The War Years, by Leonard Hooper

Private Leonard John Hooper

It was Thursday 25th July 1940 and I received my ‘Calling up” papers. I had to report to Westward Ho! near Bideford in North Devon to join 190 Company Pioneer Corps, being newly formed there on that date. I had said goodbye to my wife Joan part way down cliff walk from Eastleigh to the town as she did not want to go to the railway station.

At Westward Ho! I was one of approximately 300 new recruits mostly from the West of England. We were issued with uniforms by RQMS who guessed sizes of everything simply by looking at each man – completely correctly in my case, plus blankets,cutlery and plate and mess can. Then we were directed to sleeping quarters and introduced to plank camp beds and palliasses. Within two days I had lost my cutlery and had to buy new ones.

We had three weeks basic training and were issued with old type rifles, posssibly ‘Ross’ with which we had some basic rifle practice which was new to me.On our last day there we had a company photo taken.

On 23rd August 1940 we entrained for Bathford, Wiltshire, not knowing where we were going.