First light next morning gave us our first view of the beachhead. None of us knew quite what to expect. Blackout restrictions were still in effect but, in the half-light of the early hour, it was quite a sight. The Channel around us was full of ships of all sizes and types – some coming in – some going out – some unloading – and some just sitting and waiting for a chance to pull in closer and off-load. Ours was one of the latter – we were anchored a few hundred yards from the shore – but very shortly we moved in closer and dropped anchor about 150 yards out. There was a lot of activity on the beach – troops and vehicles were going ashore as quickly as they could make it, with members of the Beachmasters crew pointing the way and getting them off the beach as fast as possible. There were several abandoned vehicles pushed out of the way – many had been blown up and burned.
We had expected problems with the bombers and fighters of the Luftwaffe – but the Allied Air Force had established air superiority. We saw a few German planes in the air – but none could get in close enough to do us any harm.
As I mentioned before, our ship was an ocean-going freighter. It had no unloading ramp. Our vehicles had to be unloaded by winch – swung over the side of ship – and loaded onto a floating craft that was called a rhinoceros. It was a group of square steel containers held together by hinged steel rods with an eight or ten inch opening around them. It made an overall surface which would hold five rows of ten 3-ton trucks each. There was a loading/unloading ramp in the front. In the rear there were two outboard motors which were operated by two sailors from the Royal Navy. Vehicles on the ship were picked up in a big net – hoisted into the air and lowered to the rhinoceros. When it came time to unload our specially outfitted truck, on which we had spent so much time and labor, the English crew got it into the net, raised in the air, swung over the side of the ship, and a whistle blew – and everything stopped! I was on the deck of the rhinoceros – my “million dollar truck” was swaying back and forth from the cable – some fifty feet in the air – and nothing was happening. I roared back on to the ship and found the English crew sitting around having a cup of tea. Nothing would budge them until their tea break was over – leaving my truck up in the air for another 15 or 20 minutes. Finally, they finished their tea and finished unloading the vehicle, safely.
While my truck was in mid air, I got so mad and nervous, I climbed down to the rhinoceros and wandered around the steel floats just to keep my mind off it. There, in the water off the stern of the float, I saw two sailors floating away in the current – one face up – the other face down. Both were very young – both very dead – both just floating by – to end up who knows where. I had seen dead bodies before in England after air raids – but the sight of these two young sailors floating downstream with no one able to do anything for them made me realize that the day of fun and games was over.
Finally, with the rhino fully loaded, we cast off from the ship and the two outboard motors pushed us slowly to shore. We got to within 25 or 30 feet from shore when we hit bottom and the ramp was lowered. Right in front of the ramp – to be the first one off – was the jeep containing the LAD Lieutenant and Staff Sergeant S. A. Sevigne. (He was the NCO who had been sent to us to replace Sid Palmer – the man who was injured and returned to Canada with a broken back. S/Sgt Sevigne was a nice chap and a good mechanic. He was only about 5’ 4″ tall. Inevitably, with those initials and that lack of height, he became known as ‘ Short Ass Sevigne’.) The ramp came down and Lieut. Dawson and Short Ass Sevigne drove down in their jeep with all their gear piled in the back. Short Ass turned around to the rest of us and shouted “Take your time, fellows – nothing to worry about – we’ll be in there first and have the whole darned war over with before you hit the beach”. With that, his jeep dipped into an unseen shell hole and disappeared out of sight, leaving their kit floating down the Channel – and the two of them scrambling to get into shallow water. What a way to start a war! In next to no time, the Beachmasters boys had a bull dozer on the scene, yanked the jeep out of the water, pushed it to one side, and scraped a pile of sand and rocks into the shell hole. That crew was really well- organized.
We were rushed off the beach and after a few hundred yards, we found some of our Dispatch Riders who directed us to our proper area. We had finally made it – and were happy to discover that, with the exception of the LAD jeep, there were no losses of any kind in the landing. As soon as we got parked and had a mug of coffee, our most immediate job was to get all the waterproofing off the vehicles. This was a sizable job – although I must admit it took a lot less time and energy to remove, than to put on. Once this was finished, we moved a mile or so inland and got everything straightened around and organized – got the wireless nets operational – the cipher section back in business – the rations to the cooks – the water wagon to the water point – the vehicles topped up with gas – etc. Before dark, everything was all set up and we were operational.
The city of Caen had not yet been taken. We were a mile or two north of it – and were given the strangest job – one that didn’t make sense to me until I read about it after the war. The weather was very hot and dry – the roads were sandy gravel. We were ordered to drive most of our vehicles out onto the road and play “follow-the-leader” in a big circle for the day. By the end of the day, everybody and every thing was filthy dirty . There was a cloud of dust rising up in the air that must have been visible for miles. Several years after the war was over, I read the explanation. On the western flank of the bridgehead, the American troops were meeting very light opposition and the high command decided to make a break through at this point, using the American armoured forces under General George Patton. In order to give them the best break possible, we were ordered to do this day’s driving and raise a huge dust cloud. It would appear to the Germans that we were concentrating our forces around Caen for an attack – which would cause the German Army to strengthen their forces in this area and leave the Western Flank weaker and a lot easier for the Americans to break through. The ruse worked beautifully.
The same book also explained another thing that did not make much sense to us, at the time. For the last couple of months before the Invasion took place, there had been a tremendous amount of wireless communication – most of it with Allied forces no one had ever heard of. The messages concerned troop movements, vehicle and personnel reinforcements, ammunition and petrol stocks, etc. Most of us thought it was just a training scheme to polish up the abilities of the wireless vehicles and operators. Most of the communication traffic originated from stations in the area of Dover. The German High Command were convinced that the invasion would be launched from Dover and directed to land at Calais. As a result, they kept a half dozen of their elite, battle-hardened divisions stationed in the Calais area. To help them think this way, the Allied High Command made up a phantom Army and set up a Headquarters unit in a building around Dover, naming General George Patton as Commander. The wireless traffic was fake messages sent to non-existing units in a fake Army. The German High Command bought the whole idea!
When we invaded at Normandy, Hitler and his high command thought that Normandy was a feint – that the main invasion would be at Calais – and they kept these divisions in that area. If they had moved these divisions at the first sign that the invasion was “for real” – as their General Rommel thought – it could easily have been a different story. Our invading troops might have been pushed back into the channel and off the beaches and the invasion ended then and there. The German Divisions were veterans of battles on the Eastern front against the Russians – while most of our troops were new to combat.
