Interview with Victor Gregg

Title

Interview with Victor Gregg

Description

Victor Gregg joined the army on his 18th birthday. He was stationed in the Middle East when the news came that war had been declared. His first major battle of the war was at Beda Fomm. He later volunteered and was posted to 10 Parachute Battalion and landed at Arnhem. After several days of fighting and enduring critical conditions, he was eventually captured and became a prisoner of war. He was in a work camp near Dresden and was sent to work in a soap factory which he and a friend managed to sabotage. They were sent to a prison in Dresden and told they would be executed. The prison was full of inmates awaiting execution and executions were taking place daily whilst the city was being bombed. Victor and other survivors helped with the rescue of civilians. Then he experienced the Russian advance in Germany before finally being repatriated.

Creator

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

2016-07-20

Contributor

Julie Williams

Rights

This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Format

01:30:49 audio recording

Language

Type

Identifier

AGreggV160720

Coverage

Conforms To

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

PL: My name’s Pam Locker and I’m in the home of Mr Victor Gregg of 13 Springvale, Swanmore, Hampshire SO32 2AU, on the 20th of July 2016. And, Vic, if I can just start by saying thank you very much for letting me come to interview you. And perhaps you’d like to start by telling us about joining the forces and your, your military career, if you like and the experiences you had as a result.
VG: How I come to join the forces? Well, it just happened that it was my 18th birthday and I was out of work which wasn’t an uncommon feature in them days because young boys come out of school at fourteen years of age. They was used as cheap labour in the majority. Especially in the areas that I came from. So, employers used to take on these boys and sack them as they were required according to the order list at the firm I have. So, anyway, I was out of work and I was, I walked down Drury Lane because I was living in King’s Cross at the time. No. I was living in Holborn at the time. In Kenton Street. And I makes me way to the Horse Guards Parade. It was raining. And the idea is to spend half an hour watching the, watching the guards. Watching the army change guard with their horses in Horse Guards Parade which was quite a spectacle in them days. Especially in them days. You could get right up close to them. And I’m watching this and there’s a crowd and this big bloke comes up behind me and taps me on the shoulder. And I turned around and he’s got all this brass all over his chest and big red band goes down there and he asked me if I’d like a cup of tea and a bun. So, he says, ‘We’ll get out of the rain.’ So, I’d only had a couple of slices of bread and dripping for breakfast so I was a bit hungry so I said, ‘Yeah. Good idea,’ sort of thing. So, he takes me over to Whitehall. The army depot which was just off of Whitehall at Greater Scotland Yard. Marched up the steps. Go inside. He points out a desk where there’s two lads sitting behind a desk. ‘Go and have a chat with them. I’ll go and get the tea.’ So, I goes over and has the chat with them and they ask me how old I am and what’s my name and where do I live. They write it all down. ‘And you’re eighteen.’ I says, ‘Yeah. I’m eighteen today.’ ‘ Oh good. Good, son. Good. Good. Go and see that gentleman over there.’ There’s a bloke with a white coat. So, he says, ‘Take your coat off and drop your trousers and bend over and cough.’ And he says, ‘You’re alright. Button up and then go back to those two gentleman again.’ And I still haven’t — that bloke still hasn’t turned up with the tea and the bun yet but I found out, ‘Sign here,’ he said. So, I signed that and I’m in the army. And the whole thing took about ten minutes. And that’s how it was in them days. In them days the British army was a haven for — like a magistrate would have a bloke in front of him and the magistrate, according to advice from the government if they wanted more soldiers or something, instead of doing five years on Dartmoor you can sign up for seven. Seven and five. So, ‘What do you want to do?’ ‘I’ll sign up for seven and five. And you used to get blokes who had run away from their wives. Blokes who were riding out. Blokes who had come down from up north to get the treasures of the south which didn’t exist. All sorts of odds and sods they were in the army and they took them all. They took them all with open arms and they took me. And the next day I was on the train from from Waterloo down to Winchester where I spent the next six months at Winchester. Then I came out of there. I was in the 1st Battalion, The Royal Brigade which was at Tidworth. About four months there and I’m on a boat to India and it’s 1938 and Munich has just come about. So, we get to India. Done about nine months there and we were packed up. We’re off to Palestine. So, it was in Palestine and then of course we was on, we was on a patrol in Palestine on September the 3rd and the colonel pulled us all out into this field and told us that we was about to earn our keep because war had been declared. And that’s how I come to join the army. I didn’t actually join. It was, in them days it was an open door. Open door. You didn’t even have to be press ganged. You didn’t have to sign anything. You didn’t have to do any exercises or prove that you could write your name or anything like that. As long as could stand up that was it.
PL: So what happened next? After Palestine?
VG: Well it didn’t. The army didn’t, it didn’t affect me much because I’d already come from an area that if you didn’t stand up for yourself you’d had it. From, from infant school onwards. That’s the sort of area it was. You had to. You learned to stand up. So, joining the army we had the same sort of things that have like that have been reported in the last few years in the British army. What they call bullies. But you always had, always had that sort. That sort of individual who tried to put other people down in order to make a name for himself. But no. That didn’t affect me for the simple reason I knew how, I knew how to handle those sort of people so yeah I thought it was good. Three good meals a day and I had a pair of boots which didn’t let the water in. I was worried about, I was worried about what my mum would think because my mum was on her own. Well she was with my brother and my sister but my mum was being looked after my grandparents. More or less. My mum was like, she was always in work. So, there wasn’t a problem. I think she probably thought it was for the good because we was living in two rooms, the four of us. So, I was out of the way. So, that’s how I joined the army. And from Palestine we went to Egypt and then of course let battle commence and it never stopped. For six years. So, on the way, on the way I lost nearly everyone. Everyone who I’d known. The four lads who came down with me on the train only one of them survived but he died about two years after the war ended. Something the matter with his brain. So, I was the only survivor of the four lads who got on that train at Waterloo to go down to Winchester. But we go down there and they formed a squad of about twenty eight men and boys. Men and boys. Twenty eight. And that’s the squad that’s going to go forward. Train for six months. Learn all about everything and then get put in a battalion. In this case it was the 1st Battalion. So, I can’t say that, I can’t say that I felt out of place. I thought it was easy actually. Simple life. I didn’t have to go, I didn’t have to go burgling or anything like that off Sloane Square. I didn’t have to do that like all the other lads where I lived, you know. They — a lot of them ended up in the nick one way or another or they didn’t lead very [unclear]. Of course, the schooling was so basic. Unless you’d been to grammar school you couldn’t get a decent job.
PL: Did you, did you feel proud or did you feel this is a job? Did you feel proud about being in the army or did you feel it was just a job?
