Frank Kyle

Recollections of life as an engineer in the Royal Marines.

The Royal Marines

During the Second World War, Frank served as an engineer in the Royal Marines. He was born in Cubit Town and was brought up on the Isle of Dogs. Frank married his wife Rose in 1943, whilst he was still in service. After they married, the couple lived in Deptford.

After completing his training Frank was stationed at Portsmouth, with B Company of the Royal Marines Engineer Battalion. Frank was sent to the Orkney Islands, where the Navy was stationed and assisted with the construction of the pipes which fed the tanks supplying ships from the shore line. Frank was also stationed at Dover and contributed to the construction of a motor torpedo boat base which was blown up after the war.

Service overseas

Frank saw active service whilst stationed on the Western coast of Italy at a base controlled by American troops. He was sent there in an attempt to repair the naval base after fighting had damaged the docks. By the time his battalion had arrived in Italy, German troops had already left. Frank was responsible for guarding the remaining POWs. The places he visited in Italy had suffered severe bomb damage, yet many farms still operated. Frank describes his time in Italy as ‘isolated ... [and] an education’. Food was scarce and of poor quality, although Frank was able to purchase limited goods from shops.

When Frank left Italy he received five days leave before he was sent to Singapore. He travelled on a ship via Bombay, before spending five days on a train, which took him to Colombo where he caught a boat to Singapore. By the time he arrived, the RAF and Army had already entered the island. Frank’s battalion assisted with the ‘tidying up’ process until a ship was available to return him to Britain.

Demobilisation

When Frank was demobbed at Portsmouth he felt ‘elated’ and recalls that once the men had received civilian clothing they were ‘away like bullets’. Frank completed his apprenticeship and gained employment as a welder. He undertook boiler repairs at hospitals, laundries and on one occasion, at Buckingham Palace.

The Home Front

Frank has few memories of life on the Home Front. His only comparative recollection is of standing guard at night, whilst stationed at Portsmouth. On evening he was on patrol during an air raid and hid under a railway wagon. When he emerged the following morning he saw a large, unexploded bomb 50 yards away from where he had slept. During the raid he was ‘not frightened but [was] aware of the consequences.’

For the majority of the war Frank received news from home. He made friends in the Marines but is not currently in touch with them. Whilst in service Frank had little time to worry for the safety of his family, although during quieter periods he had time to reflect upon it. In later years Frank has forgotten many of his wartime memories but finds that he is sometimes reminded of them whilst undertaking everyday activities.

This page was added by Malin Lundin on 25/06/2012.

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