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Sept. 20, 2018

35 Freddie Linacre WW2 veteran interview

A WWII infantry veteran recounts his desert & POW experiences

Interview with Freddie Linacre, a British veteran of the North Africa campaign and POW in World War 2. 

Soldiers survived or were killed or captured. Learn how one man nearly did all three. 

Hear the painful tricks POW's pulled to get out of work duties. 

Learn how being a Catholic POW, even in Italy, guaranteed you an even harder existence! 

Great, Unpublished History! 


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Link to feedback/reviews at Apple Podcasts - Thank you.


Interested in Bill Cheall's book? Link here for more information.

Fighting Through from Dunkirk to Hamburg, hardback, paperback and Kindle etc.


Around about September 1940 a considerable act of bravery by Auxiliary Fireman Harry Errington led him to becoming the only firefighter to receive the George Cross during the Second World War. Find the London Fire Brigade on Facebook and Twitter


The death march


Fighting Through Podcast Episode 35 – Freddie Linacre –WWII North Africa veteran WW2


I’m Paul Cheall, son of Bill Cheall whose WW2 memoirs have been published by Pen and Sword – in FTFDTH.

The aim of these podcasts is to give you the stories behind the story. You’ll hear memoirs and memories of veterans connected to Dad’s war in some way – and much more.

Today we’re going to hear about the war of infantryman Freddie Linacre. It relates to the period around 1942 when Dad’s 50th Division were firmly on their back feet, being beaten up somewhat by the Germans. There’s even a new book out about that period called “The 50th at Bay” by Barrie Barnes. Freddie saw some tough times during the fighting before being taken prisoner when he saw some even tougher times, my goodness. You’ll hear all about it soon.


On another topic, the opening of a new battle front in North Africa in June 1940 meant the island of Malta became a crucial stepping stone for the Allies ships and aircraft in the Mediterranean sea

and for her gallantry in defending herself, by the heroism and devotion of its people, Malta was awarded the George Medal by King George 6th on behalf of a grateful British nation. Churchill called the island an unsinkable aircraft

If you’re listening from the big brave island of Malta, then I feel kind of honoured. And thank you, because I’ve just found out that I’m number 12 in the History charts in Malta!


Right, women at war behind us now, I think from the feedback I’ve had people did enjoy all of that history about my Mum and the WREN.


I was listening to your podcast today - your mother’s wartime diaries, about a holiday in Colwyn bay, North Wales – This was my favourite holiday spot as a child. Dave Wilson.


I must admit when I started putting the women at war season together I wasn’t totally sure but many thanks to the plenty of people who wrote in saying they enjoyed it and especially if you sent best wishes to my Mum – her little face really lit up when I told her all about it.


She’s actually living in a care home in Cambridge so I’d like to give a shout out to all the staff at the Cambridgeshire Care Home and say thanks for doing such an important job so well. In particular, hi to Italian Giovanni who has started to play the Fighting Through podcast to my Mum through Spotify on his iPhone – and she so enjoys it! Ciao Giovanni. Buon uomo!


Anyway, after all this relative gentility, it’s now back to good old blood guts and gore OF WW2! Well, a bit anyway.

Before that I’ve got the Feedback bit of the show. Firstly from me to you, listener:

I’d like to say thank you so very sincerely for everyone’s support. We’re 35 episodes in and I’m beginning to get active followers on social media and people emailing me about stuff. Ww2 PODCAST


You know who you are and I want you to know that it is so welcome. We seem to be building such a nice community around this evolving story. People get it.


Every now and again a new bit of history pops up to expand the story and I feel so utterly blessed that I’m in a position to share it with you.


I interviewed veteran tank Captain Stanley Perry last week and I’ll tell you now, you do not want to miss him. Anyone following me on Twitter and Facebook will already have seen a short video of his telling us a very funny tale. Stick around to the very end of the show and I’ll be sharing an extract from his interview, Captain Stanley Perry.


Thank you again.



I’m very grateful to Ruud Schermer from Netherlands for all his support on Twitter and also his recent sponsorship of me through Patreon.


And some more feedback by email,

What a treasure trove of undocumented history you have unearthed. Truly a testament to the young men who went in to teach Jerry a lesson. A truly condensed piece of history where joy, terror, elation and all in between happen in the space of minutes.

