Following in my father's footsteps

Welcome to the Orihuela Costa and District Branch of The Royal British Legion

By Brian Tomlinson

My father was in The Royal Welch Fusiliers where he ended his military service as a Sgt. He fought all the way through WWII in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany, during which time he was mentioned in despatches and was subsequently awarded the Oak Leaf.

Prior to the war he served in the Territorial Army band so on the outbreak he was called up almost immediately. After his training he was posted to Belfast in Northern Ireland.

On the 9th of June 1955 I too was called up, but for National Service. I had to report to Wrexham Barracks, the home of The Royal Welch Fusiliers, which, being in my home town, was only a short journey. But even at that early stage I was extremely proud to be following in my father’s footsteps 

On reporting to Wrexham Barracks I was provided with the uniform, which, as all ex service men know, only fitted where it touched. Recruits either swapped amongst each other or had the clothing altered. I remained at Wrexham Barracks for my six weeks basic training after which I was posted to Moore Barracks in Dortmund, West Germany. 

Getting used to army life was strange at first but we soon got by. I was given my first stripe after just a few weeks upon which I was transferred to the Anti Tank platoon in Support Company.  We had the Battery anti tank gun but to practise firing its 60lb shell we had to travel across Germany to Kiel in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, bordering on Denmark.

In July 1956 the Regiment was on the move when we were all posted to Montgomery Barracks in West Berlin, behind the Iron Curtain, later to become the Berlin wall.

We travelled all the way along the autobahn in the back of a three ton army Bedford. 

We soon found out that life was going to be so different there. Your movement was restricted and most of the time was spent on a guard of some sort.  The Russians were only across the other side of a field from our camp and we could see them looking down on us from their watch towers, along with the East German Police.

The wire fence that was the border between East and West ran through our camp where the very last building was half in the East and half in the Western sector.

One of the many guards that we had to do was in Spandau Prison. I particularly recall April 1957 when it was our turn to provide the guard for the whole month. By this time I had gained my second stripe so I was the Duty Corporal.

We were staying in Brooke Barracks which was very close to the prison. The sentries for the Spandau guard were marched across the road to take over. The prison guardroom was on the outside of the walls which was fitted with an electric fence.

At the time it accommodated just 6 inmates who were all housed inside an area contained within an even larger inner gate.

The day I was on guard duty I entered the main gate as I marched the sentries for the new guard in front of me. When I marched them into the garden Rudolf Hess was only about a foot away from me, I looked at him although we were not supposed to acknowledge or talk to the prisoners. I then carried on posting the sentries at the six watch towers around the prison wall. On the way back I had a better view and could see all of the other five prisoners around the garden.

When I got back to the guard room I was thinking that just 10 years earlier my father was guarding the same prisoners at Nuremburg when his battalion provided the guard for the perimeter around the court room.

That certainly is what's known as 'Following in Father's footsteps'.

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