After the Americans got their breakthrough under way on the West Flank, we were given the go ahead and after a couple of days of very heavy fighting, Caen was taken. I’ll never forget the drive through Caen. I never saw the city in peace time – but judging from pictures, it must have been a very beautiful place. Many of the buildings were made of field stone – somewhat like Kingston, Ontario. The whole place had been completely pulverized! The roads were completely blocked by debris from the buildings. To get through with vehicles, our Engineers had to bull- doze and clear a path through the rubble. It was here, too, that we first encountered the heavy, cloying, sweet smell of unburied bodies that had been left out in the hot sun. I think I can still smell it today.
We got through Caen and went for a mile or two South on the highway to Falaise. The American troops were meeting very little opposition and were sweeping around to cut off a German Army. The overall plan was for a drive down the Caen/Falaise highway – making the city of Falaise our meeting place with the Americans, which would seal off a German Army in the pocket. The drive down was a joint effort between our Division and the 1st Polish Armoured Division.
Our first harbour south of Caen had a memorable high-light. We had just parked the trucks, when I noticed some of our chaps gathered about, picking things up and hurrying off. Thinking they were souvenir hunting and recalling that the enemy sometimes planted anti-personnel mines, I ran over to check and possibly prevent any of them from blowing themselves up. What did I see but a huge case of farm fresh eggs – the lads were grabbing hatfuls and hurrying off. The eggs were going fast – I was only able to get a half a dozen myself! The Germans had just pulled back – and we all assumed that they had left the eggs. In fact, the eggs were obtained by one of our new officers as a treat for the troops. I shared my half dozen with Fin Dempsey.
As we proceeded south on the Caen/Falaise highway, we were working down the west side of the road and the lst Polish Armoured were on the East side. The trap that was being fashioned for the German Army between the American break- through and ourselves – had the Germans on our right flank – rather desperate to get out of a possible trap. They had lots of equipment and ammunition and began a heavy barrage along side of us. As to why it happened, I have no way of knowing, but their artillery barrage was fired right over our heads and landed on the East side of the highway where the Poles were stationed. We were there for several hours – the noise was terrific – all we could do was get under whatever cover was available and watch the Poles get plastered. Not one shell landed in our lines – but the poor Polish Division had a very bad day.
The fight down the highway was a rough one. The Germans were doing their very best to keep us from meeting up with the Americans at Falaise. Something new was introduced (I was told it was a Canadian development) – Sherman tanks were modified by taking out a lot of the equipment – building a door in the rear – and using the tank as an armoured taxi to transport infantry safely on an attack without getting hit by artillery or machine gun fire on the way. The Germans also tried something new (at least new to us) – they would use bulldozers to dig out pits on the side or crest of a hill – deep enough that they could drive a tank into it – just leaving the turret with its guns exposed. A very hard target to spot and really hard to destroy.
We had a problem fighting with the Polish Division along side of us. Because of their former drastic experiences at the hands of the Germans, their judgment was influenced by a desire for personal vengeance. As fighting troops – they were tremendous – but an army needs discipline and their hatred made them a liability as an ally in action. Both the Poles and our Division received orders to attack with armour – starting at a specified time – and halting when a certain point was reached. This would ensure that our flanks were covered and protected. The attack would go forward – the objective reached – and we would halt our advance to consolidate our gain. The Poles refused to halt but continued to advance. – leaving their flanks exposed. After advancing for a fair distance through the center of the line, the Germans would close in behind them – cut them off and isolate them – and proceed to take them apart piece-meal. Our reserve armoured regiment was ordered to go in and rescue them and bring out the survivors, resulting in considerable casualties amongst the tank crews and also the loss of tanks. They did this once – and we rescued them. A couple of days later, they did the same thing again – and at a cost of almost half the strength in both personnel and tanks, our regiment brought them out again. They did it a third time and, as I understand it, the General in charge of our Division told the staff at Corps Headquarters that he was sending in a regiment on a rescue operation – but that this was the last time he would order his men to do so. If the Poles repeated the operation, he would not order a rescue – they could damned well get out themselves. The net result – the Poles never did it again – and our General disappeared from the scene – I understand he was sent back to Canada to command a desk. Which was a darned shame – a good soldier’s soldier was put out to pasture.
As we were getting close to Falaise, we had a rather drastic “misunderstanding” with the U.S. Air Force Bomber Command. We were hitting a solid line of “dug in” tanks and progress was slowing down and getting costly – so it was arranged for the American Air Force to send over a huge flight of Flying Fortresses (heavy bombers) and do a saturation bombing run on the German lines to enable us to get moving more rapidly. I have heard many stories about the reason for what happened (personally, I think the Air Force navigator made a goof!!) – but instead of the bombs landing on the German lines – they landed on our lines. Our casualties were extremely heavy. For example, we lost over half of the personnel in our Anti Aircraft Artillery Regiment. Among them was a friend of mine – Guy Hobson. We had a drink together just before he left to report in to his new regiment. He arrived just in time for the American bombing run – and to be blown to bits.
Water became a problem about this time. As the Germans pulled back, they poisoned the wells. We ended up with about one quart of water per man per day – of which half went to the cooks for meals – and the other half was for drinking, washing, and shaving. A daily shave was a must – a direct order. For fun, several of us decided to have a mustache-growing competition. Having a mustache to begin with, I won the competition – I grew one of those typical British Army Sgt. Major mustaches – with waxed ends nicely curled up. I wish I could find the picture someone took of me. The weather was very hot so I was all set up with a very, very close haircut – no shirt – a pair of short shorts held up by a web belt with a holster carrying my revolver – and a pair of knee-high leather Dispatch Rider boots and my new mustache. I was told I should be called Canada’s secret weapon. If I led the way on the next advance, it would cut down on casualties – the Germans would laugh so hard they wouldn’t have enough strength left to pull a trigger. The boys awarded me quite a prize for my marvelous mustache – they got out some shaving cream and a razor and shaved off one half; It broke my heart to have to shave off the other half!
One night we had an air raid. I was lying in a slit trench – minding my own business – when I felt what seemed to be a rock hit the wall of the trench. I thought someone was trying to attract my attention so I raised my head and looked around but couldn’t see anything. I shouted – but got no answer. I thought I saw someone waving at me a few yards away. I reached down and picked up the stone to throw back and discovered it wasn’t a stone but a piece of red-hot shrapnel from an exploding bomb. It gave me some dandy blisters on my right hand.
