Chapter Two
Great Britain

The ship we sailed on was called “The Andes”.  There were about 3000 troops on board.  When we boarded, the first place that I went to was the sick bay.  The sergeant in charge told me to come back in the morning.  An officer overheard and asked what was wrong.  I told him that I was sick.  He took my temperature, and it was 103 degrees Fahrenheit.  He gave the sergeant a blast and I ended up in the sick bay.  It must have been the best part of the ship.  It was very clean and quiet with beds that were anchored to the floor and that had nice white sheets.  I spent five days there before being released.
It seemed that the ship, sailing all alone, must have been travel­ling a southern route, for when I got up on deck, the temperature was 80 degrees Fahrenheit.  Everybody was trying to get a sun tan.  A lot of the boys on deck were either playing cards or shooting dice.  My brother had a crown and anchor game going on.  It looked to me like he was making a few bucks!
The food wasn't too bad, although it was rumoured that the sausages were filled with sawdust.  They sure tasted like it but I believe they had bread filling mixed in with some meat.  Since we had just left Canada we had lots of powdered eggs and bacon.  We also filled up at the canteen on Oreo cookies and canned peaches, my favorite snacks.  It must have kept the cooks busy feeding all the troops.  Nobody really complained.
The sleeping arrangements were something.  You had the choice of using a hammock or sleeping on the tables.  We were all jammed in like sardines.  Of course, every morning all the bedding had to be rolled up and stowed away, so the tables could be cleared for eating and playing cards.
I think that we were all a bit anxious of what lay ahead.  We had sailed on the the 13th of May 1943, and had arrived on the 22nd of May.  On the way over, the ship dropped a depth charge and we wondered if it was for practice or the real thing.
After nine days of sailing we entered the port of Liverpool, on the west coast of England.  The ship docked early in the morning.  The docks were crowded with the workers unloading cargo from several ships.  We thought it looked silly to see some of the dock­workers standing around drinking tea at that hour of the morning.  We had a lot to learn about English customs and how good a cup of “tay” would taste on a chilly morning.
After breakfast, we gathered all our equipment and formed up at the docks wondering what was next.  When I had left home, my mother gave me a ring that she had been keeping.  It was a gold ring with a garnet stone.  It was really nice!  While standing around I was playing with the ring, a nervous reaction.  The ring slipped off and I couldn't find it.  The order to move was given but I was rooting around the tracks looking for it.  Finally I found it and I had to run a couple of hundred yards to catch up.  Boy did I get shit!  A great way to start out in a strange country.  I still have the ring.


After an all day train ride we arrived at the town of Farn­borough, southwest of London.  This was and still is an army town.
We marched over to the parade ground, waiting to see where our billets were, when a voice hollered, “What the hell are you doing here?”.  It was Corporal Frank H. from Cardinal who had gone over in a previous draft.  We all had a great meeting and we knew that we would have a guide to show us the ropes.  While we were all at ease, sitting on the grass, I found a four leaf clover.  It was the only one that I have ever found.  I put it in my army paybook and I still have it to this day!
I think that the barracks were built in the days of Wellington.  They were stone and brick, with no inside finishing.  They were always cold and the small fireplaces were of little or no use.  We were not allowed to put any heat on unless it got really cold.  It seems that there was a shortage of coal!
Lucky for us that it was summer time.  The bunks were double decked, with steel slats two inches wide with a straw filled mattress called a “pail­lasse”.  They were not very soft!
It was the end of May, and the weather was beautiful.  We didn't mind all the marching and training which started at once.  I guess they thought that idle people would get in trouble.  We had to do our basic training all over again.
Finally it was over and our ranks were confirmed.  This meant that it didn't matter where we would be sent, our ranks stayed the same.  It meant twenty cents a day more!
The brass decided that half of our pay should be sent home or we would waste it on beer.  At that time the British pound was worth 4.84 dollars in Canadian funds, so our small pit­tance didn't go very far.
After being confined to barracks for two weeks, we were allowed to venture out and explore the town.  I didn't care for the pubs, too noisy and full of smoke, so I went to the Saturday night dance.  One guy called it “the weekly hog wrestle”, all you could smell was arse­holes and arm­pits!  That was quite a description!
I was dancing with one of the British army girls, when I noticed that her shoulder patch said “ATS”.  When I asked her what it stood for, she got a little upset and wanted to know if I was trying to be smart.  When I explained that I had just arrived two weeks earlier, she said that it stood for “Auxiliary Terri­torial Service”.  Another soldier over­heard and leaned over to tell me that it stood for “Army Tail Supply”.  Boy was she mad!  I heard later that they were also referred to as “officer ground sheets”.
I discovered that they were a fine bunch of girls and hard workers.  The English gals were very pretty with a natural complexion.  Most of them didn't use any paint on their faces.  They were outgoing and liked all the attention that the Canadian soldiers gave them.  I guess we were not as reserved as the average Englishman.  Since we made such poor wages, everyone went Dutch treat and nobody seemed to mind it.
In June we got 48-hour passes and Corporal H. and I went to London, only thirty miles away.  London seemed to be a world all by itself and indeed it was.  The place was packed with people and soldiers from many different countries and of course the civilian workers.
