers' Course to England (Bromley in Kent) with Sir Basil MacFarland, a rather successful businessman and later Mayor of Londonderry, and a hotelier also from Londonderry called Robert Maxwell, and we were taught (?) how to be Battery Officers. It was an amusing experience and one of the highlights of it was when we visited a nearby large army camp and spotted some Southern Irish army officers in their darker green uniform while we were walking though the camp; whereupon Sir Basil 'called us to attention', and then 'make ready to charge '... We didn't, of course, nor did the Irish officers know what we were doing.

     Our training on average took up about 3 hours a day, otherwise life went on fairly normally, catching up with work in the office. Everyone was aware that war was inevitable. We got our 3 inch anti-aircraft guns in the summer of  '39 and started to learn how to operate them. We were moved down to Kinnegar near Holywood on the other side of the Lough, where we were lodged in a smelly big house called St Helen's, which had been unoccupied by humans for quite some time, hence the smell. I suppose there were about 100 of us. I also remember Robin Reade being very affronted when one of the officers, Cunningham by name, took his boots off in the Mess! This Cunningham deserves some fame for having marched 100 of his workers in Gallaher's cigarette factory to Dunmore Park where they joined us as a body and, in fact, I commanded them for the first year of the war. They were a fine body of men, but Cunningham did not stay with us. Perhaps the incident of his boots told against him'.

     While Robin was busy making plans for Lyle and Kinahan, joining up and being chased round the parade ground by the Sergeant Major, his sister Marion, not content with just being very pretty and much in demand, was working for the Red Cross, and became a typist in V.A.D. Headquarters in Belfast, which came under the same roof as the Territorial Army HQ and here she met 'B' Brigade's Major, George (Pat) Blacker who, although 12 years her senior, promptly fell in love with her.  Being a very forceful and decisive character, he saw no point in hanging about with a war coming up fast and they became engaged. He was also not the sort of person to 'pull his punches' with his future brother-in-law's rather hill-billy battery if all was not absolutely 'shipshape'. So quite a lot of terse messages were received down the line and Robin got ribbed by a lot of his brother officers. They were, in fact, trying very hard to become smarter-looking. One day they approached one of the local bands who played in the parks in Belfast in those days (though 'never on a Sunday!') and asked if they would like to join up and become the Regimental Band.  This suggestion was received with great joy and gladness: real uniforms, pay, and lots of recruiting occasions on which to be admired! The 8th Belfast Ac-Ac was soon the proud possessor of one of the best bands in the land. Naturally Victor Unsworth, the Battery Commander, thought the occasion of the marriage of the sister of one of his offers to the Brigade Major would be a wonderful occasion for recruiting! So, much to the disapproval of the Brigade Major and the enjoyment of his bride, they found themselves being taken from the Church in a gun-carriage pulled by the Regiment and led by its Regimental Band, accompanied by all the usual little boys and stray dogs who rise out of the ground on these occasions. Fortunately Pat was half Irish himself being from Carrick-Blacker, though his family had not lived there since the Troubles.

     The band remained with the Regiment for several months until it became born in on them that War had been declared and they were now part of a Regiment, not just a band ... whereupon they all with one accord developed flat feet, depressed vertebrae, bad eyesight, deafness, and hammer toes, availing themselves of these disadvantages as well as the advantage of being citizens of Northern Ireland where conscription was not enforced, so they never came to know the delights of Trouville and Deauville during the Phoney War, or the rigours of the Real War. However, while they were with the Regiment they were a great success and cheered many a dull occasion.

     'They also missed the excitement of one of our first Calls to Arms when, still billeted in the smelly house outside Holywood, and alongside the real Regular Army barracks, we spotted an airoplane coming straight down the Lough towards us, which we immediately assumed was an enemy aircraft and gave the order to 'Fire!'. Fortunately we had not yet been issued with ammunition because it turned out to be one of the Short Brothers aircraft coming into land on the dock strip. We did not have any men to command until early in 1939, by when we had some idea of what we were supposed to do, though not necessarily how to do it, and this shows how wise that was! Also how wise it was that our next orders were to go to a Firing School in Bude in Devon, where we would learn how to fire our guns.

     Curiously enough, in order to go to Devon, we were all innoculated for Overseas Service, and I remember being amazed at the number of men who were scared of the needles when they were lined up, and fainted in droves! However, they recovered and off we went to Bude and fired our guns. The weather was appalling. We were encamped on the top of a cliff with our guns pointing straight out to sea and the tents behind them being blown to shreds; eventually we had to strike camp. I had been having dinner in the town, so it seemed must have been most of the men, though slightly more merrily, for when Robin Reade and I arrived back at the camp we found the men so full of alcohol that they were either lying happily unaware of the shredding tents around them, or standing in a befuddled haze doing nothing about them. We moved them down into Boarding Houses in the town with the help of two or three friends and several non-commissioned officers who showed their merit that night were later commissioned as officers in other Units, among whom were Harry Porter, after the War to become Colonel in the T.A., and Jack Baillie who as a Captain, was taken prisoner by the Japanese at Singapore, which he survived to become a Regular Gunner Colonel after the War.  The little hotel I was billeted in was very comfortable, and the daughter of the house fell rather heavily for a very good-looking officer of ours called Stewart Pollock. He, however, had other interests and so she befriended me! Not very seriously, though my friends were only slightly less apprehensive about her than they had been of an A.T.S. waitress at Deepcote, to avoid who I had to be reported 'Killed in Action' shortly after we got to France.

     We landed at Le Havre just before Christmas with our Sister-search-Light Regiment alongside us. Our job was to defend this large port which was to be a major landing place for the British Expeditionary force. We were positioned all around the town, but my gun-site was on an area of open ground near the docks with a good field of fire out to sea, but blocked by blocks of high flats on the landwards side. I was amused to find my 'Spotter', Alec Clark, had 'taken bearings' on all the good-looking girls in the windows of these flats. This was perhaps a useful enterprise for the Germans were still far away. Robin Reade and I used to go dancing at the Night clubs and had a very good time. One morning on the site, Sergeant Jimmy Boyd congratulated Robin and me on having 'Turned out the Guard' at 3am that morning on our way back to sleeping quarters. Neither Robin nor I had any recollection of doing it but Jimmy never let us know whether it was a fact or if he was just taking the mickey out of us. Not even when he became a Senior Manager in the Ulster Bank when I was chairman of it... and now he is dead.

     The Phoney War, as it was called before the Germans moved across the Maginot Line, was really a lot of fun. Our new Padre, Cuthbert Peacock, scoured the country and got us all turkey for Christmas and managed to give us a very joyous festival. In the New Year, we were moved to a Reserve Area between Deauville and Trouville and this was extremely pleasant because, although the famous big hotels were all converted into hospitals and there were no guests, there were still a lot of people living in the towns who were most welcoming to young British officers. Robin Reade, of course, immediately found a beautiful girl and a less attractive, but still very nice, friend for me and we took them out singing and dancing a lot. My girl was french Jewish with stunning red hair, called Jill Goudchoux, and great fun. Robin's romance became serious and he eventually became engaged to his beautiful and well-born fiancée and bought her a ring. I was more cautious but still enjoyed a very pleasant social life, the Goudchoux were extremely rich (I think the father made airoplanes) and they entertained us a lot in their beautiful villa in Deauville; however the War suddenly hotted up and brought all this to an end. We were posted to a little town called Abancourt, near Rouen. The Germans had attacked and both French and British were retreating, we had been taught to recognise different makes of plane and although I was not at all confident of my knowledge, it soon became necessary to put it to the test. I don't know if I can claim to have been the first Ac-Ac Gunner to open fire, but I must have be one of the first.... and it was a German plane.

     The roads were now crowded with refugees and we waited for the army to come back to us to make a stand. Robin and I had put our beautiful field boots into a 'bonier' in Rouen to be mended, but alas when we went to collect them we found the french had evacuated the city and all the doors and shops were locked up. Robin Reade wanted to blow the door down and get his boots out, but I'm afraid I was more conservative and felt we would not need them if the Germans captured Rouen. It was pretty miserable and wretched for the refugees who were wounded and hungry and frightened and I did not feel I cared much about the future of a pair of boots. I heard that my fiend Jill, who was of course half Jewish, had fled with her family to the south of France, as had most of the Jews from this region, who could afford to for they were very much at risk.

