GRO Rec Marr - 1951/6 Middlesex S 5f/27
'Bill's" Wartime Experiences:
"Bill" joined the British Army ( Middlesex Regiment) in 1936 when he wa s 14 years of age. He was stationed at Mill Hill Barracks and became a m ember of the Regimental band and played a saxophone. He was 15 when his mother, Annie Maria Cooper, died of pneumonia in April1938 and he came home for the funeral.
In December1943 along with the rest of the Regiment he moved to Liverp ool and from there embarked on a troopship bound for Algeria. They sai led to Belfast harbour and from there went on to Gibraltar and then to O ran in Algeria. They disembarked at Oran and were then loaded into tru cks for a 26 hour drive along the North African seabord, into Tunisia a nd on to a town called Biserta - where they climbed into Landing Craft a nd were transported across the Mediterannean to Naples. In naples they were merged with the 7th Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment and acted a s reinforcements. They saw their first action at the river Gariagliano . They moved North into a town called Minterna and advanced to Monte Ca sino where they were shelled. At this point "Bill" was transferred into the Machine Gun Section of the Cheshires. The weather was atrocious a nd he remembers that it rained for 3 days without stop.
They arrived just outside Naples where there was an epidemic of Typhus. However, "bill" and a few of his mates decided to try to get into the c ity - but they were chased by American Military Police who were trying t o keep all troops out of the city.
They were embarked onto boats and landed at the Anzio beachheadwhe re they were stuck for about 6 months. They marched on to Rome which b ecame an "Open City" and where the Americans were holding victory parad es. They were stationed in a small village just outside of Rome and wer e transferred into the 2nd Battalion of the Northants Regiment and tran sported by ship to Port Said in Egypt. They moved to a small village cl ose to the Sphinx and travelled by train to the Eastern side of the Sue z Canal, from where they continued on to Garza and stayed there for a w eek. On to the usual trucks and transported to the Dead Sea and ov er hills to Lebanon to a place called "Oaz Bulbeck ???"
August 1944, Stayed in a camp with snow on the mountains, for a period o f 2 to 3 months. At the end of this time they marched back to Palestin e taking 3 days and then were trucked to Partisanah ? where they spent C hristmas Day 1944. On Boxing Day they travelled by ship from Haifa bac k to Taranto, in the "heel" of Italy. Travelled to a place called Tavi alani??? in Tuscany where they were for 3 weeks. The Allied Army had j ust captured Venice. Travelled all day and slept on the road in Rome. O n to Salerno. Then to Naples where they boarded a French ship which to ok 2 days to take them to Marseille. They were in a camp just outside t he city of Marseille and were not allowed in to the city.
They then set out by Railway, passing through Paris and on to Aals(Flan ders) and were billeted in a village called Erodegen. The German V1 ro ckets were bombarding Antwerp. Shortly afterwards he saw Allied troops crossing the River Rhine into Germany, went up through Genna and throu gh seven towns where all pof the houses had been bombed. At this point h e was riding a motorcycle and a woman waved him down to stop him as he w as a approaching a bombed out bridge. Then he got a puncture and a Mil itary Policeman mended it. They drove into Celle and were stationed at t he main barracks where the German garrison lived for the Bergen-Belsen C oncentration Camp. Soon after they crossed the River Elbe by pontoons. The Baltick German Army Corps surrendered to the British in preferenc e to the Russians.. They heard the German Jet aircraft straffing and m et up with the Russians and Americans. They were then trucked to Swear ing in East Germany and went on leave to Mallenberg in Belgium. He fin ished up in the Royal Signal Regiment - just outside Gottayen in the Ru hr Valley then out to Dusseldorf. Transferred from there to Hamburg wh ere he walked into a Canteen and met Cyril (his brother Cyril Bray Coop er). Transferred to Haniver and Celle and from there he was discharged