Captain Percy Huxter (164621) - War Years


For Percy the war years were a very eventful time. At the start of World War 2, Percy was an ordinary soldier with the 8th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment and by the time they landed in France with the British Expeditionary Forces in January 1940 he was a corporal in the carrier platoon. After landing in France they made their way into Belgium and after a few months Percy ended up on the outskirts of Brussels near Waterloo. This period of time was referred to as the “Phoney War” but things were soon to change. By May of that year the Germans had broken through the French defences around the Maginot Line and into Belgium. Things were now very different and it soon be came clear that the British forces would be surrounded.

So began the long route back towards Dunkirk and Percy was travelling in a Bren Gun Carrier when suddenly the vehicle broke down. As the rest of the Worcestershire men moved on Percy was left behind and it was some time before he got his vehicle going again. Now out of touch with the rest of the men Percy managed to make his way back to Dunkirk. Finally, arriving there exhausted and tired, leaving his vehicle on the beach, Percy got on board a battered old Dutch cargo boat and he was on his way back to England. Despite all the dangers around him all that Percy could think about was hanging on to his torn and battered trousers – he wanted to arrive back in England with his dignity intact!

Percy now back on home soil was eventually reunited with the rest of the men of the Worcestershire Regiment and found himself moved around the country from place to place. Then came news that he had been selected to attend an Officer’s Cadet course at Sandhurst. Many years later Percy thought the reason he was selected was because of his grammar school education.

In December 1940, Percy was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant into the 9th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment and then spent the next 2 years with them in Northern Ireland as a Platoon Commander. Towards the end of this period he was involved in joint exercises with the Americans who were preparing for the D-Day landings.

By the autumn of 1943 Percy was once again back on home soil, initially at Clacton-on-Sea and then at Hertford on an assault training exercise.

At the time of the D-Day landings, 6th June 1944, Percy was near Folkstone but was held in reserve. Later that year the 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment, who had been fighting in Holland, was short of officers due to casualties and Percy was selected to join them. All of a sudden he found himself on a Dakota flying towards France. After landing he made his way through Belgium, passing through some of the same places he had seen some 4 years earlier. Finally he joined the regiment in Holland at the beginning of November 1944, with the rank of Captain and as second-in-command of ‘A’ Company.

After only a few weeks the regiment was part of the first British troops to launch an attack onto German soil. During this action there was one amusing incident when Percy was ordered to carry out a reconnaissance some way forward of the regiment. However, on his way back he took a wrong turn and ended up in the middle of another battle, so he decided to stop at the nearest house and get some information. However, when he opened the door to his surprise there were 10 German soldiers in front of him sitting on the floor. Before they had a chance to get up Percy turned and was back out the door and in his jeep speeding down the road!

Captain Percy Huxter with is batman Private Thomas Scully
(Christmas 1944 at Bilzen, Belgium)

Christmas 1944 was spent with some monks at a monastery in Belgium. It was here for the first time since Normandy that all the officers and men sat down together for dinner. After a pleasant break he was back in action again on the German border. Then came the advance north again through Belgium and Holland, this time a move to break through the northern end of the Siegfried Line.

Although this was a difficult period of heavy fighting, little sleep and lack of fresh food, there were some lighter moments - one day during a lull in the battle Percy and his batman decided to take a detour to an empty farmhouse in search of some fresh meat. There they found a large pig which they chased around the sty for several minutes. Covered in muck they finally caught and killed it and quickly loaded it onto the jeep. That evening all the men of his company enjoyed their dinner, thanks to Percy!

Now came the advance across the River Rhine into the heart of Germany. For the next few months there was some heavy fighting and during one of the last battles Percy’s Company Commander was badly wounded by machine gun fire. Percy was now ordered back to Company HQ, the headquarters where in a large house which had been used as a Maternity hospital. Percy was now given command of the Company. It was while he was standing in a room in this house that a German tank fired a shell straight through the front of the house. Luckily the shell did not explode but went straight through the building, leaving two large gaping wholes and bricks flying everywhere. Covered from head to toe in red brick dust and white plaster Percy and his batman Tom Scully dashed outside firing what ever weapon they had their hands on! Some of his men, standing outside, found this amusing as they looked like clowns from a circus.

It was now clear that the war was nearing the end and the final advance was across the River Weser to Bremen. There was little opposition apart from some intermittent shelling and fire from a few snipers. On the day the war ended, 4th May 1945, Percy was occupying a prisoner of war camp just north of Bremen. At 8 ‘o Clock in the evening, whilst having dinner with his fellow officers, there was gunfire noise outside – the Intelligence Officer having received information announced: “Gentlemen, the War is over”.

Percy stayed in Germany nearly another year as the Regiment was involved in keeping order and preventing looting by the large number of refugees and Germans trying to escape the Russians.

Towards the end of March 1946 Percy returned home back to Worcester. I would like to end this short tribute to Percy with a quote from a letter he wrote to his batman at this time:

“……After leaving you at Hannover, it took me until the following Saturday to become a fully fledged civilian. After spending a day at Tournai, we went to Calais, Dover, York, Manchester, Aston-under-Lyne and Darlington. Eventually I made the long journey here complete with civvies folded up in a little brown box under my arm”

Percy Huxter with Louis Scully (son of Thomas Scully his batman) - Worcester (May 2002)

Percy Huxter died at Worcester Hospital on the 17th November 2008 (age 89)