In Memory of my Father - Joseph Albert Willis 26th November 1916 - 28th February 2007
The following pages recount his experiences in Africa and Italy and were written by my Father in 1991. Page 6
Then one day, about 4 pm, we were told to stay by our vehicle and not leave. Next morning we were sent to Naples and had to help to unload armoured cars from the ship. Then we were sent to Foggia, each driving an armoured car. No windscreen only a small slit about 8 x 2 to see through. About midday we pulled into a farm house to make ourselves tea as we had our own with us and some eats. The farmer and his wife came out and we all got talking. They gave us, all four of us, fried eggs and we had our own tinned bacon – it was good. We gave them tins of bacon and whatever we could in milk and bread. They were very nice to us and so friendly. On ahead to Foggia, arrived sometime that evening at a big RAF Camp, got tea and a place to sleep, we were well looked after. I had sore eyes next morning and had to get them washed out at Sick-Bay. They were cleared up quickly. Back to Pompeii next day by lorry. On the 16 May we had to change our money from Lire to British money. Next day we were taken to Naples to the Ship Strathnaver and went aboard, my quarters were again G Deck Section H Table 12. We sailed from Naples sometime that afternoon and then we knew for sure we were on our way home. What a feeling it was, to feel that one had come through nearly all of the Middle East War without being wounded or hurt in any way. Although some near scrapes. On towards home and stopped at Gibraltar for a few hours – not allowed off ship – then away again. Was sailing on towards Liverpool when over the news came – it was “D” Day – the invasion of France had started. That was the 6th June 1944. Sailed into Liverpool, arrived about 11 am then off ship and onto a nearby train. We were all given tea and sandwiches by the WVS – very nice. Then on to Blackpool, we were billetted out in private houses and had to parade every morning for orders. We had nothing to do for the rest of the day so we look around Blackpool and passed the time as best we could. Then one morning I got my tickets and leave pass for six weeks home to Northern Ireland. No one knew I was coming come. Had just got my railway ticket to Holywood when my twin brother – Robert, came up to me saying “Hello brother Joe”, a few seconds later along came my brother- in-law, Sandy Irwin, we all made a fuss of each other. It was over four years since we last saw each other. By bus from Holywood to Ballyrobert then to meet my sister May, what a shock she got – it was good to see them again. After a few days I went home to my parents’ house at Blundells Grange. No one knew I was coming – my mother saw me coming up the house, then my sister Harriet came along. About an hour later my father arrived home and Hilbert, I did not know Hilbert. I had walked past him and mum said “Do you not know who that is. That’s Hilbert”, and do you know – I still know him.