Fred Bowden interview: Next job and the army

I was on the dole myself there for a time. 12 months. My next job was a porter, a hotel porter in the Mackworth Hotel in Swansea High Street. During my time there, in Swansea, war was declared and anyway I got the sack. I was fired for inopportune advances to the lady on the cash desk. The girl on the cash desk. I got the sack. So two of the other staff, the other men on the staff, resigned and the three of us went round to the recruiting office and tried to join the air force but they wouldn’t take us. They weren’t wanting people of our ilk at that time and after a while this went on over Christmas of that year into the spring and finally I gave up and I volunteered to join the army.

I had to do something. The war was on. I had no work, I volunteered to join the army. And it was suggested with my height etc - why don’t you join the Guards? This is in that book I think. Well I finished up joining the Welsh Guards on March 19th, 1940. I found myself in the Guards depot in Caterham. I went up on the train from Swansea High Street, with I think a dozen other chaps who were going up there to join the Guards and that was it. I spent six weeks in the Guards depot, some more weeks in the training battalion, which initially was at Colchester but after a couple of weeks it moved to the race track.

Sandown Park. Esher. And I was there for a few weeks and finally I was sent to the first battalion Welsh Guards which - at night, we got there after dark in the evening on, I think it was on a Thursday evening - we were there for one night in Elstree, they were in Elstree.  The following morning we en-bussed and came to Wimbledon, a place I had never heard of before. And we were in Wimbledon then for the next 12 months, the biggest part of 12 months, where I among other things met my wife and in 1942 we were married.