well this the is the 65th anniversary of Dday. I am 86yrs of age and our boat carried 200 soldiers from Newhaven to Sword beach on june 6th 1944. It was a very emotional time, the invasion had been cancelled for 24 hours. Most of our soldiers were from the the North east. Mr and Mrs Bacci had an ice cream shop in my home town. They had 2 sons in the Army but as Italian nationals they were interned. Our soldiers knew peter and freddy Bacci. Freddy was in my class at school. There was a bagpipe playing on the port exit as we sailed into the channel. It would be about 5pm on june 5th. Our boat should have had 200 bunks. instead there was 200 slatted wood seats. When we collected our boat all the other boats had the seats removed and bunks fitted. for some reason we missed that. On the Salerno invasion we picked our troops at Tripoli. we did a practice beach landing. but the poor lads were on our boat 7 days and no where to lie down. We were on 4 hours onand four hours off they lay in our bunks but we had to roll them out so we could get a kip. they got an afternoon swim off Sicily. Salerno was the first time there was no Italian soldiers fighting. as we went in the green lights changed to red and we had to land somewhere else. things didn’t go to plan. the call for reinforcements went to the wrong place in africa. Men recovering from malaria were told they were going back to their own units in Sicily. some still were wearing sandshoes. s

So when they were put ashore at Salerno they mutinied and refused to pick up rifles there money to their dependants was stopped they were put in barbed wire cages and got no ciggies german pows were given them. ring leaders were going to be executed and flown back to africa. It was very badly handled. But back to Dday.

there was a buoy every 500 yards os across the channel i think our skipper managed to hit every 0newe saw big concrete blocks they were to constuct the harbour at Arrowmanches. We had four hawlican anti air craft guns but were fnd disappearedorbidden to use them. As our air forces had stripes painted on them and were capable of dealing with any enemy aircraft. Our boat was flat bottomed and had a three foot draft. I saw a sailor go down a ramp and put a yard stick down then a tank drove off and disappeared it must have been a sand bank. The major was on the bridge telling our skipper to go further in. But when you hit the beach thats it.

Jones from liverpool and taff Bevan from Wales were in charge of the ramps they lowered the ramps one each side of the bows. The soldiers came out of the troop spaces and rushed down the ramps. They had about 135 pound pack on their backs and a rifle in one hand and three mortars in the other hand to grip the handrail. however once they reached the bottom of the ramp they had to jump into the surf. we saw their predicament so we squeezed past them and got into the water to help them on their way. Three of us to each ramp we got a few on to the beach. then as the tide came in we finished standing on the beach and the boat was about 20yards away. I took a light rope with an end like a tennis ball and swam towards the boat. The boat swung away and i heard someone shout ” Whats Riley swimming in there for.” I had american army boots on full of sand and my lifejacket wouldn’t blow up. Eventually we did get a decent sized rope from the boat to the beach for the soldiers to hang on to. the last lad off our ramp was getting squeezed by the handrail the ramp was twisted so we had to undo his hands from the handrail and slide him through the side. we got back aboard and Stoker bob black from Falkirk winched the ramps back on board. I walked towards the stern. there was only ted Townsend there he had a coil of rope i saw it was attatched to LCI 112. at that moment the signal man Mcnamara from the Elephant and Castle shouted from the upper deck “put your headphones on,” which Townsend did. I didn’t know what was going on with 112 ithrew a coil overboard thinking they wanted slack they went beserk I knew I’d done the wrong thing I secured the rope around a ventilator. the rail stanchion went overboard then the top came off the ventilator. I got to know 112 had his anchor cable around his propellor and our skipper was on the fone to townsend to chop the anchor cable. which he did. 112 had to wait for the tide going out and chopped the cable from their prop. 112 would report to the beach master who was trying to get boats seaworthy. I wasn’t popular with them as they were stranded until the next tide.

We once towed an air force rescue launch from Taranto to Malta on reaching Valletta harbour the raf crewstarted their engine up and released the tow rope. it went straight around our props, The skipper had to pay a diver with cigarrettes to release theb props. Wally Prangle was shouting we’ve been hit and I’ve lost £4. he had it in his lifejacket pocket and it floated away. I was wearing an Ingersoll watch i’d bought in usa. pop used to repair watches and when i was home six days laterpop opened the watch it was just a heap of rust.

