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Close encounters in raids; Ready for D-Day thanks to duty on night watches.

Byline: DAVE HIMELFIELD

JACK Armitage's time as a messenger in the Longwood ARP (Air Raid Precautions) unit was quiet.

It did however prepare Jack, 86, of Crosland Moor, for when he took part in the Normandy landings on D-Day.

Fortunately Huddersfield was only bombed a handful of times during World War II.

Should the air raid siren sound at night, young messengers like Jack would be expected to jump out of bed and cycle to their ARP post for instructions.

ARP was founded in 1924 following German Zeppelin raids over Britain in the First World War.

During the Second World War, the ARP was responsible for the issuing of gas masks, pre-fabricated air-raid shelters the upkeep of local public shelters, and the maintenance of the blackout.

Local people, too young, old or unfit for national service, were picked as messengers to direct troops from outside the area to their destination.

Jack, a retired window cleaner, trained for two years with the ARP at Mount Havelock, Longwood.

While the call never came for Jack, the ARP training prepared him for when he was called up for the Royal Navy in 1943.

The grandfather-of-five said: "I enjoyed the training. It gave us something to do on a night and got us ready for when we were called up."

After training in Ipswich, Kent and Dorset, Seaman Armitage became responsible for loading and unloading troops, tanks and guns onto and off a landing flotilla.

Jack first saw action on D-Day (June 6, 1944) when he helped load soldiers and equipment onto the American landing, Omaha Beach, in Normandy.

His flotilla would sail back and forth across the English Channel picking up troops and gear and dropping them off in France.

On one voyage his flotilla was narrowly missed by a Stuka dive bomber.

Jack said: "It was a hairy moment. The Stuka must have dropped its bombs and came straight up the beach strafing anything. That was probably the scariest moment of my life."

Once the Germans had surrendered, Jack and his flotilla were ordered to the Far East for the Japanese invasion.

But by the time the craft had reached the Red Sea, the US Air Force had dropped two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ending the war in the Pacific.

Instead Jack and the flotilla sailed to Virginia, USA, where the craft was decommissioned.

He said: "It was a big adventure for us young lads. It was the best thing that happened to some of us."

Dad-of-three Jack enjoyed a few weeks in the US before he returned to the UK where he was demobilised.

CAPTION(S):

* AIR RAID WARDENS REUNITED: Jack Armitage, third right front row, of Crosland Moor with the Longwood ARP unit while he was on leave from the Royal Navy * D-DAY FORCE: An LCIL landing craft similar to the one which Jack Armitage was on during the Normandy landings * HAIRY MOMENT WITH A STUKA: D-Day sailor Jack Armitage of Crosland Moor. The (AC200111Djack-04)
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Jan 22, 2011
Words:497
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