The underground was a very busy place.  The first thing that I noticed about the underground stations was that, along with the various names of the different lines, they had a different colour for each line.  Above the gates leading to the rails, they also had a coloured bulb corresponding to each line.  All one had to do was follow the coloured bulb and you wouldn't get lost.  The reason for this was because of the many different nationalities that were in the country at this time.  The subway was also used by thousands who slept there each night, along the platforms.  They made great bomb shelters.
I was all for securing a bed for the night, but Corporal H. said not to worry.  We thought that we should see all of London first, so we boarded a tram and asked for a transfer.  This was important so we could switch from one tram to another.  We rode around for four hours, and saw a lot of the city.  The east side had a lot of bomb damage and many burned out buildings.  That evening we went pub crawling, as it was called, until it was time to find a place to sleep.  We went to the Sally Ann and my friend said just jump in any bed.  Two hours later I was rudely awakened by a soldier and told to get out of his bed.  Corporal H. said to get another one.  Four times I was awakened in this manner.  I vowed that next time I would find a place to sleep first and go drinking afterwards.  One highlight of this first visit was that I finally saw Gone With The Wind, which had been playing at the same theatre for over two years.
On one of our trips to London, we went to Victoria Station to catch the train back to camp.  I noticed a pub nearby, called the “Windsor Dive”, so we went over to investigate it.  It was full of servicemen and was noisy and full of smoke.  Next door was the Lord High Admiral Pub, and it looked a little cleaner, so in we go.  We bought a pint of ale at the bar and took one of the nicer seats in a corner, so we could watch what was going on.
A short time later in comes a major from a Canadian unit, dressed in kilts and a fine jacket.  He went over to the bar and ordered a pint of light ale.  Just as he was raising his glass, a young (?) lady of the night, reached under his kilt, grabbed him by the testicle, and hung on.  He froze with his arm in mid-air.  He was paralyzed and couldn't move.  It must have seemed like a long time, but after a few seconds the gal finally let go, and the poor guy ran out as fast as he could go.  Everyone there thought that it was funny, but I bet that the major never forgot it.  One of the old cronies said that he had no business being there out of his element.
Our training was finished and we were expecting to be sent out to regiments that needed reinforce­ments.  My brother, Joe, and some others were sent to Africa.  I stayed behind because the brass didn't want family members in the same units.  I supposed it made the odds on survival a little better for the families.
In mid-June, twenty-four of us were picked for a guard of honour, for a Field Marshall Ironside.  He was the Chief of Imperial Staff for the British army.  He was invited to a garden party and was entitled to a guard of honour at this important function.
We started three weeks of intensive training with marching and rifle drill two hours a night after supper.  Those old Enfield rifles are heavy enough at any time, but put the long bayonet on and it can sure tire you out in a hurry.  It was strange though that, after the three weeks were up, we could throw them around like toothpicks!  Finally the big day arrived.  We had everything shined up spick and span, or so I thought.  I never had much of a beard and I dry shaved once in awhile, so that morning I thought that I had better clean up.
When we formed up on parade the major in charge looked us over and stopped in front of me.  “Corporal”, he said, “You didn't shave”.  I was so surprised that I blurted out that I had.  The soldier next to me said that he had seen me shaving.  The major was so surprised that he just grinned and said to stand a little closer to the blade next time.
The inspection party went off without a hitch.  The field marshall took all of about twenty seconds to march down the line.  It was a bit of a letdown after all that extra work.  We had a good time afterwards talking to some of the pretty English gals and enjoying some of the fancy food that was laid out for the party.
At the end of June, I was posted to the Cameron High­landers of Ottawa.  It was a mechanized support battalion, with 4.2 inch mortars and 50 calibre machine guns.  There was a chap there from the Cardinal area, so it made going to a strange outfit a little easier.  I was given a quick course on the 4.2 inch mortar, how to set up and zero in on a target.  I was pretty good at math and compass work so I didn't have any problems.  I learned later that a Morris from Pres­cott was in the intelligence section but I never did get a chance to meet him.
In July the Brigade went on a two-​week exercise.  This meant tearing down our existing camp and packing everything ready to move out in the field.  The brigade went out into the country­side and set up a temporary camp.  In an actual battle zone this would be called a “start line” with all troop movements to be coordinated from this area.  Looking back, it all made sense since you have to have a starting point in order to control the troop movements.  We hopped all around the countryside doing mortar firing with dummy bombs.


After a few days my ears started to bother me and one morning when I woke I couldn't hear a damn thing.  I reported to the medical officer, but he didn't know what the trouble was so he sent me to the hospital.
The hospital was the Number 8 Canadian General Hospital in Horsham.  The only treatment seemed to be keep warm and take sulfa powder.  Boy was that a pain trying to swallow some damn powder.  After two weeks my hearing returned but the ears were still infected.
This was around the time of the war in Africa and Italy, and there were some Italian prisoners of war in the hospital.  The doctors were having a hard time trying to understand the lingo.  Someone in the office saw my paybook and noticed that my parents were from Italy.  I was detailed to accompany the doctor on his rounds.  This was a very interesting time.  It didn't take long to find out which ones were faking sickness.  They were a young bunch that had been drafted, and were sure glad that the war was over for them.  I had a great time playing cards with them and learning some of the lingo all over again.
Since I was an ambulatory patient I was free to go out for walks around the area.  The movie houses were also free to anyone wearing the hospital blues.  Every patient had a blue jacket and light blue trousers, not a bad outfit.  Anyone could spot you a mile away.  I saw a lot of airmen who had been burned in their planes.  Some were covered in bandages and only had as small hole to see out.  Some had casts over half of their body, but I never heard any of them complain.  The average British service man was a pretty tough guy!  The hospital was staffed with nursing sisters, who carried the rank of officer, so it was hands off to the average joe.  There were some very pretty gals there!