The shell had come in on the starboard side whecking the galley and the toilets and shwer the otherside of the bulkhead. There was one army officer that i saw went and looked at the starboard ramp then went back to skippers cabin. he may have been a journalist i never saw him until he went on the jetty at Newhaven. It was dark when we got back to England. We had no anchor and no navigation lightsso they opened the boom to let us into the harbour. we were very fortunate had the shell been 6′ forward there would have been 10 dead sailors. My mate Dick Short was coxswain he lived in Newcastle the cook and engine room staff were in the wheelhouse waiting to hear when we were coming off the beach. The wheel house seemed a bit safer than the open deck. It took 3 weeks to repair LCI116 so i got a bit leave isaw my younger brother for a couple of days. He was a rear gunner in a Lancaster bomber. poor lad he got killed in September ’44 on a raid on Darmstadt. He died on September 12th. At the moment my grandson Chris Riley is lodging with me. Tom was taller than me and abit ginger and so is Chris who was born on September 12th. I told him “You are my brother come back to me.” We did about 8 trips to the mulberry harbour. Then as we were due for refit we proceeded to belfast for old 116 to be prepared for the far east. Sadly my ears had been damaged off virginia in USA. In Africa my right ear was discharging and scabs formed constanly on my right cheek so I was only fit for cold climates. I got a draft to germany but my schoolteacher got me off that because i was on a correspondence course and getting mail would be difficult. Si got drafted to St Vincent in gosport we worked 12 hour shifts repainting the place to hand back to fleet air arm. I didn’t do much study there. That is about all for Dday I’ve been in France a few times and recieved £500 for taking my son David and Grandson William to Sword Beach. This year is the 65th anniversary of Dday. I’ve joined the Normandy Veterans Newcastle branch. The Edinboro branch has offered places to the Newcastle branch so i’ll be travelling with them next june 3rd. I’ve been to normandy on my bike and belfast to see wally Prangle and to peel on the Isle of Man to see Scarff our wireless operator. I think I’ll relate them three trips my next effort cheerio for now


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Aunt Agnes

Aunt Agnes is the only person I know who went for the hirings. You had to stand at the Morpeth town hall and the Farmer would come and agree to hire you for 12 months. If you accepted he gave you a shilling; then at 3pm you climbed onto his cart and went away to work for him for 12 months. In the fields in the summer and in the house in the winter. when Aunt Agnes came home she went to a house to leave her earnings because her Father would want beer money off her.

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Years ago before buses or charabangs, day trips out used drays. T he ladies of Coach road decided on a day trip to Newbiggin by the sea. the dray was a flat four wheeled cart. The trippers had to bring their own chairs to sit on. They would cross the river wansbeck at Stakeford. And eventually finish up at the Cresswell Arms the pub next to the Newbiggin moor.
There would be singing and drinking everyone having a swell time. However not everyone was happy. Granda Riley didn’t agree with this sheenannigan, It was alright for him going to pubs but to him a womans place was in the home. Granny Riley told me this story. Granda Riley arrived at the Cresswell Arms and said Meggie Oot. The other ladies would feel sorry for her, but for peace she obliged and meekly said ta-ta to her friends. Granda would have a pony and a two wheeled flat cart. The river Wansbeck was tidal and when they reached the ford the water was a bit deep to cross however granda made the pony tackle it. And the cart was awash. When they got to the other side they dismounted to walk up the bank from the river. And Granda discovered his coat with his money in had been washed away. Granny said ” I was pleased that really made my day”..

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Walker Terrace

Coach Road where my father was brought up was a cul de sac it lead up to Spring View which was the house built for the owner of the Bedlington Iron Works. Walker Terrace was the next turning from the bank top. There used to be a trough for the horses which would have hauled carts etc:up the bank. There may have been a post office at the market place but there was also one at the bottom end and that would be the last call for the mails going to Blyth.
My father said there would be an escort for the driver with a rifle across his knee. They would go through Walker terrace and down the free wood then across the ford at the iron works. The Rose and Crown was a pub just across the river. The road to Blyth from there was level. We lived in Walker Terrace for a while above a man called Sugar Nicholson. Years later I saw him dancing at the Market Club. After WW1 accommodation was really hard to come by and after Coach Road and Walker Terrace were demolished under slum clearance. Councillor W.Hall erected a sign stating over 700 people had dwelt on 1 and1/4 acre of ground. After WW2 Council housing was eight houses to an acre. That was real progress.