     Our regiment was now ordered to Calais to join in the defence of that city before a possible evacuation. We had already had about 40 of our lorries taken from us and sent to regiments in more serious need, so it made this move very difficult, anyway, in the event, the Germans got there before us and as our ammunition was designed to explode in the sky and would have been no good against tanks, we were now told to turn left and head for Dieppe. I remember this especially, for some of our men helped themselves to radios and equipment from an evacuated hospital which had been a golf club before. This was no doubt very reprehensible behaviour, looting, but did not seem of great importance and the Germans were only a day behind us, however the Military Police chased us all the way down the road and made us return the things, just in time for the Germans to enjoy them.

     Eventually we were ordered to take up a gun site position of the south bank of the River Seine where the remains of the Army hoped to make a stand, if and when the Germans turned south, Dunkirk and Calais having both fallen into enemy hands by now, though we did not know of the great Rescue Operation that had gone on."

     I asked Robin if he remembered being afraid to know that there was no other Army left in France to help them ... He said that there was really such an amount going on, trying to keep in contact, keep the guns moving, find the ammunition, have it in the right place, move again, find food, try to rest, and always the refugees to be heart-rendingly cleared off the road ... He never had time to feel afraid. Robin has always been a man who lives in the moment with full concentration on the thing in hand and very able to make a quick decision. They heard later that their Sister Battery had managed to get through to Dunkirk and that several of them had became casualties, but that most had managed to escape to England in that wonderful evacuation, and that must have given them a fellow feeling with the refugees who had also been left behind ... The 8th Belfast Ac-Ac set up the guns and awaited events.

     One morning I spotted through my gun-sight a lot of naked men running up our side of the river. When we investigated we discovered they were British soldiers who had left their clothes behind in order to escape across the river from the Germans, and in no time at all the first German tanks appeared and quickly found the range of our gun-site and stared shelling us. We were not even sand-bagged, and though in an admirable position to shoot down enemy aircraft, were quite unable to lower our guns enough to take on tanks. Finally, we were ordered to take the breech-blocks out of our guns (so that the Germans would not be able to use them) and hide them away in the nearby woods before making off as fast as we could.  Not being a very clever mechanic, I wasn't sure how to do this, but with Robin Reade 's help, under continuous and heavy gunfire, we managed to get them out and into the wood before retreating fast towards the coast. During this retreat, I found myself first driving a gun-tractor (with the brakes off!), then later, a 15 hwt. van in which I took one of our wounded to hospital. I found time to reflect wryly that I was taking my first wounded Belfast Protestant to a hospital run entirely by nuns. However, he survived, and I still see him in Belfast.

     We were next told to make our way to St Malo, although we were boo'ed through most of the villages as the French people considered we were deserting them, until they heard on their radios that it was the French government which had signed an armistice with the Germans and left us in the lurch!  We set up camp just outside St Malo and my job was to help the Battery Commander, Victor Unsworth, allocate space to units as they arrived on their way, they hoped, to England. We did this in strict order of arrival in the area, and refused to be bullied by 'units' in a hurry to get to the top of the queue. At last our turn came and I felt slightly ashamed to go with our unit to a boat heading for the South of England. Our men were thrilled to see some of Kelly's Coal Boats (from Northern Ireland) in the harbour, but I don't think the one we went on was one of theirs. We were told to evacuate just with the clothes we stood up in, and leave all our kit behind. I sadly left behind a pair of binoculars which had belonged to a Kinahan Great Uncle and had survived the first war, but I hung onto my whiskey flask which gave great cheer to me and the people round me as we lay exhausted on the deck and made our way, thank God, safely to England.

     Our Regiment was one of the few which managed to get some guns back with us.  Jimmy Cunningham, the Captain of 22 Battery managed to bluff the Captain of the little cargo vessel he was to go on. He had spotted on the dock a sign saying that only cargo weighing beneath a certain weight could be lifted by the derricks on this vessel, so he thought up a number below this and told the Captain that that was what his gun weighed, and he got them on, and the ship did not sink and he was one of the very few who brought armament back with him to a country which was desperately short of it. We had gone to France with one rifle between two men and just the minimum number of guns for our Batteries and were not really fighting troops at all, but when we got back we were treated like heroes. We didn't feel we were heroes, but we were delighted just the same.

     Some months later one of our men showed me with great pride, the binoculars he had 'salvaged' on the retreat, and they were mine, but he had no intention of returning them to me even though they had our name in gold letters on the case. He was so thrilled to have them I had not the heart to even try and buy them back from him. Alongside us in the evacuation was a very smart regiment of German Jewish Pioneer Corps with all the latest and best equipment you could imagine and none of which they left behind! They had been trained in the German Army before the pogroms started and were simply delighted to be able to use their stuff against the Nazis. Most of them had been Sergeant-Majors in the Old Army.

     Our men had not been at all sorry to leave behind one part of their equipment, and that was the radar sets. There was an unstoppable rumour in the regiment that working with radar rendered a man sterile, and so they parted with these pieces of high-tech with the greatest happiness and I had the happy job of blowing them up with their own pre-arranged charges. The men were not at all pleased later when they were issued with another lot.

     We were given leave soon after our escape, and it was marvellous to be able to relax completely. I think we must all have slept and slept and slept, for few of us, and certainly not I, can remember anything at all about that leave.

     We were next sent to Blackpool. Our men were put in a holiday camp and we officers were lodged in boarding houses but spent a lot of our time enjoying the delights of the holiday camp and the Big dipper with the men, and the lovely swimming pool almost on the beach, called the Derby Baths. It was a strangely marvellous carefree moment after escape, while the country prepared to face Hitler's Invasion Army. We were there perhaps six weeks before we were allotted a new supply of slightly larger guns and sent to defend Coventry city. Here we had a lovely battery H.Q. in the little village of Meriden, known as the centre of England, and we were very well looked after and very happy. Coventry had not been bombed yet and our Batteries were spread out all round the area when another order came through, that all officers were to learn to ride motor bikes. So, bravely, I took what seemed to be a huge machine, a 500cc Norton, and set off to try some of the main roads around Meriden. However, the first day out was a disaster ...I got the handlebar movement wrong and accelerated instead of braking and charged into a wall. The bike suffered a bit. I, luckily, not at all." (I expect, knowing Robin's affinity with things mechanical, that he charged at a very cautious pace!)

     We were soon moved on again, with 3.7 guns this time, to defend London. This great city was ringed about with many Ac-Ac Regiments; we were sited at Wimbledon, the Windmill Site, a lovely peacetime area no doubt, but by August 1940, completely covered with Nissen Huts and Gun Sites where we manned the guns day and night, and were once again supplied with radar equipment and a team of rather scruffy looking, but intelligent boffins came down to tell our men how to work it. They were very good and knew exactly how to teach our men who very soon became proficient, but the equipment was still in its early days of invention, and was not able to give us height on the incoming aircraft though it could give us bearings. But without height, this was not much use and the searchlights all round us seldom seemed to be able to pick up the planes so, as the Gunnery Officer, as soon as I got a bearing I had to try and assess the height by listening and trying to decide if it was flying at 4,000 or 6,000 feet. Naturally, we often guessed wrong, but we blasted off pretty well all night and although we could claim few successes, we were told that the noise we made at least gave moral support to the people living through the raids.

     We were on Wimbledon Common all through the period of the Battle of Britain and we saw the amazing packed formations of enemy aircraft attacking London, and the famous defence made by our R.A.F. fighters taking them on. It was to devastate London and then, after the heaviest raids, we saw London burning furiously. We did eight hour shifts at the guns, sometimes reduced to four while one officer slept on a bunk in the underground command Post and the other one took the duty, waking his pal up at the agreed time, and them collapsing immediately into deep sleep. We became oblivious of the noise of our guns firing almost continuously, and the moral of the civilian population was quite marvellous.

     One time I noticed one of our Lieutenants (to us 2nd Lieutenants, a full Lieutenant was a very senior officer, at least 30 years old and much to old to worry about such things!) sleeping in his bunk with his tin hat place over his private parts while the Germans were bombing us. However, on another extremely wet night, when the German planes were coming over very low, we were agreeable surprised to hearing this same elderly officer exclaim, I hope the fucking fellow's cabin leaks!', and we all agreed with his sentiments.

