My name is Bob Linton. I was in the Royal Corps of Signals and I sailed most of the war with the 50th Northumbrian Division.
We started in France in 1940, we got away from Dunkirk, came back to Britain, did some south coast defence, and we were shipped out to the Middle East. We were building up to the Alamein. We eventually got back behind the Alamein Line, pretty badly battered I must admit. We’d already lost one brigade, and there weren’t enough reinforcements in Cairo to get the division back up to strength. However, we were eventually brought up to strength, and we went back in the Alamein Line, on the southernmost end, beside the Qataran Depression. When the big attack came, our brigade was pulled out of the line and taken north to take part in the punchout. Did that and then we were rested a little bit, while the glory boys rode out after the Germans. Then they hit a snag at a place called Mareth, a heavily reinforced line that the Germans had built up in the borders with … and Tunisia. And so we had to go back and help them out again. We fought in the Battle of Mareth, and then moved forward to … Akarit.
At that time, I was seconded to the Green Howard Brigade and we went in under attack with the Gurka Regiment. This was a … attack. But it didn’t end it that way. We rolled from there forward to Enfidaville and were just preparing for the final battle for the capture of Tunis when we were pulled out of the line and sent way back down the Suez Canal to the Bitter Lakes, to be trained for invasion and it was rather annoying that most of the people in Britain had been training for an invasion for four years, but we got about five minutes.
There was a naval officer came along, looked us over and said, “Well, that ship is a landing ship, that one is a landing craft infantry,” and so on down the line. And they said, “Well, that’s it. Now you know all about it.” And he took off. So we went back to Alexandria and our trucks and equipment had all been waterproofed and we shipped aboard an LST and sailed us up through the Med to just west of Tripoli, and we waited there for the attack on Sicily. And we landed at the southeastern tip and worked our way up the east coast of Sicily, where eventually we got through and took the Catania Airfield, and we worked our way up the east coast again to Tiramina. When we got to Tiramina, the German Army had blown all the bridges around the foot of Mount Etna. We had to sit there or mount another invasion to get past it. But in the meantime, the Canadians and the Americans had come round the western side of Mount Etna and so it wasn’t necessary for us to go any further. So we moved forward to Messina and we sat there and they said, “Oh, you’ve got to hand your equipment in.” And we’d heard that tale before. We knew exactly what it meant. It meant that we were going to be moved to some other place.
We eventually got on board a troopship and we were told by one of their petty officers and he had no idea where we were going, but he said, “When you get to the cape at the southwest corner of Sicily,” he says, “If you take a left turn you’re going to Burma. If you take a right turn you’re going to Britain.”