Shortly after the war started in Sicily, there were rumours of a move.  In mid-August, we were told that we would be moving to another hospital.  A hospital troop train was readied and the hospital staff, aided by some troops, started moving us.  I was tagged as a stretcher case, which was a pain in the ass.  However it was all in aid of providing experience for when the casualties arrived from Sicily.  I noticed that the Red Cross train was well marked.  When we got underway the people along the tracks must have thought that we were battle casualties for they gave us a rousing cheer.  After an all day train ride we arrived in Birmingham.  The hospital here was located south of the city.  It wasn't too long before we went to town and started looking around.
The centre of the city has a big circular street that branched out into a half-dozen streets.  It is called the “Bull Ring”.  We had a great time visiting some of the pubs and shows.  We were not allowed to do any drinking, but we enjoyed playing darts and cribbage, a popular game at that time.
When we first arrived I was asked to help out in the ward doling out the food at meal times.  One thing that I noticed was the way that they made the tea.  They took a stain­less pail, filled it with boiling water, and dumped in a handful of tea leaves.  By the time it was served it was as black as ink!  One day I got an idea and asked the nurse for some gauze and I put the tea leaves in it and tied it up and then dunked it in the pail.  When it had a nice colour I took out the bag, and we all had some good tasting tea.  This was probably the first tea bag!
South of the hospital, about five miles away, in a low-lying area was an aircraft factory.  Every two or three days they rolled out a Lancaster bomber.  They ran the engines for a couple of hours and then checked them over.  This was repeated a couple of times and then a crew would board the plane and take off.  This was a good way to see if was airworthy.  The British machine operators and assemblers must have been pretty good at their jobs.
As I have mentioned before, the nursing sisters were very pretty, but one in particular caught my eye.  She caught me staring at her a few times.  One day she asked me to help her stack some blankets and other boxes in a small cupboard.  The place was only six by ten foot in size, and when we got inside she closed the door and got on a ladder to pile up the articles as I handed them to her.  Boy was I ever tempted but she was a second lieutenant and mixing was not allowed.  When we finished she sure gave me a strange look.  What a missed opportunity!
Of course that didn't stop me from looking at her and wondering.  A couple of days later, she came to me and said she needed help stacking some sheets, in the same storage cupboard.  I was only too glad to help.  When we went in the closet with an armful of sheets, she kicked the door shut and my heart started thumping.  When I was handing up the sheets, I managed to rub my hand along her knee, accidentally.  She must have liked it because her legs spread a bit and I got bolder and rubbed a little farther up.  The next thing I knew, she jumped off the stool and grabbed me in a big hug.  Well she didn't have any underclothes on and I had on, just part of the hospital blues, as they were called, so it didn't take long to get into some love making.  She had more experience than I and we sure had some fun in that storage closet.  I tried to contact her later but she had been shipped out to a hospital unit in Italy.
I noticed one day that an egg came in with the rations every day and nobody seemed to know who it was for.  Rather than waste it I ate it.  It sure tasted better than powdered eggs.
In one of few letters home, I asked my mother to send me some oil of winter­green.  When it finally arrived, I put some of it on cotton batts and stuffed it in my ears.  After a month, my ears finally cleared up and it was back to army camp at Farn­borough.  Because I had been away from training so long, I had to start all over again.

My friend, Hill

Money was always a problem.  I was always broke, even though the beer was only a shilling for a pint.  One day, out of the blue, I received a parcel from a tobacco company with 1000 cigarettes in it.  It seems that a friend of the family had borrowed my accordion to play at one of the local dances.  He was paid five dollars for the evening and used one dollar to send me one thousand cigarettes.  Since I didn't smoke I stood outside the pub or the theatre and sold them to anyone that came along for one and a half shilling per pack.  I ended up making more money than the chap who sent them to me.
About this time another draft had come over and I met a chap from Niagara Falls.  His name was Major (not his rank) Hill.  His family were the ones who “flirted” with the falls in a barrel.  Boy could he put away the mild and bitters beer.  We went to London on a weekend pass to look the town over.
Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square were two of the popular places to see and be seen.  The ladies of the night were called “Piccadilly Commandos” and were always present looking for business.  I noticed some of the soldiers going up the alleyways with their women, but they came back in a few minutes.  I asked one of the gals what was going on and she replied that the boys were in a hurry and just having a “knee trembler” for a shilling.  They must have been acrobats to be having standup sex!
There seemed to be a lot of the third sex on the streets and some of the soldiers would invite them up the alleys.  Here they would beat up on them and take any money that they might have on them.  Of course the victims couldn't go to the police, or they would be charged, with prostitution.  I guess it was illegal in those days.
We noticed that there was a fancy looking pub just off Piccadilly and it was full of officers and their ladies.  Hill thought that we should go in and have a drink.  We sure got a lot of dirty looks from the officers present, but the barman never said a word and just poured the drinks.  When we got the bill we decided that the price was too high and we left.
On the Saturday we decided to go to the Waxworks Museum.  We took the underground to Baker Street and then got on a tram going west.  There was a fine looking elderly lady sitting ahead of us, so I asked her for directions.  She said that she was getting off at the same stop and would show us where to go.  After giving us directions, she asked if we would like to come up to her apartment for tea, around four o'clock.  She would be having a few friends in.  We agreed.
