Lt.-Col.John Willcocks

I have nothing very exciting to record but to give an idea of the life of one young officer the following may be of some interest.
As a young inexperienced subaltern I had Joined my Regiment (24th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery), stationed in Waterloo Barracks, Aldershot, in the spring of 1939; it was just at the beginning of the annual training season, so we were kept very busy, especially as the threat of war was in the air.
War was declared a week after my 21st birthday and the Regiment embarked for France on 14th September. We moved up to the French-Belgian border during the next few days and then spent the ‘phoney war’ preparing defences and training, knowing that sometime there would come a German attack.
In the middle of May the ‘blitzkrieg’ was unleashed on Belgium, Holland and France; we moved up into Belgium and came into action with our observation posts overlooking the Field of Waterloo.
The story of the next fortnight has been told many times; for us it meant fighting a series of battles, withdrawing to the coast, destroying our guns on the way and embarking from the sand dunes near Dunkirk in H.M.S.Basilisk, a British destroyer, which brought us back to England.
The Regiment was re-formed at Hereford and subsequently moved to the West Country where we, like all the rest of the Army, were slowly re-equipped with new guns and awaited the expected German invasion, which never materialised.

At the end of 1941 I was sent on a gunnery course at the School of Artillery on Salisbury Plain to learn to be an instructor and, in one way or another, I spent much of the next two years instructing at the School or on live firing ranges. The most rewarding and interesting time was the six months prior to the Normandy invasion when I was involved in amphibious training and the problems of firing self-propelled guns from tank landing craft during the 'run-in' to the beaches.

I landed on D-day with the Headquarters of 1st British Corps as a member of the R.A. staff and remained with them during their advance through France, Belgium and Holland up to the River Maas. I left them there at the beginning of 1945, shortly before the great battle of the Rhine crossing.
As I said at the beginning - not a very heroic or glamorous war!