VE DAY blog from Councillor Wendy Schmitt
A blog to mark the 75th anniversary of the Victory in Europe (VE Day) from Councillor Wendy Schmitt.Published: Wednesday, 6th May 2020
As an ex-soldier and Armed Forces Champion for Braintree District Council, I was, like many other people, looking forward to the many events planned to celebrate VE Day. However, just because we have to be at home doesn’t mean that we cannot celebrate. I will fly a Union Flag and have some quiet moments of contemplation for all of those who were involved in the war effort.
In particular I will be thinking of my late father John Plowright. A quite unassuming man who volunteered for the Army in June 1940. Dad had been a member of the St Johns Ambulance from childhood, as indeed had my grandfather, sister and I and so he wished to serve in the Royal Army Medical Corps.
After basic training he was moved to ‘A’ Company 70th Battalion Royal Berkshires which was called The Young Soldiers battalion and was raised for 18-19 year olds who had volunteered. By February 1941 dad got his wish and was transferred to the Royal Army Medical Corps. On 4th December he was on H.M.T. Orcades bound for Egypt via Cape Town. Unfortunately in a stopover in Sierra Leone dad contracted malaria, which put an end to him being a blood donor and re occurred on several occasions during his service. On 29th January 1942 he disembarked in Suez. He was moved on many occasions through the North Africa Campaign and in July 1943 was transferred to Southern Italy and gradually moved north, casually mentioning that on 3rd November he shook hands with Pope Pius X11.
He finally flew home to England on the 2nd October 1945 and was demobbed in June 1946. He celebrated VE Day in Genoa, Italy but unsurprisingly doesn’t say how.
How do I know these details? Luckily my grandparents kept many of the 100’s of aerograms that he sent them and he also kept a small diary, because of the censors details were brief, but showed what on many occasions was the boredom of soldiers waiting for something to happen. But no mention of when things did happen, very much the stiff upper lip.
I will also be remembering my grandfather Joseph Dines; he volunteered in the 1st World War on 9th September 1914 and was a member of Kitchener’s Army. On 27th January 1915 he was sent to France. At 5.30pm on the 8th May 1915 he ‘went over the top’ at what became the infamous Battle of Auber Ridge. It was so bad the attack was called off at 6am and then re commenced at 3.57pm. In that one day 11,000 men (dead, wounded or lost in action) in relative terms one of the single highest casualty rates of the Great War. Afterwards it was agreed that the battle was an unmitigated disaster.
For Granddad it was, he was severely injured and only retrieved the following day. The first the family knew of this was on 21st May when a telegram was received from Leeds General Hospital. After a very lengthy convalescence he was honourably discharged on 17th February 1916.
I will also remember his sons, my late uncles John and Cecil who were both in the Tank Corps in WW II. Uncle Cecil left with what is known as PTSS, being in battle in a tank must have been terrible.
I remember them all with great pride as I do all of the men and women who have protected our country against aggression.
Councillor Wendy Schmitt, Armed Forces Champion and Cabinet Member for Environment and Place