Walter’s War: Introduction

Throughout the Second World War, my father, Walter George Earley, served in the Royal Engineers, as a driver/mechanic with 295 Army Field Company, from shortly after he was called up in August 1939 until he was demobbed in 1945. He spent a large part of the war in North Africa, including at the Battle of El Alamein, before being recalled for the invasion of Normandy.

In the year before his death in 1995, Dad started dictating his memoirs of his time in the Royal Engineers. Sadly, he was unable to complete his memoirs before he died.

Dad dictated his memoirs onto cassette tapes, which were transcribed by members of the family. Dad would then read through the typed-up version and make several corrections/amendments as well as adding things that he had forgotten. Jean then patiently re-typed them, often more than once, before Dad was happy with the final result.

Copies of the memoirs were supplied to all of the family, and these were later put into electronic form. Before they are forgotten or lost, I have posted these memoirs here so that they can be available to Dad’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren as well as to the world in general.

The memoirs contain a narrative of Dad’s time in the war, in which many incidents are recalled in tremendous detail. At times, the memoirs are very funny and at others very sad, especially the loss of so many of his mates during the raid on Tobruk. Although Dad once told me that he never fired a weapon in action, there were several occasions when he and his unit came under attack and were lucky to avoid being killed, from the attack on the SS Oronsay to the frequent bombing raids on airfields and docks where the Royal Engineers were working. One thing that does stand out from the memoirs is what a superb motor mechanic Dad was, and how his skills helped keep the Army moving.

The original memoirs are nearly 100 pages long, split into seven chapters. To make the memoirs more accessible, I have split them into smaller chapters. The headings are mine, and I have added dates to enable them to be put into context.

I have moved a couple of paragraphs around to make the narrative easier to follow, and have added my own occasional comments [in square brackets]. Otherwise, the narrative is as Dad originally dictated, telling Walter’s War in his own words.

Most of the photographs used here are from Dad’s own album, unless stated otherwise.


David Earley

April 2020