In time, we closed the gap at Falaise and trapped hundreds of Germans. One day we got orders to off-load every truck possible and transport the prisoners to the rear. There were so many of them that the roads were becoming impassable. When we got our trucks back, we turned left and headed due East chasing a German Army that was pulling back out of France.
At the same time, we started to experience gasoline shortages. It seems that the infantry boys were tired of walking and were commandeering any civilian cars they saw. They were going to war in style in anything from a farm truck to a Mercedes Benz, resulting in a much higher consumption of gas than had been anticipated. They were promptly ordered to dump them all by the side of the road and leave the gas for the tanks and Bren Gun carriers.
(To try to get the events of the next several weeks into chronological order is difficult. Events occurred quickly and we were on the go for so many hours in a day, they all run together.)
About this time, the German Army was beginning to feel the effects of the bombing raids and shortages began to appear. They became very short of gas – a commodity which is an absolute must for an armoured unit. I remember going through a narrow road in a wooded area and overtaking a German unit that was trying to travel East as quickly as possible — in farm-type wagons pulled by horses or mules.
This unit presented a gruesome sight. It had been hit by bombs and machine guns and what must have been rocket-firing Typhoons. The roadway and the ditches were full of the wreckage of wagons and all the equipment and supplies they were carrying. along with scores of dead and dying horses and mules – all intermingled with the bodies of the enemy troops that were trying to go East. There was such an accumulated pile of wrecked wagons and casualties that the only way to get through was to send men out in front to gather up the enemy wounded – shoot the wounded animals – and use bulldozers to clear the debris off the road and into the ditch.
One of the wagons appeared to be a stores vehicle. After checking carefully for mines, I had a look at it and found a case of a dozen brand new (still in factory grease) Luger pistols. I had been looking for one for a long time – but to find a dozen! I put them away carefully in my jeep – but by the time the road was cleared and we started forward again, I discovered my loot had been stolen. My prize package sure didn’t last long.
It is strange the way things affect you differently under different circumstances. The sight of all those beautiful horses, horribly blown to pieces, upset me more than the sight of the enemy troops. I suppose I had become more used to seeing human bodies than animal. There was another sight that was a sickening one. We had been going through a small town – people were lining the sides of the road laughing and cheering and waving flags. Children were begging for chocolate and older people for tobacco or cigarettes. Then we came on a group of a few dozen people walking along the road shouting and throwing stones, rotten fruit, etc. at two younger girls at the head of the group. They were accused (and were probably guilty) of collaborating with the German troops. They had been seized and their heads were shaven as punishment. That, of itself, was upsetting enough, but the absolute hatred in the faces of their accusers was very frightening.
I didn’t get a chance to see my brother, Bob very often, but any time I got out to the 11th Brigade HQ, I stopped in for a visit. If they got short of supplies at the Brigade, I did my best to keep him supplied with socks, shirts, underwear and boots. I also managed to supply him with the odd bottle of rye that I got my hands on from time to time.
Bob was a Lance Corporal – in charge of his HUW (Heavy Utility Wireless Truck). He was a darned fine wireless operator – won first prize in a couple of competitions. Bob’s Squadron Commander came to see me one day to ask me what the dickens was wrong with my brother. Bob had proven his ability to run his station and his C.O. wanted to promote him to full Corporal and put him in charge of a wireless detachment. The C.O. asked me to have a chat with Bob. I did, but apparently he was happy the way he was and wasn’t at all enthusiastic about Army life. He just wanted to do his job until the war ended – and go home!
Bob had a couple of experiences that shook him up. One day he was in his vehicle operating his set when there was a bump on the back of his truck. He thought someone had backed into him with another truck. However, it wasn’t another truck – it was German artillery who threw a shell in his direction and hit the wheel of his truck. Fortunately, it was an AP. (Armour Piercing) shell and not an HE (High Explosive). An HE would have splattered him and his vehicle all over the countryside.
Another time, Bob’s squadron was going into harbour in a farm yard. Among other buildings , there was a big barn with couple of hay mows. Bob was detailed to check the barn to ensure it was not giving shelter to any enemy troops. Apparently, he checked around the barn and saw no sign of any one. He shouted out for anyone in there to come forth and got no reply. With that, he fired a few rounds into each hay mow and was walking back to his unit when he heard some of his buddies shouting at him and pointing behind him. Bob turned around and right behind him were three German soldiers following him with their hands in the air. It is hard to say who was the most surprised!
After that, he seemed a bit nervous with just one of these plumber’s nightmares of a Sten Gun for a weapon. I had felt the same way at one time. Actually, a revolver is a good thing for a psychological weapon – but most of the time you would be just as well off with a sling shot! Anyway, I got him a .38 caliber S&W revolver with lots of ammunition and later on replaced it with a 9 mm Browning automatic.
The original Sten guns were really something. I understand they were a good asset to the Department of National Defence in that they were a sort of sub machine gun – threw a big volume of fire – and only cost $7.00 to $9.00 to manufacture. They were made of steel – with a magazine – a detachable butt (fitted on with a clip) – and were useful for close-in fighting where a large volume of fire power was required. I once used one on the rifle range and found it to be more like a garden hose than a weapon. There are a couple or three things about a Sten that I recall.
The mechanism was very simple – to put it on ‘Safe’, you simply pulled back on the handle of the bolt and turned it slightly anti-clockwise, slipping the handle into a slight grove. When transporting it, it was best to take the magazine off and ensure that there was no round left in the chamber. Shortly after being issued with Stens, some of our boys were coming back from the range where they had been trying to familiarize themselves with them. One of the lads forgot to remove the magazine and simply put it in the notch for the safe position. He was crawling into the back of the truck with the rest of his squad when the belt of his Sten slipped off his shoulder and landed on the ground, butt first, knocking it into the firing position. The jolt cocked it and it fired a round into the lad’s head, killing him instantly.
In France I had a bracket welded to the dash board of my jeep where I carried a Sten so that it was ready instantly when traveling. One night I neglected to take the Sten out of the bracket to put it away. There was a heavy dew and next morning, in spite of a coating of oil all over it, the darned thing had rusted so badly it was unusable. That finished me with a Sten. I took off the magazine and pitched it into a ditch.
