War memories: How one Fifer's dad helped build top-secret Mulberry harbour

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George Givens, from Glenrothes, is the chairman of the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) Fife Branch, whose father served with King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry during the Second World War.

George Givens senior was born in Liverpool in 1918 and volunteered for service when he was 21 years old.

He worked as a Liverpool docker, and, in October 1940, like many other young men at the time, he decided to join the army to do his bit and was subsequently enlisted as Pte G Givens.

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George said: “Despite being a Scouser, my dad was assigned to the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI) and completed his basic training at Strensall in Yorkshire.

George GivensGeorge Givens
George Givens

"My father was never what you would call a quick man, so I assume being marched around at the light Infantry pace of 140 paces to the minute must have been a complete shock to his system!

“After a couple of years in 2/4 KOYLI it must have dawned on someone that his skills as a docker could be made better use of elsewhere. In 1942 he transferred to the Royal Engineers (RE) and was posted to one of its port squadrons.”

George Givens (left back row) with his comrades.George Givens (left back row) with his comrades.
George Givens (left back row) with his comrades.

By 1943 George was part of the British North African Forces serving with the 8th Army.

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“My father never spoke about the war, only to tell me he was in North Africa and then went on into Italy.

"I consequently only found out more about his time in the army when I applied for his military records after he had passed away. I was surprised to find out that he also served in North West Europe having been posted there on June 3 1944 – three days before D day!

“I assume that his port squadron, along with other RE units, must have been involved in building the Mulberry harbour, and subsequently managing the vast amounts of combat supplies passing through that was needed to maintain the allies advance into Europe.

“One other surprise I got was that he was confined to barracks and awarded seven days loss of pay after going absent for 24 hours whilst in North Africa!

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"A drunken weekend in Cairo perhaps, as no other details are apparent from the records except that he was also charged with making improper remarks to the provost sergeant. Let’s face it, we’ve all known provost sergeants that we would have liked to told where to go to!

After George was demobbed in 1946, he returned to Liverpool to marry his sweetheart, George junior’s mother in 1948, who during the war was also doing her bit as a machinist in a factory producing metal boxes for the war effort.

“I was an Army Cadet and remember my dad showing me how to press my battle dress jacket and trousers – the only piece of military advice he gave to me!

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“I joined the army in 1966 as a junior soldier and my father lived long enough to see me become a WO1 and Regimental Sergeant Major of the Queen’s Own Highlanders and subsequently commissioned.”

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