VG: No. No. I didn’t feel — no. No. No. I never felt. The only time I ever felt proud was when we was in Italy and you’re going along. You’re pushing these Germans back and then you go through these villages and little towns and all the people come out cheering and they’re happy and they’re throwing flowers and they’re offering you their vino and stuff like that. You really feel, you really feel that for the first— because this was the first time you, as far as I was concerned — I’d been in the Middle East — this was the first time I’d come into contact with civilians in a battle area because on the desert there are no civilians. It was man against man. Literally. No women. Nothing. But when you, when we got into Italy, of course, it was different. There was women and children and stuff like that and I really felt, that’s the only time I really felt proud is when people have, you know, they [pause] you know jolly well that they ain’t got nothing because you were giving them food but they offered you what they’d got. So, yeah, that’s the only time I ever felt proud really. Otherwise it’s just, just life. Not an existence. It’s life. A subtle difference I think.
PL: Absolutely.
VG: You get, you get institutionalised in to that way of life. Kill or be killed. If you’re in a front line unit. If you’re in [pause] if there’s an army corps, say of about of forty thousand men — fifty thousand men, and out of that fifty thousand you’ve only got about eight thousand that are actually front line soldiers. All the rest are in the chain of command. The line of command. The line of supply. All the rest — and it takes, it takes about, if its reckoned it takes nine men to service one, one soldier on the front line. So, although we all get the same ribbons and medals. Campaign medals. It’s only these few like Rifle Brigade, [Carriers?] the Devons, Northumberland Fusiliers and all those sort of light infantry units and the Tank Corps, the 4th Tanks, the 3rd Tanks. And some of the, some of the artillery units. The light artillery. Twenty five pounders and stuff. They’re the, they’re the only people who are actually in action. And of course, as far as the air force is concerned that was non-existent. They were still using twin, twin wing Gladiators. If they wanted to, if they were flying over and they wanted to drop a message then the gunner, who was sat behind the pilot, used to drop a note tied to a piece of string telling us what was going on. And that was — of course the Germans, the Italians were the same because they had twin engines the same but that was the level of aircraft style because the poor old, the poor old airmen they had these horrible bloody Blenheims and Whitleys and things like that and they used to get shot down as soon as they went up in the air. As soon as they turned up over enemy territory they were shot down because they were so slow. So quite a lot of the lads who got into those planes — they never come back. You get used to it. You get used to it. A lot of people won’t never understand that.
PL: So, when did you feel things started changing? You know, in terms of there being a war?
VG: Eh?
PL: You know, you’d been in, you’d been in the army for a couple of years and then the war started so was there a sort of a moment when you felt this is, everything has now changed and different?
VG: I think I was in, it might have been a couple of years. A year and a half. Something like that. I can’t recall that we felt anything. The colonel got up.
PL: You just got on with it.
VG: He got up on a sort of collapsible chair in this field. He called us all in from this. All the companies were spread out on this manhunt that we was doing over the, over these hills in Palestine. And we were all called together. About, I think it was about 4 o’clock in the afternoon. And so the whole battalion was there and he just told us that we was about to earn our keep. That war had been declared. ‘Cause I don’t think it came as a surprise because certainly it wasn’t a surprise to me because I’d already, I’d already experienced the black shirts and stuff like that in Whitechapel. I knew what it was all about. Even as young as I was. No. A sense of anticipation I suppose. Go down the canteen, have a few beers and you forgot all about it.
PL: So, what was your first battle?
VG: Well the first big battle, the first real big battle was at Beda Fomm. That was after Wavell had started Operation Compass where they drove all these Italians back. The whole Italian army. And we got to this place near Sirte and then we were pulled out. We were pulled out to have a rest. That was, it was a small group consisting of the Rifle Brigade, the second RB, the fourth RHA and I think there was a couple out of, out of the 3rd Tanks or 4th Tanks. Only about six tanks. That’s all. Light stuff. And we was this, at some fort or another, I’ve forgotten the name of it but anyway we had to — what had happened was they’d got some information that the Italians were leaving Benghazi and heading for Tripoli. The whole army. The whole Italian army and we was told we had to cut the road. And the best place to cut it in a straight line was this place at Beda Fomm. So we’d only, and we’d got back, they’d sent back to this area for a rest. We hadn’t even got the tea on. And the blue flare goes up so we’d got to get going and they’d tell us about it afterwards, you know. This is what we’re doing. The 11th Hussars had gone in front and they’d gone on a compass bearing to this point. Whatever was in the way we had to get over it. Very rough. And a lot of the mechanised stuff couldn’t get through. So we find that the next day we landed on this road. So, there’s about five hundred riflemen, I suppose there was about thirty gunners from the 4th RHA with twenty five pounders. And a few with two pounders which were useless. And we’re spread across this road and there’s an army of about forty thousand coming towards us. Complete. Complete with their tanks, guns and everything. But what the forty thousand didn’t know — they didn’t know we were there until, until whoever was in charge, like Wingy Renton — he wasn’t in charge but he was really. Wingy Renton was the company commander of 2nd RB. He, he — these Italians were only about twice the distance from that house over there and they still didn’t see us because we were laying flat, see. And then he opened with the twenty five pounders. That blasted the front ranks and the twenty five pounders demolished, demolished the tanks over open sights. So, and that first salvo there was about ten tanks caught alight, half a dozen lorries and there was about two hundred men laying. They were never going to see the next day. All in front of us. All lying on the ground. And they’d had it. They’re either dead or they’re howling out in pain or something like that. And we haven’t even, we haven’t even moved. We’ve just, we’ve just or we were going to or anything like that. And that’s how it was. That’s how it went on. Through all that day and then through the second day. People do say that the Italians are not good fighters. They’d never been in situations like that because the ground was absolutely strewn with their dead bodies and they still come on. Of course, what was driving them on was the rest of the British army had now caught up with their rear echelons. So, the rear echelons of this Italian force was trying to push forward and they was pushing the front echelons forward into our line of fire. And that was the first victory that England, that the British allies, and the only victory up to Alemein. It was the only complete victory we had and we’d got the whole of the Italian army. Caught the lot of them. And what did we lose? Yeah. We had a, my section commander got, he got hit in the arm. And then we had a lad who come from South Wales. Of course his name was Taffy. Naturally. But he used to make the tea. He was our tea boy and cook. Yeah. A bit of a joke but he used to like doing it and he got hit with a bit of shrapnel and of course that was it. He was dead. So, that’s the only casualties that our section had. But I don’t think we, I think we lost, I think the force as a whole, in that battle, I think we lost about, probably about eighty men. Which is not a lot, considering. A few more wounded. But, and then of course we went on. After that we went on for another couple of weeks and then they pulled us all back and these lads who had come over on the next draft took over. Of course, once they came in, once they came up against the Germans who were there they didn’t stand a dog’s chance. So they pushed them all back and that’s how it went for three years. Backwards and forwards. And one by one — you don’t lose, you don’t lose men. In the sort of unit that I was in you don’t lose, you don’t lose men a dozen at a time or two dozen at a time. They go in their ones and twos. All of a sudden you go over to another platoon. You know, to see a mate who you want to go and see. ‘Oh, where’s Charlie?’ ‘Oh, he got his lot yesterday.’ ‘Oh.’ And then you think. That’s the way it goes on. It’s, it’s so gradual you, you get used to it. Course as the months and the years go by and both sides get more weapons so, it gets fiercer and fiercer. By the time you get to battles like Sidi Rezegh in 1941 it’s nothing short of a bloodbath. But you still, you still soldier on through it. By that time, if you’re in a good regiment, in a good regiment, then if somebody gets a bit bomb happy there’s, you know, there’s nothing wrong with that. Instead of like, if he was in the Guards he wouldn’t stand a chance. They’d say, ‘Get up there.’ You know. You’d get shot for cowardice. They wouldn’t do that in these sort of regiments. They’d just quietly send the lad back and because he’s, he’s more danger being with him. It’s not his fault. It’s not his fault. It’s a life where, a life in a war is like that. Where you get so used to the ever present danger that it’s a way of life. So, I’ve never seen, I’ve never seen blokes pray. I’ve never seen blokes clutching their beads as some, like the Yanks do, you know. Never seen anything like that. Just take it as a — once they get used to it then it becomes a matter of fact. ‘What do you think they’re doing now?’ ‘Oh, they’ve packed up for the day.’ ‘Well, let’s get the cards out.’ You don’t know what’s going to happen the next day. And then you get, then you see a load of aircraft come over, ‘It’s alright. They’re ours.’ See, but the sods in the planes doing about six hundred miles an hour. They can’t tell. They see a load of stuff down below and, you know, a load of dust and down they come, you see and shoot you up. And then while they’re shooting you up you’re watching bloody Germans shooting their own troops up about two mile away. Complete balls up really. So, yeah. You get, you get [pause] it’s difficult for people to understand how it becomes a way of life. Living on bully beef and biscuits. We actually had biscuits issued to us which they’d dug up from food pits which Allenby had laid down in 1916. It’s the truth. The armoured cars that the 11th Hussars were using were the same armoured cars that Allenby had had in the First World War. These old Rolls Royce, long nosed armoured cars which were — the only armour they had was the 303 Vickers and they were set against the Italians who had forty millimetre anti-tank guns that went through them like a knife through butter sort of thing, you know. We was completely unprepared. The British army. Completely unprepared. They only — we had three weapons that were any good. We had a rifle which was the best rifle going. The Lee Enfield 303. We had the Bren gun which they bought from Czechoslovakia in 1937. And we had the twenty five pounder. And that was the three weapons. That’s all we had which would, which would do any damage to the enemy. And there we are sending troops all over the world. And they pulled through. Not because, not because of these idiots who had been educated at Eton like that who thought they, you know, they were indestructible but ordinary, ordinary English. English sort of men. British. British manpower. British men who had been brought up in hardship. Out of work. On the dole. Stuff like that. And then of course after, after the end of 1940 and ‘41 when they brought in conscription then of course you got all types. But there was no [pause] we wasn’t, we never had any aircraft support worth thinking about until we got to Alemein in 1942. At the end of ‘42. Then of course, by that time, we had superiority. Complete. The air force had all sorts of weapons. They had all these Spitfires, Hurricanes and American planes. And we had the six pounder which could put any German tank out of business. But then Alemein was brutal. Was brutal. You had two armies facing each other. Both dug in. And then we had to go forward and try and break them out of it. And you can bomb them all day long and shell them all day long but if they’re in a hole you’ve got to hit the hole before you do them. Shelling very seldom clears, clears a way through. These light bombers that the RAF were issued with they done more damage than the shells. But if you had — at Alemein they had a gun every twenty yards over twenty mile. There was a twenty mile length of the battlefield and they had a gun every twenty yards and they all opened up at the same time. And when that lot went off the Bren carrier which I was in, the Bren carrier actually lifted off the ground with the shock. We was all told to block our earholes up because these shells were only landing about four hundred yards in front of us. But it didn’t — it looked bad, it sounded bad. It looks impressive but after it had all died down and you approach them it’s as if you had never had anything. Their machine guns opened up and you were in business again. Its [pause] and then you take a couple of prisoners and after a little while you find they’re just the same as you. They don’t — they’re not, the majority of them I don’t think knew a lot about, I don’t think they knew a lot about these death camps. I think the German civilians did obviously but I don’t think the blokes in the army knew. The lads who, the only Germans who were different were the Germans who had been to, had been against the Soviet Union and been pulled back because I think they were dead scared of losing the war because they knew what they’d have to face when they come out of it for what they’d done. Well not what not the actual ordinary Wehrmacht soldier had done.
PL: So, Vic, do you want to talk a little bit about when you were a prisoner of war yourself?
VG: Well, I came home from Italy. Because by that, at the end, at the end [pause] at the end of it, coming up three quarters of the way through 1943 all the fighting in North Africa ceased at Cape Bon. So, they’re going to send the second RB in. They’re going to send them back to the Middle East. Palestine. And quite a lot of us — we wasn’t very happy about this because we knew [we’d been beat. See once you’re in a peacetime area we didn’t want nothing to do with that. So, then they come and asked for volunteers to form this new parachute regiment. And it’s alright. You volunteer and if you don’t like it — you’re going to go down to Tel Aviv and if you don’t like it, you get two weeks leave and if you don’t like jumping out of planes you can come back and we’ll take you back alright. The whole battalion stepped forward. They’d been in the desert three and a half years. So, they get a promise of two weeks leave and a trip back again. Nobody’s going to blink an eye. Nobody is going to be stupid enough to — of course there were a few sensible blokes who through the — because it was still mainly, even after three years of war it was still mainly a regular battalion, filled up with regular soldiers and you never volunteer for anything. You see. That’s the, that’s the first thing. You never volunteer for anything. But they volunteered in that case so they had to take the names out of the hat and I was one of them that came out of the hat. So, that’s how I happened to be in the 10th Parachute Battalion. And so, I ended up in Italy and got, and then after Italy when they brought us home they brought us home as the second front. And of course eventually they used us up — they took us over the channel a couple of times in those early days of the second front