I met an infantry sergeant who really hated the weapon. He had been out a couple of nights before, leading a small patrol between the lines. They ran into a German patrol doing the same job . He grabbed his Sten – cocked it – pulled the trigger – and it jammed. So he did the only thing possible – he reversed it – grabbed it by the barrel and swung it like a club – only to have it fall apart. He commented that it was no darned good as a weapon – and even more useless as a club. Next time, he planned on taking a baseball bat.
It was while we were charging across France that I lost the services of another of my SQMS’s. Teddy Graham was a good SQ – if somewhat on the nervous and impatient side. I sent word for him to come to see me on some matter and Teddy jumped on a Norton motorcycle and set out to find me. Apparently, he was riding behind a truck and couldn’t see much for dust. He thought all was clear, pulled out to pass and ran head on into a Sherman tank. He was whipped into hospital and sent back to England. The next time I saw him, the war was over and we were both back in Toronto. The only good point of the accident was that Teddy smoked a pipe, as I did. Every week he received a tin of Dobey’s Four Square pipe tobacco from his fiancee in Scotland – an extremely good tobacco that was not available to us. I wrote Mamie – his fiancee – and offered to buy Teddy’s delivery of pipe tobacco. She wouldn’t let me pay for it but told me to keep the tins of tobacco. Since it took five or six weeks for a package to get from Scotland to us on the continent, I received a very nice stock of fine tobacco.
It was somewhere around the area between France and Belgium that I got a really dandy tooth ache. We were moving rapidly every day or two – and it took me three days to find a dentist. It was quite an experience and one I would not care to go through again! The Army Dentist’s chair was in a 15 cwt truck. There was no running water or electricity. The chair was pumped up and down with a foot pump. The drill, of course, needed electricity to run the motor – but this was also a foot-operated affair. It must have been quite a chore – standing on one foot – pumping with the other foot – and trying to keep one’s balance while drilling a tooth. The Dentist checked my teeth – told me I had one cavity that could be drilled and filled, but another one was abscessed. It would have to be treated and in three or four days, when the swelling came down, he would pull it out. That didn’t seem like a good idea to me – waiting for the swelling to go down and then trying to find him again. After a discussion, he said it could be pulled right away – but all sorts of things could happen and it would be rather painful. I thought it best to get it over and done with – so he pulled it and gave me a handful of aspirin. He was right – it sure was painful for the next couple of days but eventually the swelling went down and the pain left and, thank heavens, it was the only dental work I needed for some time.
We were moving East quite rapidly, in fact, from time to time, we ran out of maps for the area we had reached. I remember thinking what a different war this was than WW 1. Then, the troops were in trenches and slugged it out for many weeks to move a mile or two forward. Here we were motorized and moving many, many miles in a day
Bruges, in Belgium, was a particularly beautiful and undamaged city. It was so nice to see a city with beautiful buildings, churches, bridges, canals, etc. that had not been blown to bits. It was a strange feeling – we were driving into the West side of the city as the German Army was rushing out of the East side. We stopped in Bruges for a day and went into harbour in Oostecloo beside a canal. We remained there for several days for a rest period and a chance to repair and /or replace equipment that was showing signs of hard usage.
When we had a break, I wandered over to see the locks on the canal. The locks looked very old but were infested with rats. There were so many, you couldn’t begin to count them – and big, ugly, vicious looking things they were, too.
My own troop were doing an excellent job of renovating some of the tired trucks and miscellaneous equipment. Some of them had not had a chance to get into Bruges for an evening, so I took a driver and went in for a few bottles of wine or what ever. This was strictly a no-no but I didn’t anticipate any trouble. We got to Bruges all right – found an estaminet that still had a stock of “drinkables” and started back to camp. By now, it was very dark and a storm was coming. Driving in the blackout was difficult. My driver was sure that he knew the road, so he had the wheel and away we went with our loot. After a short while, we heard some artillery fire off to our right. In another few minutes, there was more artillery coming from our left! We could hear the shells going overhead and see them landing – and it did not take a genius to realize we were not where we should be. We were right in the middle of two armies shooting at one another. We made a U-turn and got the dickens out of there. What happened next, I have no idea – maybe we hit a small mine – or got in the way of some of the artillery fire that was flying around – but the jeep was on its side and I had gone through the windshield . The driver was OK – but all our bottles were smashed. We pushed the jeep back onto its wheels and scurried out of the area. We managed to find an Army FDS (Field Dressing Station) and had my head hemstitched for something like ten or twelve stitches. We were glad to get back to the harbour but sorry to have to forego the party for the troop.
We made an interesting stop in Holland in the town of Vught where we harboured in a huge monastery. It was at the time that the German Army tried their big counter-attack at the Ardennes, commonly referred to as the Battle of the Bulge. The Germans were attempting to break through and split our forces in two. Their plan was to reach the Port of Antwerp and cause a break down in our lines of supply. Since Vught was in a direct line between the Ardennes and Antwerp, we didn’t know what to expect. The German advance never got through as far as Vught – but it was a tense time. Some English-speaking German soldiers were discovered sneaking through the wooded area dressed in Allied soldiers’ uniforms. On Christmas Eve, we were ordered to double the guard over night. I started looking for additional men for guard duty. but our lads had located a goodly supply of Dutch gin and various wines and beers and were in no fit condition for the duty. I finally gave up looking. It was easier to pick up my steel helmet and my weapon and do the “Halt – who goes there” routine myself. What a way to spend Christmas Eve!
Something else happened that night – a couple of German soldiers – disguised as nuns – were caught walking down the village main street. They weren’t too hard to spot – who ever saw nuns wearing hob-nailed army boots!
It was in Holland that I developed a very bad sore throat. It got so bad eventually that I went to see the M.O. He took my temperature, examined my throat and diagnosed Strep Throat. He ordered me to hospital. The routine was that after a stay at General Hospital, you are sent to a Reinforcement Depot and reassigned to the next unit in need of someone with your qualifications. I objected whole-heartedly. 4 Div Signals was my home away from home so I brought out every argument I could think of and was allowed to stay in the Field Dressing Station, but it wasn’t easy. I was there for ten days sleeping on a canvas stretcher mounted on two saw horses! Uncomfortable – Wow! This was in the days before penicillin. My sole medication was an aspirin or two several times a day. After about ten days, my fever was down and they decided I could go back to my unit. Fin came to get me on his Harley. I climbed on the saddle – he sat on the gas tank – and returned to duty.