     Our final posting in the London area was to the outskirts of Wormwood Scrubs prison. There, we were given bigger guns, 4.5s, longer range and larger shells. I manned these for several months and am pretty sure my present deafness is due to shouting 'Fire!' when these guns were at a low elevation, only just above my head, they did make an amazing bang. During this period I was given leave. Things were pretty bleak in England so I went home, travelling up to Stranraer in the black-out in a first class compartment where I met a very pleasant Naval officer who was building a ship in Belfast. We talked pretty well all the way to the boat, where I noticed a soldier taking my name when we boarded, and wondered what was up. Next day, I was summoned from my home down to Victoria Barracks and told that I was in serious breach of security! I asked what on earth they meant. And was told that I had been overheard telling a Naval Officer that I was at Wormwood Scrubs! Fortunately, I got out of this difficulty by pointing out to these officious gentlemen that it was, in fact, the address I had been given for my mother to write to, ie. 2nd Lieut. Kinahan, Royal Artillery 23rd Battery, Wormwood Scrubs, London, and that as her letters came through the normal Post Office, I didn't see how I had committed a security breach. Only after the war did I discover that the prison itself was used for interviewing the first German prisoners of war pilots shot down over England (even Herr Rudolf Hess) and this interfering fellow had assumed that I was one of the internal staff, not just one of the gunners making a noise outside. At one stage while we were here, we were told to prepare to go to Finland. We supposed this was to keep the Russians out, but luckily for us the Finnish defences collapsed before our orders were finalised.

     After this period of intensive action, being a mobile regiment, we were given a period of duty in Middlesborough where I commanded Guns at West Hartlepool on some very unattractive salt flats, but as this area was not being bombed at this time and the local people were extremely friendly and hospitable to us we had a reasonably happy time. I even found a girl who could dance well!

     This enjoyment came to an end when I was pulled in to become Assistant Adjutant at Regimental H.Q. near Darlington. I did not want to leave my Battery and was very reluctant to take the job, but in the end my Battery commander promised that it would only be for six months, so I went. At the end of the six months 1 paraded before Rowley Byers, our Adjutant, who was not noted for sympathetic management, and asked for permission to return to my Battery. He looked at me most severely and told me that I had joined the Army and my duty was to do exactly as I was told. I protested that it was the Army's duty to keep its word to officers and went, disgruntled, to talk to Victor Unsworth, my erstwhile Battery commander, who fixed it that the Colonel would honour his deal with me, and I returned to 23 Battery. There was a rather pleasant reversal of fortune in later life when I was Chairman of the Ulster Bank and found Colonel Rowley Byers as one of my advisers! I wondered how often he remembered the day he ticked me off so strongly ...

     While Victor Unsworth was such a stalwart in backing me up, his wife had been unintentionally instrumental in causing me much embarrassment while we were on duty at Wimbledon. She had been staying nearby when the regiment was stationed at Bude and knew of, and made considerably more than there was of, my friendship with the daughter of our landlady, so when Mrs. Unsworth came over again to visit her husband at Wimbledon she must have asked him how the affair was going and whether it would be a nice thing to ask the girl up to London to stay. He asked me and I went sharply into reverse, having had myself 'killed' in France, and said 'No. No. Please don't ask her.' Imagine then my distress to receive a few days later a telegram at my gun-site from this girl saying she would be arriving by the next train and would come straight to the site! This arrived during a bad patch when we were firing our guns all night, every night, and were fairly tense ... I panicked. I couldn't think what I would do with a girl hammering on the Dammart Wire asking to see me, particularly when service was so active. Fortunately, Robin Reade became so worried about the state I was in that he tipped me off that it was a Big joke organised by Maurice Gabbey of 21 Battery, who thought (quite rightly) that it would be a great way of embarrassing Robin Kinahan!

     John Patrick, who had set up and commanded our regiment with great understanding and skill, was now promoted to Brigadier, and we got as our new colonel, Frank Dearden, who had been with the 9th Londonderry Regiment, and knew a good deal about Ulstermen having once served in the Black and Tans as a young man. We welcomed him but were sorry to lose our friend, John Patrick. One of the things that stays in my mind about John was when in France during the very early stages of the War, we ineffectively lost some of our vehicles by not draining the water out of them at night during severe weather and G.H.Q. were very upset at our inefficiency as Transport Soldiers. Thank Goodness I was no longer Transport Officer! But John Patrick never passed the rocket on to his Batteries or his men. He told G.H.Q. that if you sent untrained men to fight a war they must expect such inefficiencies, and he refused to take it out on his men. he said, "You watch our Regiment. It will be first class one day', and I like to think it did become so.

     Before Colonel Dearden arrived we had for a short time a Colonel Mills, who was a typical London Territorial Army Soldier. He was very difficult to us Ulstermen and through using our Honorary Colonel, the first Lord Glentoran, Rowley Byers got him removed, and Colonel Dearden sent instead. Colonel Mills was the type of English officer who did not suit as a leader of Ulstermen. We got as Second in Command another English T.A. man, a Major Lunt who came from Manchester and was much more acceptable and soon became a friend of the Regiment.

     During this time of moving around training to be mobile, we spent a short time in Scotland. It was quite a move to take the Regiment up to Aberdeen and Dundee, and on the way we spent a few weeks at Oldham in the Earl Mill, where we had some rather interesting religious experiences! First, the local Roman Catholic Priest came to enquire how many Roman Catholics we had in the Regiment; not for the good of our souls we suspected as he took no further interest in any of us when he discovered how few there were (about 3 per cent) but in hopes of expanding his allowance for looking after any stray lambs in the Army! Secondly, we discovered that all our troops became Methodists for the duration of our tour of duty there because they discovered that the Methodist Church issued tea and buns after the Sunday Services. One of our young officers, Harry Porter, met and eventually married the love of his life there!

     Eventually we made it to Aberdeen and, as the Germans were not attacking that part of the country, our only problem was snow. I remember a period being cut off for six days when our only contact with Orders was by rather doubtful telephone, and we spent a happy time eating up our stores in a very comfortable Scottish castle and enjoying not working very hard. Looking back on this part of our Regimental life it is rather interesting to note that Coventry was raided heavily just after we left it and so was Aberdeen, though not so heavily. Coventry was bombed ferociously during the only three nights on which London was all clear during the many nights we were defending it, so that we felt we did have our fair share and were real soldiers now. Belfast was also bombed ferociously for three nights the next Spring when the Germans were looking for easier targets, and not having looked upon itself as a target, Belfast had virtually no defences at all and suffered as heavily as Coventry though it received, as always, no comment and less interest. I remember well the sorrow and worry of those of our men whose families and homes were wrecked. The Germans are thought to have mistaken the Water Works on the Antrim Road for the docks and so it was the heavily residential area from which most of our men came that got the full force of the attack. My sister had her first child in hospital at the Victoria maternity Ward, the other side of Belfast that night and was very lucky to escape injury, as were my parents, who lost part of the roof of their house and had to find another out at Knockbreda on the South-East side of the city. There was also a comic if somewhat ghoulish story of a local millionaire, who heard the terrific bombing from his country house some miles away, and woke his wife up to go out and 'Pick all the Double White Narcissi in the garden ... They'll be needing them for wreathes in the morning!'

     After Aberdeen we had our mobility further tested by being ordered back to Dorset, to Hinton Saint George, where Colonel Dearden appointed me to be his adjutant, and here we had another test of mobility in being ordered to Norfolk and back, without our guns. This was called Operation 'Bumper' and we had another one up to Hexham in Northumberland which was appropriately called Percy', finally, our last tour of duty before we went abroad was on the East coast of Lincolnshire where we camped in a very pleasant park of a stately home near Skegness, while each person had a brief leave and we awaited news as to what ship we would get sent to and from what port. As the Adjutant I was responsible for this security, and having had a salutary lesson myself on 'careless talk', 1 was perhaps a bit too fussy and worried when I discovered some of our married officers had told their wives we were waiting to embark, but I comforted myself that as none of us knew where we were going it could not matter very much. In any case, we were only there a short time before being entrained to the Clyde " (lucky they had learnt to be mobile!) " where we embarked on the Belfast built S.S. Britannic. None of us had ever been on board anything larger than the Liverpool steamer, so we were tremendously excited when we received a message before boarding from Winston Churchill saying that 'in the First War the troops had saved their country under appalling conditions of discomfort and that we must be prepared to do the same', but when we found our quarters we realised we knew why he had sent the message!

     Five thousand troops embarked on this ship. We officers were in two-berth cabins, eight of us to a cabin, and we had to 'rotate' in strict order, otherwise there was no way of running our lives. I soon decided that to get up very early was the best solution with regard to 'ablutions' and then discovered it was a tremendous advantage for a bridge player as there were only very few tables available and they had to be booked before 8am. It would have been awful on such a long, crowded trip not to have been a bridge player, for apart from a fairly good library, there was little else one could do of interest in such a confined place.