when they were going to use us and they brought us back because where they was going to drop us there was so much movement that where they were going to drop us they thought, you know, the Germans were in charge of that area. So, every time you go up there was about twenty or thirty blokes who can’t make it anymore. Their nerves are shattered. But — so eventually we were off to, we’re off to Arnhem and our division was dropped on the second day. The first day was the 18th. We was dropped on the 19th and we dropped on the DZ which was full of the dead bodies. From the blokes who had jumped the day before. Now, three quarters of the battalion had never fired a shot in anger. The only people who knew what it was like was these people who had come from the Middle East and, the colonel in charge, he had the sense to keep them separate. All us blokes, he put us in what was called Support Group. We had the three inch mortars and the machine guns. Stuff like that. So, anyway, over we jumped to get on the DZ and then so there was about five hundred of us jumped and about — I think there was three hundred of us turned up. Made it. Made it off of the DZ. We left two hundred on the DZ — dead. And then on the second day we only had eighty men left standing. And then of course because I was on a machine gun I’m getting put here, there and everywhere and by the second day, by the third day I’ve already been through two crews. For some reason, I’m sitting in the, I’m sitting number one on the gun and I’m sitting up like that. See. And the number, and the number two is down here, laying on his, laying on his stomach, feeding the ammo and the number three is laying on the other side of the gun tidying up the empty belt. They’re lower than a snake’s belly but those are the blokes who got killed for some reason or other. For some reason or the other I lived through it. I don’t know how. Because it just carried on until, you know, on the 6th day, mind you we only had food for three days, two days so we was drinking water out of what was on the road. Puddles. And we run out of ammo so this officer who I’d never seen before who’d been [unclear] to be with his remnant he’s going to go back. A and this is about 11 o’clock at night, he's going to go back and see if he can find some more ammunition. Find another box of ammo. So he goes back and then he comes, after about twenty minutes he comes back. He crawls back and says, ‘There’s nobody there. They’ve all gone.’ And he thinks that we’re surrounded. Completely surrounded by the Germans. There’s no way out so we might as well give ourselves up. But no. No. No. We didn’t give ourselves up. We crawled out of this, some of us. There was about four of us, half a dozen of us I think there was. We managed to crawl out and we lasted the first day and on the [eighth?] day — I think it was the 28th . On the 28th I got captured. And this German — we was in a ditch. Absolutely exhausted we were and this German’s looking down at us pointing a gun at us. ‘Come Tommy. Come. Come. Come. Krieger [unclear]. That’s it. So, I get sent down to this camp. 4B. And this is full up with people who have been there since Dunkirk. Hundreds of them. So you’re wondering, you know, I mean four years. Anybody ever try and get out of here. ‘No. You can’t get out of here.’ Well they was wrong because it was dead easy because they come and ask you if you want to work in a work camp but the NCOs who were in charge of the prisoners they think that they’ve got to keep all the prisoners together. So, they give us a lecture, ‘When they come around to ask you to go on these work camps say no.’ But I didn’t. Three of said, ‘Yeah, why not. Yeah. Let’s get out of here.’ You see. So, we were on these work camps and they sent us down to this camp at Niedersedlitz which was about six kilometres or five kilometres south of Dresden. And this, this little work camp had about, there was about eighty men in it and we used to go out and do all these jobs like sweeping the roads, collecting the cabbages off the ground. It was February. Two feet of snow. Emptying the, doing the [unclear] as the coal come in off the coal. Empty the trains. Anything like that we used to do. So, yeah so three times we, the four of us who had formed a little group, three times we tried to get away. And on the third time, the third time the Feldwebel came up and he has us in a line. He said, ‘I can’t do anything else,’ he said. ‘I’m going to give you a job now that is hard,’ he said, ‘But if you do it anymore,’ he said, I’ve got to report you.’ He was alright. He was alright — the old boy. And so, he sent me to this soap factory. The punishment was not the work in the soap factory. The punishment was the walk to the soap factory which was another six kilometres through two foot of snow in the morning and at night. And so, in order to make it easier for us he issued us with, he’d got these wooden clogs made in the village and he issued us all with these wooden clogs. The soles were about that thick. See. So that was alright. So, I get teamed up with this bloke. This Yorkshire bloke. Big bloke he was. Harry. So, we’re in this soap factory and our job is to shovel all this pummy powder in to a big wheelbarrow and wheel it up the ramp and empty it into the mix here. Now, this was a soap factory but they never had any fat or oil. So the only soap which was available in Germany at the time were these lumps of pumice stone which was, that this factory used to make. But on the other side of the shed there were some Italians building a wall and they had a big pile of cement which is exactly the same colour as pummy powder although the consistency is different. So, we thought it would be a good idea to put two barrel fulls of cement in to the mixing machine. Which we done. See. And it was late in the afternoon so the Feldwebel, the bloke in charge, he’s rubbing this stuff with his fingers and he’s puzzled because it’s too wet. Never happened before. Must have put too much water in it, see. So, he’s going to leave it till the next morning and then I leave it to the next morning. I’m beginning to get butterflies. Harry, Harry’s saying, ‘Wouldn’t it be a joke if it all seized up?’ I said, ‘Well it aint no joke mate,’ I said, ‘We’re the people who put it in there.’ ‘No. Don’t worry about that. No. They’re too stupid to work that out.’ I said, ‘They’re not stupid. They’re Germans.’ Anyway, I go along with Harry all the time, laughing and joking and sure enough, the next morning, half past six in the morning — freezing cold and it’s snowing. And this Feldwebel, this bloke in charge had this big wooden lever on the war and at the end of the lever was a rope and the rope pulled down another lever. It was a sort of old Heath Robinson affair. That was, the electric switch was up in the roof, see. So, he pulls the lever. He pulled it down anyway. And nothing happened. Keeps on trying. Nothing’s happened. Then all of a sudden everybody becomes aware there’s a load of smoke up on the roof. Course the roof is full of fat because this place has been a soap factory for a couple of hundred years. Everything’s saturated. And all of a sudden it all bursts in to flames doesn’t it. So it took them about ten minutes to suss out who was responsible and I give Harry a look, I said, ‘Here you are mate. They’re not stupid,’ so they put us in this, in this sort of, in the meantime they phoned up the police and the police come down. Put us in this black, sort of black Mariah which was [pause] and as we drew away, out of the window, we could see the window, as we drew away, as we drew away all the roof fell in and there were sparks everywhere and everybody was cheering and clapping. I don’t know. They wasn’t cheering and clapping for me and Harry. We was on our way to this bloke who was shouting and screaming at us and telling us all about sabotage and the Fuehrer said that there’s only one answer. Shoot us dead. Firing squad. Tomorrow morning. So that doesn’t sound too — but Harry’s still taking the mickey out of this bloke. He’s blooming speaking absolutely perfect English. He really is. He’s been to Oxford. That’s obvious.
PL: Keep going.