Somehow news of my illness reached my mother in Toronto. One of my mother’s best friends, Mrs. Reycroft, had a daughter, Rhea, who was a Registered Nurse serving with the Army in Italy. Mrs. Reycroft wrote to Rhea telling her I was deathly ill in Holland – would no doubt be evacuated to England – and asked if she could get transferred to England so she could look after me. Rhea did, and arrived in England some months after I left the FDS. Things get so complicated sometimes, don’t they?
We were given orders to move to a small town called Bergen Opp Zoom. The Germans had pulled out of the town and we were to move in. As usual, a reconnaissance party was sent out in advance to check the place over and I went along with them. We found a school – built around a hollow square – entirely vacant – absolutely perfect for our use. We raced back to camp and made plans to get away within the hour. However, as we drew near, it became evident that things had changed drastically since we had been there. A German armoured column had come back into the town – and were settling down in the school yard. We called up a squadron of our Sherman tanks and, after an altercation, the German outfit pulled out in a rush. Surely gave us a much warmer reception that we had figured on.
One day in the pouring rain, I was ordered to see the Colonel right away. I couldn’t think of anything I had done wrong recently – but you never know. The fact that the Adjutant and the Admin Officer and the CO of HQ Squadron were there didn’t make it seem any better. However, when I was offered a drink and a cigarette, I knew it couldn’t be too bad. At that time, we had been without a Captain Quartermaster for several weeks and I had been left in charge. He wanted me to know that he had sent a request to Army HQ for permission to grant me a Field Commission and to continue running things, but he had been turned down. Apparently there were many brand new OCTU- trained officers sitting in a reinforcement depot in England with nothing to do and they were sending one to us. All sorts of apologies (along with another drink) and the best he had been able to do was have me awarded a Commander-in-Chief’s Certificate for Meritorious Service. If I had gone to OCTU when I had the chance I could easily have been caught on the Medical Exam and been left to languish in Canada for the duration. I was quite content where I was – and it was nice of him to try.
One thing that lived up to expectations was the welcome we got, driving through the liberated villages and towns. It was just as everyone has seen it on the TV News. People lined both sides of the road – happy and smiling – ladies threw flowers into the our vehicles – young girls threw kisses – older men stood back and smiled – young lads ran along beside the trucks begging cigarettes or chocolate bars.
Many of the houses had Dutch flags hanging from their upstairs windows. Many did not. Some of the people had suffered terribly during their country’s occupation and they feared that the Germans might counter-attack and drive us back. Their towns could be reoccupied and the consequences could be drastic if they were found celebrating our coming through. During this period, I tried to always have a good supply of cigarettes on hand and the tears that came to the eyes of some of the older men when we tossed them a package was very touching.
When we were billeted in the city of s’Hertogenbosch we were having a severe bout of winter weather. We took over a school complex and had space inside for most of our stores and equipment. The Regimental and Squadron Offices all found room inside out of the wintry weather. We found gymnasiums for the men. Fin and I did very well for ourselves – we arranged a billet in a private home. It was a comfortable two-story house with soft places to sit and sleep. It was owned by a couple named Von Den Errenbahn and their family of seven or eight children.
The German artillery were a short distance away – just across the river. Just to keep everyone on their toes, they used to shoot three or four rounds at the city every morning – our artillery would return the greeting in kind – and, for most days, that would take care of hostilities for the day. The couple with whom we were billeted were extremely worried about this bit of artillery – they had taken a supply of mattresses and bedding down into their basement and slept there every night. They offered to set up a place for Fin and I but we preferred the bedrooms upstairs with beds, springs, mattresses and pillows. They still had glass in the windows to keep out the wind and cold. So every evening, the family would go down into the dark, dingy basement – and Fin and I would go upstairs to our private rooms and soft, soft mattresses. That was the real way to fight a war! They treated us royally and were really upset when we moved on. I pinched enough rations to make them the envy of the neighborhood for a few weeks. They gave us each a photograph with their name and address on the back. The address was, ’46 Nieu Stratt, s’Hertogenbosch’.
Some time before our stay in s’Hertogenbosch we had an incident like something out of a Three Stooges cartoon. It began with an order we received to send three drivers back to the rear to bring up three weasels they had for us. These would be used by our cable crew for laying cable. I loaded three drivers into my jeep and took off to pick them up. They were fully-tracked vehicles, somewhat smaller than a bren gun carrier. They had no steering wheels – you used them like the old cleat-tracked tractor. There were two handles, one on each side of the drivers seat, for braking. If you wanted to stop, you pulled back on both handles. To turn right, you pulled back on the right one – which slowed down the right track and let the left one run freely, turning the vehicle to the right. This looked interesting – I’d never seen anything like this before – so I decided to drive the lead weasel back to camp. The rest would follow me. It was fun to start with – but it didn’t take long before I wished I hadn’t opened my mouth.
We had to drive through a small city. It was badly damaged – the road was a narrow pathway that had been bulldozed through the rubble. There were streetcar or railway tracks down the center of the road – rather torn apart by the bombing. I only recall one crossroad in the place – and there was a very correctly dressed English Army Military Policeman standing there, very smartly directing traffic. Just as I was approaching him, one of the tracks of the weasel got caught in the broken railway tracks. I veered sharp to the right – pulled back on a lever to straighten out and must have over-corrected. Repeating this feat two or three times, I wended my way down the road like a drunken sailor. By the time I got the weasel under control we were at the corner. I spotted the Provost climbing up on a high pile of rubble and waving at me – probably meaning for us to stop. But I was straightened out by this time, so I waved back and we went on.
When we finally got back to camp, I discovered the purposefor which these contraptions were to be used. It was a problem, in Holland,, for our cable troop to lay cable in areas where there were so many canals and other obstacles. The weasels, as well as being fully tracked, were also amphibious. You could drive up to the shore of a body of water – drive into it – throw a lever in the cab and change the drive from the back wheels to a small propeller – and reverse this when you reached the other side. The cable troop could mount a mechanical cable layer on the back – and shoot out a line of cable as they drove at 25 to 30 mph – throwing cable over houses and trees – and fording canals and rivers. A really ingenious idea. They tried it out several times and all went well. Some of the senior officers wanted a demonstration so the troop welded some racks on the vehicles to hold enough drums to cover about 8 to 10 miles. Everything seemed OK. A field was chosen with a river running through it – all three weasels were put on display – and then – just to make it interesting, they all loaded their racks to capacity – and set out to have a race from one side of field – across the river – to the field on the far side.