     In addition to our regiment, there were about seven hundred Sherwood Foresters and fifty Canadian nurses. These quite plain looking women were immensely sought-after by the officers, for they were pleasant and friendly as well as being 'women'. I decided, however, that I did not think it worth queuing up for their company, and would rather stick to bridge than waste half an evening hoping for a dance. Drink was appallingly cheap, which was lovely but it did mean that some people took too much, and 'some people' in this case, included my Colonel, Frank Dearden. He hit the bottle extremely hard, as did the O.C. Troops, who was an Irish Colonel named de Stacpoole who was finally put off the ship at Durban.

     We still had no idea where we were going, even when we reached Durban. We had a code number, 0702 4n, and that was our destination, others also had codes, but different and no more idea than us ... but we all had topees! We took a route far out into the Atlantic with a large escort of Royal naval ships, including the battleships H.M.S. Rodney and Nelson. Our convoy included many well-known liners and there were many small Royal Navy ships patrolling on the outer perimetre of the convoy. I was lucky in not suffering from claustrophobia and even more, in being an officer, which latter meant that I was able to move out and sleep on deck as soon as the weather became warm enough. This, the unfortunate troops could not do, owing to their huge numbers. It must have been hell for them, though we all tried to get them all up on deck at some time during the day, and Robin Reade as Sports Officer organised as much exercise and sport as was possible. He had started out in another bridge-playing group, but against his will and when they started having post-mortems, he threw his cards down and took up gin-slings and exercise instead. My job as adjutant was shared with the four or five other adjutants on board and consisted of being Duty Officer and doing the rounds and listening to complaints and arranging fire drills, etc.

     The convoy put in once at the port of Sierra Leone on the west coast of Africa, or Freetown as it used to be known. It was frightfully hot and had been known as 'The White Man's Grave' down the years because of the terrific humidity and disease. Someone suggested because we were not allowed ashore that, to amused the troops, there should be an officers' race between various ships with the officers (Army, not Navy) rowing the great big life boats. About 20 men to a boat and the race was to the river mouth and back again. What we did not know was that these boats' oars were about twenty feet long, extremely heavy and hard to handle, and that the river flowed extremely fast when the tide was going out. The thought of getting away from the ship for even a short time was so attractive that Robin Reade and I both volunteered and got places in one of the boats. Far from being the cool and refreshing change from routine that we had envisaged, it was pretty dreadful. The convoy was moored upstream in the very wide river and we managed to pull our way to the starting line, suggested by the sailors, where we were immediately caught in the tide-rip and swept rapidly out to sea, quite unable to row back to our ships, let alone the mouth of the river. This, of course, had been anticipated by the sailors and just as we were getting into a bit of a panic we were thrown a line by a Naval Launch and towed back to our ship. The troops hanging over the sides were thrilled at the discomfiture of their officers and, no doubt with the connivance of the sailors, pulled all the lavatory chains so that all the effluent of the ship's bilges cascaded over us as we tried to come alongside. Great joy everywhere except amongst the sunburnt, blistered officers in the boats.

     The journey continued reasonably quietly after this, with bridge fairly continuously except for when on duty, and then someone always stayed at the table to see that it was not snapped up by another Four before the next session. My duties as adjutant were rather complicated by my Commanding Officer being pretty continuously drunk, and I was very grateful for the support of my Battery Commander, Jimmy Cunningham, 22 Battery, and Maurice Gabbey, 21 Battery and Arthur Bates, 23 Battery. Jimmy's support was particularly worth having and his great strength proved at the Ceremony of Crossing the Line. At this a member of the crew dresses up as Father Neptune and takes up position beside the round tank which served as swimming pool and ordered his enthusiastic minions to duck anyone who had not 'Crossed the Line' (the Equator) before. I thought it was better to get the ghastly thing over quickly and lined up early, but 'Big Jimmy' decided that nobody was going to duck him and retired to his cabin whence he was hotly pursued, and where he hung onto every pipe and bit of furniture in the cabin and the pursuing party were completely unable to dislodge him, so he never did get ducked!

     Another friend proved his bravery by volunteering to take on a heavy-weight champion boxer, 3 or 4 stone heavier than himself to 'amuse' the troops, as no-one else was prepared to. This was Norman Brann who had run a boy's Boxing Club in Belfast, and he managed to dance his way safely through the three-round bout to survival.

      There was a big dance one night when the Canadian Nurses came into their own. Drink also came into its own, and a (friendly) battle royal ensued between the Sherwood Foresters and pretty well everyone else on board. This was an officers' occasion, supposedly, but I managed to remain an on-looker.

     We rounded the Cape eventually where some of the ships pulled out of the convoy heading for Capetown, and we realised that we must be destined either for North Africa or India. Poor Frank Dearden was dreadfully depressed because the Captain of the ship (who was always sober, but a good friend to Frank) had told him the dreadful news that the Prince of Wales and the Repulse had been sunk by the Japs off Singapore. He was inclined to like bad news, and this was bad and was followed very soon by the fall of Singapore. However, all was cheerfulness and gaiety when we landed in Durban early in July. We were met by large crowds of pretty girls with smart cars lined up to entertain the officers, and many others determined to make our stay in this beautiful city a happy one. We were put in the Cricket Club and our sleeping quarters were in the large bar, so we felt very at home and quite happy!

     We spent about ten days in Durban and one of them was the '12th of July', Ulster's national holiday, so, being an Ulster Regiment, we made our own orange sashes and banners and paraded beneath our own arch round our camp. A picture of this celebration can be seen in the Orange Hall in Clifton Street, Belfast, today.

     Another day, Robin Reade and Norman Brann persuaded me to go out riding with them in the beautiful country which seemed not to have too many natural obstacles for one who was not skilled at riding a horse; however, an unnatural obstacle in the form of what I was convinced was a tiger (and Norman is certain was a large dog) as was my horse, caused it to take off at terrific speed, and luckily I managed to stay on and rather enjoyed the gallop. Norman and Robin followed at a speed calculated to save me from being killed but not to re-excite my horse. We also enjoyed one day's racing of which I remember little except that the gambling seemed very extreme, and a large part of the money was being wagered by Indians.

     As we drew away from Durban and the convoy split again, it became obvious that the others were heading for Suez and we must be heading for India, and after about a further 7 weeks at sea we arrived in the great heat of Bombay and were immediately entrained to a Hill Town called Deolali, a very old pre-war camp for the Indian Army who were still fairly oblivious of the fact that a war was in progress. Our vehicles which had been in different ships, landed at Karachi so we had to send their drivers and Transport Officer to collect them and then drive them the whole way across India to Calcutta where we were to meet up with them. This was where our training as a Mobile Unit in England stood us in good stead, and they all arrived safely with all their vehicles in good order.

     Deolali got rather a surprise when the Canteen contractors there, as was their custom, wanted to interest our Major, Jimmy, in gifts such as a large car and trips to other smarter stations and other delights at their expense, so as to gain further business and found themselves sharply discouraged. We played a good deal of tennis in the early morning when it was comparatively cool, and even took a few more rides across the Maidan. Another night Robin Reade and I borrowed an Army car and drove up to Poona where we had a marvellous dinner and saw how much more acceptable life could be in a really puckha hill station with a good Club.

     On again by train to Calcutta, a pleasant enough experience for the officers. Our train stopped for meals at stations forewarned, where tables were set out on the platform in the shade and we had about an hour and a half to eat a good meal and walk about before re-boarding the train. The troops got their meals in packs and were also able to get out and walk about, and, being charitable Belfast boys, dispersed backsheesh to the swarms of beggars, mostly children who followed them everywhere. Despite their very crowded conditions, the troops appeared very happy and interested in all the strange new ways and life they were seeing.

     When we first arrived in India we were warned that we might have to take part in quelling civil disorder, and had been given instructions, strikingly similar to those of today. When we met a revolutionary mob we had to shout 'Halt! Disperse or we open fire!' or rather, as we could not speak any Indian, we were told to hold up notices saying this, but not unless we had a magistrate with us, who would first read the 'Riot Act'. Our troops were thrilled at the thought of quelling a riot, being Irish, but thank God, we were never called upon to do this. I personally remember cases where officers had been court-marshalled for ordering troops to fire, and almost always blamed for doing so. Our H.Q. in Calcutta was in a large house at the top of Chowringhee, which was really the main boulevard of the city. A huge park surrounded by very wide streets of smart shops, offices, hotels and clubs".

