Roll of Honour Data Page

 

 

 

Sapper

(later Lieutenant )

 

F.W.
GORDON

(Nickname)

(Photo)

Born:

(dd mmm yyyy)

Service No.

./.  

Regiment(s):

Antrim Fortress Company (TA) RE
Antrim Search Light Company (TA) RE
591 Antrim Field Company RE
Commissioned in to the 52nd Lowland Division

Military Notes:
Service Record:

Joined in 1937, remained with the Antrims till they became a Parachute Squadron, at which time he was sent to Officer Training in Scotland and was given a war time commission. 

Family Notes:

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Civilian Occupation:

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Married:

./. 

Died:

(dd mmm yyyy) 

Burial:

./. 

Cemetery / Memorial:

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Links:

WW2 People's War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar' - transcriptions of F.W. Gordon's contribution are transcribed below as the project has closed and the pages have been archived.

Misc:

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Contributed by CSV Media NI
People in story: Lieutenant F.W. Gordon RT
Location of story: Belfast
Article ID: A8649804
Contributed on: 19 January 2006
These were recorded and posted by M. Jeffers with permission from the author.
"In the late summer of 1937, there were half page adverts in the local papers about forming a Territorial Army unit in Belfast so I joined up before the war had even started. My unit was the 591 Antrim Fortress Company RE which later became the 591 Antrim Field Company Royal Engineers and later still near the end of the war the company became the 591 Antrim Parachute Squadron.
In fact this was one of the first units which was dropped during the night before the D-Day invasion to prepare for the beach attack..

All our first training was done between Greypoint and Kilroot forts. We were called up at one stage during the Munich crisis however we were stood down again three weeks later. We carried on our normal weekly meetings until 1939.
We were called up again and I remember being in Fitzroy Avenue in Belfast when Chamberlain came on the radio and regrettably declared war with Germany.
591 Unit spent our time ensuring that no undesirable cargo boats came up Belfast Lough. We were protecting Belfast harbour from ships which contained explosives or other dangerous cargo which Germans in Belfast may have used to destroy the harbour. We had two searchlights at Greypoint Fort and another two at Kilroot Fort. It quickly became obvious that no enemy boats were going to come up the Lough. However, there was a fast boat called the Examination Ship, which was kept in the Lough at all times. It had a whole load of lights on it and would check the cargo of any ship that came into the Lough. One night a ship came in that didn't stop for the examination ship.

It was a Polish ship and the captain did not understand the signal. The ship communicated by morse code and soon the gunners were running from their shelters and firing one of the 6naval guns. Each shell was without a percussion cap so it was like firing a lump of iron. The captain understood that message and it soon stopped so the examination ship could check it.

The unit was divided between Greypoint Fort and Kilroot Fort and the Lough forts were manned day and night. The winter nights were horrible as there was little or no shelter. We were on duty from four in the afternoon until the middle of the night or the reverse, the middle of the night until four in the afternoon. It was the worst part of our war for pure misery and discomfort, but there was no danger and we were never without food for long.
Location of story: East Anglia
Background to story: Army Article ID: A8649868
Contributed on: 19 January 2006 

" After this we were called to East Anglia in England to lay mines or to defuse them on the beaches, and wire bridges with explosives in case of an invasion. We had to make chambers in the bridges to house the charges and then wire each charge together. The roads at each end of the bridges were mined. We used Bangalore torpedoes and pushed them under the road at the base of a bridge. This was to make sure that both the bridge and its approach were both destroyed so enemy tanks could not cross without a major bridging task. A Bangalore is a long piece of tubular scaffolding stuffed with gelignite cartridges and a big length of fuse went all the way through it. You had to be very careful when defusing them because they sweated nitro-glycerine and if there was friction with iron they would have exploded. We had to use a very long stretch of rod with a brass spear at the end of it. It took a long time and so it was very tedious as you had to move very slowly. Canadian soldiers worked on the same jobs as us on the East Anglia coast and some became impatient causing one to explode killing several of them. We always operated from Ely. The bridges had to be examined every week to ensure the fuses were inserted correctly and wired together."
Location of story: Scotland
Background to story: Army Article ID: A8650433
Contributed on: 19 January 2006 

