British Military

I said 'Sir, I want to be put on overseas draft.'
'Why?'
I said 'Look, I joined this army to get a gun in my hand to have a crack at the blooming Hun. I don’t want to hang about here till the ruddy war is over.'

The tank was hit, there were huge flames. I remember jumping out. The gunner who hadn’t wanted to change with me was killed outright. If we'd changed it would have been me. The commander was killed outright, the driver was also injured. As soon as we jumped out the tank went up in flames, & I felt something sort of streaming down here & could see a bit of blood, but you are of course in shock so I didn’t pay much attention to it. Then we sat somewhere for half an hour. The firing had really died down. I said to my comrade in arms–he had not died, but he was either asleep or fainted or something– ‘I will see if I can find our tanks, so that we can rejoin the company’. So I started crawling forward. Suddenly, the little bush in front of me opened & 2 German officers emerged holding their pistol at me. There’s no use being a hero in situations like that. I put my hands up & was taken prisoner. I had had a terrible headache I said to one of the officers, in English of course ‘I’ve got a terrible headache, so I’d like an aspirin’. So he said to his fellow officer ‘Have you got an aspirin?’ He said ‘No, I haven’t got an aspirin, I’ve got a peppermint’, in German ‘Give him that, he won’t know the difference’, but of course I heard every word. Then they put me in the sidecar & started driving away.

My change of name was forced on me in the army during the war. After my initial training I was told when going on leave: 'You better come back with an English name.' I totally forgot. On my return I suddenly realised I hadn’t thought about names & quickly looked in the telephone directory. I wanted to keep my initials LB. There weren’t many 1st names that appealed & Leslie Howard was very much en vogue. So I thought Leslie would be a good name to choose. And Brent I had just chosen almost at random from the telephone directory, because it seemed to go reasonably well with Leslie. So I became Leslie Brent. Well, that was okay, I mean that did help me to integrate, it helped me in the army. I became an officer in the army. I had to become English pretty dead quick actually. Because I had to look after English soldiers & so on. So having an English name was a very good thing from that point, too.

[During his time as translator in a POW camp in Yorkshire] I decided my- the only way I could deal with it, was to explain very clearly that I was a German born Jew. I was in British uniform as their boss. But I was a Jew. And I think in a way that helped to- well, it cleared the air. They knew whom they were dealing with. And I never had any problem.