Thanks again for the wonderful podcast.

Boudewijn Duijvesteijn



Many thanks for the Apple Podcasts review and email from by Arnold Howard

from Mesquite Texas who said such nice things about me and the show. Arnold you made me feel very humble.


We had a brief exchange about favourite British War movies and probably my two favourites about the war would be The Great Escape and Where Eagles Dare. Both classics full of great acting stars. Someone recently recommended Mrs Minniver, 1942, and The Best Years of our Lives, 1946. I’m putting some links in the show notes. I really enjoyed the latest Dunkirk movie and especially Darkest Hour – fantastic both of them. If you’ve listened to any of my Dunkirk episodes you’ll definitely recognise scenes in the movie. Last but not least I love The Longest Day starring America’s very own John Wayne.


Arnold added “I spoke to a crew member of a Sherman tank years ago. On Iwo Jima, he saw a Japanese soldier try to place a wooden box of explosives on top of the tank ahead of theirs. Someone killed the soldier with machine gun almost the instant he appeared.




This is an interview with Freddie Linacre, a veteran of the British Durham Light Infantry, conducted a few years ago by the North West Archive. Wilf Shaw gave me a copy and it’s about a tough period in the war around 1942 in the battle of Gazala, not the battle of Gaza as I mistakenly said in a previous episode – so have a laugh on me at that if you wish – I’ve got broad shoulders. But not so funny is the state of the fighting during that battle in which massive numbers of British troops were killed or captured. This episode focuses particularly on Freddie’s experience as a POW.

Dad wasn’t in that battle but he recounts talking to one of the few survivors. It’s 1943 and Dad has just arrived in Tunisia, sailing from England on the Queen Mary before an overland journey from Egypt:

“Looking over the faces of the tired lads, they showed signs of strain, which was

quite understandable. Although I had been in the 6th for two years and had known many of the lads by name and more by sight, I could hardly believe that I did not recognise anybody.


I decided to wander over to B Company to find some of my old mates who I had known since Territorial Reserve Army camp in 1939; I was stunned by what I found. They were all strangers to me, except one. Harry Simpson had been a company commander’s batman in England and remembered me, of course.


He seemed very depressed and gave me the impression that he needed a rest from the trauma of battle. When I asked him how come I did not recognise anybody, he said: ‘Well, Bill it is good to see somebody I know from the old days and since it might do me good to unburden myself, I will tell you what has happened to the 6th that you remember.’ I found it to be a very sad and unbelievable story. WWII


Owing to the way that the war was going at the time, the enemy were far better

equipped than we were; better anti-tank guns and larger tanks carrying formidable 88mm and the dreaded mobile 88mm, which served as anti-tank, anti-aircraft or artillery piece, using different kinds of shell. Having a superior quantity of weapons, the Germans surrounded the British and to cut a long story short, before they surrendered, many had been killed. The remainder (apart from some who managed to escape) were taken prisoner at Gazala. So no wonder I didn’t see any faces I recognised. WW2


At that time, the Germans played havoc with our ww2 desert army. Had I arrived with them, the chances of my being here today would have been remote!


Here’s the late Wilf Shaw introducing a bit of background to the state of affairs in the North African campaign. He’s written this stuff on the back of the cassette of Freddie’s interview:


Listener if you want to know more about the desert war read Dad’s book, hardback or Kindle etc, or listen to the podcast episodes with Wilf Shaw in them, or listen now to Freddy Lineker, one of the survivors.

Wow, some quite nasty experiences suffered by Freddie there. It’s interesting that for all the hardships sometimes suffered by the troops, the POW’s had it far harder. Freddie if you’re still around or anyone who knows you, please get in touch.

I’m trying to learn more about the fate of the North West Archive who recorded that interview because I’ve read they stopped existing but if you know anything about the whereabouts of their records, I’d be grateful if you’d get in touch.

Now, another plea for help from me – all about music …

Firstly, I’m going to read a short passage from Dad’s book about training in the early days of the war.

“Route marches were always done in full marching order, each section of ten men keeping three yards apart, taking turns to carry the Bren gun. We walked for fifty minutes and rested for ten.