After our visit to the waxworks, all we had to do was go across the road to her apartment building.  When we knocked on the door, a British officer answered and we thought that we had the wrong place.  We started to salute but he said, “Never mind that Canada, this is the right place and welcome”.  It was the lady's son.  Boy what a nice place it was and the furnishings were beautiful.  I had never seen anything like it before.  The people there made us feel right at home until Hill, half drunk, started talking about the upper class in England that looked down on the poor people.  I could have knocked his head in.  I think they were glad to see us go!  I have often thought of the poor impression we left.
Then it was back to the camp and more training.  It was a real pain to be doing all the drills over again, but it had been over three months since I had been on parade.  I didn't mind it too much and it was a lot easier this time.
One day after a hard day of drill, we were back in the barracks when Hill let out a yell that he had an awful sharp pain in his right side.  I had my appendix removed in 1940, so I had an idea that that was the trouble.  I ran to the medical officers for help and two order­lies came over with a stretcher.  As they were carrying him out, he whispered, “Hide all my clothes”.  I thought that sounded strange, but I put them out of sight.
Ten days later he was back on light duty and the first thing he did was to complain that his clothes were missing.  He was issued new clothes.  He then retrieved the old ones and hid the new ones, with the explanation that he would sell the new ones on his next leave.
In November we applied for and were granted four day passes.  This time we decided to go to Manchester.  We arrived at the London station early to make sure that we would get a seat on the train.  We got on board a half hour ahead of departure and I promptly fell asleep.  I woke up two hours later and a lady was holding me in her arms.  Boy did I feel silly.  She said that it was okay and not to get upset over it.  Everyone had a good laugh over it and we chatted the rest of the trip.
Manchester was an industrial city and the day we arrived there it was very foggy.  I didn't mind the fog, but it made the soot specks settle out all over your clothes and face.  We checked in at the hostel and proceeded to look for customers.  It was rumoured that the bus drivers would be the best customers.  We started riding the buses and it didn't take long to find a buyer, especially for the heavy underwear.  After awhile we spotted someone following us.  It looked like a page out of an old movie.  I had to laugh; the guy was dressed in a raincoat complete with a fedora and carrying a cane.  He was trying to be invisible, but we soon noticed that he was following us all over town.  We went down a street and in an air raid shelter and, sure enough, he came in also.  When we went out the exit, we ran around and back in again.  Boy was he confused, wondering how we had disappeared so fast.  That was the last of Sherlock!
That night we went to the Palais Royal, a very nice dancing spot.  I met and had a dance with a very pretty miss named Kathryn.  Hill wanted more action, so we left and went to a nearby pub.  An old chap invited us to his table.  We proceeded to have a few ales.  I think we had too many.  A couple of gals invited themselves over and bought a round, so we had to dance with them.  By midnight everyone was in a great mood.  The old chap invited us to his home for a midnight lunch.  It sounded like a fine idea, so I brought a dozen ale in case we ran short and up the street we went.
One of the girls was pretty tight and bragged about how strong she was.  Hill said she was full of it.  To prove it she said that she could lift Hill up off the ground.  She tried twice and the third time she lifted him clear off the ground, and in the process, shit herself.  What a mess.  We left there in a hurry!  At the old guy's home we had a great lunch, and then it was back to the hostel.
I wasn't much of a drinker and the next morning I had a hard time getting my head off the pillow.  As I was getting up I heard a tinkle and Hill jumped up and asked if I had bottle of ale in my coat.  It turned out that I had six bottles.  He emptied two in two minutes and I expected him to keel over.  But he was revived, so I tried one and it made me feel better.  I had learned my lesson.  Then it was back to camp again.

Hospitalization again

The following week after a hard day on the obstacle course, I was washing up and noticed a dribble of blood, oozing out of an old (1940) appendix scar.  I reported to the medical officer and he sent me to the hospital.  There the doctor injected a dye in the small opening and took an x-ray.  It showed a small channel leading to a spot about half an inch size.  When I had the operation some part of the intestine must have stuck to the stomach wall.  The exertion must have torn it off and thus the blood.  The next day they decided to operate.  I was given a spinal injection, which numbs the body from the neck down.  I was awake during the operation, but couldn't see what they were doing.  When that damn freezing started coming out, I sure felt awful.
After eleven days I was discharged from the hospital and along with six others we were taken to a convalescent centre.  Here we got out of the truck and formed up on the road.  The sergeant in charge said that we had to march down to the doctor's office, a mile away.  I tried to explain to him that I had just had an operation and I was supposed to take it easy.  He wouldn't listen!  When the doctor examined the incision which was bleeding, he asked what happened and I explained that I had walked the mile to his office.  Was he mad.  He called the sergeant and gave him hell.  I rode in the truck back to the centre and the Sergeant walked.
The rehabilitation centre must have been an estate that the army had taken over.  It was old but in good shape with twenty acres of land.  It had a path that went all around the grounds, and was used by the ex-patients for exercise.  I had to take it easy for a week but soon started walking around the grounds.  By the time I left I could run a mile with no problems.
It was boring with nothing to do.  That all changed after the major in charge noticed that I had my junior matriculation.  I was put in the library to give out books and help the many who where taking courses.  It was a good way to put the time in.  It was hard to believe, but some of the soldiers could barely read and write.  I went over a lot of the basics with some of them and I think I helped out a few.