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stuck in the shaft

In the coal mines there was three main shifts two AM and nine AM., were coal getting shifts and five PM was the stone shift. So if you were a coal filler and had a mate who liked the two Am shift you could work the nine Am all the time. The five pm shift for the stone men was also the shift for getting supplies down. Once the men had descended and the supplies were down the cages would be brought to same level and left half way up the shaft.
I was a coal driller Once the coal had been removed I had to drill holes before the coal was cut for the next shift. So about nine pm I came out and got into the cage all by myself. However the cage didn’t go to the surface it stopped half way up. It was winter and I only had a shirt over my vest. I had no watch but realised I could be hanging there till the next coal shift at two Am. I shouted ans sang all to no avail. The cage was just the height of a full tub about four feet. We usually emptied our water bottles when we got near the bottom of the shaft. But I had some water and kept having a sip.
It could have been an hour I was stuck in the shaft then the cage started to descend slowly. The men at the shaft bottom shouted are you stil there my teeth were chattering they rapped away and the cage went up rapidly. There was about six men to greet me but I wanted to get into the warmth of the pit head baths. After I’d showered and got clean clothes on. I found out what happened. The man who was driving the winding engine had been at my class at school. The men at the bottom of the shaft thought my shouting was bairns at the horse hole.
And the men on the heap thought it was bairns on the waste heap.
Old Mr Wilson lived in the next street to Gordon Tce where my wife was brought up. So if I complained he’d be in trouble so I just forgot about it. But after that I carried an extra jersey.
Of course not all shaft mishaps had such an ending as my episode. To get girders down the shaf tit was neccessary to put them through a hole in the top of the cage and chain them together.
Shafsmen with their leather hatswith a big flap to protect their backs rode down on the top of the cage. If the chain came loose and the girders got loose and jammed in the shaft wall. The cage couldn’t be moved until a lorry with a drum on came from Gateshead to lower men to clear the obstruction. A man I knew was jammed in the cage and while waiting for the lorry to come a shaftsman climbed down the shaft to comfort the injured man. Un fortunately it didn’t have a happy ending the man died.
Robin Cook was welding my car and his friend came over to see him Robin was underneath the car and I was watching to see if the upholstery caught fire. However it turned out his friend was the son of the man killed in the shaft. So when I said I knew him and how he used to amuse us in the pithead baths. I got sistracted and the upholstery took fire we each got a pail and were running back and forward opening the car door throwing in a pail of water and shutting the door again. Once we got the fire out Robin said your wife was laughing at us, it wasn’t funny. I told him as I was running I was pumping too. So we both laughed but he said don’t tell my dad about this episode. It was all done in the dark because once we got running we knocked the temporary lighting out. I never did tell his Dad because it was actually my fault.

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When we started school we walked from Barrington. Then we got to Kidds
yard it led on to Glebe Road so we had that and the Netherton Road to cross. However Catholic row meant no roads to cross. So we very happy to move there in 1929. The reservoir was only half its present size it ended opposite the priests house. The waterboard stored pipes of all sizes there and the rest of the land was allotments.
Catholic Row is still a cul-de-sac and in those days was a safe place for children to play because there was always a few men at the Police Station corner to turn back any child venturing on to the Newcastle road
.The pipes etc: made a marvelous adventure ground. There was only two
catholics lived in the row at number twelve Peter Molloy and his sister Nellie.
The road was wide until it passed Percys the market garden house.
Then the ash pits coal and wash houses made it narrow. From the school gates you could see trees at the cemetery. I don’t know if a bat ever flew down there. But that created one of our favourite games’ We would stroll up to the school gates next to the Freemasons. When every one was lined up someone would
shout “The Bats Oot”. and we’d run our fastest shouting our loudest
believing the bat would get into our hair. Not stopping till we
arrived breathless at the first coal house. HAPPY DAYS…..
all the best from Joe Riley B…

