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Kenneth Young interview: Second World War

I had joined the Territorial Army in 1938 and was called up on 24th August 1939 as Sapper Young. I was on searchlights with the 26th Battalion Royal Engineers. Strangely enough the headquarters was a big drill hall at Merton Road and it is still there today. It was a new building in those days. Although I had been called up, my only previous practice camp had been in June 1938 at Enfield where there was a searchlight. I had gone over there in great state in a lorry. During the fortnight we were there we had a night run. We were all in our tents at night and then a plane came over at maximum speed of 95 mph, painted white so that we could pick it up easily with the searchlight. We followed it with the searchlight across the sky until it went out of sight. Then it came back again on the way to Southend. That happened twice in two weeks and it was all the training we had in two weeks.

On the 24th August, a week before the war broke out, I got a phone call at work to join immediately. I went to the Duke of York’s headquarters at Chelsea, wanting to get with my old detachment. I was dispatched to Kennington Oval and had the distinction of digging the first hole in the middle of the Oval pitch for a Lewis gun position. I was then moved to a searchlight site at Rotherhithe, near to New Cross dog track and was there until Christmas 1939. After a spell at headquarters in Merton Road, SW19, in June 1940 I was sent to the Officers Training Unit at Llandrindod Wells in central Wales. Here I  was transferred to the Royal Artillery and in November 1940 I “passed out” as 2nd Lieutenant Young RA. I joined the City of London Yeomanry RA (the Rough Riders) with Bofors AA guns and was with the same regiment for the rest of the war.

I spent some time with my regiment in the UK in various training operations until 1942 when we embarked with the 1st Army for North Africa, landing at Algiers in November. I was with the 1st Army at the fall of Tunis and subsequently crossing to Italy, worked our way up the Adriatic coast all the way to Florence, Venice and into Austria. I was de-mobbed in December 1945, by that time with the rank of Major.  I got married four days after de-mobilisation.

I remember the part of the Common around the Windmill during the war. There were big anti-aircraft guns there. There was a laundry at West Place with an open air drying area. The Italian prisoner of war camp on the Common was gone by the time I returned to Wimbledon.