Pensioners remember the loss of life in World War II
8th November 2019
As we remember those who lost their lives in the line of duty, some of our Chelsea Pensioners, who served in World War II, share their own thoughts and memories of wartime losses.
“We were just 19 and didn’t really realise what was going on. In the cemetery called Jerusalem in Normandy, there was a 16-year-old boy who’d been killed. That’s how sad war is.” – Ernie Boyden, who took part in the Normandy landings as an Observation Post signaller
“I remember the first time I looked at a body. it was a corporal who’d been helping me for the last year or so. He’d been through the North African and Italian campaigns. I thought ‘Why him?’ Then one of the other veterans said to me, ‘Just keep going forward’. I think about the war all the time. You never forget. You always remember the lads who never came back.”– Bill Fitzgerald, who landed on D-Day and was subsequently seriously wounded
“My dad was in the First World War and had the most horrific experience. As a lad he belonged to a cricket club in Westcliff. They played every week. When the war broke out, they decided to all join up together and become a Pals regiment – a group of young fellows who were allowed to stay together. They went to France and were all in the trenches. One afternoon they were going to sit down and have tea in the little hut they lived in and they found they had no biscuits. Big tragedy! So someone had to go and get biscuits from the naffy. It meant getting on a bike and cycling along in full view of the Germans fireline. They drew lots for it and my dad got the short stick. He went off and was away for about an hour. When he came back he found that a bomb had hit their hut and it was completely destroyed. All his friends had been killed. He never really got over that. So when it came to me wanting to help with the war he agreed.”– Helen Andrews, who worked at Bletchley Park
“Members of my squadron met annually at the place where we were stationed before we went to Arnhem, at Donnington. The numbers gradually dwindled. At the last one there were three of us and, of those three, I know two have died. I’m probably the only one left.”– John Humphreys, who fought at Arnhem
“When I go back to Normandy in June, I always take two crosses. Two of my friends are there, buried. They died from bullets. You didn’t know where you were firing. What you had to do was keep firing.”– George Skipper, a Royal Army Service Corps gunner who took part in the Normandy landings.