The Feature Page

Lt Francis Kevin McCormack

I went with my father to Liverpool to sign up for the Royal Marines. The Royal Navy had a Recruiting Office so I signed up with the intention of becoming an Officer.

I was put in the 'Y' Scheme and had confirmation around May 1945 and reported to Deal in Kent on 5th June 1945 just before my 18th birthday.

Basic training of around 3 months followed and at the end of it you either went to sea or into the commandos.

I went for a few weeks of tests to establish leadership skills at the War Office Selection Board, which I passed. Around half the 30 or so got through at that time.

Officers were put in charge of landing craft, but as this was now after D-Day there were actually too many officers in the Royal Marines so if you wanted to try to become an Officer you had to transfer to the Army, or stay as a non commissioned other rank in the Marines.

I decided to go into the Army and was then sent to Wrotham a pre OCTU (about three months) for training and testing which I passed. . We were proud to be a Royal Marine and felt somewhat elite, however the Army had other ideas, and basically we were told forget the Marines you are in the Army now! I was put into the Royal West Kent Regiment after Wrotham I volunteered for India where I did my OCTU training, if I stayed in the UK my training would have been at either Sandhurst or one other place. It was then I was put under an Officer in Charge called Captain Baxter just before embarkation who was an Ex-Ghurka Officer. He had to choose two Junior Under Officers (which I was one) to be put in charge of some 40 Cadets.

For some reason he saw potential. It was this Officer who influenced me and taught me how to handle people.

I did the course (about 3-4 months) and at the end was Commissioned; when I had to put down a list of Regiments to be assigned to. I chose the Lancashire Fusiliers and was posted to Lucknow in the November 1946. If I had stayed in the UK I would have gone to Sandhurst.

I was given my own Platoon as there was a vacancy in 'D' Company 12th Platoon. The Colour Sergeant was named Tonge, Sergeant Major was called Murphy and the Company Commander in charge was called Geoff Lever.

I was now in charge of a platoon of regular, hardened squaddies!

Whilst in Lucknow I was put on a Signals course in Ranchi and also a course on Anti Malaria in Mhow. On return I was made Anti Malaria Officer.

I was sent down on detachment to collect a British family in Bangalore; this was during the time of unrest in India resulting in violent conflict between the Hindus and Muslims.

I took with me about a dozen or so from my Platoon, due to the possibility of ambush. The arrangement was that I was in First Class, the others were in a carriage attached to mine.

Going down no problem….. on return the family was with me, during the journey, about 2 days, the railway workers wanted to move the other carriage to the end of the train to put in an extra first class carriage - I said OK but the Unit will travel in the next First Class carriage next to me. I was still getting bills for the extra costs from the Indian Railway after I was de-mobbed!

When I got back to Lucknow with the Family, I was told the Battalion was moving to Deolali and I was to be Baggage Officer - Responsible for all baggage and Minnie the Mule, the Company Mascot! Then to Bombay a few weeks/months afterwards ready to board the ship to the UK.

After a few months in Deolali, we went to Bombay, during the night the train stopped and I was aware of some noise outside, I decided to go and see what was going on and to my horror I saw some railway workers unhitching Minnie's wagon from the rest of the train. They thought the wagon had to go another destination!

This role meant I was in charge of all baggage both personal and bulk, for hundreds of soldiers, and also, for example, the Battalion Silver, mortars, guns, vehicles, you name it, which of course included my mate Minnie the Mule.

I had to ensure all items were labeled and bagged up for transportation to Bombay (now Mombai) It was a logistic exercise, getting from A to B without loosing anything.

Transportation was in cattle trucks through India to Bombay staying at Deolali which was a transit camp for the British Army. Troops from Burma etc were disembarking at this camp then onward to Bombay to ships to take them to the UK. All the British Army in India was on the move through this transit camp at the time.

Arriving in Bombay the train literally stopped at the dock. All the baggage (and Minnie) had to be safely moved from train to ship, (the HMS Georgic).

Several porters were designated to offload the baggage. I insisted that they all gave me their Badges which basically is their licence to work. I told them all if one piece of baggage went missing the whole lot would end up in the sea. Surprise surprise! I didn't lose one item. Minnie was safely craned on board the ship (there is some film footage showing her being lifted on - she is hanging in mid air as the crane lifts her aboard)

The ship was absolutely full of troops. Conditions were tough. I didn't have my own cabin but thankfully wasn't below the water line in the bowels of the ship where the squaddies had to sleep.

So many, including me, just hung over the edge vomiting, there was so much sea sickness in the Med. Unfortunately the soldiers hanging over one level were sick on the heads of the soldiers on the level below and so on - the stench on the ship was appalling conditions very difficult.

On arrival in Liverpool it was then onward travel to Wem in Shropshire where I stayed for a few months before being sent to York where I was de-mobbed; given a suit and a trilby and sent out into Civvy Street. I did consider staying and signing up as I didn't want leave the Army. But it was risky, so many wanted to stay in, mostly due to the fact they had nothing to go back to, so I just didn't want to go through the rigmarole of going through the process only to be rejected, so decided to leave.

It has come to light when I e mailed Maurice Taylor about Kevin to see if he knew him because they had both looked after Minnie? Maurice replied not in the Regiment but he remembered a boy of that name at West Park Grammar School in St Helens. This proved to be the same person.........funny how things turn out!