I started off my military career at the age of 13 in the Cadet Corps of the Royal Masonic School (Boarding). At age 16 I joined the Territorial Army in the London Rifle Brigade and on September 1st, 1939 was called up to Wellington Barracks London. Now, aged 20 , in between marching up and down under a Guards Segeant Major, I spent some time filling sandbags. Contracted piles for which I was treated at St. George's Hospital which is now a 5 star hotel. While recuperating I walked around the barracks with a clip board and pencil and nobody asked what I was doing. It’s surprising what one can do with enough gall and get away with it.
Later I was sent down to South East England, looking for Germans, and while there I used my rifle to shoot a low flying Dornier (flying pencil). I missed! But I needed something more comfortable, so I applied for a commission, and in 1941 was shipped to India. The trip took 50 days from Scotland to Bombay via Cape Town. We slept in hammocks. I was a PT instructor on board and for that suffered severe boils and landed in Bombay in a very ill condition.
From Bombay I went to Bangalore, where I took a 3 months course for a commission in the Royal Corps of Signals. The first thing I had to do was to learn Urdu, which was quite easy in 3 months with a Munshi. In those days it didn’t' seem too difficult.
Still in1941 I was sent to Fort Sandeman on the NW frontier next to the Afghanistan border. We had a Brigadier who used to drink pink gin and one day he said to us "You know you'd better watch out for these bloody Russians attacking Afghanistan". That was about 40 years before it happened. We were using heliographs in those days.
In 1941 I got out of that area and came down to the fleshpots of Delhi where I was i/c Signals Office at GHQ. It was a very pleasant time for about a year. General Wavell's daughter was in the Cipher office. I thought I was on easy street until my bull terrier bit the Colonel's children, so my time was up. He said "Go east young man" so I left the dog with the cook sergeant. The cook was a very good poker player and would play with the Americans for 3 ton truck loads of rations. The dog lived a good life.
Now I was in Calcutta, where I formed the 6th Indian Air Formation Signals. My uniform was brown even though I was attached to the RAF. It was a unit of 36 British and 64 Indian ranks and we had 16 Chevrolet 3 tonners and 3 Jeeps. After some training we went up through Silchar to Imphal.
(Just a short, side story here. We had IOR's (Indian Other Ranks) driving these 3 tonners and all of a sudden I come up from the rear to find one guy sitting on his bed roll looking at his truck down in the ravine, so we lose half the rations).
The siege was on in Imphal, but we got in, and stayed I suppose for 2 or 3 months. My memory is hazy at this time so I'll just bring out some highlights of what went on. Somewhere about this time we changed from motor transport to16 mules and 3 horses. I'd never ridden a horse before, but soon learnt. From there we broke out of Imphal and went south with the advance through Burma. I got as far as Meiktila. Our job was to go in as soon as an airfield was captured and lay land lines to the rear. Also to lay lines around the perimeter of the airport for local communications. I remember we used to get a ration of 1 bottle of rye (Canadian Club) plus 3 bottles of beer a month. But because the Indians didn't drink the rum ration and didn’t eat meat, both these extra rations were a bonus
One way of laying lines was in a DC3 trailing 5 mile reels of wire, baled out from the side door at about 200 feet, onto the trees below. We did often use proper land line, like copper wire and metal poles but I can’t remember where.
Two memorable things happened in that period of time. The IOR's got upset for having to build roads, to carry the trucks, which carried the poles etc. So they mutinied and put cold chisels through the truck’s batteries. They were put on a 242 and the penalty was that their pay was docked. Not that they got that much!
Another interesting time of the trip was when my VCO Jemadar sahib. He was a Pathan about 6ft 6in, who was extremely loyal to me, tried one night to bugger one of the sepoys. Fortunately, this sepoy kept a knife under his pillow and stuck it in the belly of the Jemadar. The VCO died and the sepoy was charged with murder. Then I had to defend him at a court martial. It was carried out completely in Urdu , but by then I was quite fluent, although I've forgotten most of it now. He got a 3 months term so I was happy for him.
Another incident was when a DC3 took off at the extreme end of the runway, only just making it. I was in the control tower when the pilot came on the RT and said " OK Jesus, I'll take over now". He circled, then landed and was amazed to find that the IOR's had loaded the plane twice!
Having got as far as Meiktila I was told "Mr. Adams you have done your 4 years, do you want to stay or go home? I replied, "Don't ask a silly question". So out I came. Back to Bombay, up through the Suez, where they gave us one bottle of beer because it was then VE day.
Arriving back in England I met Connie, my wife to be, in Kent, where she was the Signals Officer in charge. Not knowing what I was going to do with my life I signed on for a further 6 months and went to Germany with the Occupation forces. There was free wine and champagne every night. My mess bill was paid for with three packets of cigarettes which were worth a fortune.
So here we are, and still able to tell the tale.