     It has always been a source of utter fascination to me, meeting this regiment down the years since our marriage, how such incredibly different, and all equally determined to go on being different, characters ever managed to merge into an effective fighting unit, and 1 have tried to work out what the common denominator was. The answer, I concluded, was an utter determination not to be pushed around by anyone but 'their own'. No-one, from the English to the Japanese, was going to move them in any direction they did not want to go, and this fused them into a pretty invincible little regiment. I watched them 40 years later arriving for the annual V.J. Day march past in Belfast, forgotten still, as they were in 'the Forgotten Army' by the rest of the citizens of Belfast, never even a General or colonel of any other regiment stationed in Ulster turning up to salute them, but the regiment turning up to parade. All sizes and shapes and degrees of successes in life, every man as good as the next, and they form up into fours and march, everyone leaning or hobbling at a different angle, and yet all that identical look of determination to 'get there' and, once again, despite age and decrepitude, they make a very formidable looking little group, and there is not one of them who will fail to help another.

     There is quite an amusing little story about this annual march past. As time went on and the average man in the street had no idea what V.J. Day is or was and only V.E. Day is celebrated by the British, so I noticed that the buses no longer stopped running to allow the Veterans to march through the centre of Belfast (ordinary traffic was not a problem because the parade was always held on a Sunday nearest the actual date and in the morning) but the bus main halt in the city was alongside the Cenotaph, and not only did they not stop running the troops down, but they did not stop running their engines, so that it was impossible to hear the prayers of the Clergymen or the Commemoration. So I wrote to the Chief Executive of the Ulster Bus Company who is an ex-German Prisoner of War who decided never to go back to Germany, and has the most remarkable record of keeping the buses running all through the Ulster Troubles, even to the extent of having carried at least eight live bombs out of buses himself. I said 'You have been so marvellous at keeping the Ulster buses running for 17 years through all the bombing, would it be possible for you to stop them running for 5 minutes on V.J. Day so that this little band of heroes can march safely to the Cenotaph and hear the prayers?' I need hardly say that he did, and ever since, although still unnoticed except by the small party of wives and the current Lord Mayor, we do have our Service of Remembrance in peace and quiet, and Mr. Werner Hoybeck, the Ulster Bus Director has risen higher in our estimation than ever.

     However, back in Calcutta, which was little more attractive then than it is now, the troops were soon spread out in compounds all round the city, some as far out as the airport, and were saved from some of the temptations which might have befallen them with the lovely dusky ladies, by the fact that, as usual, the Americans had got there first, with much more money to spend.

     There were things to go to like the horse racing, and Colonel Dearden took Robin to the Bengal Club which was mostly patronised by the smart jute merchants, and Majors and those of higher rank. As a guest Robin was rather taken aback when an Indian servant tried to help him into his trousers! One doesn't have that sort of service in Belfast. Robin never allowed it, but he says the troops took to it like ducks to water, and lay in bed while they were shaved and thought it was a splendid idea.

    There was a less smart club called the Saturday Club, which was patronised by the big shop-keepers and less than Major seniority officers, but not by the jute merchants who considered themselves very grand indeed. Robin and his regiment did not share their self-esteem. On the way down the Hoogli River, after joining up with the vehicles, they had been camped near a big jute mill where Robin and his fellow officers were invited to a very ostentatious dinner, during which the jute merchants did nothing but run down the British Army for surrendering in France in 1940. They were all Scots jute men and were particularly critical of the 51st Division. The 8th Belfast Ac-Ac were furious. Arthur Bates, who was always quick off the mark told them that they would have done better if they had got off their backsides and left their fat comfortable life in India and come home to fight for their country instead. I imagine this ended the dinner party.

     Robin, meanwhile, was still Adjutant, and in charge of finding his Colonel's diet of sherry. It didn't matter whether it was sweet or dry as long as it was sherry, and being in Calcutta did not take the edge off his appetite.

     They were gradually working their way across the Ganges delta from Calcutta to the Burmese border. This was a very slow progress with such heavy vehicles, for the delta is broken up by many wide rivers, most of which were spanned by railway bridges but not roads, so everything had to be unloaded and ferried across by quite large river steamers. As they struggled across this delta the regiment suffered all the problems of acclimatisation, and went down with dysentery and malaria in appalling numbers. "Robin Reade was seriously ill with malaria, but luckily before we had to enter battle, Mepoquin was invented and we were issued with a daily dose which, with the compulsory intake, reduced our sick to reasonable numbers as opposed to sometimes more than 50% of the regiment being ill at one time. Eventually we reached the little state of Argatala and were camped for a short time in a charming camp in a beautiful open country with flame trees in flower and very few people about, near the town of Comilla. Near here, we had our first taste of being bombed by the Japanese and had quite a few casualties, including Jimmy Cunningham who was wounded. I was a bit hurt when I offered my blood for transfusions, to have it turned down because I had had jaundice rather badly back in West Hartlepool. The Japanese were about 100 miles away over the mountains, so we did not feel terribly under threat, and at the next town, Chittagong, I had my first meeting with General Slim.

     With my C.O., I was called to a meeting in the Town Hall where Slim was to address the local citizens and some of us soldiers. The future of that part of India looked pretty bleak; the British Army had been driven out of Burmah. The few battalions who had been at the Front line were retreating into India and the Japanese had even bombed Ceylon and were soon seen over Calcutta and West Bengal. Slim was quite marvellous. The Indians obviously believed Britain would be defeated, but he stood in front of us all and exuded the leadership and confidence which was to turn the tide. I was thrilled, and the Indians realised Britain was not done for after all.

     At about this stage I was approached to try and get a Corporal in the Royal Irish Fusiliers transferred to our unit. He was a friend of many of our York Street men and his regiment had had a very bad time in the Arakan and been cut to pieces, but when I rang their Adjutant and asked whether this could be arranged, he replied 'The fellow has obviously lost his nerve, he has got no guts ... You are welcome to him'. It would be nice to record that he did join our regiment and do better, but I cannot remember anything except the sad fact that this was the state the retreating Army was in."

     Here I would like to put in a Memoir from a member of this retreating army which I found recently in the Burmah Star magazine 'Dekho', which gives very substantial and impressive reasons why the retreating army was in a sad state, and how marvellous General Slim was to rally these heroic men again.

WITHDRAWAL FROM BURMA (G. SMITH)

     I can never forget the withdrawal from Burmah 1941-42. My unit the 1st. Bn. The West Yorkshire Regt. was almost wiped out, very few got back to India. I received a gunshot wound in my left buttock at Pegu whilst on the night patrol I was admitted to hospital at Maymyo (High School Hospital) which was later demolished by Jap bombers. All patients were told "make your own way to India," go in small groups, keep your arms, and watch out for traitor Burmese. Civilians blocked the way out, and thousands died when Jap fighter planes machine gunned them, and the troops, one could smell death long before we came to it. Disease took its toll. cholera, back water fever, and malaria, hundreds drowned crossing the Irrawaddy and the Chindwin rivers. Having no food or water resulted in gangs of people scrounging what they could get. I had to keep getting treatment for my wound, and I managed to get a walking stick. We had to have a guard at night, everyone took their turn. We took water from the rivers, but always chlorinated it.

     I have never seen so many dead in all my life, men, women, children, of all nationalities. I was very lucky to stay alive. I was 25 years old, now I'm 77. When I'm alone I can still see the men who never got back, 50 years since it happened and I can still see it. My heart is still full of bitterness towards the Japanese, it always will be. When the first campaign began the Japanese killed their prisoners by bayoneting, and I know some of my pals died this way. The Japs only took prisoners alive when they realised they had a railway to build. The towns we passed through had all been bombed, Mandalay, Prome, Yenanyong, and Shwebo, they were all burning. As we rested in Shwebo I watched a party of soldiers bury the Regimental silver in the cemetery. I thing they were K.O.Y.L.I, I often wonder if the Regiment ever got it back. I also saw bags of silver rupees sunk in the Chindwin river at Kalewa.

     It took us months to reach India, after walking over 1000 miles. We were not far from Imphal when the monsoon broke, dust became mud, and hundreds of feet were slowed down to a crawl, a WVS lad gave me a drink of tea out of a tin mug before I was taken to a FAP where my wound was cleaned and I was taken by ambulance train to Barreilly BMH, and later transferred to Deolali. I came back to the UK in Sept. 1943.

     Mr. Smith enlisted in 1935 and saw service in Palestine 1936, India 1937, Burma 1941/2, UK 1943, Europe 1944/5, and was demobilised in 1947 after completing 12 years service, and now lives at 43 Jaunty Road, . Sheffield.

