Training and Life in a Division in Norfolk and Kent

The Battalion left Dalkeith for Thetford on the 9th January 1941. Lt/Col Morrogh-Bernard MBE was posted and Lt Col. A. P. Murray of the Grenadier Guards assumed Command (1).

After three weeks of intensive training under Col. Murray, the Battalion was considered as fit for higher training. During the period January-July the Battalion took part in many Brigade and Divisional exercises and, although the junior Battalion within the Division, they earned the name of the 'Blue eyed boys' of the Division. The outstanding exercises of this period were: 'Boxer' (Divisional) and an inter-battalion exercise 'Princess Tittysweet'. During the latter exercise, B Echelon made its one and only attack, in which C/Sgt Barker, Sgt. Battle and Pte Thaxter led the attack, armed with various cooking utensils.

The months of July and August were spent at Yarmouth erecting beach defences. Air raids were prevalent. Otherwise a good time was had by all.

In mid-August the Battalion moved from Yarmouth to Worsted Camp. Under canvas we ploughed knee-deep in mud. The main duties were the defence of Aerodromes, C Coy being stationed on the nearby Scorton Aerodrome. In this area the Battalion received its first award, Pte Guthrie of the Mortar Platoon being awarded 'The Certificate of Merit' for rescuing an airman from a burning plane. During our stay in Worsted, the Durham Light Infantry flashes were introduced by Col. Murray.

The Division moved as a whole into the Kent area on or about the 15th November. The Battalion was fortunate to occupy Risborough Barracks, Shorncliffe. Here we got down to the 'spit and polish' in a big way --polished floors, whitewashed coal boxes and also weekly barrack room inspections. The '5ft 5 Guardee' was rapidly taking shape, much to the delight of our Guards Colonel. Spring Drills were instituted and every morning there could be seen mixed squads of officers, NCOs and men careering around the playing fields in quick time.

In January '42, the Battalion once again assumed beach duties, relieving the 14th Battalion The Durham Light Infantry in Folkestone. Our billets in this town included the Hotels 'Wampach', 'Lyndhurst' and, unofficially, 'Bobby's'. Two months of defence duties saw us en-route to Rye in Sussex. The period spent in this old fashioned town of old fashioned streets will long be remembered by this Battalion. Rigorous training was carried out by the Companies during the day in the Pett, Winchelsea and Rye areas and, by night, intensive training in the shape of Dances at the 'Monastry'. Other sundry entertainments radiated around the 'George', 'The New Inn' and 'The Cinque Ports'. The Battalion Dance Band under 'the Mighty Atom' was born in this area. At this period Rye underwent several hit and run raids. One of these successfully demolished the QM's coal yard much to the amusement of the Battalion and to the QM's disgust as he had already managed to accumulate his usual surplus (2).

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Alex Gray service dress 1941

Pte Alex Gray and Cpl Frank Reynolds of the Signal Platoon, 16th DLI at Yarmouth in 1941. In the photograph above, Alex Gray is wearing the pre-1939 pattern service dress, which although officially replaced by battle dress was still in limited use due to shortages of the latter. Courtesy Alex Gray.
Alex Gray and Frank Reynolds 1941