Gunner Albert Victor Hubbard
Unit : Headquarters, 1st Airlanding Anti-Tank Battery
Army No. : 1461797
Victor Hubbard joined the Royal Artillery on the outbreak of war. Many years later he wrote his own account of his part in it.
I was born in Cove, Farnborough, Hampshire on the 15th July 1919. When war was declared I was working on Estate maintenance in Norfolk. I changed from the 2nd [Anti-Tank] Battery to the 1st [Anti-Tank] Battery on the way to North Africa in April/May 1943, I believe. Capt. McLeod changed from the 2nd Battery to the 1st Battery at the same time, being promoted from Lieutenant.
I was not in a gun team, I was with HQ, batman to Capt. McLeod. Lt. Clapham's batman ('Digger' Dixon) became a friend. Other people I remember are: Sgt. Doughty (HQ-Troop Sgt), W.O.II. Nesbitt (BSM), Frank Pearce (Vehicle Mech), Jim Crabtree (i/c Water), Gunner. Duke (Sanitary Duties).
Capt. Erskine? Joined the Battery in North Africa. Gunner Townsend was his batman, who used to buy eggs and fruit from the Arabs, but this was stopped in case they poisoned them. I remember Capt. McLeod sharing a tent with Lt. Pocock and once when their tent was flooded Capt. McLeod's suitcase was full of sand and I had dreadful job getting it off his dress uniform. We slept just in our sleeping bags with a mosquito net, under the Olive trees.
I remember we were taken to see the site where actions had taken place in North Africa.
I did not go to Sicily, I was on the Rear Party looking after Capt. McLeod's equipment.
I went to Italy by Royal Navy Cruiser (H.M.S. Sirius), with our guns and equipment on the top deck. We were not allowed into Taranto harbour as H.M.S. Abdiel had recently been sunk there. We had to unload our equipment onto lighters. We made our way inland with Capt. McLeod and H.Q, can't remember any specific incidents that occurred except BSM. Nesbitt envying the shine on Capt. McLeod's shoes and wanting me to shine his too. When we reached the aerodrome at Foggia we had to hand over all our equipment and make our way back to port, I don't remember which one [Taranto].
Don't think we were diverted to North Africa. We sailed home arriving in Skegness? [Liverpool] before Christmas. Major Arnold lived in Hampshire at the time, and his batman (Bdr. Bailey) asked for a lift home, but was refused. For some reason Major Arnold was going to Norfolk, so he gave me a lift in the pick-up truck. He dropped me off at Swaffham and I got a lift home to Hilborough and I was home for Christmas.
When we got back to England we were stationed in Heckington. I was never in Helpringham and I don't recall Capt. McLeod being there either. We were billeted in the Officers Mess in Boston Road. Bdr. Bailey was in charge of the Officer's Mess, Jim Rooke was the cook. L/Bdr. Arnott was batman to Capt. Arvian Jones. Lt. 'Ted' Shaw, Lt. Clapham and his batman 'Digger Dixon and Lt. Ryall was also there. I also remember Bernard Jeffrey, Bdr. Humphries and possibly Gnr. Howardine.
I was never officially Capt. McLeod's driver, I only drove him occasionally. Capt. McLeod was a perfect gentleman, always honest and straightforward, and appreciative of the things I did for him.
I don't recall being aware that any new Battery was to be formed at Arnhem, and know nothing about a H.Q. Section with Capt. McLeod.
We went to Arnhem from Tarrant Rushton on Sunday, 17th [September 1944] in a Horsa glider with Capt. McLeod's jeep, trailer and possibly a motor-bike, with 'Badgie' Cameron, who was Capt. McLeod's driver. We had a good trip, just a bit bumpy when we got into the slipstream of other planes. As soon as we landed Capt. McLeod, who had parachuted in, came and found us. He had broken his wristwatch on landing.
We made our way into the woods and waited for a supply drop, I think it was a radio we were waiting for. We stayed there overnight, then made our way through the top of Wolfheze to Oosterbeek. Capt. McLeod told us to dig trenches for him and ourselves, and the glider pilots that were with us, at the back of the Hartenstein. We were to guard the prisoners who were in the tennis court. One night Capt. McLeod took a 6-pdr gun team with me following with a Bren gun to the cross roads as we were to silence an S.P. Gun. It didn't appear that night, so next morning a Sgt told us to get back to the Hartenstein. We were shelled all night, and branches of trees were falling all over the trench, the jeeps and trailer. Lt. Ryall came and told us that Capt. Mcleod had a serious leg wound. I went to try and find him in the Hartenstein cellar, but there were so many wounded there that it was impossible. I heard later that during a short cease-fire he had been moved to the St Elizabeth Hospital. Sadly he had to have the leg amputated.
Lt. Ryall came to tell us we were pulling out and were to follow tapes to the river. It was pouring with rain and mortar shells were falling all around us. When we reached the river bank we lay in the muddy ground waiting for a boat. We crossed the river, then someone suggested we go back for our mates. Sgt. Strong and I rowed back and collected another load to take across. That time we got out of the boat. Sgt. Strong and I got separated, I walked to Driel and was given a drink. Then I was taken by truck, through Nijmegen to Louvain in Belgium, where the roll was called.
We flew home to Grantham, stayed the night in a hangar and then went back to Heckington, where the villagers were pleased to see us.
After Christmas [May 1945] I went to Norway, still with HQ, we landed at Stavanger and went to Kristiansand South. I remember in the Officer's Mess a Major. Garratt and Capt. Wormsely. Jim Rooke was still the cook, and there was Bdr. Humphries, 'Mush' Anderson, Jake Disdel and 'Herbie' Atkinson.
One night, when I was on guard duty outside the HQ, I saw two figures coming towards me, they were only young people and they said hello. They were Norwegians, but spoke good English. They told me their names were Agnes and Bill, and about the terrible time they had had while the Germans were occupying their country. How the Germans had raided their homes and stolen radio's, sewing machines, etc and how they were not allowed out at night, as there was a curfew. One night they invited us to a party, can't remember who else came with me, but think there were three of us. We asked Jim Rooke if he would give us some food to take and he gave us a tin of fruit and a tin of jam. While we were there the mother played a tune on the harpsichord, and I still remember it and play it on my harmonica.
We were moved to Haugesund by boat, and paraded on the square, I still have some small black and white photographs at the time. We returned to England having been there about six [four] months.
Ralph Cook, Jack Disdel and myself from the Battery were drafted to Hanover in Germany for a short time, and then de-mobbed. I went back to working on Estate Maintenance in Hilborough, Norfolk.
My thanks to Bob Hilton for this account.
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