     "As we moved down the coast we came to a little town called Feni where there was the most wonderful beach absolutely covered with scurrying crabs. If one could avoid them one could have a glorious time on beautiful sand and in warm sea, but as was always the way, rich American officers would land on the beach in their tiny planes with gorgeous girls, nurses from some hospital near them, which made us very jealous, later these planes became very useful as they were assigned to us as spotter planes.

     Despite my efforts. Col. Dearden was inclined to get short of sherry, and on one or two occasions I was sent back to Calcutta by plane to stock up for him, using my undoubtedly useful connections with the wine trade. He was a very able Commanding Officer, but in the afternoons when the sherry was beginning to take effect, he used to write the most appalling tough letters to our Generals and H. Q. in Delhi; probably right in what he said, and in the most beautiful English, but I realised that if these letters were received at G. H. Q., he would be sacked immediately, so any letters written late on I used to hold until the next day for his signature, and then he usually accepted that the letter would not be sent. We understood each other perfectly.

     The British Army which had received a pretty bloody nose in the Arakan and had made one effort to attack the Japanese just before we arrived in Bengal, had advanced but been surrounded from behind and then had to retreat and their morale was very low indeed as I have told, but now we had two new divisions with us, experienced British and Indian troops and we began to believe that we could move forward after the monsoon.

     While the monsoon was on we were taken out of the Arakan (after about four months of fairly desultory Ac-Ac warfare, there not being very many Japanese planes to shoot at) plus our vehicles and back across the Delta to near Calcutta, where we left the vehicles and entrained on to Ranchi, a peace-time base far to the west of Calcutta for another month of re-training and polishing our guns preparatory to going back into the Arakan for the expected New Offensive when the monsoon ended".

     At this stage I asked my husband when the monsoon season was, and he professed the usual forgetfulness with which he answers any of my questions on his notes, so we got out Chambers Encyclopedia which reported the following information: "these winds prevailing in the Indian Ocean blow from the South west from April to October and from the opposite direction, or North East, from October to April", in fact virtually the whole year round, thus making it very difficult to know who or what was going in which direction, which is no doubt exactly what the troops felt like! One must presume that when it blew from one direction it brought the rains with it, but the Encyclopedia never mentions rain at all!

     Despite this confusion, the New Offensive did go much better and the 8th Belfast Heavy Ac-Ac advanced down the Arakan and got as far as a nice little place called Maungdaw, where we set up our H.Q. and the battle through tunnels which had been dug years before the war by Indian engineers, and which made movement easier, but in which one was inclined to find Japanese already installed which was very hair-raising and unpleasant, fortunately by the time we got there with the Heavy Guns, most of the Japanese were dead and just unpleasantly smelly.

     My Adjutant's job was an interesting one. We were Corps Troops, that is 15 Corps was our H.Q. but they allocated our guns to the Divisions under their command, and I therefore dealt with the Commanding Royal Artillery man at Corps H.Q. and the Brigadiers in the Indian Divisions, and our Batteries were spread widely amongst them all, which made keeping contact much more of a test. Our guns not having many Japanese planes as targets at the stage, we became involved in ground targets and because our guns were good over long ranges, the Japanese defences, which were bunkers at the top of the surrounding mountains, could be hurt by our shells if suitable primed and fired from long distance.

     We had one serious Battle in H.Q. with the Japanese, when one of their patrols came through the jungle and crept into our encampment without our sentries seeing them, and put firebombs into our lorry park and blew up quite a lot of our lorries before our men realised what was happening. It was about 3am and most of us were asleep so it was not an occasion to be proud of, but fortunately we suffered no casualties, and replacement lorries came though pretty smartly. We learnt to be more careful about going round the sentries to see that they were awake at night. The sentries, of course, became a good deal more jumpy and started throwing hand-grenades at any movement they heard, which very sadly frequently turned out to be tame Indian logging elephants which had been turned loose from their work pulling timber down the mountains when the War broke out, and now wandered about looking for the food and human companionship they had come to depend on.

     I had two alarming experiences exclusive to me at this time, we were dug in on the top of a little hill on the steep banks of a tidal Chaung (small river) the whole area surrounded by three heights of rolled Dannert wire and we all enjoyed being able to bathe in this Chaung when the tide was right. One morning I called to the Assistant Adjutant to know if the tide was in as he lay sun-bathing after his swim, and he nodded, so I dived in ... and nearly broke my neck. When I stood up the water only just covered my ankles. He had either bathed much longer ago than he realised (and the tide did go out very fast) or else he was looking for promotion!

     The second occasion which caused me considerable alarm was when I was standing after another swim, drying myself in the sun, and I suddenly saw an enormous water buffalo gallop straight at the Dannert wire and leap it with the greatest ease, followed by another even larger animal and they both came charging straight at me! I decided the wisest thing to do was to take to the water and dived into the Chaung accompanied by the cheers of the spectating men, to be followed immediately by the buffalo. This was really worrying, and I swam furiously some way upstream before I dared pause to look round and realise that the buffalo were swimming in the opposite direction and quite definitely only interested in each other fore reasons of nature. This has been one of the most popular stories at Mess reunions ever since!

     Another (more serious) event of great importance to me happed at this Camp. 'Big Jimmy' was promoted to be Colonel in place of Col. Dearden, and my job as Adjutant became very much happier and more straightforward. This was a very timely change as H.Q. where Mountbatten had now arrived, decided that there had been too much retreating and too little 'fighting it out'. So instructions were issued that if the Japanese came round behind you, you stayed put, and you took them on where you were and this was what then happed at the famous Nyakyedauk Pass Battle. Robin Reade and his Troop, with a few tanks had to fight back with what remained of an Indian Divisional H.Q. which had been infiltrated by the Japanese, so unexpected was the attack that the Japanese got into the little Tented Hospital and killed every one in it and the General (Masservy) escaped in his pyjamas, the Troop were completely surrounded and cut off for several weeks, but gallantly held on as instructed with supplies being dropped to them by parachute, and counter-attacks were found through the tunnels and over the mountains to relieve them. It was the first time this new tactic of hanging on for grim death while being supplied from the air was being carried out, and it succeeded and the Japanese were fought off.

     One of the heroes of this siege was my friend Robin Reade who seized one of the guns and engaged the Japanese on 'open sites'. Which means they were so close he used his eyes rather than instruments to assess his target; for which action he subsequently received the Military Cross, and I had the pleasure in assisting Col. Cunningham in writing out the citation of his bravery and that of another Officer called Bing. Also for Billy Adrain, who had been one of the motor-mechanics in Lyle and Kinahan before the war, and who most bravely tore round putting out fires caused by Japanese shell-fire in the ammunition lorries. Billy, who like all of us was extremely thin now, looked so like Stan Laurel of Laurel and Hardy fame, that he had been mobbed in an Indian Cinema showing one of their Films when the audience thought one of the Stars was actually visiting the Cinema! Now he also received a Military Medal for his courage. All three men survived "The Box" as this action became known.

     We had no communication with the Box except through one of their tanks which was 'linked' to a tank on our side of the mountain. The troops in the Box as I have said received food dropped from the air (as did the Japanese, who were very quick to pick up parachute loads which drifted their way) and the food included drink and cigarettes. Some months later I was pretty surprised to receive a bill from the NAAFI for these supplies, and 'discussed' the matter with Jimmy, who told me to 'tear the damn thing up' which I did. We never got a reminder, but if we had we would have pointed out that they should also really be billing the Japanese too.

     When the monsoon came again, as it did reasonably soon after the Nyakyedauk incident, the roads became quite impassable for our heavy guns and vehicles, so we were once again pulled out for a period in India, and once again Ranchi was our location. One incident which occurred here was a night when we were asleep in our tents and were suddenly awoken by tremendous sounds of shooting, and found a number of jeeps driving through the camp with Bren guns mounted on their bonnets, firing away at Pie dogs and any other animals they thought was fun to hunt. As a number of their bullets had gone through our tents we put an end to this 'entertainment' and discovered they were all Chinese, who we arrested and discovered they were being trained by the Americans so that they could be flown back 'over the hump' (the mountains through which they had come to offer their services to the Americans) and dropped back into the jungle to fight the Japanese from the Chinese border. We had some special dealings with the American 'dug-out' officers who were here so when we handed the Chinese back to them. Jimmy Cunningham said, "Well! What's going to happen to them now?" and was horrified when the American Colonel shrugged his shoulders and said, "I guess we'll probably shoot them." Jimmy said, "Please don't. We don't do that sort of thing in our Army." We never heard what did happen.

