Holbeach veteran at Buckingham Palace

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Holbeach veteran Jack Mills attended a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace this summer with his son Gordon.

It was at the invitation of the Not Forgotten Association, and Jack was one of 42 veterans and their wives or carers to attend.

The honour was in recognition of Jack’s war service, and the sumptuous surroundings of Buckingham Palace were a million miles away from his experiences in the 1940s.

Jack wrote of those days in Dekho!, the journal of The Burma Star Association.

Having volunteered for the RAF aged 19 in 1941, he was posted overseas for the second time in 1944.

After five weeks at sea the ship docked at Bombay and from there Jack went by train to Orissa, a staging post on the East side of India fronting the Bay of Bengal.

Jack writes: “We were issued with antiquated Sten machine guns which no one had seen before. Two of the boys took their guns to pieces and could not put them together again.”

From there they boarded supply-dropping Dakotas and set off for active service in Burma, landing on an airstrip in the jungle.

They made homes in what Jack calls “empty bamboo bashas with a thatched roof, each one about the size of a pig sty”.

Here they slept in wooden framed beds laced with string and with woven bed mats and, if they were lucky, a straw-filled pillow and mosquito net.

The unit transported supplies to the front by Dakota and was a lifeline for all the allied forces fighting the Japanese.

Jack says rats were everywhere, one gnawing a hole in his kit bag and eating his precious chocolate.

During his time in Burma Jack had three bouts of enteritis and after the war developed further health problems.

The garden party, attended by HRH The Duke of York and his daughters Princess Beatrice of York and Princess Eugenie of York, was a chance to reminisce with fellow veterans about that time.