There was a sergeant from a French unit and he couldn't speak any English.  He started by learning how to pronounce the ABCs.  By the time I left he could carry on a light conversation.

Infantry reinforcement unit

After a month I went back to the number five Canadian Infantry Reinforcement Unit and was told that I would be on light duty for six months.  I think this was standard procedure after any operation.
About this time I received a letter from my uncle who was in the navy, on the Atlantic escort service, and he said that he would be in London for a four-day visit.  We could always tell when a convoy had arrived; liver would be on the menu the next day.  He had joined up in 1940 and had served on corvettes and mine sweepers on the Atlantic run.
I went to London, a city of twelve million, and wondered where to start looking.  A lot of servicemen stayed up in the Russell Square area, so I checked in at the hostel there and looked at the bulletin board and, sure enough, he had checked in.  That night I went down to the Canada House near Trafalgar Square where there was nightly dancing and lots of ladies and beer.
Just as I arrived the air raid sirens went off and everyone in the building headed for the underground shelter.  I went upstairs to get a beer and join in the festivities.  At the same time my uncle was upstairs and when the siren went off he went to the basement shelter.  We must have passed on the stairs because of the crowd.
The next morning we had a great meeting and along with his two buddies started on a bottle of good rum, which they had brought with them.  Tony and I went to a different museum every morning and toured the pubs in the after­noon.  In the west end of London there was a great hall, called “Hammer­smith Palace”, which we decided to visit.  It was a huge place with a large dance floor and an upper balcony.
The price of admission was ten shillings, which I thought was steep.  After all the beer wasn't free.  I noticed soldiers coming in the back door and found out that some enterprising young fellow was letting soldiers in for five shillings.  Leave it to some Canadian to make a buck!  We used that entrance the next time we went to the hall.  It was a good place to spend an evening with lots of pretty girls for dancing and loud music.  The snacks were cheap and good.
We found time to visit Saint Paul's Cathedral.  It was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and was built between 1675 and 1710.  Nelson and Wellington are two of the many famous people buried there.  We climbed up the 164 steps to the walkway around the bottom of the dome.  The view of London from up there was great.  The dome is slightly out of round and by standing on one side and whispering, the sound will carry over to the other side because of its elliptical shape.  There was a lot of bomb damage and in one part there was an unexploded bomb.

Rear party

When I returned to camp I found that I had to pack and leave for an unknown camp along with a lieutenant.  It seemed strange for just the two of us to be going out to a unit.  We arrived at a large estate, just as it was getting dark, where a company of military police were stationed.  As I was getting settled one chap remarked that he hoped that I was the mechanic they were waiting for.  I couldn't tell him why I was there because I didn't know myself.
The next day I had a chance to look around and discovered that the estate covered over five hundred acres.  The house had twenty rooms and the military police were in the servants quarters.  The estate had its own generating plant, a huge twelve cylinder Diesel engine with an electric generator.  There were also twenty batteries for power storage.  When I checked out the grounds, I found a herd of fourteen deer.  There was also a trout stream running through the grounds.  It was a beautiful place, partially taken over by the army.
There didn't seem to be anything for me to do.  I had learned earlier not to volunteer for anything.  I spent a lot of time down by the water reading and feeding grass to the deer.
After a week of this leisure the captain in charge found me and thought I should be doing something else.  He said that the boys were getting a little soft and needed some exercise and drill.  I was detailed for the job.  The next day we started with a half-hour on the parade ground and then went for a mile hike.  Talk about grumbling and complaining.  I guess they were all out of shape from riding around on their patrols.  They were a good bunch and took it all in stride.
I finally found out that the lieutenant and I were on what was called a “rear party”.  We would be required to account for and return to storage depots any equipment left behind when the unit moved out to the field to prepare for the invasion.
After being there for six weeks the company moved to a small village called “Maresfield”.  Here we were billeted in homes that had been taken over by the army.  They were plain old houses and most of the furniture had been removed.  The military police guys were a good bunch in spite of the fact that most of the servicemen hated them.  They had a job to do and sometimes there was no easy way to do it.  By now they all knew why the lieutenant and I were there and rumours started flying around.
I still didn't have anything to do, officially, so I hung around the motor pool and helped out where needed.  I started going out with the ration truck in the mornings and after awhile the driver started giving me driving lessons.  I should have been in the air force.  It seemed that when I got behind the wheel I only had one speed, fast!  After a few weeks I got pretty good and did a lot of the driving.
The next item on my agenda was to learn to handle the Norton motorcycle.  After a quick lesson I went flying down the road with no trouble at all.  I was feeling pretty cocky and when I came back I zoomed up the driveway and grabbed the clutch except that on the Norton, as opposed to the Harley, the clutch turned out to be the front wheel brake and over the handlebars I flew.  The Captain, standing in the doorway, yelled “ride'em cowboy”.  Did I feel silly!  But with nothing broken, I kept up the practice.
About this time I received a letter from home, telling me that the next door neigh­bour had a sister who was living in a small town called “Henfield”.  It is just north of Brighton.  I took a weekend pass and went down to visit them.  They were a nice family of four, a son, John and a daughter, Margaret.  Mister Greenfield was in the market garden business, which was considered vital to the war effort.  At that time of the year he grew mostly Brussels sprouts, which were a favourite vegetable for the winter months.  When I think back, it must have been hard on them to have an extra mouth to feed with every­thing being rationed.
