Sunday, 4 October 2015

Wartime Scrapbooks of Dennis Endean Ivall (1921-2006)

Dennis Endean Ivall was my second cousin, once removed. We are both descended from David Ivall (1816-67), a journeyman coachmaker. I never met Dennis, but we spoke by phone and he generously sent me a copy of the excellent research he had done on Ivall family history.

Dennis fought in World War Two. In about 2000, he prepared two scrapbook albums containing pen and ink and pencil sketches, Army Service papers, photographs, maps, newspaper cuttings, and other items all annotated and including commentary about his Army career relating to his service in the Home Guard and the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in India, Burma, Ceylon and Cocos Islands, with explanatory notes and pictures from various sources about the military units he encountered. These albums are now held in the archive collection of the Imperial War Museum in London. I recently visited the museum to see them.

When the war started, Dennis was living with his parents William Charles and Florence Bessie Ivall at 54 Beeches Avenue, Carshalton and working as an accounts clerk at the headquarters of ICI (Imperial Chemical Industries) in Westminster. The government requisitioned this building and so Dennis was moved to the ICI Alkali Plant in Winnington, Cheshire (1940). Here he joined the Local Defence Volunteers, which later became the Home Guard.

Dennis enlisted into the Army in February 1941, the scrapbook contains his Attestation Form and Soldier’s Service and Pay Book. He joined the RAOC (Royal Army Ordnance Corps), which had responsibility for weapons, armoured vehicles, other military equipment, ammunition and clothing. Dennis was sent for training at No 2 Training Battalion RAOC at Earl Shilton and Chilwell, Leicestershire. He was posted to India and travelled aboard HMT Cameronia to Durban in South Africa, transferring there to SS Aronda, which arrived in Bombay in September 1941. India was a base for the Middle East campaign at this time (it was before Japan entered the war). Dennis and 100 plus other RAOC Privates were attached to the Indian Army Ordnance Corps (IAOC) at Ferozepur, Punjab. They were all promoted to Sergeant, this being the lowest rank for any British soldier attached to the Indian Army.

Japan entered the war on the side of Germany in December 1941. Dennis was posted to Rangoon Arsenal, Burma. Japan invaded Burma and the Allied troops under command of Lieutenant General William Slim were forced to retreat in March 1942, destroying what would be useful to the enemy. Dennis says that oil refineries, port installations, workshops, vehicles and stores in Rangoon were demolished. The scrapbooks contain a transcription of a letter (dated June 1942) he sent home to his family in Carshalton giving details of the retreat through the Chindwin Valley and hills, arriving in Imphal. He walked 300 miles in 15 days.

In September 1943, Dennis was posted to the Ceylon Command Ordnance Depot. He was promoted to Warrant Officer and in November 1944 was moved with an Ordnance detachment to the Cocos Islands, which are about halfway between Ceylon and Australia. An air strip was built, which became operational in May 1945 as an air base to attack Japanese vessels, installations and bases on Java and Sumatra. RAF planes of No 99 Squadron (Liberator bombers) and No 136 Squadron (Spitfires) operated from there.

The war in the Far East ended on 15 August 1945 when Japan surrendered. After this, Dennis returned to the UK by ship arriving at Liverpool. He was eventually demobilised in August 1946. His war service resulted in Dennis being awarded the following campaign medals: 1939-45 Star, Burma Star, Defence Medal and War Medal.

Throughout the scrapbooks are sketches and paintings of people and places Dennis encountered, particularly of the different uniforms, clothing, races and tribes and soldiers he had seen. There are scenes from the retreat to Burma, aircraft, accommodation and entertainment, also photographs of native scenes, buildings, fellow soldiers, a group photograph of the staff of the RAOC on the Cocos Islands and a portrait photograph of Dennis.

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