"I was then posted to an officers training unit and I had to say goodbye to Unit 591 RE.
I was sent to Scotland and then I was commissioned to the 52nd Lowland Division.
I was recruited in the south of Scotland as opposed to the Highland Division which recruited in the north.
I spent the rest of the war with them. We were trained to go to Norway, which, as I found out later, would have been a disaster. The journey across the sea was long, the terrain was mountainous, we had a lack of supplies and the Germany occupancy was vastly underestimated. We could have had sea support but no air support; we didn't know all this at the time though. We hoped that if we did go that it would snow, as that was how we'd been training in the Grampians and the Cairn Gorms.
It was eventually realised by the war office that they would never invade Norway, but the Germans did not know that. So we were kept in Scotland, instead of being sent to Italy where we would have been useful, us staying meant that as many as fourteen German Divisions stayed in Norway instead of perhaps being sent to France for the Normandy landings on D-Day!
Location of story: Sandbostel Concentration Camp
Background to story: Army Article ID: A8650514
Contributed on: 19 January 2006 

"We were shipped out and eventually landed in Belgium where there had been a big mistake in the intelligence. There was a large German occupancy and a battalion of officer trainees. We went through Holland where we were constantly fighting from day to day. We fought in the Battle of Walcheron which was a Dutch island blocking the allies access to Antwerp. At one stage I captured a German officer who turned out to be their chief engineer, who was like gold to us.

The Germans had dropped about twenty - forty thousand mines and there were no maps for them. In the end the British Navy blew a hole in the Dyke which flooded the area the Germans had occupied. I took the soldier I had captured back to headquarters but he just kept telling us that there were no maps. He wasn't like gold to us after all!
My division advanced into West Germany towards Bremen. We went past Bremen and about ten miles north we were then ordered to go on to Magdeberg.
About twenty miles outside Bremen we came to a concentration camp, Sandbostel. There were about one hundred to two hundred camps in total across Germany and this was not one of the big execution camps. A large part of the area was an out camp of the Belsen camp but it was not set up for execution.
There were enough huts to accommodate approximately one thousand people. When we arrived we liberated the camp. One of our duties was to recruit German girls above the age of fourteen from the surrounding villages all around the countryside. They had to wash and shave the men in the camp. The engineers set up a 'Human Laundry' as we called it and the men were disinfected.
The young German girls could not believe the horrible things that the German Army had done to these men.

The men had all the hair shaved from their bodies and they were given food and two blankets each; one to sleep on and one to wear. Many of the huts the men were housed in had been burnt but there were many strong ones in good condition. The huts were disinfected and the beds had to be lowered so that the men could get into them. There were many corpses lying around the place. Many of the people couldn't eat the food we gave them. They kept vomiting.
I went round the camp one day with the Head Doctor, Lt Col Bearn Royal Army Medical Core (RAMC) and we came to a hut full of people, about thirty. The hut had been cleaned up and disinfected and was more presentable. But the people inside it could not eat any of the food that they were given because they had been starved for so long. Many of the men were crying and most didn't know that they were going to die. The Doctor couldn't stand it at all. He told me that all the people in that hut were going to die, he was sure of it, and he couldn't do anything about it.
While walking through one hut a man grabbed my boot and kept shouting "Free! Free!" He was a lecturer from Holland who had been sent to the camp for listening to BBC Radio. He had been there for eighteen months and he couldn't believe that he was free now. Eventually, after a couple of weeks pre-digested food and paper sheets arrived, but no clothes arrived before I left.
Trying to describe the atrocity that was witnessed at camps like these is impossible. All the above text gives no idea of the experienced reality of the whole thing. No one can ever describe the feel and the smell of a concentration camp. No film comes close to describing the atmosphere of it and experiencing it first hand. It is unbelievable how low human beings can sink towards their fellow man. How they can be so cruel but also how they can plan the cruelty. The camp had a strict timetable operating through it bringing more and more people in.
Location of story: Bremen
Background to story: Army Article ID: A8650596
Contributed on: 19 January 2006

I was near Bremen on V.E. Day with five or six other officers when the word came through about the celebrations so we agreed to celebrate ourselves the following day. The mess waiters were told to go into the village and get white linen table clothes to borrow, not commandeer. We also sent an officer to go and get some champagne. We had proper cutlery and proper cups and saucers. In the evening we came in and the table was set for us all. Some of us were sitting down and others were standing about. One man turned and said, "Hey fellows, I have an important letter to write," and he left. Then another left. Then I felt flat and I left myself. It suddenly hit us that although it was wonderful that the war was over, we were all going to be split up and our comradeship was over. We didn't drink the champagne and we didn't celebrate, and the people of the village had their tablecloths returned unused.

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