Joseph Hammond's memories of the Second World War

Joseph Hammond's memories of the Second World War

To mark Remembrance Day, Bumper remembers those who fought so valiantly during conflict. We’re proud to share the following story of Joseph Hammond, a mechanic from Ghana who served in the armed forces during the Second World War. 

Joseph Hammond, 95, was at school in Ghana when the Second World War began in 1939. Having always wanted to join the army, he signed up to be a mechanic in July 1943 and began his training. 

After his mechanical training he was posted to the Third Advanced Based Workshops in Takoradi, the western region of Ghana. Then in November 1943 along with ten others he was drafted to the war and taken to the harbour. 

They boarded the HMS Circassia with 2,500 other troops and were sent to India attached to the 3rd Gurkhas Regiment, 3rd Infantry Battalion. When the troops reached India they began training for combat in Khulna in Bangladesh. 

Joseph said, “All the troops were trained in India. You’ll be trained how to kill, no fears, so that when you go to the war you don’t fear. We trained for six months…after our training we went to Chittagong [Bangladesh]” 

The troops were made up of two divisions, the 81st and 82nd. As they had been training the longest the 81st division was sent to fight the Japanese forces first with the objective of pushing them back. The 81st division was out for six months, and then it was time for Joseph’s division to join them.  

Joseph explains how fighting the Japanese armed forces was much worse than fighting with the German and Italian forces in Europe. “It was terrible because the Japanese were the most ferocious human fighters that I have ever seen,” he said. “If a Japanese soldier is captured in the war, as a war prisoner, he has disgraced his family. But when you die it’s an honour to your family - this was their mentality." 

When his troops reached the Irrawaddy River, they held the Japanese forces back from crossing. When the Japanese moved south, Joseph and his troops began to follow them. He remembers how at a point at the river near Ma-Ubin, the fighting was so terrible 6 men lost their lives. 

Occasionally they would become short of food for 3 or 4 days. The troops would live off biscuits and corned beef until a parachute would be dropped, replenishing their supplies and ammunition. 

In one small town, they encountered a difficult point in the fighting with snipers hiding in the trees around the river. The fighting was devastating, and many people were killed. When the battle became so intense, they asked for help from the artillery. The positions of the Japanese forces were bombarded heavily whilst the ground shook violently. 

During the conflict, Joseph realised he had been injured, with one eye protruding. Not knowing what would happen, he was flown to Pune City, India, and sent to the hospital for treatment. Specialist Lieutenant Crocket, an eye specialist, told Joseph the issue could have been contaminated blood; that he had possibly touched the blood of a wounded soldier and rubbed his eye. 

Joseph stayed in the hospital until the end of the Second World War. At the end of the conflict, he was still confined to the hospital. Other troops later told him they had been congratulated by General Slim for their efforts in the war. 

“And I feel proud today that I also defended the British Empire. We fought ferociously, we fought very well against the Japanese, we conquered them. And I’m happy that I took part in it. I Joseph Hammond, I also took part and I feel very proud I contributed a lot during the war."   

The troops arrived back home to Ghana in December 1945 and the first to bring the green battle dress back to the country. Joseph was part of 600,000 soldiers from across Africa who served with the British Forces during the second world war. 

Following the war, he pursued jobs in hospitality, construction, and fishing. He retired in 2006. He continues to live in Ghana, recently raising £500,000 for front-line workers and vulnerable veterans during the Covid-19 pandemic across Africa. 

You can watch Joseph's full interview with the British Legion here. You can make a donation here. 

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