In 1941 about 70 men of the Royal Corps of Signals gathered on Liverpool docks preparing to embark for service ‘somewhere’ abroad. They carried tropical gear. Some of the men were career soldiers and had survived Dunkirk. Their units had been disbanded and they had been sent to work at Harnham Camp near the South Coast, restoring lines in the much-bombed coastal city of Plymouth. They were perhaps hoping for a cushier posting after their grim experiences.
These Dunkirk men had been allocated to a newly created unit, 27 Line Section, under a newly created Captain, Barry Baker, all of twenty-five years old, married with a baby son. Barry should have been in France, but he was recovering from head injuries after being knocked off his motorcycle by a young Canadian driving on the wrong side of the road. Backing him up was a 40 year-old NCO, 2nd Lieutenant Sutherland Brown, a married Plant Manager from Malaya.
The bulk of 27 Line Section was made of Scottish Reservists mainly from Glasgow. Many worked in the post office but there were also bakers, electricians, butchers, bricklayers, waiters and many other trades. They ranged in age from nineteen to late thirties. Few if any had been abroad before, none, except possibly the Lance Sergeants, had seen active service.
In his memoirs Barry wrote:
The Glasgow party arrived, bringing most of their own lorries with them, and they seemed to fit in quite easily with the men I knew already at Harnham. We had a few days to sort out duties, stores, transport and drivers and then we were sent on detachment as a whole Section to carry out a most interesting job. This was a great bonus as it enabled us, me and the four sergeants, to get to know one another and to get the Glaswegians and the Southerners properly acquainted and working together without the nuisance of Company Parades or C.O.’s inspections.
These weeks together proved crucial in the years ahead. As Barry remembers:
The whole job lasted only a few weeks but by the end of it No. 27 Line Section had a firm personality and individuality of its own. Later in Malaya or up country in Siam, if any of our men were asked what Unit they came from they would not answer “Malaya Command Signals” or “Attached to 8th Australian Div”, or even “2 Group POW Camp”, but simply “27 Line Section”.
I hope this story will be told.
It is all there, I’m just working it over and trying to get a publisher interested.
I hope you find a publisher.
It’s always a money matter,
How well the book will be received and how many books can he sell.
I know I will buy your book but that’s not a big incentive.
I am a freelance translator so I know how things works.
My latest translation is about baby purées.
I am a retired teacher with studies in History, Taught only two years out of 34. My blogs are a way to get back…
Good luck with your project.
P.S. I love the picture you posted where we see the smiling faces of some 27 Line Section soldiers. That would be my choice for the book cover… but then I am not rich or a rich editor.
That’s a good thought. They were happy in Malaya before capture. I have my father’s letter’s home describing their life and work. Six out of those ten came home. Thanks for the encouragement – I will get there in the end.
My brother translates freelance (technical German and he used to do Japanese as well). I learnt French in a Belgian convent as a child and still love the language and the poetry (though not the school experience).
Then you can enjoy all my blogs in French…
If your passion is opera, mine is genealogy.
Thanks for all the feedback on my rather random posts, Pierre. I found this very gratifying, though my weakness for distraction became hourly more apparent. In spite of this, or rather due to your interest, I managed some good corrective research on the Fall of Singapore (my father’s memoirs written when he was 87 have the odd error). Your suggestion for the cover has made me think of alternative titles. Though, should I get a publisher, this would slip from my control. There is much to be said for self publishing.
Whatever you decide I will buy the book.
I also have to take a serious look at this passion of yours for opera!
A reblogué ceci sur Lest We Forget and commented:
Fascinating untold story
A dip back into history has always fascinated me. I hope you will find a publisher or a person with the imagination of doing something with that story, and enough money to give it a go. Lisa Highton is a publisher whom I knew when she was working in Australia. Try and send her your work.
Thank you so much for this suggestion. I have looked her up and am impressed and I will (further research and preparation) do as you suggest.