All the weasels were loaded up with their racks full of drums. The drivers had not had time to practice with full loads before but they did pretty well. They drove around the field – spitting cable at a great rate. Then came the race. Somebody fired a shot – they roared down the hill – hit the water – changed to the propeller – started across the river — and all three weasels sank out of sight. The weight was too much for the vehicles to carry on the water. The shame-faced crew swam ashore – and our cable officer was left to make the explanations to the colonel. As far as I can remember, we got orders to move the next morning and we left the weasels where they were – sunk in the middle of the river.
One of the most dramatic and post-war publicized battles was the air drop at Arnhem. We did not take a very active part in this. The bulk of the paratroopers were from the British Army and the main force, driving through to relieve the air-borne, was the Guards armoured Division. They ran into some serious opposition trying to get through and our job was to back them up. They led the attack, driving up the highway and we followed right behind ready to consolidate the position if they made their objective. We were not actively involved.
A bit of a stalemate ensued and we harboured on the grounds of a huge monastery. Our rations were getting pretty monotonous – basically dried, canned or dehydrated. We were passing fields full of live stock – cows, pigs, chickens, etc. It looked to me like a chance to get a few decent meals of fresh meat for the boys. In my Troop, I had several farm lads and others who loved to hunt. So we arranged a little expedition and set out to augment our monotonous diet. We ended up with two or three cows, some pigs and a couple of dozen chickens. One of my drivers was a butcher before the war – so he was put in charge.
Behind the monastery, there was a small cave about 20’ across and 15’ high, with a flagstone floor. It was nice and clean and cool. The erstwhile butcher assured me that this was an ideal spot to hang and store the beef for a few days. We got some telegraph poles from the cable-laying troop and erected a structure on which to hang the halves of beef and pork. I posted a guard for the spot and went to bed.
In the morning, I was awakened unceremoniously by a group of monks and a few of our senior officers – all breathing fire and brimstone. Apparently, this nice little “cave” I had used was a religious grotto belonging to the monastery. The statuary had been removed to ensure its safety – and here was some idiot using the space for meat storage! I gradually got everybody calmed down (mainly, by offering them a share of the loot) and my promise to clean out the shrine as soon as possible.
We were still in the Netherlands when I bumped into my old friend, Ben Boylan. He had been offered the chance to return to Canada for OCTU training – had accepted – and was now a Captain with an Infantry Regiment from Western Canada. It was good to talk to an old friend again and hear some up-to-date news from Canada and England. We were not terribly busy at the time and Ben’s Battalion was stationed nearby. He invited me to come and see how they were set up and, besides, there were a couple of other friends of mine stationed there. Sounded like a good idea – so we set it up for the next day.
It was very interesting, looking over his system and getting some new ideas for our setup. But the real high-light of the visit was an hour or two later, when he asked me if I would like to go and have a chat with a couple of other chaps that I knew – they were a short distance off -but it was close enough for us to walk.
We were in a part of the Netherlands that had been the scene of an air-borne action. The terrain was slightly hilly and dotted around the countryside were two or three dozen gliders that had transported paratroopers and had crashed on landing. I was glad to be in armoured signals – at least we stayed on the ground – even if it was sometimes dusty – sometimes muddy – and right now it was snow-covered.
We started up a slight hill – there was enough snow on the ground to make it a chore to climb – but then it got worse. Ben cautioned me that we would have to do the next two or three hundred yards crawling on the ground – it was under enemy observation and covered by sniper fire. So down I went and crawled – the snow getting down my neck – up my sleeves – and freezing my face. I got a bit over half-way up and paused to check if Ben was OK – and found him strolling along about 20 feet behind me – smoking a cigarette and with a wide grin on his face. When I asked him what made him immune from sniper bullets, he replied “Sorry, Gord – I made a mistake – it is the next hill that is under enemy observation.” If my feet hadn’t been nearly frozen solid, he might have got something other than a sniper bullet in an embarrassing spot.
We found my other friends in a wooded area on the side of a ravine. They were living in a dugout – about four foot high and six or eight feet square. Along one side they had a slit trench. We crawled into the dugout and had a drink to get warmed up. I had come prepared with my water bottle filled with rum. It was quite cozy and warm in there – light came from a couple of candles. After a few minutes, there was a loud bang just outside the dugout. Across the ravine – about 150 yards away – was a small fieldstone hut that was occupied as a German outpost. To pass the time, the lads were amusing themselves by shooting at this hut with a Boyes Anti-tank rifle, gradually knocking down the stones in the hut. They were trying to get it knocked down before night fell and the Germans could sneak away in the dark. They gave me a turn and I managed to knock down a few stones. It must have been a rough session for the German troops. They were trapped in the hut – apparently had nothing larger than their rifles or revolvers – and their shelter was gradually being demolished by anti tank shells. There was no way they could fire back with any accuracy – all they could do was hope darkness fell before the walls of their hut disappeared. Bad enough on a warm summer day – but a heck of a way to spend a cold winter afternoon.
As we pushed further to the East, there were two difficult spots to clear – the Hockwald and the Reichwald Forests. The fighting was fierce – but we were not too involved. A heavily wooded area was not the sort of terrain that rendered armoured divisions very effective. I never had a chance to examine either of these lines – it was in this part of the country that the French had built their Maginot Line and the Germans had build their Zeigfried Line.
The Maginot line was a length of fortifications that covered the border between France and Germany and stretched from Switzerland to Belgium. It was quite a fantastic piece of work – it must have cost many millions of dollars. There were built-in concrete pill boxes housing all sorts of weapons from machine guns to artillery pieces. The pill boxes were built just barely above ground level. I believe it was a total of three stories deep. There was sleeping accommodation for thousands of troops, supplies of wood and water and ammunition – enough to allow the defenders to live and fight for a long period of time. The French government considered it impregnable. However, they made one tactical error. The border between France and Germany was sealed off by this line but the German army attacked through Belgium, turned west and rode into France across the France/Belgium border where there were no defences of any kind. With that, the Germans introduced the form of attack that was called a Blitzkrieg – which made stationary defences such as the Maginot Line a thing of the past.
The Germans’ Ziegfried Line would have been a formidable barrier to the advance of our troops except for the fact that the German Army was in a state of disarray and their supplies were becoming exhausted.
There was a popular song in those days – a propaganda song, I suppose. It was around the time that Vera Lynn was singing songs like “The White Cliffs of Dover”, “A Nightingale Sang In Berkley Square” and “When the Lights Come On Again All Over The World”. It was, “We’re going to hang out our washing on the Ziegfried Line, If The Ziegfried Line’s Still There”.
