World War II diaries tell of joining up at 17

George Easton after joining the army

George Easton with a pipe to make him look older than his 17 years when he joined up - Credit: Easton Family

The wartime diaries of a teenage soldier told how he lied about his age and joined up when he realised war was imminent - without telling his parents.

Within days, George Easton, from Huntingdon, who was just 17, was on his way to the Northamptonshire Regiment where his service included the Sicily landings and the Anzio beachhead where allied troops became bogged down attempting to bypass the German lines, losing thousands of men killed and injured.

Mr Easton’s daughter Margaret said her father was a “gentle” man who had not wanted to be in the army but had dreamed of being a gardener.

She said her dad had kept a diary for much of his life, including his wartime experiences, but had not spoken about what had happened to him.

“I couldn’t stop reading them and I think it is important that we retain these memories for future generations,” Margaret said.

The diaries include Mr Easton’s “idyllic” life as a pre-war schoolboy swimming in the river with his headmaster’s dog to hearing about the German invasion of Poland.

He said in the diary: “The day we realised war was imminent was on that Friday at work as reports continuously poured in over the radio that German troops were crossing the Polish border.

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“Swarms of evacuees children, my nanny and grandad took two, were arriving in our little market town Huntingdon. I did not bother to go back to work but went straight to the recruiting office then went home.

My mother cried and my Dad looked serious.”

He said: “A few days later my warrant came to report to Northampton Barracks.”

Mr Easton described how the shoreline was a “sheet of explosive flames” during the invasion of Sicily where he suffered shrapnel wounds and the constant bombardment of the allied positions in Anzio by the Germans. He had also been involved in the invasion of Madagascar.

Margaret said her father rarely spoke of his experiences and was reluctant to take his shirt off in public because of his shrapnel wounds.

“I find it hard to imagine my gentle, kind Dad fighting in battle. He was a gentle man and he certainly did not want to kill anyone, he just wanted to be a gardener,” she said.

“My Dad was one of the lucky ones. He came home, so many did not and we must never forget and always remember them.”

After the war Mr Easton returned home and worked in the building trade.