1st Edition PB 2004
Paperback. First published in Tasmania in 2004 by "Maygog Publishing".
Printer N/K. Written by John Bellamy.
This is the authors own account of his time spent serving with the RAMC during WW2.
A Canadian by birth, the author served at Arnhem and was taken prisoner at
the end of the Battle.
Nowadays, historians and commentators in the United States are increasingly referring
to those who served in the Allied Forces in World War 2 as "The Greatest Generation".
An Englishman, John Bellamy, was indeed one of "The Greatest Generation.
He spent six years in uniform and, in his very readable memoir Showers on Thursdays,
he recalls what life was like for an Englishman who served in an ambulance unit attached
to battalions of the Parachute Regiment in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and, finally,
at Arnhem in Holland.
Why the title Showers on Thursdays? An Army joke was that the Germans were so close and
so intermingled with their enemies in the desert that they were rostered to use the
British showers-"on Thursdays."
Bellamy was born in Canada in 1919 and reared in his mother's town of Ashby De La Zotiche
in Leicestershire, the "hunting county." Life in England in the 1930s was difficult,
especially for school leavers seeking work. Bellamy counted himself lucky to find employment
as a clerk in the Leicestershire Health Department. His first year salary was 50 pounds!
His sport was bicycle riding with a Club and 70 to 80 mile rides each weekend, summer
and winter, built up his physique and endurance.
Called up in June 1940, Bellamy volunteered for the Medical Corps as he had some moral
objections to a combat role. His descriptions of basic training will bring back memories
for old soldiers. Army boots were hard and unbending. Various methods were used on
the boots "to break them in"; "some were exotic remedies best not described in detail",
writes Bellamy. Again, old soldiers will know what he means. Initially with a RAMC unit
attached to the Tank Corps, he volunteered for a posting to the 10 Parachute Field Ambulance
attached to the Parachute Regiment. Members of his Field Ambulance received the same
parachute training as the paratroopers. Bellamy recalls it in detail. Consider the cold
courage required to step off an 80 foot high tower into thin air and depend on an
October 1942 found his unit supporting the British Airborne in Algiers and later Tunisia.
In July 1943 he dropped into Sicily. Later he was in Italy. Recalled to England his
unit missed D Day but Arnhem lay ahead. Bellamy writes: "The 17th September 1944 is a date
written across the hearts and minds of all who were at Arnhem."
Six men of the 16th Parachute Field ambulance were killed; the remainder of the unit went
Bellamy was transported with 150 other British prisoners to Neubrandenburg in North Germany.
Here he endured eight months of near starvation rations, crowding (24 men eating, sleeping
and living in an area 12 ft by 15 ft), and the bitter cold of a northern winter.
Unusually for a prisoner of the Germans, he does not tell of brutality; indeed an old
prison camp guard invited him and some comrades to his house for acorn coffee and
he received kindnesses from German civilians on his walk of over 100 miles to freedom
when the War ended.
A typical Englishman of his generation, Bellamy could be reserved and prone to understatement.
On finding an old girlfriend engaged to another man on his return to England, his proposal
of marriage to her was: "Does it have to be Charles?" He mentions going to Buckingham Palace
to receive a medal from King George VI. For the record, he might have stated that it was
an MBE and a citation would have added to his story. Also, an index would enhance the work.
Post War, Bellamy studied dentistry under an ex-servicemen's training scheme.
Later he migrated to Australia, taking up dental practice on Kangaroo Island and
lecturing to students in Tasmania where he now lives. For an English dentist to
migrate to Australia reversed a trend, for over 1000 dentists from New South Wales
went to England to work in the National Health Service in the 1950s and 1960s.
John Bellamy has a remarkable memory for detail and writes of his life smoothly
and with humour. The Foreword to his book states: "As the events of the Second
World War become dimmer in the memory of veterans, it is important that a permanent
record of those times is kept." Bellamy has made a delightful contribution to that record.