Bill Cheall took part in most of the British campaigns against the Germans during the Second World War. He joined the Territorial Army in the spring of 1939 in the expectation that war would soon break out. His unit moved to France in April 1940 and was soon caught up in the German offensive in the west, ending up at Dunkirk. On his return to Britain Cheall took part in the extensive training that followed the defeat of 1940. He was then posted to the Middle East, where he fought in Tunisia. He then took part in the invasion of Sicily before returning to the UK to take part in the D-Day landings. On D+30 he was wounded, and only returned to Europe in the very last days of the war.
Cheall's very varied service means that we see something of most of Britain's Second World War campaigns against the Germans, and the way in which the army improved in skill and organisation during that period. We also see how the quality of training varied depending on the period and on the unit, some of it very poor (or almost absent) and some of the highest quality (a spell in Scotland in the spring of 1944 stands out as the most impressive, the period after his injure perhaps the worst).
Just as important is the insight we get into the regimental system and its importance to many in the army. Cheall was with the Green Howards for much of the war, but ended it with the East Lancashire Regiment, much to his dismay. The heavy cost of some of the fighting also becomes clear when Cheall returns to his unit after a shorter absence to find most of the familiar faces gone.
This is a rare example of a memoir written by someone who stayed in the ranks for most of the war, until joining the Military Police in the first days of peace. We thus get to see the early campaign of 1940 and the fighting after D-Day from the same point of view, allowing us to make a valuable comparison between the two campaigns.
1 - The Beginning - The Territorial Army - 1939
2 - Call Up
3 - We Join the British Expeditionary Force
4 - Dunkirk
5 - The Aftermath
6 - We Reorganize
7 - Training Begins
8 - I Am Posted
9 - To the Middle East
10 - Egypt, The Desert
11 - Back to the Green Howards
12 - Wadi Akarit, Into Battle
13 - Preparing
14 - Sicily
15 - Our Return to England
16 - Intensive Training (for D-Day)
17 - Time for Action
18 - D minus 1 to D-Day
19 - Grim Determination - D-Day, 6 June 1944
20 - D plus 1 to D plus 30
21 - My Rest Cure
22 - Back to Duty
23 - Hamburg and Peace
24 - Oberhausen, Germany
25 - Duisburg, The End of my War
Epilogue: Back to Normandy, June 1984
Names I Will Always Remember
Author: Bill Cheall
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military