Peter Appleby

Photo:Peter Appleby in uniform.

Peter Appleby in uniform.

Peter Appleby

Photo:Peter and his wife on their wedding day in 1946.

Peter and his wife on their wedding day in 1946.

Peter Appleby

Recollections of life as a driver for the RAF Motor Transport Division.

Life on the Home Front

In 1939 Peter was aged seventeen and lived with his family in Crouch End. He worked as a commercial transport driver. He joined the RAF and was called up in May 1941. Before entering service Peter experienced air raids. Although the area was not badly affected, sheltering in the musty Anderson shelter became almost a ‘habit.’

Motor Transport Section

Peter was posted to the South Coast for training, before travelling to Bedfordshire. He received his uniform and was posted to an RAF camp in Lincolnshire. He was assigned to a civilian billet and undertook training. Despite holding a licence Peter attended the RAF driving school at Blackpool. After 6 weeks he was posted to an airfield in Sussex to join the Motor Transport Section. Peter stayed at a local cottage with others from the airfield. The mess was based at the requisitioned Manor House.

Peter was responsible for collecting ammunition from the factories and food rations from the Royal Army Supply Depot. The men had porridge and toast for breakfast, and beans or powdered eggs scrambled on toast for tea. Whilst in Sussex Peter socialised freely at the village pub. He attended a New Year Ball at Arundel Castle, organised by the local authorities.

Service overseas

He was posted to Gravesend and undertook the ration run between Maidstone and Cobham. Peter was then transferred to Hampshire where the airfields were located away from the town. He received two weeks embarkation leave. Peter was sent to Blackpool and did not know where he would be posted. 5,000 men assembled at the football ground. Peter was selected with other Motor Transport Division drivers. They caught a train to Old Sarum where they were assigned tents and ammunition. The next morning they travelled to Portsmouth and boarded a barge. Peter was excited and did not realise that they were crossing the Channel until they docked at Normandy. They disembarked, parking their vehicles in an orchard whilst they collected camouflage paint from the local depot. The men had been transferred in four days, highlighting the urgency of the situation.

Meeting lifelong love in Belgium

Whilst in France Peter transported supplies for creating new airfields. When they moved into Brussels they were assigned billets at the old barracks. On arrival they were informed that there was a local bath house. They decided to visit but became lost. Peter’s friend asked for directions from a local girl, who he arranged to meet. Peter was persuaded to go in case she did not arrive. They were invited home to meet her parents, and Peter met her sister. The couples spent time together regularly. After a while they left the barracks. On their return they stopped at a village and were told that the war was over. Everybody danced in the streets. Although he was posted elsewhere Peter continued to write to the girl. He was granted leave and returned to Belgium. They married in 1946. Peter was demobbed and returned home. He had difficulty obtaining a passport but returned to Belgium on the troop ships.  The couple travelled to Britain and moved into Peter’s family home at Crouch End, where they lived for 46 years. Although Peter’s wife missed her family they visited Belgium regularly, which Peter continues to do.

This page was added by Malin Lundin on 17/04/2012.