All returning POWs from Germany were given extended leave and put on extra rations, but they were still serving men in uniform and the war with Japan was yet to be won. Arriving back in England in May 13th 1945, Pte Tom Tunney’s leave in Thornley lasted until September 21st 1945.

What did you feel about still being in the Army?

'We knew we wouldn't be in long. We went back in the September. The war was finished in the August--which was a relief--and we went back a month after.'

What can you remember about VJ Day?

'I'd been to a dance at Wheatley Hill and the band was playing down at the pit gates on the night. They were playing under the lights at the pit gates. Dance stuff--and everybody was jigging about!’

And then you had to go back to the Army?

'I just got a letter to report to Pipers' Wood in Buckinghamshire. You used to get a letter and your rail warrant.'

This was to the 5th Selection and Training Battalion.

Was there anyone else with you?

'No, I just went on my own. Sometimes you got instructions, where to go, where to change trains, things like that. Sometimes you didn't. But at every station there was what you called at RTO--Regimental Traffic Officer--you used to go there and they used to put you right.'

And all the railway stations would be full of soldiers?

'Oh, why aye! Thousands.'

And there'd be card schools going on the train?

'Oh, aye, they did. They used to play. There was professional gamblers on the buggers. Well, I suppose there would be now. Although you're not on the buggers long enough. I remember it was a half a day coming up from London to here.'

What happened at Piper's Wood?

'I got down and it was all regiments, everybody was there and they sorted everybody out. You got medically examined and some of them got re-graded, you know down-graded--a lot of them got discharged. A lot of them got "Grade 2" why, you're still all right with that, but I don't think you could get into the infantry. I was "A-1".

'We got sorted out there. We were there about six weeks. We used to do route marches and bits of things. PT. Just to keep fit.'

And it was all ex-POWs?

'Oh, aye, barring the staff. Aye, they were all Nissen huts in the trees. Oh, it was a big wood, miles and miles. There was a road through it. Chesham was at one end and Amersham was at the other. But there was a new road at the Amersham end and we used to go down there on a Saturday morning to get to London. And we used to stand. Oh, we used to always get a lift, so far. I got a lift to Windsor once. She was a high-ranking ATS woman. She pulled up. She had one of these open-topped sports cars. I don't know whether to get in or not.'

A very posh accent: "Where are you going?"


I’d Come Back and I Wanted to be in the Band and That Was That.’
Tom Tunney Thornley Band 1946

British Bandsman. This photograph was taken in a photographer’s studio in Durham on Durham Big Meeting Day 1946, just a couple of months after my father’s demob from the Army in May of that year. This was arguably the smartest of the many uniform designs worn by Thornley Colliery Silver Prize Band in the the 70-odd years of its existence. Click on the photograph to enlarge it.