Vic Jones is 90 and to see him walk down the street one would think: ‘There’s the old gentleman from number six. I wonder what he once did?’
He was born on April 20, 1922 in Holloway Street, Landport, a short street that had a junction with Canal Walk.
He attended Arundel Street infants, Besant Road juniors and Arundel Street senior school. He left in 1936, aged 14, and worked for Timothy Whites as an errand boy and porter.
At 17 he joined the army, the 59th Anti-Tank Regiment Royal Artillery and was mobilised in August 1939.
He transferred to the 15th Battery Garrison Artillery later called the Royal Coast Artillery and served at Point Battery, Old Portsmouth, Fort Blockhouse at Gosport, Southsea Castle and Spitbank Fort in the Solent. In Old Portsmouth his position was on top of the Round Tower.
Vic, who lives at Drayton, Portsmouth, says: ‘The tower parapet was surrounded by sandbags. One night in 1940 Jerry came over and after dropping their bombs on the city thought they would try us on the tower.
‘We saw them coming in from Southsea beach and we ducked down just as their machine gunners opened fire ripping the sandbags to shreds and covering us in sand.’
Vic then moved to Spitbank Fort where he remained for 18 months during 1940 and 1941.
‘We had a 4.4in gun which was pretty useless. It was not a high-angle gun so couldn’t bring down aircraft. It was to be used in case any of the German fleet managed to get across the Channel.
‘We had leave for 10 days every three months. We slept in the old gun casements which had been walled off to make separate bed spaces.’
‘What about ablutions?’ I asked. Vic says outside toilets were built against the fort’s outer wall. To get to them he had to leave the fort and walk along a platform to where six toilets had been placed. There was no privacy.
Vic says the sewage dropped straight into the sea. When there was a high tide and a rough sea, one had the pleasure of nature’s bidet.
After his time on the fort Vic transferred to 101 Coast Battery (mobile regiment). They were sent to help in the latter stages of the Sicily landings which began in July 1943.
Walking down a lane one afternoon there was an explosion ahead of Vic. All he remembers is a white flash. Three days later he woke in hospital in North Africa where he stayed for three weeks. He was then sent back into action attached to the crew of a 25lb gun and took part in the Salerno landings.
Vic showed me his hand bearing several scars. ‘How did that happen?’ I asked.
He says: ‘We saw these Jerries across a field and we were told to go for them. Off we trot over a flint wall and across a field when the Jerries, who greatly outnumbered us, decided to charge us. It was most off-putting.
‘We turned and fled and as I reached the wall and leapt over, a German soldier threw a stick grenade. I landed behind the wall but my hand was still on top as it exploded. Bits of grit and dirt were embedded into the back of my hand.’
Vic went on to fight at Monte Casino and ended the war in Athens in May 1946.
He returned to his parents’ home at White Hart Lane, Portchester. ‘The house was decorated with bunting and balloons. It was wonderful to be home again and in one piece.’
He returned to work at a wholesale stationers in Fratton Road, the Ministry of Works, Sparshatts and finally as assistant caretaker at Springfield School, Drayton.
He married in 1947 and even after all the action in real war he joined the territorials in the Duke of Connaught’s Mortar Regiment.