One day, we were in convoy driving towards the Rhine River. The road was paved and led through a heavily wooded area. The sun was shining and suddenly, on the side of the road, we saw a sign reading ‘This is the Ziegfried Line’ and in small type underneath, ‘Courtesy of the Canadian Army – donated by the Royal Canadian Engineers’. A couple of hundred feet further on, there was a tree bearing a rope to which was fastened a pair of dirty, scruffy worn-out “long johns”. Painted on a sign was “And Here’s the Bloody Washing!” It certainly gave everyone a laugh and a lift!
The next big obstacle was the Rhine River. Once we got over that, we would be on the ‘home stretch’. We were not as fortunate as the Yanks who captured a bridge across the Rhine at Remagen. The bridge had been wired and the explosives planted to blow it up but I guess someone goofed. Our troops had to launch an attack across the river, make a landing, establish a bridgehead and push Jerry back far enough to allow the Engineers to build a floating Bailey Bridge to allow more troops, supported by armour, to get across.
The day we crossed the Rhine is easy to recall. We pulled out in convoy right after breakfast – the day was very dull and cloudy – looking like rain. Everybody was anxious to get underway and get over the river. The congestion on the road made the five o’clock rush in downtown Toronto look tame. We pulled out of harbour around 10:00 a.m. and it was about twelve hours later before we got on the bridge. By this time, the clouds had opened up and there was a real downpour. I was driving my jeep with a trailer attached. I had the canvas top on the jeep but there were no side curtains. The wind drove the rain in steadily and I was frozen stiff and soaking wet. After sitting on the hard seat of the jeep for over twelve hours, I was longing for a comfortable chair and a cup of hot coffee.
The war-time jeeps had windshield wipers – but no motor to operate them. There was a short handle on the inside of the windscreen and when it rained, we steered with one hand and worked the wiper with the other. It got a bit tiring – especially if it had been raining hard for hours. I was alone in the jeep, so I didn’t have anyone to take turns working this ruddy handle. The bridge was built on floating rafts that swayed in the high wind. Trying to stay on the swinging road – and working the windshield wiper handle – and trying to keep the rain cleared off my glasses – was a nearly impossible chore.
To make it even more interesting, on the east side of the river where we were headed, we could see several buildings burning, and the water churning from the impact of artillery fire as the Germans tried to blow out the bridge. I guess the good Lord was with us – the bridge never was hit – at least not before all our boys got across. I remember being very thankful for that but also wishing He would stop the infernal rain. Anyway, we got across all right – found our way in the blackout to our harbour – got out of our wet clothing – and spent the rest of the night trying to get warm.
It was strange, next morning, to see many of the houses decorated with a white sheet hanging out of a window. In the Netherlands, they hung their national flag out of the window in celebration – now the civilians hung out a white sheet in surrender.
Shortly before the crossing of the Rhine, we got our new Quartermaster – the Lieutenant directly out of the Reinforcement Depot in England. He was a real “by-the-book” type – but all theory and no active experience. We used to say “He had never heard a gun fired in anger.” He had been with us about a week when he did something that made me the angriest I have ever been in my entire life.
Occasionally, while in England, we received an issue of rum for the troops. It came through when the weather was terrible and there was a possibility of colds or even pneumonia. The rum came in one-gallon stone jars sealed with a large cork coated with wax. I thought it would be a good thing to get an extra supply for a special occasion or, perhaps, to celebrate the end of the war! There were seven messes – so my immediate objective was to lay in a stock of seven extra gallons. As it was gathered, it was necessary to change its hiding place frequently to avoid its discovery. Eventually it ended up in the quarter-ton trailer I had for my jeep. I could keep my eye on it with no trouble from there.
In time I reached my target of seven gallons – but, by then it looked like it might be a long war, so I doubled my objective to fourteen gallons. By the time we crossed the Rhine, I was close – the trailer held thirteen gallons!
Shortly after, I had to be away for most of a day – but I wasn’t concerned. Our new Lieutenant QM would be on hand. When I came back in the late afternoon, I was greeted by the news that all units had been ordered to return to the Ration Point any surplus issue rum. And this stupid little twit of a Lieutenant had gone to my trailer, opened it up and returned the thirteen gallons of rum that had taken me almost a whole year to accumulate for our battalion! I never came so close to shooting someone in my life.
The aftermath came a couple of days later: the Captain in charge of the ration point came to see me and gave me a grade A, No. 1, bawling out. He wanted to know how we could be so stupid – we were the only people in the whole Division who returned any rum – which his boys promptly stole and drank. They were so drunk and sick for two days no one was fit for work. Fortunately (probably for all concerned) the Lieutenant was shipped back to Canada a few days later on.
As we proceeded to the East, I saw a remarkable job of repairing a roadway. While retreating, the German Engineers had planted a big naval mine in the middle of the road with only a couple or three of the prongs exposed. As we advanced, a Humber Scout Car in the lead was blown up. It left a hole in the road from ditch to ditch about 15’ to 20’ deep. It was big enough to hold up the advance. Our tanks couldn’t get past. About a hundred yards away, there was a lovely farm-house that had escaped any damage from the war. However, the road had to be re-opened as quickly as possible. It took about 30 minutes for the Engineers to reduce the house to rubble – have a couple of bulldozers push all the debris into the hole in the road – add a load or two of gravel on top and smooth it over – and our advance continued.
I can remember, at the time, thinking that was a darned good way to take care of the problem. Since then, after buying a home of my own and spending years paying off a mortgage – I have had second thoughts about it. What must it be like to leave your well-maintained home – and later discover it was now being used to fill up a hole in the road?
As we advanced further into Germany, we received orders that we must not kill any German cattle or pigs or any form of livestock unless we were surrounded and cut off. The German people would need all they could find of these creatures to feed themselves after the war. At this time, we were solely on combat rations – canned and powdered food. One evening we harboured in a field right next to two nice-looking cows. It was too much to resist – we shot them – borrowed the LAD breakdown lorry, and suspended one cow from each of its two winches.
Unfortunately, in the midst of this – our Admin Officer came along – another type that worked “by the book”. He started to get pretty huffy and wanted to know if I had seen the order about not slaughtering German livestock unless we were surrounded. I agreed I had seen it. Then I got a lecture about obeying orders, etc. As he started to leave, I called out to Sgt. McNiel and asked him if he had heard that some of the German troops had counter-attacked and retaken the land behind us and in effect, cut us off. He caught on right away and said “That’s right, sir, that’s exactly what I heard a couple of hours ago.” Our admin officer, never having heard anything about our being cut off, walked away muttering something about having to talk to the Colonel about this.
