Eric in1944 aged 18
Eric Chambers was born in Old Trafford, Manchester on the 9th January 1926. He attended Old Trafford Senior Boys’ School until the age of 15, although part of his school life was spent in Blackpool as a result of the wartime evacuation of Manchester. Upon leaving school, he began work at WJ Brookes’ Bakery, where he would rise up the ranks after joining as just a ‘nipper’ (child).
Eric was called up on the 16th March 1944, aged just 18. His six weeks of primary training took place in the Bridge of Don between 16th March 1944 and 26th April 1944. The strict discipline of the army was a new environment for Eric, but one which he enjoyed working in.
After completing his initial training, Eric was sent to Rhyl in Wales for further training with the Royal Artillery. This consisted of more specialised signalling training, and he qualified as a driver operator in May 1944. Eric was then posted to Foots Cray camp shortly prior to the invasion of Normandy.
The Normandy Campaign
Eric sailed from Harwich and landed on Sword Beach in Normandy on the 11th June. He rarely spoke about the invasion, aside from mentioning that landing on the beach was dreadful. As a driver operator, his role was primarily in signalling and communications.
From Normandy he progressed through Caen and then on into Belgium and Germany. It was in Duderstadt that Eric and another friend from the army developed a lasting friendship with a German couple. They befriended the German family, sharing their rations to help them get by, and would keep in contact after the war.
Eric was then posted to Monte Casino in Italy, where he broke his arm, before his final posting to Palestine after the war. He would remain in Palestine until the 19th September 1947, although in February 1947 he was granted leave to marry his wife Audrey.
Eric’s testimonial from Palestine on the 19th September 1947 mentions that in the last nine months, ‘he has proved himself one of our best drivers. He is easy to get on with and cheerful, besides being a hard and conscientious worker. He is thoroughly reliable and I am sure he will be an asset wherever he goes’. He returned to England and was then discharged at Aldershot in November 1947 at the rank of Gunner.
After demobilisation, he returned to the bakery where he had been employed before the war. Eric worked his way up to the rank of Sales Manager by the time of his retirement, having joined as just a ‘nipper’.
Eric enjoyed the discipline of the army and later said that if he were not married then he would never have left. Indeed exploring maps of Europe would remain a passion for the rest of his life, and he travelled around the continent with Audrey, returning to some of the places where he had fought during the war. From the time of his demobilisation until his death, Eric often mentioned the degree to which he had loved his time in the army.
Written by Colin Brooks and the Chambers family.