The Story of Birmingham Veteran
Interviewed by Selina Medford and Compiled by S. Davis & J. Adams – Contributions to WWI & II
I joined the Barbados Volunteer Force in 1940 at the age of 17. We were later taken over by the British Armed Forces in 1941. I was not quite 18 so I was told that I could not continue to be a soldier when the British Forces took over.
My mother was asked to sign a form of consent, which she was very reluctant to do. As I was the only son of seven children this was a very difficult thing for her to do, so she took the form to our neighbour and discussed what she should do. His advice at the time was for her to sign the form because it had the phrase “On His Majesty’s Service” on the letterhead, which meant she had no choice but to sign.
After it was signed I was transferred to the British Armed Forces and the British soldiers, who had come over from over England, trained with us. I was given one shilling and, in the presence of a padre, had to swear to the Almighty God to defend our King and Country. I was placed at Charles Fort on a machine gun post, protecting the harbour. We were all on full alert at all times and were told that an attack by a submarine was expected at any time. We had just put down some torpedo net, two merchant ships were in the harbour and I remember that it was a bright sunny day.
When I was relieved from my term of duty at 16:00 hours, I rushed to the guardroom to listen to the BBC’s World Service. The forces’ favourite Vera Lynn was singing “There’ll be blue birds over the White Cliffs of Dover.” This was the time the war came to Barbados. We were shaken by a large explosion and were being attacked by a submarine. The alarm sounded. We took up our positions: I was number one on the gun. After a while six torpedoes were fired. I did not see the first but I saw the other five. Four hit the torpedo net but two hit one of the ships, lifting it out of the water before it went down. As the ship had been in the harbour, some of its cargo was salvaged. We did not see the submarine – it did not surface. Later, we found out that it went to another island and did the same thing.
Footnote: Mr Medford’s first job in England was with Birmingham City Transport as a bus driver. He later took up driving for R M Douglas Construction. He retired from work in the mid – 80’s. He and his wife Diana have been actively involved with their local church.