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We were very fortunate. We lived in Kidds yard at the top of Glebe bank. The entrance was through an arch our house was to the right of the arch, and our bedroom was above the arch so people going into the yard passed beneath us. It was like living in a castle. My father used to make ginger beer. he’d start on a Wednesday and have it redy for Sunday. He’d made a bogie out of an apple box and pram wheels. He’d bottle his beer and tie the corks down with string.
He charged twopence a bottle and did his round at Sunday lunch time.
I don’t know if that is why we started calling him pop. But when the string was cutout popped the cork it was like champagne. When we moved to Catholic row, I think uncle Tommy got our Kidds yard house . Catholic Row was much better for us as we went to school without having to cross any main roads. My wife Muriel got knocked down by a motor bike coming from school. We had a two roomed flat it was upstairs as all the water and coals had to be carried up the stairs. After a couple of years we moved downstairs and also acquired a front garden. Pops ginger beer making was never done in Catholic Row instead he went into Dr Watson’s Tonic Stout. There was always some in the pantry and we’d take our cup in and help ourselves.
Every Friday he’d come home with an orange box he used the sides to make the walls of his hut and the ends for the floor. Our neighbours at the front were old Mr Martin on our Left
And the dixons on our right.The market garden went right down to Hartford crescent.
WE got a female tortoise. It laid lots of eggs under the poatoe shaws and covered them with soil
It would disappear for few days then return and drink a few saucers of water you could see it a long way off coming up the drills. Pop was on the dole so he had plenty of time to amuse us. He once drew a complete snakes and ladders game everyone was happy for a while but some were unhappy going down the snakes so when the tears came he tore the game up.
We were always the last to be shouted in and Mum would sing high and pop lowat the fireplace
Then he made a one string fiddle with a cigar box and a bicycle brake cable. Much later on the Crystal sets came on then the local newspaper published wireless circuit diagrams that could be built at home.
Happy days Pop would go the heap and get two bags of coal. Glebe bank was a heavy push up.
In those days The beer wagons ran on steam one was short of coal and the driver offered pop
seven shillings and sixpence for his two bags of coal so pop returned to pick another two bags.
The scrap heaps went on fire smouldering and the fumes used to turn silver coins green.
When the wagons tipped the stones at the top of the heap you had to watch as they rolled down the heap some stones had coal attached and you had knock the coal off with a hammer.
Pop would meet friends from the bottom end picking coal. He was brought up at the bottom end. But in Catholic Row we were the only Catholics there and he was the only man on the dole. So he had to wheel his bags down to his coal house past his neighbours. No one was really that well off. And pop would say I’m off to the corner for 1/2 an hour. So the men stood at the corner talking about topics and watching the traffic coming up Hartford bank
The reservoir was only half the size it is today. The water board stored all sizes of pipes at the top which made a great adventure ground for us. The rest of the space was allotment gardens. All the streets and yards had gangs and if you went to the market place on an errand you had to cross and recross the street to avoid the gangs. So it was a relief to get around the Police station corner and safety. HAPPY DAYS with pop and Mum……

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I have a book with that title unfortunately it is in a bookcase in my grandaughter’s house in Spain.
Its about the Coconut Grove fire in Boston in 1942. 600 people died among them was Buck Jones the cowboy film star. He tried and saved several people. I met a guy in the Weatherspoon pub in Ashington recently. He was wearing a Buck Jones hat he is a member of a club that honours Buck Jones and commemorates his life. I was in the combined operations and was in Boston at the time to pick up a landing craft. We received $25 a month extra to compensate for the cost of living in the USA. As the cover charge for the Coconut Grove was $10 it was well above our budget.
There was a big football game on that weekend and the Coconut Grove was full to capacity in fact there was very little check as to how many customers were there was like three sections the main room then a slightly higher room and to the right a lower room. The fire started in the lower room a couple were sitting there and the man needing a bit more privacy had unscrewed a light bulb. Later the barman asked a 17year assistant to replace the bulb. The lad went over with the replacement bulb there was decor etc: which obscured the socket so he struck a match to help locate it, then returned to his duty. the decor was caught from the match and quickly spread. Then like an inferno expanded up to the other sections. Some people managed to get into the fridges to avoid the flames. But the majority were trapeed and the entrance doors were soon blocked with people try ing to get out.
Shortley afterwards I was given gaiters and a big truncheon and sent on patrol with a big US sailor but needless to say it was a case of shutting the gate after the horse had bolted. The authorities were unprepared for a castrophie of such proportion. My friends the Gagnons had a daughter in hospital for an appendix operation she had to give up her bed to make room for the injured from the fire. Milk floats etc: were used to transport the injured the hospitals did their best but were just overwhelmed by the number of casualties.
Ironically next morning all the cash takings were recovered int act and all the cars were waiting for their owners who failed to return the authorities decided there would be no more night club to be opened with the name of Coconut Grove. I had my 20th b/day in the USA. I met up with some lovely people especially the Gagnons he was from French Canadians but she was from Belfast. She was a cleaner at Harvard College. we couldn’t jitterbug but could
dance the old fashioned waltz. Mr Gagnon had a bad back and couldn’t work. He had been lifting telegraph poles. However he was ashamed of himself because his wife worked at the college till 1pm , then did a shift at the rubber works. Her hands were really rough handling cables all day. He had a big knife and was going to cut his throat over the kitchen sink I had difficulty dissuading him. His mother visited and refused to talk English.
To my shame I was involved robbing a drunk American sailor gave the proceeds to the Gagnons. I was a bit drunk at the time and easy led. The less said about that period the better but we sailed to NY and I did meet up with my mothers sister and family, And we’ve kept in touch ever since. But 600 casualties What a shame…..

