People were getting blown up as soon as we got out of the boat. It wasn’t a case of if you were going to catch it, but when!
Royal Marines Commando Vincent Horton was bombed, shot at, shelled and captured (twice!) during WWII.
Vince joined the Royal Marines in August 1940, completing basic training at Lympstone. He was then posted to the 11th Battalion Searchlight Unit, Royal Marines in Southend and, after less than a month, was sent to Crete via South Africa, the Red Sea and Alexandria. Crete was captured by the Germans and Vince became a Prisoner of War on 01 June 1941. He and others escaped and, after six months, were evacuated to Egypt by submarine.
In September 1942, Vince was part of a Commando raid on Tobruk, Libya when he was captured again. He was exchanged after seven months, this time after being in a Prisoner of War camp in Italy.
On 15 June, 1944, Vincent – having dodged bombs and bullets across half of Europe and much of Africa – finally ran out of luck. “I was sent with a message for A Troop, around Sallenelles. The Germans started to shell me, so I switched routes – and that’s when I was blown up by a landmine and lost both my legs. I don’t remember much about it, although I do vividly recall that I thought I was going to die.
I was picked up by some Naval observers and given morphine. I was taken out to a boat where there were nurses who applied tourniquets and cream. I had a blood transfusion, two pints in total. I woke up two days later and was told I had gangrene. My left arm was also in a bad way.
Vincent’s rehab was a lengthy and difficult process, and it took his mother’s interference to stop medics amputating his arm. He was taken to Winchester Hospital, but it got bombed. Eventually, operations in Bradford and Roehampton stabilised his legs, and 19 months after his injury, he was fitted with prosthetics.
As with all those wounded in WWII, however, there was little time for self pity. “They trained me up as a cobbler, but there wasn’t much work on that front, and eventually a WWI veteran from my Limb Fitting Centre got me a job working in telephony for the Postal Service,” he says. “I did that until I retired at 60.”
Vincent married his carer in 1946. “She was billeted with my family and would wheel me around everywhere. After a year she said; ‘I guess we should get married’.” Two children followed, and Vincent led a normal, happy life, getting involved in the GPO Union and Blesma, becoming Portsmouth Branch Secretary. “Blesma has been great to me, and I’ve made so many friends and been on so many trips through the charity,” he says. He sadily passed away in March 2017.