It just so happened that I had known and worked with the Colonel longer than he had – but I thought I had better play it safe. I had the butcher wrap up the tenderloin of one of the cows and went off to see the Colonel. I explained that I had this tenderloin – there was not enough for everybody – so I thought he might like it for the Officers’ Mess. He thought it was a marvelous idea – thanked me very much – and didn’t ask me where I got it. The poor old Admin Officer didn’t get a good reception when he brought up the subject of slaughtered cows.
I don’t particularly like guns of any type but I was getting a collection without making an effort to do so. My prize was a rifle – I was told it was a German Mauser that was issued to the German Alpine troops. It was a beautiful thing with an intricate design etched into the barrel. The walnut stock was a work of art and, surprisingly to me, it had two triggers one in front of the other. The front trigger was the conventional one with the two pulls. However, if you pulled the rear trigger first, it turned the front one into a hair trigger. I had a half a dozen or so different revolvers and automatics – but one of them came to me very unexpectedly.
We were still driving to the east and went over the Kustreen Canal. A few yards after crossing the canal, there was a cliff about 25’ or 30’ high along the side of the road. There was a bit of shelling but because of the cliff, it was going right over the roadway. Traffic stopped and we took shelter alongside the edge of cliff. A large group of 200 or 300 German soldiers with no obvious weapons and with their hands raised in surrender came down the road. We didn’t have time to do much with them, so we just pointed down the road and told them to keep moving. One of them – in a very fancy uniform which I didn’t recognize – came out of the group and started talking to me. I couldn’t understand a word he was saying so I pointed down the road and indicated he should go that way. He turned back to me and kept on talking. Twice I tried nicely to send him on his way. Finally, I turned him around and gave him a kick in the behind and thus I discovered he was carrying a nice little .635 Walther pistol. I sent him on his way and added one more little weapon to my collection.
After a short while, a group of Air Force planes came roaring over head, vanished over the top of the cliff and the familiar roar of rockets mingled with the sound of explosions. Shortly afterwards, we moved ahead. The road we were on was the only road in the area – the ground on either side was swampy – and every house and building along the road had been turned into a pill box with cement and field stones. Everyone had anti-tank weapons zeroed in on the road we would have to travel. It saved us a lot of casualties to leave the job to the Air Force and let them blast them out of the way.
We proceeded East and arrived at Zwischenahn. In the railway station, I found the station master’s jacket -complete with a swastika arm band. I took the arm band off of his tunic and still have it. From Zwischenahn, we went East toward Oldenburg and then turned North and headed for the seaport of Wilhelmshaven.
We advanced up the road from Oldenburg to Wilhelmshaven for some miles with very little opposition and pulled into an orchard on the east side of the highway. That night the rain poured down and in the morning we were in a sea of mud. We were scheduled to leave early so we tried to get our vehicles mobile. Out of the trucks in my own troop, I had nine that were stuck so deeply in the mud, it would take a Herculean effort to get them back on the road. We were trying everything – shoveling – attaching tow chains from trucks that were on firmer ground to the stuck trucks – getting the LAD to come to help with their breakdown lorry. I was going mad! George Hocking, the Sgt. Major in charge of our Cipher Section, ran up to me in a lather of excitement. I thought he would burst. I couldn’t understand him so I told him to buzz off and I ignored him until we finally got our trucks free. Then, I suddenly realized what he had been trying to tell me – the war was over! – the Germans had capitulated! – we had won! After all the effort to reach this point, it is hard to believe anyone could get so tired and so busy as to miss a message like that. The Cipher Section had received the message that morning. I somehow got my hands on the original hand-written message and packed it away among my souvenirs.
The convoy proceeded on schedule but no one knew whether or not the garrison in Wilhemshaven had received the cease fire message. Even if they had, some fanatical Nazi might want to continue to fight to the finish. There were several stories about what actually happened, but by most accounts the German garrison did not receive the surrender message. However, some of our people notified them that the war between the Allies and Germany was over and the Allied Armies were to unite with the German forces in a war against Russia. The Germans believed it! When our forces rolled into Wilhelmshaven with their columns of tanks, the German garrison was drawn up in a ceremonial parade to welcome their new allies. They must have had quite a shock when our armoured units disarmed them and took them prisoner. Thus the port of Wilhelmshaven was taken without firing a shot and with no casualties.
Our convoy was on the road by then, and we pulled ahead for several miles and took over many of the buildings in the town of Rastede. Rastede was the headquarters of one of the elite German Divisions and some of our troops discovered the German Officers’ Mess, including their wine cellar. (The Germans surely didn’t short themselves on anything !) Our men got into the wine cellar, gathered armfuls of liqueur and and drank it by the glassful – or maybe by the bottleful. We sure had a bunch of drunks on our hands! It took two or three days to get the boys back in shape again.
In our Cable Troop, there was a Corporal lineman who was the top all-around athlete of our unit. From route marches and assault courses to baseball and football, he was the best-conditioned and best-trained man we had. With the war over, the Cable Troop were given the job of salvaging as much of the field cable as possible. There must have been thousands of miles of the copper wire lines scattered all over the country. The corporal was out with his crew and his Sergeant – Sgt. Joe Fairbrother – when he stepped on a half-buried anti-personnel mine. The resulting explosion did not kill him, but blew off both his legs below the knee. He begged to be shot rather than live without legs. He was taken to hospital and I never did hear what happened to him. What a way to end up after coming through several years in the army and the battles from Normandy to Germany!
After a time, we received orders to pack up and return to Holland in preparation for the trip back home to Canada. It was nice to get back to Holland where the people were friendly and nobody was shooting at anybody anymore.
We were just getting things organized in Holland when Capt. Jack Bridges came to visit us. He was permanent force ( not hostilities only) and had been posted to go back to Germany as the QM of the Canadian Occupation Force, (the official designation was “3rd Canadian Infantry Division, Canadian Army Occupation Force”) Jack and I were good friends and had always worked well together. He asked me to go with him to be his RQ and – blame it on the good party we had that evening – next morning I found that I had volunteered for further duty in Germany. Not only that, but Fin Dempsey had also agreed and would be going back as the RSM along with several other Officers and Senior NCO’s who had volunteered.