Extracts from the diary of 1983782 Sapper John James Latham
108th (Essex) Electrical and Mechanical Co. Royal
Arrived Cherbourg Saturday 30th September 1939.
Same day to LAVAL, and then to LA BATTE, three days
there, and then to LIBERCOURT Pas de Calais.
Saw Olga twice (Olga was a lady he'd first met during the First
World War), and made many friends.
Monday 13th Left
LIBERCOURT at 11.30pm by road, in charge of Bren Gun, and
arrived in BRUSSELS at 3.30pm. Poor billets. On guard duty.
Tuesday 14th On
guard 24 hours.
Jerry bombed thousands of refugee's and big battles.
In charge of Bren Gun at dump. Jerry made many visits, but dropped
Thursday 16th -
All quite around, except for Jerry planes. Afterwards bombed and
machine gunned roads and civvies early afternoon.
Ordered at 6.00pm to pack for off. Left at 10.30pm
NADDERHAALST arrived at 6.00am, hung around all day till 8.30pm.
Jerry bombed us. Off at 9.00pm with 6 Howitzer.
Arrived at BERCHEM 12.00pm. Slept in dance hall. Jerry bombed
Evacuees by the tens of thousands.
Off again at 11.30am
Arrived at NERNEAN? 7.30pm. Slept in cotton mill. Food for
first time for three days. Jerry busy with planes. Caught a
suspected spy. Left 5.00pm arrived HAREAUX 8.00pm.
Monday 20th More
evacuees. Jerry planes all night, bombed and machine gunned. Three
Jerry planes down. Stan Bell with me on Bren Gun.
Heard LIBERCOURT had been bombed again. Usual R.E. Routine
with Bren Gun, still, moved off at 5.00pm.
Arrived at BAILLIUL? 7.30pm. Stand To, all the time.
Still here, missed a good chance at Jerry, gun jammed. Plenty of
Reveille at 6.00pm. On the way to KEMMELL. Bombed and machine
Jerry. Lt.Lederwood wounded. Had to leave KEMMELL, and
slept in open.
Bomb burst 50 yards away. Machine gunned and bombed all day.
Flight of 24 Jerry planes bombed us, and all around. No sleep.
10.00pm pack at once, and off through KEMMELL to MARQUETTE.
Arrived 4.30am. Took over old dump. Aerial activity all day.
Rain, and bombing all day by 19 planes. No English planes seen for
Destroyed dump 6.00pm. Leave everything and retire. Machine
gunned and bombed.
Arrived HOOGSTADE at 8.00pm last night.
Terrible passage, thought I was done for. Stopped all day. Bombed
again. Destroyed all vehicles, rations, and kit.
Had to march to the coast, 15 miles, started at 6.00pm. Marched
till 7.00am. Did 25 miles. Everyone dead beat. Carried Bren Gun all
the way. Sore feet.
Waiting to be shipped back to England. More bombing and machine
Waiting on Bras Dunes.
Left for boat at 10.00pm last night. Had to swim to boat
Waited all night picking up troops.
Left for England on Cruiser CALCUTTA at 2.15pm. Arrived
SHEERNESS at 7.30pm.
Good breakfast, bath, and first shave for four days. Then of to