Mister Greenfield would bring me tea at eight o'clock, and his wife would bring me break­fast at nine o'clock.  Talk about service; they insisted I sleep in and get well rested before returning to camp.  I even got to go fishing with him and caught some small fish, the name of which I can't remember.
One night we went out to the local pub and got back around ten in the evening, in time for supper.  They usually ate late at night.  It must have been an old custom.  That night I had the most horrible dreams, green things crawling all over the room.  I didn't mention it in the morning.  That night I took the young lady to a picture show and we had a late supper when we returned.  That night I had the same stupid dreams.
The next day I told the folks about the nightmares and Mister Greenfield started to laugh and said that it could have been the mustard pickles.  They were very spicy.  That night at dinner, I avoided the pickles and that was the end of the dreams.  When I left, I had to promise that I would come back again.  I did spend a number of leaves with them.  They were a very nice family.
Back at the camp, things went on at a normal pace.  I noticed more regiments were now moving out to the fields under canvas.  The military police kept up their nightly patrols, looking for drunks and soldiers absent without leave.
For recreation we would go to the pub at a small village called “Fair­warp”, about a mile and a half away.  The large pub sign had a beer keg on top of it to advertise its wares.  It was a great meeting place, with dart­boards and card tables for crib­bage, which was a favourite.
One night while enjoying a pint of ale I met a stranger who wanted to play crib­bage.  I didn't know how so he showed me.  Later that evening he took out a deck of cards and said that he would tell our fortune, if anyone was interested.  I told him okay.  He took out a special deck and shuffled them.  I cut the deck in three piles as he wanted and he started telling me that a big trip was coming up very soon.  Naturally everybody knew that D-Day was getting nearer.  However he was pretty serious and told me that I would have a serious accident but that every­thing would be all right.  I thought that it sounded silly at the time but he proved himself right later on.  The pub owner told me that he belonged to a band of gypsies who were camped nearby.
We always took a shortcut through a big estate when we went to the pub and on one trip I noticed some small bombs stuck in the grass next to a small stream.  Some were round and ten inches in length and painted gray.  Nearby were some of different shapes and painted red.  When I got to the pub, I told the owner, who was a member of the Home Guard, about the bombs.  The local bomb squad was called out to check out the find.  They were German bombs that had been dropped a month before during an air raid.  When the bombs were checked over they were found to have a piece of heavy cardboard between the striker and the detonator.  Someone in Germany was trying to help out.
An Italian prisoner of war camp was located a short distance away from Fair­warp.  It had been set up in this area so that they could be used to help out the local farmers with their crops.  I had met the sergeant in charge at the pub and we got to be good friends.  I mentioned to him that I had a truck to drive but that I didn't like to leave it parked at the pub.  It didn't take much to steal an army vehicle since no key was required.  The sergeant suggested I leave it at the camp where it was behind the barbed wire.  This I did one night and when I picked up the truck it was shined up and looked like new.  After that I always left the truck there and gave the prisoners a pack of cigarette for keeping it clean.  The captain thought that I was doing all the work.
A couple of the prisoners told me that they really enjoyed working out in the fields.  It seems that some of the local gals liked the idea also.  They would sneak out in mid-morning with some refreshments and at the same time get themselves refreshed.  I guess someone had to look after the poor farm girls.
One night we started experimenting with drink mixtures.  A pint of bitters and a shot of gin were mixed.  Next we tried rye and bitters.  Boy did we get looped and I had to drive back to the barracks.  The sergeant kept saying that he didn't know how I could see the road, because he couldn't see past the front of the truck.  I think we traveled at about five miles an hour all the way back.  That was the last experiment for this guy!
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the air raids and the great job the Royal Air Force did.  When we arrived the air war was in full swing with nightly attacks by the German air force.  I remember one particular night when a great number of bombers came over and I watched seven planes shot down south of the London area.  We were twenty-five miles south and saw seven more shot down within a five-mile area.  One in particular was picked up by the searchlights and they stuck right with him.  Then we heard the roar of a British fighter closing in.  The secret with the searchlights was in spotting the bombers, but not blinding the fighter pilot.  One searchlight opened up its light beam real wide and on cue shut it off and all the rest followed suit.  The blinded bomber pilot was unable to see and this allowed the fighter pilot to see his target and in most cases to bring down the quarry.  One bomber was shot down within a mile of our billets, and since the lights were quickly turned back on we saw three Germans jump out and open their parachutes.  One of them was going to land very near where we were watching, so we jumped on the trucks and headed for his landing area.  We were all armed but when we arrived there was the German surrounded by three farmers, all with pitchforks.  Was that guy scared!
The air war was soon turning and during the end of 1943 and the first part of 1944, the Royal Air Force bombing raids seemed to be nonstop.  One day I watched over a thousand bombers and fighters go over.  Later in the day and evening we watched for the returning flights.  One afternoon we heard a crippled twin-motored bomber approaching and could tell by the engine sound that he was in trouble.  As he neared we saw that only one engine was turning over and he was just barely able to keep flying.  When he neared the landing strip and tried to turn the plane the left wing came off and he just spiraled down to the ground.  We drove over to see if we could be of any help, but the five crew members were all dead.  I have often wondered why they didn't use their parachutes.