     During this period of rest, we were allowed three weeks' leave, and I decided to take it with Robin Reade and our English friend, Philip Beldam, in Shrinagar. It was a long, long way across India to Kashmir by train and we passed the time playing poker or bridge for three days, with a case of whiskey and a case of gin to assist our efforts until we reached Rawalpindi, where we were taken up the mountains by car to stay in Nadou's Hotel in Shrinagar, having decided against a houseboat, as people had warned us about the sewage going over the side etc.

     There were two crisis on the way up. One, our very dangerous driver, the Sikh taximan for this most precipitous road, swung round a corner and I looked down and saw a bus lying in the river 300 feet below. There were obviously serious casualties but, equally obviously, plenty of people already helping, so we thought there was not much we could do. It wasn't until I got back to my unit that I discovered that some of our own men had been on this bus and one of my own Artillery Clerks, Alex Clark, had been killed in the crash. The second crisis was at the border into Kashmir. We had been told we could take drink across if we allowed our chauffeur to do a deal with the customs. This was tried, and the driver and customs man argued furiously, the stakes increasing all the time, and at one stage Robin and Philip walked off leaving it to me, and I began to envisage spending my leave in gaol in Kashmir. However, by paying the extortionate price, they had obviously agreed on in advance , we were allowed to take what remained of our drink with us to the hotel, which turned out to be very comfortable and an excellent base from which to enjoy ourselves

     I had an introduction from my mother to a family called Tyndall-Biscoe who ran a Christian school for the natives of that area, and had been to stay with my grandfather, the Bishop, in Belfast. I was warmly welcomed by them and their married daughter, Fluffy, whose husband was away fighting in the army in the Middle East. She was very good company and we developed a respectable friendship. There were many 'grass-widows' out there who had a very good time entertaining officers on leave, some, more than others. I acquired a beautiful blonde dancing partner who had been the 'model 'for the Craven 'A' cigarette advertisements, and Robin Reade picked up a girl who in the end, became rather too enthusiastic as he discovered she wanted to get a divorce from her husband (which frightened all our heroes so they quite forgot anything but rescuing Robin from her clutches). By this time his engagement ring had come back from the girl in Deauville, but despite his new enthusiasm, we managed to prevent any further engagement being entered into. She, however, did not give up so easily and the whole affair kept alive until, after the war was over, she invited herself to stay with Robin Reade at Broughshane and appeared dressed for a Co. Antrim point-to-point in a tight skirt, high heels and hat. This sartorial error achieved in one moment what had taken his two best friends three years to open his eyes to, and great was their relief.

     After a thoroughly good leave in Kashmir, we three returned to polishing our guns and retraining preparatory to going on what was to be our last defensive in the Arakan. By now the war in Europe was over, and we felt even more 'forgotten', especially when we read about the ecstatic celebrations of peace in London while we were still fighting and my brother, Charles, and many others were still suffering as prisoners of war of the Japanese.

     Quite a few of the Divisions had been taken to Northern Burmah to hold back a Japanese advance there. They had been flown out, but the ones who were left had instructions to take the Islands of Akyab and Ramri. For once we had been promised landing craft. Until now, the Mediterranean sphere of war had always had the monopoly of these craft; at last they came our way and we planned the invasion of Akyab. It was to be rather a damp squib. We had admirable plans and were all ready to go when a message came through that an Army Air corps Pilot had landed his Aircraft on a small strip on the island and found that the Japanese had already evacuated it! So off we went to an unopposed landing. Akyab must have been a small trading port and quite civilised in the old Burmah days; we did find some huts and buildings to live in amongst the wreckage, and one little Church of England church still standing, where I hope you will now find a marble memorial to our casualties in Burmah. We held a little ceremony to remember our dead, conducted by our Padre, called Quintan from the West of Ireland who had been with us all through Burmah, though in fact 'us' covered such a broad spectrum, that we, personally, much more often had services from the excellent Methodist missionaries who had worked there before the war.

     Among these dead whom we remembered was a man called Bert Kinnon who had been a lift-man in Gallahers cigarette factory in Belfast and also my batman for a long time. This included our journey out to India, when he embarrassed me by 'knocking off' (army slang for stealing) a camp bed, so that I could be more comfortable when sleeping out on deck. I made him take it back to its rightful owner and he thought I was daft. He also drank half a bottle of Jamesons whiskey, which I had stupidly forgotten to lock up ...After some time in Burmah with me we fell out and he demanded to go back to the Guns, which he did, and was immediately killed. I used to send his widow a Christmas present every year when I was running the Regimental Fund after the war was over.

     Information was coming through to us now that the war was going very much better; that the Army had broken through into Northern Burmah and were advancing on Rangoon. We, meanwhile, advanced a little further down coast. The Japanese in our sector were still 'holing up' in fox-holes and firing hard as they were flushed out. This we did with our long range guns, helped by the aforementioned spotter planes which used to bring the pretty nurses down to the beach at Chittagong! There was an incident when Robin Reade decided to experiment whether he could not do it better himself and climbed up a mountain to our forward Observation Post, where he heard on the radio link, a visiting gunnery Instructor further down the line giving some other guns instructions to fire on a certain area. Robin joined in on the radio link, much to their surprise and told them in no uncertain terms not to fire on that area because that was us. They were extremely annoyed at his interference and even more annoyed when they discovered he was right. We were extremely grateful. The spotter planes had the effect of stopping the Japanese firing as they did not want to give away their positions, so we inclined to keep the pilots up fairly often to get a respite, which annoyed them a bit too.

     We had just been supplied with 7.2 inch guns, and installed them on the island of Ramrek, but before we got a chance to use these fine big guns the Japanese retreated again, and we realised that our war in Akyab was over, and we were put on stand-by for another sphere of war. We were told to go to Madras in Southern India to await instructions.

     There must have been either a severe shortage of shipping or a danger of submarines for, instead of steaming the 1100 miles across the Bay of Bengal all in one go, which would have taken about a couple of days, we had to haul our guns all the way back up the coast by lorry, and back across all the rivers on the Delta, embarking and disembarking on the ferries from the Hoogli to the Ganges, then on by train to Calcutta, where we changed again to entrain for Madras, a further ten days journey, which I, needless to say, spent playing bridge, and during which time I never won a rubber, through I was by now quite a good player! Arrived at Madras, we went to a large camp south of the city where all the Forces were assembling to invade Malaya. This news thrilled me for I thought my brother, Charles, who had been taken POW by the Japanese after defending Singapore as a civilian TA (specialising in bomb disposal which he never had a chance to practice because the Japanese advance so fast) was still in Malaya. My family had received just one message during the three years since the fall of Singapore to say that he was alive, a POW.

     My mother remained absolutely confident that he would return alive, and I always hoped that by some miracle, I might be the man who would be able to set him free. This gave an added 'enthusiasm' (if you could call the utter exhaustion felt by our troops after three years in Burmah and India 'enthusiasm') to the commencement of our training to assault Malaya. This assault, thank God, never happened, because the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan just before 33 Corps was about to enship for invasion. Interestingly, my bother-in-law, Pat Blacker, now a Brigadier, was in Ceylon planning this invasion and he told me later, that our invasion would have been an extremely difficult one as pretty well all the information they had about that area was wrong. We would, for a start have been landed into water 40 feet deep, instead of on to the gently shelving beaches they had been told were there. We did by then, have water-proofed vehicles, but it would have been extremely tricky to advance under fire in such very deep water.

     All the time we were in Madras, training, I had been having some very nasty problems with my waterworks, perhaps having to 'go' twenty times in a night. Up to this time, I had had a particularly trouble-free war as far as illness was concerned, apart from prickly heat and rotting feet which everyone suffered from. Though people like Robin Reade, whose prickly heat went septic and caused extreme discomfort, also at the same time had repeated relapses of malaria suffered more than most. Now it was my turn to suffer considerable pain, and soon I was made to report into hospital in the castle in Madras city, where I found it embarrassing to have to explain my problems and be examined by a lady Doctor. I had not expected this! However, while I was undergoing treatment, Jimmy Cunningham came to tell me no matter how ill I was, I would not be left behind when the Regiment sailed home, and I was, in fact, taken on board on a stretcher.