VG: He’s been to, he’s been to Oxford or somewhere like that. He’s obviously been educated in England and I was trying to kick Harry to get him to shut up, see. And I could the, I could feel the earth moving. So anyway, they marched us off and put us in this little car and we drive through Dresden. And then the sun come out. All the snow stopped and it was lovely. Beautiful. And I’m looking around me at this old city. It really, it really looked like one of these things on a Christmas card and just people walking about normally. So, and they take us into this place right in the centre. Right in the centre platz it was. This building. This sort of red brick building. It had sort of a gothic arch and when we got in there it was full up. Full up with people. About five — four or five hundred. Absolutely packed like sardines with these smelly, stinking, unwashed. Individuals of all nations. They were all in there and in the roof was a sort of a glass cupola over the centre bit. So, we’re in there and we kick and push our way ‘til we get near a wall ‘cause we were quite big blokes me and Harry. In them days. I wasn’t a shrivelled up old wreck like I am now. We could handle ourselves. And Harry went walkabout. So, he comes back and he’s brought this American with him. And there’s two of them and they’ve been put in there for looting. They said, ‘It’s alright,’ they said. We tell them the sorry tale that we’re going to get shot tomorrow. ‘Oh,’ he says, ‘You won’t get shot tomorrow.’ I said, ‘How’s that then?’ He said, ‘Well they take out thirty every morning. Dead thirty. Every morning. They take them out, put their names down on a sheet of paper, cross them, tick them off, and they go out and you hear a rattle outside. You hear. And that’s them dead.’ They used to shoot thirty every morning. Very methodical. So, Harry says, ‘Oh, that’s alright, Vic,’ he says. Well, he didn’t say Vic. He called me Mac. ‘Cause everybody called me Mac because my name was Gregg. It tied up with MacGregor. ‘Cause in the army you have a, you have a nickname the day you join you see and my nickname was Mac because of that. See. ‘It’s alright Mac,’ he said, ‘There’s about five hundred in here. If they take out thirty a day the war’ll be over by that time.’ But I didn’t go along with that line of thinking. I thought we was in — I thought to myself, a bit of trouble here. But as it happens that was about 3 o’clock in the afternoon when they put us in there and they come around with some food, or some sort of goulash. Without any meat naturally. That didn’t look too appetising. We wasn’t all that hungry so we didn’t eat any of that. And then the guards disappeared, shut us all up, shut all the doors and then everybody tried to get a bit of kip. You’ve got to really push and shove to get, make some space. So, we got away from the centre of the place down to a wall that was right in the corner. And then all of a sudden, around about 9 o’clock we hear the sirens go off. And we still don’t worry about it because we think Dresden’s not going to get bombed. They’re going to bomb, they’re going to bomb some of these big cities that are around, you see. And then, after twenty minutes, everything’s full of light and there’s all these things coming down. You can see them coming down through this glass roof. They’re all coming down. Look like big Christmas trees. Alight. So that’s it. We knew exactly what they were. So, then of course they start. All the bombs start dropping. There’s about six hundred planes I think in that first. Six or seven. Six or seven hundred in the first wave and then at the end, almost at the end of the first wave this big blockbuster landed outside the building and blew all the wall in. Kills nearly everybody. Picked me up. Picked me up and blew me right up to the other side of this place and part of the roof came in — fell on top of me. I’m covered in dirt. In debris. But Harry, when I finally got to him and found him I tried to get clear of it. He was as dead as a doornail. He was killed by blast. There was nothing. Nothing hit him. It was just blast. Threw everything out of him. So, I covered him up and then as like the building was collapsing so there was about thirty of us, I think, got out of that building and I was one of them. And then what you do? You’re surrounded by all this fire. Everything’s alight. Or you think everything’s alight because that’s what it looks like. So you’ve got to get out so somehow, somehow or the other because it’s not too bad. This is only the first raid and it’s just like a normal bombing raid. A lot of people dead. It’s true. A lot of buildings alight. A lot of people down. So — but that’s normal. You don’t think much about that. So nobody can understand it. They’re all foreign to each other — these people in this place. They were all there for one reason only. They’d fallen foul of the German law and they were in there to be shot. So, if somebody forms a line, whoever’s in front I ain’t a clue but they start going forward. You follow them. Now, what saved us was we had the wooden clogs. See. If Harry had been with me he didn’t have wooden clogs. He would have had it because the ground was getting warmer by the minute. Anyway, the raid finished and we landed up in this sort of place where it was a bit open. A bit of open land and the deep depression. There was a little railway line running. It’s still in the centre of Dresden. We hadn’t gone very far but we were away from the dead centre. So, we think, well that’s, everybody thinks that’s alright. That’s alright. So, we’re all settling down to have a rest. None of us know each other and they don’t know anybody. And then this, we see this crowd of Germans coming along. Well not a crowd of them. About a dozen. They’re pulling this big, sort of two wheeler, barrow. Full up with all sorts of things. Pick axes, big drums of water, stuff like that. Ropes. Everything. Crowbars. So, the bloke in charge pulls up. The bloke in charge is the only bloke who ain’t got a helmet on. So, I think he’s in charge. See. So, he sizes us all up. He gets us all to fall in line and he picked out about eight of us who he thinks might have the strength to do what he wants them to do, see. So, get in line. So, three of them tried to run for it. This bloke just calmly got a revolver and shot two of them. Like that, see. And the other bloke came running back quick as possible. Now, believe it or not, I didn’t worry about that because it occurred to me at the time that you had to have somebody in charge because it would be mayhem and if you’ve got to maintain discipline by that method then so be it. It’s better to have discipline than no discipline whatever. Whatever. So, I didn’t take umbridge at that and I began to, you know — after the first hour and the second hour he used to call me Tommy ‘cause any English soldier was called Tommy. ‘Come Tommy. Come.’ See. And I used to call him, I called him [stress] the general. Not the general. The general you see and he used to like that because I don’t think he was a general. So that was our job. His job was to get into the bombed-out areas and try to open up as many of the cellars as possible. Get people out. He wasn’t, it wasn’t his job to fight fires. His job was to rescue these people. And he had these, he had about ten other Germans with him but that’s not enough, see. They were all issued with pickaxes, these whacking great crowbars, stuff like that. Ropes where you tie yourselves together when you go into the buildings. And that’s what we done. So anyway, we just about got back into the, into where it was getting a bit warm again and well it wasn’t warm. It was bloody hot. And then the air raid sirens went off again didn’t they? But the second raid of course, the first raid was only a sort of hors d’oevre. It was the second raid when they killed all these thousands of people. Because the second, you could actually, the bombs were so big you could see them coming down. They were enormous. And the incendiary bombs — instead of being sticks of incendiaries they were big blast bombs of about five thousand pounds. And when that hits the deck anything within three hundred yards is immediately incinerated, see. So