At our camp, things settled down to a routine, but everyone knew that big things would soon be coming up.  The night life was a little slow at times and there was little entertainment.  One of the weekly highlights was the dance at the Fair­warp Hall.  They had a small band, usually a piano player, someone on drums, and a saxophone player.  The music always seemed to sound the same.  The band played fast and loud, but they were an enthusiastic bunch and livened up the place.  Sometimes when I hear one of the war time songs it sure brings back memories of the good times that we had in England.
I noticed that a young lady and her sister always came and left by themselves.  While dancing with the older one, I enquired why she didn't have an escort and she said that no one ever asked her.  I was her escort from then on.  Her father owned the pub at Fair­warp.  It was called the “Forresters Arms” and was a very popular place.  I was invited over for many Sunday dinners and even helped the old chap serve beer once in a while.
I remember one Saturday night when the place was packed and I spotted two guys from home.  They were stationed near Horsham.  When it came time to leave I drove them back to their camp.  Since they didn't have passes we had to drive around and find a place where they could jump over the fence.  They didn't get caught and I am happy to say that they both survived the war.  I got lost going back and got in around three in the morning.  No one noticed that I was late, so all was well.
In April, things started to happen.  Some of the old equipment was being replaced with new, and we had to take the old and worn out vehicles to a storage area.  A lot of surplus personal items were also packed and these we loaded on the small truck and took them to an area near Aldershot.  The officer and I made a lot of trips.  He read the road map and I drove.  Several times we came upon a road that was blocked off.  There was a guard house with troops stationed there.  The roads were full of army vehicles and tanks for as far as the eye could see.  They were parked side by side and I heard the guard tell the officer that there were about 500 to the mile on each side of the road.
Once while going around a sharp corner we almost collided with some of the gentry riding along the road with twenty or more fox hounds.  It was quite a surprise that they were still doing that in wartime.  It made a nice picture.
On one trip, I must have been carrying a special load, because a captain from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police came with me.  He was a nice guy and didn't mind talking to me.  On the way back I thought I'd surprise him, so I asked him if he would like a home cooked meal.  He thought that that would be great, so I told him about my neighbour's sister living in Henfield.  It was only ten miles out of our way.  I felt sure they wouldn't mind us dropping in.
I think we surprised Missus Greenfield, but she rose to the occasion, especially when they all found out that the captain was a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer.  I never thought too much about the ration books that were required, but Missus Greenfield put on a fine meal.  I later heard the captain telling the other officers about the trip.  They probably wondered who in heck I was.
Near the end of April, I had the job of getting rid of several hundred maps and was told to burn them.  In the back part of the house there was an old kitchen of sorts that had not been used for a long time.  The fireplace was six feet wide, three feet deep, and five feet high.  I started throwing the maps in and when I had a pile I lit the lot.  They wouldn't burn very well, so I dumped in a little gasoline and that did the trick.  I soon had a roaring fire going when all of a sudden I heard a noise like a plane going overhead.  I stepped outside to look and there was a solid flame shooting out the chimney, at least six feet high.  I thought that the whole place was going to go up in smoke so I took the rest of the maps and threw them down a nearby gully.  They are probably still there.  That chimney hadn't been cleaned for years, but it was sure nice and shiny after all the creosote had burned out.
There was one big army scheme to prepare the troops for what was coming in the near future.  All the divisional units were out in the field and I never saw so much confusion or so it looked.  In mid-week the lieutenant suggested that I should take the unit's mail out to them.  He showed me on the map where they were supposed to be.  I left early the next morning and I finally found them at 1400 hours.  They were glad to get the mail and then someone suggested that I should go and fill up a five-gallon water can with beer.  If you have ever driven in the southeast of England you would soon find out why they make the cars so small.  It took over an hour to go the ten miles to find a pub and almost as long to get back.
After I had a sandwich I started back.  By now it was pitch black and driving without lights takes a little getting used to.  To make matters worse, I met a convoy of tanks practicing night maneuvers.  The road was very narrow and I climbed up the left road bank as far as I could.  Those drivers were pretty good.  Only one tank touched the side of the truck.  I was stuck there for two hours and it was now 2200 hours.  By the time I got back it was 2300 hours so I decided to go to the Fair­warp Pub and get some ale.
The place was closed but I woke up Mister Dodds, the owner, and he was a good sport and sold me two bottles of light ale.  When I got back the lieutenant was having a fit wondering where in hell I had been.  After I explained he just laughed and said that he thought that I had been in an accident.  We drank the beer and all was well.
It was now May and all the units were out in the field, or scattered around the channel ports in final preparations for D-Day.  We had nearly all the surplus equipment turned in except two boxes of 303 calibre ammunition, that is, 2000 rounds.  We didn't know what to do with it and I suggested that maybe the Home Guard might take it.  I drove up to the Fair­warp pub and asked the owner if the Home Guard would be interested.  He was surprised at the offer; it seems that they were used to a lot of paperwork.  He finally agreed to take one case but was very nervous about it, and didn't know how he could explain it to the authorities.  The other case stayed in the back of the truck for three weeks until I found a unit that wanted to use it for target practice.  The ammunition was old and not suitable for the invasion forces.
