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Heroes Of Our Time

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Kenny Gray

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I was called up to Join the Army in Dec 1944 and left Jan 1948. serving in the R.E.M.E. At that time I was working for Earnest Doe of Essex.

 

I worked as a bulldozer/scrapper driver in shingle street on the construction of several wartime Airfields in Norfolk and Suffolk. Security was tight, we had to sign a document six pages long to say that we would not speak about what we were doing (am assuming that this was the official secrets act document).

 

I was collected every morning by a woman driver of an auxiliary vehicle taken to the site and returned at night although I asked her what I was constructing. She refused to say anything although I had the feeling that she knew more than she let on.  I constructed three large trenches running parallel to each other as far into the sea as possible, with another trench running along the top to form a huge E. After I had done this I was moved to Boyton to another construction site After a few weeks I was called back to the Shingle street site to fill in the trenches, with the requirement that at least six feet of earth covered whatever was in the trench.

 

Paddy went missing.

 

Involved in the construction of an airfield just east of Woodbridge Suffolk in Rendlesham forest. An Irishman and I were levelling and clearing areas ready for the construction of the dispersal areas for aircraft as these areas were well away from the main construction of the airfield we rarely saw anyone else. The site foreman would only visit us occasionally to check that everything was alright and to sign our work documents. One day Paddy received a telegram saying that his wife had had a serious accident and was in a bad way, Paddy immediately went and asked the foreman if he could have time off to return to Ireland to visit his wife. The foreman refused any leave saying that they were to busy to allow time off,  whether he feared  Paddy would not return or what I don’t know, but he was adamant that paddy could not leave the site.

 

Later that night in the workmen’s hut where we lodged with the other workers, I was stoking up the stove, as it was my turn to make sure the fire kept going all night. As I thought everyone was asleep I jumped when paddy suddenly said “I’m going home tomorrow, it has suddenly come to me how I can do It, but I’ll need your help, so be about early in the morning.” With that he turned over and went to sleep leaving me wondering what he was cooking up.    I was awake as dawn was breaking, looked to see if paddy was awake to find that his bed was already made. Christ I thought he’s gone and done a bunk already. I quickly dressed made sure the fire was alright. As I rushed out of the door hoping to catch paddy before he got to the station I noticed his D7 Caterpillar had gone from beside mine. As I stood there wondering if he had borrowed it as a taxi. I could hear the dull roar of a dozer working in the distance. Without doing the routine checks of oil and water levels I started my D7 and with the  throttle fully open and black exhaust smoke pouring into the now lightening sky, I rushed towards were I thought the sound had come from. With the light now growing stronger I could see in the distance the bulldozer steaming along then disappear into a dip then reappear turn round and do the same again, my mind raced as I tried to figure out what paddy was doing, by the time I reached him he had dug a huge hole 30ft by 15ft about 12ft deep. he then drove his dozer into the hole switched it off looked at me and grinned. “Right” he said “Give me a hand  with this tarpaulin to cover the cat then we’ll put some tree branches over the top and with your dozer you can flick some earth over the lot and no one will know that it’s there.

 

True as his word when we had finished it looked the same as the rest of the site churned up mud, bulldozer tracks and the odd tree debris lying about.

 

Grinning from ear to ear Paddy then picked up his suitcase that he had placed by a nearby tree turned to me and said “I’m relying on you now boy If the foreman comes and asks you where I am tell him I’m either filling up with diesel or working over the other side of the airfield, I’m off to see the wife in Ireland be back as soon as I can.” With that he disappeared through the trees leaving me wondering whether I could cover up for him and if he would come back

 

Luckily that week the foreman never came near nor by. Towards the end of the week I was beginning to get worried as paddy had not yet returned and the time was approaching when we had to have our work documents signed for the amount of work we had done. I must have been worried or tired trying to do two mans work because I  lost concentration and accidentally hit the dozer blade into one of the legs of a fifty foot high fire watch tower, several of which were scattered about the forest. luckily I did not knock it right over because as soon as I hit it I heard an almighty scream over the engines roar and when I stopped and looked up I saw a woman hanging over the edge of the tower, scared witless. Somehow she managed to scramble back in and was alright, mind you if they had told me  that those towers were occupied, I might have been more careful, but they did not tell you much in them days secrecy was the in thing. Walls have ears and all that. I think it must have been about the next day that paddy calmly sauntered back through the trees as if he had just been for a pee. We quickly uncovered his cat filled in the hole and calmly went about our work as if he had not been away, strangely it wasn’t long after that,  that the foreman turned up to sign our papers he even commented that we had done a good job. I later learned that paddy’s wife recovered alright and appreciated the visit and to my knowledge then and to this day not many people knew that paddy had disappeared for about a week.