     Other people who were anxious about catching the boat home were some of our rather militant other ranks who had celebrated victory over Japan by beating up Military Policemen in Madras city. We had to arrest them and I was told to plan to court martial them, but we managed to talk the Chief Military Policeman out of a prison sentence in India, by promising to keep them under arrest on the way back to England. We were high on the Priority for Return as we had been out of England for three and a half years. Norman Brann was the only officer who had got a leave home during our India/Burmah service, and that was compassionate. Some of our men discovered while we were out there that our contract with the Army was for three years, plus one year if there was a National Emergency, so when the four years from the time they enlisted was up they parade in front of the Colonel and said 'Sir, we have fulfilled our commitment. Now we would like to leave the army and go home'. This was rather upsetting and we reported it to HQ who said, 'That is quite alright, send them home and then they will be called up again for service in another theatre of war'. Whereupon we had to point out to GHQ that there was no conscription in the North of Ireland, therefore, once they got back home, they could stay there; which GHQ in turn found rather disturbing. In the end Jimmy Cunningham called the men on parade and spoke to them, "Look here, men, we came out here to see this thing through ... You don't want to go home without finishing the job, do you?' and of course they did all stay on and finish the job. So it was that in August 1945 we were notified to join the 'Stirling Castle', another Belfast built liner, which was also carrying Civilian families who had been released from an internment camp in Hong Kong on the extremely unaptly named 'Happy Valley' Race Course, and they were as thrilled as we were to be going home on this once again very crowded ship.

     On this occasion there were 120 officers in a walled in deck space with very, very inadequate washing facilities, however we were in such tearing spirits to have survived the war and be going home any problem could be put up with. This time also, we did not have to go the long haul round by the Cape; the Suez Canal was open and we steamed through, finding it most unimpressive, as was the look of Aden, but it was wonderful to get so quickly though into the Mediterranean and feel we were in familiar places. Once again, I played bridge most of the way, and Norman Brann again volunteered to fight in a boxing contest to entertain us, only this time he had a very pretty girl to show off to who was in a desperate state of worry in case he got badly hurt! This time the ship was a 'dry' ship, which was probably a very sensible arrangement, especially as many of the men, including me, were less than half our usual weight, so in the great heat we consumed gallons and gallons of very expensive soft drinks as drinking water was extremely scarce. We were very lucky to come home in warm weather after so long in the great heat as it gave us all a chance to recover and acclimatise. Our ship docked at Liverpool and we were immediately entrained for Stranraer and the steamer to Larne harbour, where we were met by a band and many VIPs including Sir Basil Brooke, the Prime Minister. Later that week, we put on our bush hats and paraded round the centre of Belfast. We were all bright yellow after years of being dosed with Mepoquin and, as I have said before, extremely thin, but reasonably fit. It was a great feeling to be home and to be cheered by all our families and friends ".

     Oddly enough, Robin does not remember anything about what must have been such a wonderful home-coming, except that his father met him at the boat at Larne, his mother not being well ... and he thinks he must then have gone to Belfast by train with the troops to disband them before being picked up again and taken home by his father for his two weeks leave. It must have been wonderful for his parents to see him again, because no news had yet come through about his brother. After a rather quiet leave during which none of the Regiment saw any of the other members, they were once again shipped and trained back to England where the lucky ones wasted their time in some gun sites round Coventry. "One or two promotions were made. Robin Reade was given command of 21 Battery, as Major, on Maurice Gabbey's retirement. Jimmy Cunningham retired, and we were sent a new Colonel, Newall, who was I think, rather ashamed to be put to command an Ac-Ac unit after the glories of being a Horse Gunner. However he was an Irishman and soon got to know us, and I found him an efficient Commanding Officer, but we were all just filling in time until our own retirement came up. Mine came in September. I had had my chance of promotion to Major, out in India, but it would have meant leaving the Regiment, so I opted to stay on as Adjutant with Jimmy. Now in September I was demobbed, sent to Victoria Barracks in Belfast and issued with my demobilisation kit, a rather dull grey pin-strip suit, a pair of shoes and some underwear and I was then back to civilian life, having really rather enjoyed my six years in the Forces ".

     I expect a lot of young men who had no romantic attachments or family worries felt very much the same. Robin had the happiness of being at home when the news of his brother's survival came. Their mother was not well (with what eventually was discovered to be cancer) and the joy of confirmation of her unswerving belief that Charles was still alive and that his POW Camp had been freed at last was tremendous ... though Robin remembers well how appalled they were by the thinness of this 6 foot 2 inch brother weighing six stone after his journey home, and to this day he has never spoken of his sufferings, until we managed to persuade him to write a very short and extremely proud-making account of those three and a half years working on and near the famous bridge over the River Kwai. He attributes part of his survival to having been camped on a reasonably fertile piece of land where he took charge of the gardening, and so his Camp were not quite as starved as the ones higher up the river on barren land, though their treatment was not any better. He also tells how from his experience of living in the East for about a year before he was taken prisoner and his acclimatisation and knowledge of the Malay language made him able to get in contact through the perimeter fence, with natives who brought him some desperately needed medicines. The man who risked his life to get these things always waved aside Charles' attempts to give him an address from which he would be paid after the war, 'I know I can trust the British', he always said. When Charles went back after he had recovered to work in Malaya again, he sought out this brave and good friend and was desperately saddened to find that he had been exposed and murdered by the Japanese.

The Kinahans were one of the very few families in Northern Ireland who had both sons returned to them after the War...

other excerpts from the book pertaining to the 8th Belfast HAA

    I also played quite a lot of golf every Wednesday evening with Robin Reade, Norman Brann and David Holden, all ex-Belfast 8th Ac-Ac Regt.  David was one of the few Englishmen in the Regt. and had joined us because he was working in the Civil Service in Belfast and had made friends in Ulster.  He had a most delightful ability to be able to quote pages of A. A. Milne's "Winnie The Pooh" while sitting in a gun-site anywhere from Coventry to Burma, which endeared him very much to his friends.  He could almost certainly have quoted any of the greater (?) writers, but possibly not with such delightful and cheering effect!  We played at the Royal Belfast Golf Club at Craigavad; it was not a very expert foursome and we used to get rather nettled with David who would never admit that a ball was lost, and spent an awful lot of time in the rough looking for them when we would much rather have written the balls off and got on with the game.  However that was typical David Holden and we liked him just the same, and this tenacity of purpose enabled him eventually to rise to become Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service and to receive a Knighthood for his work.

     Robin was, as Auntie had noted, an ambitious politician but, unlike so many politicians, NOT from desire for personal gain, but from a desire to serve his Country.  Forty one years on I have still never met anyone else with such a single-minded love of his Fellow Countrymen.  It has always been the unfaltering star of his life, and the Members of his Regt. the principle characters.  Everywhere we went we met them and 'The Crack' is always superb.  No wonder that when many years later Norman Brann met Field Marshall Lord Slim at a Territorial Army 'Do'. and Slim asked him where he had served during the War? Norman replied, "Under you, Sir, In Burma"

     "Ah! What Regiment were you with?"
     "The 8th Belfast Ac-Ac Regt. Sir"
     "Ho! I remember you! Yours was the regiment that never did anything the way we asked them to, but always turned out right!  Now ... What was the name of that tall Colonel of yours?  No ... don't tell me ...   I'll never forget him ... Ah! I have it!
     Colonel Jimmy Cunningham ...'


8th Belfast Ac-Ac in Burmah
Front row: (L to R) Norman Brann; Ted Garrett; ?????????; Maurice Gabby;  Arthur Bates;  Col. Jimmy Cunningham;  Joe Mitchell;  David Holden;  Robin Kinahan ;  Harry McKibbin;  Robin Reade
2nd row: (L to R) L. R. Mick Heseltine;  ?????;  Philip Beldam;  Harry Porter;  ?????;  ?????

Marion Kinahan's wedding to Capt. George Blacker.
Left to right: Maj. Martin -- George (Pat) and Marion  - Judy Bloomfield  -  Ula and Harry Kinahan  -  2nd Lt. Robin Kinahan

Jimmy Cunningham as Vice-Lieut. Belfast, Robin as Lord Mayor

March Past, The Burmah Star with Col. Jimmy Cunningham taking the Salute, flanked by Col. Norman Brann, Lord Lieutenant of Co. Down and Sir Robin Kinahan, Lord Lieutenant of the County of Belfast, Both ex-Subalterns under Col. Jimmy

Robin, Lord Mountbatten, Bill McCarley, Chairman, Burmah Star N.I.

Robin and Me at Ulster Defence Regiment Memorial Service, Belfast Cathedral
 

Other books published by this author

Historical Romance

"You can't Shoot the English --!"  Ulster  1912-14

"After The War Came Peace --?"  Ulster 1916-20