that raid went on for about an hour and so we couldn’t do nothing. You couldn’t do anything. You couldn’t get back in there because — mind you we was only on the, we wasn’t outside of the fire. The fire was still raging all around but we were in this middle bit which was like, like a London square. That’s what it was. Which had had trees in but the trees were all burnt out. So, then, and the next thing is that he moves us off, he moves us on, I’m trying to remember now. He moves us off and we get to this sort of place where there’s a railway. There’s a railway line near the railway station. And he has got, he’s got one of these empty carriages which had been craned off and that was going to be where we were going to kip. In this. His crew were going to kip in this. And then of course they came up. They got lorries come up for the workers. They’re full of big barrels of, sort of, stew. I don’t know what. It wasn’t a lot of meat in it but it was something hot and brown bread was their salvation. So that’s alright. We’d got food. We’d got water. And we’re not in much danger now. So, that’s what I’m thinking. Everything might turn out alright in the end. So, but this bloke — he had one idea. He had to get in and get as many of these people out as he could. And after three days we still hadn’t got anybody out alive. And then he had to go off on the fourth day. So, there’s another couple of blokes took over in his place. Two blokes and a young, a young lad in uniform who had a — he had a Schmeisser and he was dangerous because I thought he was going to press the trigger at any minute. But we find this, we find this sort of tunnel. We get down under these houses and we find this tunnel which has been shored up and we gradually break our way through it to the end and we find these four women. Four women. Three women and four little girls. I think it was either that or the other way around. Four women and three little girls. Anyway, that’s what it was and they were all huddled up the in the corner of this room. It was like a bloody oven it was. So, anyway, we gradually get them out. It took us about an hour to get them out and when we get them out this crew of about twenty of us were all laughing and dancing and hugging each other and Christ knows what. It was really great. We brought these people out and none of us, I mean hardly any of them knew — only the Germans knew each other. The others didn’t know each other but the whole crew of us were so full of it. And of course the bloke who was in charge, the general as I called him, he missed that because he’d had the day off. And that’s the only time we pulled anybody out alive. So [pause] it’s — you’re in a, you’re holding on. You’re in this second raid. It’s really set things alight. So, as everything’s burning and heating up and using up all the oxygen and to replace it all this air is being drawn in from outside. And unless you can hold on to anything and you’ve got the strength to hold on you’re going to be pulled out and sucked up and then you get sucked up into the air and then when you get so high up, so far, the pull of gravity lets you go and you all drop to the ground again. ‘Cause you move out with the wind you see and you see these people all alight. Women and children. Things like that. Old people. There wasn’t no soldiers. And, I mean I’m not talking about one of them. I’m talking about dozens because these sorts of things are happening all over the place. These fires. And you can’t — I don’t think you can, you can’t tell people what it was like because they’re, like yourself — because your mind won’t accept it. It just won’t. It’s so horrible. It’s so horrible that your mind won’t accept it. That you see these women dragged along holding on to a little kiddy and they’re both alight. They’re both alight. They’re still alive and they’re being dragged along and then you see them get swept up in to the air like that. They disappear in to all this smoke and of course there’s fires up there. Smoke and red and all sorts. You can’t see the sky and at the same time every time you breathe in it’s like putting your face in an oven which you’re cooking the Sunday roast in and the only way you can survive is to face head on in to these gale force, not gale force — they’re two hundred mile an hour. They’re coming in fast. And you’ve got to face and you’ve got to walk and trying to keep your mouth shut and any air you want has got to come through your nose. So, because if you turn your head away from that you’re going to breathe in. You’re going to breathe in this hot air. You don’t learn this. It comes to you. It comes to you in the first twenty seconds. As a survival sort of system when you’re in a situation like that because what you are, literally you’re in the middle of a bonfire. Now, I mean after, after five days we still couldn’t get anywhere near the middle. You couldn’t get near the centre because everything, everything was hot. We prise open, we prise open this big shelter which was — had big metal doors. It was a proper shelter and locked from the outside so that they would stop the overcrowding. And so we had to break all that out open and when you open that out there was nothing in there. But then after, when you open the door all the dirt outside gets drawn inside because it’s going into a vacuum. There’s no air left in there at all but on the ground there is all this sort of greeny gooey mass of, sort of jelly, which is what’s left of the bodies. Five thousand of them. And of course, you’ve a few bones which haven’t [pause] what you’ve got to try and do if you can do it is any form of identification . This was the job. You had to get the identification. It might be a slip. It might be anything. And then try and bring whatever you could out. And then they put it all — if it was a body they just stacked them up by the roadside. Stacked them up in their hundreds and then what they’d do they’d cart them away and put them on and they had these big, the had these big concrete water things what were never full up. Half of them were empty. The ones that had been filled up, the people who were in the street jumped in the water to keep cool and they got boiled. They couldn’t get out because the sides were concrete. They couldn’t climb the concrete. Couldn’t get a grip on it. So, they were boiled alive. So [pause] so, yeah so that [pause] finally I got away. I got away from there which is another story. Got hardly anything to do. On the 5th day I decided that I was going to, I was going to get away. So, that morning I got way because you know it was all — nobody’s guarding you. I got up at about half past four and started walking east. Couldn’t walk west because there was too many troops. Started walking east. Got over the river bridge. I got over the Elbe and there’s all these refugees coming from the east and they’re coming towards the west and I’m going against them and I was starving hungry. And the second day I bumped into, well I didn’t bump into them I heard them coming through the bushes but I didn’t care about it all that much because I was so hungry and tired. But yeah they put me in a sort of, a sort of a compound and get some bread and stuff, some sort of goulash, until they found, about the third morning I was with them, and they was trying to start this old Chevy lorry and it wouldn’t start. So they were getting ready to pushed it so I just stepped forward out of this place, lifted the bonnet because I knew exactly what to do with a Chev. I knew them like the back of my hand because I’d been in the long range desert group. And I got a bit of cloth, a bit of shirt, I forget what it was now and I just wiped all the, all the distributor head. Got the wet out. Got the damp out. Cleaned the — took all the plugs out. Cleaned them. Put them all back. Down there. Give it a push because there was no electrics. No battery. Give it a push and vroom and away. And after that I was alright. I was alright. Kept me there. Fed me. And I was up with their front line troops. There was no resistance. No resistance. There was thousands of them. Thousands of these Russians. They were like ants crawling over. Nothing could have stopped them. So, when I get, I finally gets to this river. The night before we was in this town and I’m listening to this, there’s another bloke there and a group of ex-POWs they’d picked up and one of them’s got a wireless set. And they can hear Churchill talking about, like — peace. Peace in Europe. And of course, there’s firing going on. Shooting everything all around us so of course. Women getting raped by the dozen. It was terrible it was. So, anyway, the next morning we’re by this river and these Canadians come over in a sort of a dingy and picked me up, took me back, put me on the back of a motorbike and whisked me away to this transit camp. And then I have to go up in front of these young officers because I looked half German. I had all sorts of odd clothes on and all my hair was burned and singed. Everything. I looked a right sight. And they wanted to know who I was and what I’d done. ‘Why did you go east? Why didn’t you go — why didn’t you go west?’ So, I tried to tell them. ‘But you could have gone west. You didn’t have to go east did you?’ ‘Yeah.’ In the end I walked out. I walked out on them. So that was my introduction to [pause] and after that, I mean, I was a complete, I mean, when I got home I was alright for about, I suppose I was alright for about eight or nine months. But even, even then people were shying clear of me. But I didn’t really, I didn’t really understand what it was all — all I know was that if anybody gave me orders they can go and whistle in the wind. I ain’t going to take no orders off of anybody. And I was quite — there was an example where I’d had a row with Freda. It wasn’t, it wasn’t her fault. And it was about 11 o’clock at night and I went for a walk down the Thames where I used to walk when I was a kid. And I was halfway across Waterloo Bridge and I’m I’m looking, I’ve stopped and I’m looking down at the river and I felt this sort of clamp come down on my shoulder, see. So I didn’t think. Nothing occurred to me. I just I put my arm around him, grabbed this bloke and put him on the parapet and I was ready to throw him in the river. Then I realised it was a copper. I realised he was a copper. I had a copper there. A policeman. I could see his number on his epaulet, you know. So I, you know, pulled him up, put him upright. So, I said, ‘I’m sorry mate.’ So he didn’t say nothing so, I said, ‘I suppose you’re going to nick me now.’ ‘No, I ain’t going to nick you,’ he said but,’ he said, ‘I thought you were going to jump in the river.’ ‘No,’ I said, ‘No. I’m not stupid like that, I said, ‘I’m just a bit fed up. That’s all.’ So, he said, ‘Well, I can understand it mate.’ So, it must have been a bloke who had been through it. So, I never heard any more of that. He walked with me back to The Strand. Make sure. Just to make sure. So, we walked back to The Strand, ‘You can go home from there.’ But anything like that [pause] anything against authority. When I was finally, when I was finally picked up by — when I was on road haulage and of course I joined the communist party when I was at Battersea. On the Festival site. But I didn’t join the communist party because I was a lover of Uncle Joe. I just joined the communist party because the Daily Worker was the only paper that came out querying the eighty million they’d given to Krupps. They were supposed to give, government was supposed to give eighty million as its part in the rejuvenation of Germany and it all went to Krupps because they said that was the only organisation that they could give it to. And so, I thought that’s not a bloody good thing. And I read all the other newspapers. The Daily Mirror, Daily Express, The Daily Herald. All of it. Good thing. I thought nothing’s good about Krupps. And so that’s when I joined the party. And of course, I [pause] and then they learned, British Intelligence, because of its moles everywhere learned that the Moscow Nordea Bank wanted a chauffeur because the chauffeur they had was retiring. For some reason anyway, they wanted a chauffeur. So, they gets on to the, they get on to party headquarters in King Street and of course King’s Street’s got its moles hasn’t it. So British Intelligence knows. They come around this café where I was working on a Saturday morning when we was waiting for our wages and told me what they, what was going to happen and there was a chance to redeem myself, you know. Take this job on as a chauffeur and I would meet people now and again and I’d tell them who. Where I was going and who I was picking up. Things like this. You’ll be home every night. You can more or less state your own wages. Nice clean job. You don’t want to keep going up the road like a gypsy. You’re going to, you’re going to end up like your last employers. In the nick. They were doing, they were a couple of right rogues they were. They were a couple of old Jew boys and they had a big store room in Silvertown full of stolen goods. They was in league with another, with another firm in Birmingham and they had a warehouse at Ashton-under-Lyne. The two of them stacked up with stuff. And there was about eight lorries and I was introduced to them when I was out of work and I was up at Penton Street at the Labour Exchange. And I went over the pub and a bloke tapped me on the shoulder and it was one of my old mates in the carriers at 2nd RB and he was a right, he was a right rogue he was. Normally, I wouldn’t have anything to do with him. ‘I can get you a real good number. I can get you — [pause] while all these clowns are working for thirty pounds a week you can take home a hundred every week.’ Night and day see. And of course, so that’s, I started working for the Moscow Nordea Bank and there it all started. As far as, like what you’ve come, as far as Bomber Command or anything out there it doesn’t really [pause] I respect them. I respect them for the courage of the blokes. I presume it was courage which took them into those planes every night. ‘Cause when they get, when they climbed that ladder into that plane, in to that Stirling, Wellington or whatever it was. They knew jolly well that they’d be lucky if two thirds of them would be back. They knew that and yet they went up night after night. So, I don’t really, I think of my own experience that you can get behind a machine gun and you can hammer away at a line of troops which are, say, five hundred yards away, three hundred yards [pause] and of course you’re killing them but you’re not aware of it until you’re within, you’re within spitting distance and you’re both hitting each other with rifle butts like we were at Beda Fomm and Arnhem ‘cause that was really close quarter stuff. Those lads in the RAF were six mile up. They were always, I mean, already they were, they’d say ‘Can you let the bombs go and let’s get home while we’re still alive.’ You know. So, I’ve never laid any blame on the crews of those planes. What some of them must have suffered later on in their life when they realised what had happened. What sort of things. Trouble has caused. I mean if you take, is it Chichester? Chichester is it? I mean that bloke went right into religion, didn’t he? In a big way. Get started on all these homes for people. But no. No. I blame the people who sent them up there. I blame. I’ve always blamed Churchill and those people who designed, people who designed the bombs who sent these blokes to kill all these civilians. They’re the people I blame. There’s not many of us left to tell the tales you see and people who have been in that sort of situation very seldom talk about it. They don’t. Because one reason is that they think that [ terrible excuse? ] they won’t believe it because it’s not, it’s not part of the natural world but if you’ve experienced it at close quarters. I’m, I’m lucky that I’ve been, I’ve been right through it. I’ve seen every sort of evil thing that man can think up of to do to his fellow man. And that’s the lesson I try to impart. Not self-aggrandisement. I don’t want that. And what I try to portray is what happened to me has happened to a lot, thousands of other men. And probably their families don’t, they’re dead now a lot of them, a lot of the families never knew. Oh yeah, my old granddad he was a bit of sod he was. But they don’t know what they’re old grandad went through because he never spoke about it. That’s what it’s all about.
