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British Element Trieste Force 1945 - 1954
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Tragedies and memories.

In August 1946 I was stationed in Pola. We were guarding the munitions dump at Vallelunga. At this time the Navy was going round the Adriatic sweeping up all the mines they could find to make it possible for ships once more to navigate. The mines they were collecting were brought back to Pola. Pola, much like Trieste, does not have any beaches but is purely and simply a port. There is a small range of hills alongside Pola and beyond these hills there are beaches to which the inhabitants of the town flock for sunbathing and swimming.. At one end of the long beach the Navy had partitioned a section and used it to stack all the mines they collected. On one afternoon whilst we were in the barracks we heard the most massive explosion. Most of the mines had exploded and 86 bathers were killed with many others wounded. It was said that the Jugoslav partisans were responsible but I found out later that shortly before the explosion occurred two young boys had wandered down to look at the mines and had somehow found their way into the compound and were seen playing with them. Their bodies were never found. There will, of course, this month in Pola be the usual church services of remembrance. A large plaque bearing the names of the deceased has been erected in, of all places, San Giusto plaza.

Re: Tragedies and memories.

Another occasion I recall only too well also happened in August but this time it was in August 1944. I had been attached to the Welsh Guards Training Battalion stationed on the race-track in Sanderstead where I was learning to drive the Daimler Dingo armoured car plus other vehicles. So one day in August - I can't remember the exact date - the Battalion decided to hold a Sports Day meeting down at Imber Court. I went along as a spectator. The location was a large sports field in Imber Court. The regimental band was situated at the top end of the sports field and I was sitting in the pavilion. Now this part of Surrey was right underneath the Doodle-Bug alley where they were a very regular sight in the skies. We heard one coming along and suddenly its motor shut off and it started its dive down and seemed to be heading directly for the pavilion. I did a very smart exit out onto the sports field when its engine seemed to restart. Looking up it was now heading straight down towards the spot where the band was playing. I did a very smart about turn and headed back towards the pavilion. Felt a very large push in my back and found myself sliding along the ground and underneath the seats of the pavilion. The damned thing exploded right on top of where the band had been playing. 86 people died that afternoon plus dozens of others who were wounded. I was, for some reason, spared and just dazed. Went to try and help but was told to make my way back to barracks. But I saw sights that afternoon that I never want to see again. And the worst part of it was that just a couple of weeks earlier one of the Doodle-Bugs had fallen on the Guards Chapel in the City and killed 196 who were in the chapel, and most of them were the Welsh Guards. So August has a very special place in my memory.