There was a Second Lieutenant with each platoon consisting of three

sections. These marches had to be done, and although there used to be some moaning among the lads, it did not deter us from having a good old singsong while we were stepping it out, and many a time the words were adapted to suit our feelings. It was no use being miserable because we knew the job had to be done and we were rapidly becoming fitter and stronger than we had ever been.


I remember one thirty-mile march we did and we all felt a bit rough during the

last five miles when, suddenly, two three-tonners turned up – the regimental band had arrived to accompany us, and we didn’t half step it out. I have never forgotten that and, even today, many a time I tap that tune out with my fingers.


Arriving back at camp the mobile showers were awaiting us.”


Does anyone listening have a connection with a marching band who might be able to let me have some drum music for use in the show? You know the sort -that thunders out a great drum march with bangs booms ratatats and beats as they march down the street.

So proper rousing army march drumming. I have looked everywhere for some and I can’t believe I’ve drawn a blank – even the so-called royalty free music websites were no good. I just want to use it occasionally on the show and in return I’ll give you loads of shout outs on the show and links on the web site etc. At some point I want to re-record the story of Rufty Hill whom you may remember was drowned on D-Day WWII and who was a member of his regimental band.

And I want to play what I’m calling Rufty’s Riff in tribute to him and his pals who were all KIA except one – Bill Vickers. Episode 25 tells their brave WW2 story.

So, Rufty’s Riff. Do you know anyone who can play it? Please get in touch.


Next episode

Captain Stanley Perry was a British Tank Commander in the Sherwood Rangers during WW2. He fought in Normandy right through to Germany, was wounded several times, and shot several enemy, sometimes at c lose quarters. I spent nearly three and a half hours with him recently and what a time well spent it was. I don’t think you get much better than this.

Here’s a short extract. If you want to see or hear more, take a quick shufty at my facebook page, FTFDTH.

Insert Stan photo album

If you want another sneak preview of Stan, just keep listening to the end of this episode.

All contact info for the show is on the contact page at

In particular if you’ve enjoyed listening and you think other people would enjoy it, please subscribe through your listening app as doing this does help raise the profile of the podcast in search results.




Around about September 1940 a considerable act of bravery by Auxiliary Fireman Harry Errington led him to becoming the only firefighter to receive the George Cross during the Second World War.

Just before midnight, a bomb virtually demolished a three-storey garage, the basement of which was used as an air raid shelter by Fire Service personnel. The floors caved in and 20 people, including six firefighters were killed outright.

Harry recovered consciousness and upon escape rescued one of his colleagues, and saw another trapped underneath a radiator. He returned to rescue the second man despite his hands being badly burnt and the building due to collapse at any moment. All three men were seriously injured but thanks to Errington’s bravery they were all returned to duty.

Born in Westminster in 1910 he first trained as an engraver and later as a tailor. When war broke out he volunteered at a station on Shaftesbury Avenue, near the business where he worked.

Harry was later active in basketball administration (particularly during the London Olympics of 1948) and served as treasurer of The Victoria Cross and George Cross Association until 1990. His George Cross is on display in the collection of the Jewish Museum London.

Soho asked Harry into the station to celebrate his 90th birthday in 2000. The red watch presented him with an engraved tankard, and copious amounts of birthday cake. The firefighters remarked that Harry was “still as razor sharp and fit."

Harry Errington GC died in London on 15 December 2004.

If you want to hear more stories about high profile or unusual incidents attended across London, search for London Fire Brigade – they have a Facebook page as well.

And listener, we haven’t had one of these for a while, but I’m about to award the latest “How Good is that” Award to the London Fire brigade for keeping Harry’s story alive.

And just to reward you if you’ve stuck out right to the end, here’s another little extract from Stan’s interview: Coming to a podcast player near you – very soon! So – if you want to support the show AND you don’t want to miss Captain Stanley Perry, Tank Commander

So, learn soon how Captain Stanley P got all his injuries. I’ll give you one clue – Moaning Minnie! And we’ll be hearing literally a blow by blow account from Stanley.

Thank you for listening. Thanks for your support. Please DO hear me next time!

Till then

I’m Paul Cheall