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I’d heard of gloworms. but thought of them as fairies or elves . As I’d never seen one until 1939
when i was 16 I first saw them on the stairs in the Welcombe Hotel in Stratford on Avon.
The stairs were concrete and lead to the staff quarters. they looked lovely glowing in the dark but when I struck a match to look closer they were just a plain insect. I’ve never seen them anywhere else since.
It must have been in July I’d like to explain how a young lad from Northumberland came to be in a posh hotel in Warwickshire, I had been working in Choppington Brickyard a while and fancied a change of scenery. My mother gave me seven shillings and sixpence roughly thirty five pence in today’s currency. I caught the Sunderland traffic veered to the left so I was placed just for traffic going due south.
I wasn’t there long till a lorry pulled up and I climbed aboard. He was going to Borobridge that was a 100 mile lift. He dropped me off at a junction and said that I’d soon get picked up from there. My object was to get to my Uncle Tommys in Hillingdon nr Uxbridge. Another couple of lifts got me to London and I got to Hillingdon on the Metro.
Each morning I got the London paper looking for jobs and on the third day I got an interveiw at St Pancras for a veg and breakfast cook at Stratford. They gave me a travel warrant and off I went. They asked me if I could cook breakfast I said yes, but I didn’t realise it was for 600 guests. So I became a commi veg cook we did lunches then had three hours off then did an evening shift until 11pm. There was 3 Italian cooks they didn’t know whether to return to Italy to fight for Mussolini. They stayed and would be interned’ The head chef was Swiss. the sauce chefs were from Liverpool they had worked on the liners
The kitchen clerk was from Liverpool too he shouted out the orders in French. The kitchen porter was about 25 he had fallen out with the head chef but it was on the cards I would change jobs with him but the declaration of war stopped that and they closed the hotel
When we finished our evening shift we walked throught the fields to the swimming pool at Stratford we climb over the barrier and dived into the pool but it was the river Avon and our hands sunk into the mud if we dived steep. On my evening off I’d walk to Stratford for a couple of pints. The walk was through the fields it was ok in daylight when you could see the cattle but returning in pitch blackness and feeling cattle stampeding was an awful experience.
I just stood petrified when the sound of hooves faded away I proceeded but must have lost my way so Isat until dawn then saw I had passed the hotel grounds. When war was declared I just headed home. But not before I had a practice drive of a 3 wheel van. The man was asking £15 for it. I had saved £25 but decided against the van and caught the bus to Newcastle. I wonder if there are still Gloworms there. Who knows I may get a chance to look but it will have to be pitch black to see them glow….

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hello NVA Vets

welcome to my blog site June 1944 we sailed from Newhaven about 5 pm on the evening of June 5th and arrived at Sword beach about 7 or 8 am I was electrician on LCI 116 We had 200 troops on board. I’d like to contact any guys who were on sword beach about that time. we got hit with a shell loosing galley and toilets if it had we werebeen 6ft forward there would have been lots of casualties as 1/2 the crew were in the wheelhouse waiting for orders to prepare to return to UK.
The Germans came down between Juno and Sword beach and shelled boats

unloading the troops. The waves were up to 2 mtres. We had to get into the
Water and assist the troops with their packs iffy they fell they would have great
Difficulty getting up again. As the tide came in the distance to the beach
Increased. After we got a few soldiers ashore we were on the shore and we needed to get a rope secured to the boat so I took a handling and swam towards the
Boat. Which was now floating free but secured by it.s stern anchor. Then we had
Rope attached to the boat and held by 3 men we helped the troops along it.
But it took a long time to get them all ashore. I put his earphones on.
Which he did. I learned later the skipper wanted the AB to. Chop the anchor rope.
Ipicked up the rope from 112 and wrapped it around a ventilator. the top came off the ventilator. 112 had his anchor rope wrapped around his props. They had to
Wait till the tide went out to chop their props free.
Once our anchor rope was cut we were able to start our engines and head back to UK. However when we arrived at Newhaven we had no anchor and no
Navigation lights so the opened the boom and let us into the harbour.
It took 3 weeks to repair our boat.

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