PL: So —
VG: Swallowed all that drink have you? How would you like a little drop of gin.
PL: I think I need it now Vic.
VG: Eh?
PL: I think I need it now. So [pause] so how do you think, I mean I know that you have very strong feelings about how, and you’ve written about it. About how men were affected psychologically because of war. Do you want to record any of your thoughts about that?
VG: I’ve got [pause] it was about 19 [pause] four years ago, three years ago now. No. Two years ago that was. Two years ago. No. I was working in Taunton ‘cause me and Bett had gone to Taunton. Moved out of London. And I was working at Anglia Point because I had my own little business and I used to put sort of protective coatings on all these areas that suffered from radiation. And I was coming home one night and this, I was on my motorbike and this bungalow was alight. And it had a thatched roof. And there’s a couple of fire engines there. It wasn’t in the town. It was outside. At Bridgewater. And there’s this woman and she’s hanging out of the window and her hair’s alight. And I didn’t think much of it at the time. I didn’t even stop. I went straight up. Carried on up and I went to bed that night. And I never knew nothing after that until four days later and I woke up and Bett’s there and there’s a couple of nurses there and a doctor and I’d been like it for four days. Ranting and raving and screaming and shouting and sweating. And then, so after that I thought, I thought well I’m better now and the quack I went to see, he said, ‘Well,’ he said, ‘You’ve lived with it inside you all these years. You’re probably better now.’ I wasn’t quite sure whether I was or not until about, it was about two years ago now, and I got a letter from the Dean of, the Dean of Coventry and he wanted me to go up to the cathedral on the 13th of February to give a talk on Dresden you see. The anniversary. Because they’re twinned. They’re twinned with Coventry. Dresden and Coventry. So, I wasn’t going to go see because I’d got nothing in common with the church at all. But I thought oh well if all these people were coming from Germany there I thought, ‘Oh well. No. I’ll go.’ So, I went. So when I went there I said, ‘Well what do you expect me to do?’ ‘I want you to climb the stairs up in that pulpit and talk about twenty minutes about what you experienced in Dresden.’ I said, ‘Well can’t somebody else do it?’ He said, ‘There’s nobody who’s, there’s nobody who’s — there’s nobody.’ I’m the only one. The only Englishman who was in Dresden that night and who survived. So here you are. Give a talk to all this congregation. The cathedral’s full up. I went on for about twenty five minutes and then all of a sudden, I stopped. Just like I stopped just now. And then they give me a standing ovation. Never been known before in a church, see. So then after that I came down off the pulpit and they were all, and what the Dean wants them to do, he wants them all to hold on to each other and cuddle each other and talk about all these different nationalities. We were all at peace at last. And this old girl come up to me. She was German. I think she was as old as I was and she was hugging on to me and tears are streaming down her face. And I put my arms around her sort of thing and I really, I really hugged her and I really felt as if there was one person there. Not two. And I think that’s what really cured me. That. After all that time. Fifty years. Fifty years I went and you don’t know, you don’t know. What it is it’s a Jekyll and Hyde sort of life where there’s one side of you is really evil. Well it’s evil to outsiders. You don’t think it’s evil and you’ve got the other side which what do you want. You want this loving life. You’ve got this woman who you’ve known donkey’s years. You’ve got three kids and you’ve got everything there and you want it. You want it but then there’s this other side which butts in, keeps butting in. And somehow you can’t [pause] somehow the good side can’t control the bad side. And it’s difficult to talk about it. It’s difficult to explain it. I think you’ve got, I don’t think you can explain it by going to college. I think the only people who can explain it are the people who have suffered from it. I think with the best will in the world, go to college and all this. Like you’re going to go there, people are going to listen to it but whether they are going to absorb it or not is another thing. I don’t think they’re capable of it. I don’t think people, I don’t the human mind is capable of absorbing those kind of horrors ‘cause otherwise they’d just, I think they’d all turn into animals. If they were capable of absorbing that then you’re not a human being anymore. You’re something else. So, yeah, so what is it? People haven’t learned. They’re still. They’re still. I wrote a piece for the paper about, I think it was eight years ago now. There was a British cruiser at Libya, Benghazi, and its shoving these tomahawks into Benghazi. Eight hundred thousand pound a time. And one of them missed the target and hit a boy’s school. But it was alright because it was in the dinner period and there was only four boys in there. Instead of eighty boys. So there was only four boys killed. So that wasn’t too bad. That really got me that did. Four boys. Four boys were worth eight hundred thousand pound. And they’re still doing it. They’re doing it in Palestine. They’re doing it in Gaza. And they’re doing it on people who are absolutely helpless. Who’ve got nothing to do with the troubles of which they’re living through. And we applaud them. We sign deals with them. Their prime minister comes and has dinner with the queen. So, you can see that I still haven’t altered. The thing with me, I’ll take my [hatchets?] down six foot under with me. And I’m sure there are a lot of other people who are taking it down with them as well. I’m not alone in that. Now, what we — so for all that suffering what do we get? We get idiots. Idiots and clowns and buffoons who are supposed to manage our foreign affairs. If I was younger of course I would be on the streets but young people today what have they done? All that struggle over the last, all during the period from the First World War. All we had — the struggles for the forty hour week for a living wage. For equality between the sexes. For stability. And to get away with, do away with the slums. Its all gone for a burton. Now they’re reduced to working for zero hours. ‘Oh, we haven’t got enough work for you. There you are. We’ll put you off.’ ‘But I’ve got to pay the rent.’ ‘Oh, can’t help about that.’ They’re better off in bongo bongo land [laughs]
PL: Vic, is there anything else that you want to add?
VG: No. No. No.
PL: That’s it.
VG: Cup of tea.
PL: Cup of tea. Vic Gregg it’s been —
VG: A cup of tea, a cup of splosh is the eternal medicine. Don’t have to have all this foreign muck like all these different types of coffee like they have today. You go into a coffee shop. Work out what you want. ‘Coffee.’ ‘Yeah what type?’ I say, ‘I want coffee with milk. A gallon of milk and a half a tonne of sugar in it.’ ‘We don’t make that sort of coffee.’ ‘What do you make?’ ‘Mocha.’ ‘What’s mocha?’ What’s a mocha?’ ‘I ain’t got a clue.’ ‘Is it coffee?’ ‘Well, yeah, it’s a sort of coffee.’ ‘Well, what is coffee? Is it a coffee bean?’ I ain’t got a clue where it comes from mate.’ I say, ‘Well it probably comes from Brazil because that’s where coffee came.’ ‘Oh, I didn’t know that.’ I said, ‘There’s a song about it.’
PL: Vic, it has been an absolute honour to speak to you.
VG: It’s not an honour my darling.
PL: It really has.
VG: It’s been a one off.
PL: It is. It’s been a lovely experience
VG: It’s a one off. It’s a one off.
PL: Thank you very very much.
VG: Yeah. Yeah.

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Citation

Pam Locker, “Interview with Victor Gregg,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed December 16, 2019, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/3414.

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