The highly evocative reminiscence below was written for me in 1998 by W ‘Jimmy’ James, who was the Colour Sergeant (CQMS, Colour Quartermaster Sergeant) of D Company in mid-1942. The original of the postcard above was loaned by his 1942 fellow D Company NCO Charles Bray. Both men were ex-Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment and with the Battalion from the start in July 1940. Charles Bray remembers that the Company used the Strand Gate above as a guard post! Troops billets were opposite the church---see the annotated photographs on the following pages--and the George Pub, popular with many DLI men, is also featured, at bottom left. For a group photograph of D Company in 1942, which features Sgts James and Bray, click here. For a 1942 officers and NCOs listing which includes CQMS James, click here.

'In 1942, C and D Companies were together at Winchelsea. Battalion HQ, A, B and HQ Companies, Platoons 1 to 6, being in Rye about three miles away. Most of the civilian population had been evacuated from Winchelsea and most of the houses were empty and were occupied by the two DLI companies.

'It was, I suppose, really a front line village, on the coastline, the sands being mined and with barbed wire everywhere. The two companies, C and D, were very well run and discipline was fairly strict under CSM Pearson and CSM Broadhead. Turnout was of the highest standard and each company went their separate ways with their own training programme every day. But they shared the cookhouse and the dining hall and the main meal of the day, by tradition, was attended by the Colour Sergeant (CQMS) and Orderly Officer of the day, who would slowly pass each table asking, "Any complaints?"

'At Winchelsea, C and D Company Colour Sergeants would take turns to perform this duty on alternate days and so we would become known to the soldiers of both companies. [C Company's CQMS was C/Sgt ‘Larry’ Gaines ] Having explained the foregoing, your father would have known me by sight at Winchelsea and would probably have remembered the day when General Montgomery turned up to ask "Any questions?" and was told in a loud chorus that there was, "No variety!"

'The General arranged for two senior Warrant Officer cooks to come from the Army Catering Corps at Aldershot to prepare "cordon bleu" meals for about a week, when Monty, as the General of South East Command, stayed at Winchelsea for one and half weeks in the late summer of 1942--immediately before he took over command of the Eighth Army in Africa.

'We at Winchelsea saw his staff car disappear in a cloud of dust and were glad to see the back of him. We being the CQMSs and the DLI cooks--not the troops, who were going to miss all the fancy cakes and cream buns and food fit for the Ritz.

'As Colour Sergeant, I remember every face in that D Company photo and can hear them speak. 'The most popular parade of the week was mine--pay parade--and every week for years each man was called forward to receive his pay and to sign where I pointed.

‘God bless them all.
We will remember them. Always.
The names, some of them elude me.
Never the faces.'

Jimmy James.

Winchelsea Postcard 1942

C and D Companies 16 DLI at Winchelsea 1942