Soldier who lied about his age and job to fight Nazis recalls notorious battle

Kenneth Richard Constable with the medals he received at the end of the Second World War
Kenneth Richard Constable with the medals he received at the end of the Second World War

A former soldier who joined up as an under age volunteer during the Second World War spoke this week about his part in one of the war’s bloodiest battles.

Prince Harry honoured the men involved inthe Battle of Monte Cassino at a special ceremony to commemorate the 70th anniversary this week.

But for Kenneth Constable who lives in Weston Turville the memories are closer to home, as he was there himself at the battle in 1944.

He said: “It was one of the most notorious,bloodiest battles of the Second World War. We lived rough, out in the open on the hillside for six weeks.

“The government and allied forces thought there were Germans in the 700-year-old Benedictine monastery and decided to bomb it.

“It caused a hell of a furore. We were on the slopes within a few yards of the monastery.

“The town of Cassino was bombed to rubble and the Germans hid in these little foxholes that were created.”

Mr Constable, now aged 90, was just 16 when he volunteered for the army.

He was working as an apprentice draughtsman, a reserved occupation that meant he was exempt from having to join up.

But his youthful enthussiam was having none of that.

He said: “I volunteered in June 1940 and falsified my age.

“I was 16 and said I was 17or 18. A lot of us did that.

“The war had started in 1939, but I joined after Dunkirk and they weren’t asking too many questions.

“I didn’t tell them where I was working because that would have kept me out.

“I said I was working on a fairground and that’s why I didn’t have any paperwork.”

Mr Constable joined the Royal Sussex Regiment of the Fourth Indian Division of the Eighth Army, travelled the world and didn’t get back to England for six years.

He said: “I was 16, we were all Jack the lads and thought it was a damned adventure.”

He picked up various ailments during the war and at one point contracted yellow fever.

He said: “A lot of us were very ill and were evacuated aboard ship to Italy to a field hospital.”

At the end of the war Mr Constable left as a sergeant.

He was offered the chance to become an officer, but he turned it down and moved back into civvy street to became a surveyor in the buildign trade.

He married three times, had three children, has four grand daughters and now lives near to his daughter Cheryl in Weston Turville.