Moving day arrived for the lieutenant and me so we loaded our gear in the truck and headed for the rear-party main section.  This was located near a place called “Forest Row”.  It was a very nice small town and we were two miles south of it.  These billets were in a nice big mansion with twelve rooms and had beautiful grounds.  In charge was a major from the Winnipeg Rifles.  The rest of the party consisted of the lieutenant, a sergeant, myself, and eight other privates.  Most of the furniture had been removed from the house and stored away somewhere else.  The major took the best room on the first floor.  It had windows on two walls overlooking the grounds, and I think it boosted his morale.  I found out later that he was considered too old for the invasion forces.  He was all soldier and a fine old chap.
Here the main job was to go around the various units and collect money that was owed to stores that had supplied the officers' messes.  My job was to drive the major around.  It was a boring time, sitting in the truck waiting for him.  On more than one occasion he came out of the mess, a bit unsteady.
On one trip to Forest Row, we visited the house where Anne Boleyn, Henry the Eighth's second wife, had lived.  The place was in good repair.  What I found strange was that the ceiling heights were only six feet six inches.  The ancient Brits must have been short.  The interior was held up with 12 inch × 12 inch oak beams.  It was really a fine piece of construction.
In East Grinstead one day while parked, we watched all the pretty gals going home at the end of the day and I remarked to the major that I wondered where they came from.  He said, “Corporal, I wonder where they go at night”.  The only time they came out was for the Saturday night dance.
The main hospital for burn patients was in East Grin­stead.  You could see them sitting on hospital grounds or out walking.  There were some awful looking cases.  Most of them were air force casualties.  They were a cheerful lot and were making the best of it.
One of the highlights of our rear party was the cook.  He was a former chef to the Duke of Windsor before he left the country.  He had his paybook to prove it.  After the war he was the chef at the Cross­roads Motel near Massena, New York.  He had learned to cook in India and could turn out great dishes of curried lamb, which I had never tasted before.
We were sure busy the month of May, turning in equipment for the 4th Division.  The other ranks doing the heavy work were always grumbling and complaining, until the major told them that they could always go to one of the units that were about to embark for France.  This kept them quiet.  One night they stole my truck and the next day it was found in a ditch with the gas tank empty.  I think they were a bunch of misfits.
In early May I got a letter from my uncle who was in the navy and he said that he could meet me in Manchester for a couple of days.  I found out latter that he was on the Prince David and was later part of the naval force on D-Day.  We had a good visit and got all the news from home.  I took him to the Palais Royal dance hall and he met the young lady that I mentioned before.  She was a fine young girl and her father, who had been a professor at Manchester University, had been killed earlier in the war.  I was invited up to her home for a dinner and it was a really nice home.  Her mother had prepared everything and then left us alone.  I should have stayed the night but I wasn't ready to be tied down, so I went back to the hostel.


When the D-Day invasion started everyone was put on high alert, which meant that we carried loaded weapons at all times.  There was lots of excitement in the air, but we had to finish the job that we were on.  A few days after the invasion had started a sergeant and I were on the road and we came up behind a farmer with an old horse and wagon.  We kept sounding the horn, but he didn't seem to hear very well.  After we followed him for a mile or so, I stuck the Sten gun out the truck window and let loose a burst of fire.  That woke up the old boy and he soon pulled over.
I think it was around June 12th when the V-1s, also called “buzz bombs”, started coming over.  One night, just as we were going to bed, I heard an engine which had a strange pitch to it coming very near our house.  Then the anti-​aircraft fire started along with someone firing a heavy calibre machine gun.  It was so close that I think we all ducked under the beds just in case it might be a fighter shooting at us.  A minute later we heard a loud explosion as it hit the ground.  When we checked it out the next day we discovered that it had crashed about a mile away.  It must have exploded just on ground contact because all it did was cut the grass off for a hundred feet or so in a circle.  I didn't think that it was anything to get too excited about.  Boy was I wrong!
A few nights later another bunch of buzz bombs came over and one was shot down a half mile from our billets and it buried itself before exploding.  We felt the shock of it and the blast blew in all the windows in the major's “sun room“.  He moved to another part of the house.  The next morning, we went to look at the bomb site and were we surprised.  The crater left by the bomb was at least fifty feet across and fifteen feet deep.  I later saw some of the damage that it caused in London.  I don't know how those people stood it.
These V-1s started coming over at all hours of the day or night and we watched the air force pilots chase after them.  I think they went around two hundred miles an hour.  I saw one pilot in a Mustang fighter come up along side the flying bomb and, with his wings, he tipped the V-1 over and it went straight down.  It was a good trick but it wasn't always that easy to get close enough to do it.
By the end of June all the business was completed and we were shipped out to the various reinforcing depots.  I went to a camp fifteen miles north of York.  It was very beautiful country with the rolling hills and it reminded me of home.  There were a lot of air force landing fields nearby and of course a lot of fliers in the small towns at night.  The dialect of the natives was a little hard to grasp at first.  It seemed to me to be a mixture of English and Scottish brogue.  A favorite expression seemed to be “eeh by gum 'tis an' all”.  I think it sounded like they were agreeing with each other.
The camp consisted of Nissan huts with double bunks running along each side of the outer walls and a stove in the centre of the hut.  There were thirty bunks to a hut.  The beds were double bunks with the usual steel straps for support and straw-​filled pail­lasses.  I noticed that there was quite a mixture of foreign soldiers in this camp.  I found out that they had come to England when their countries were invaded.  In the hut next to ours it was rumoured that they slept in pairs!  It took me a while to figure out, what was going on.
We knew that we were heading for France when the instructors started giving us lectures on how to behave when we came in contact with the people in Europe.  There was a round of shots in arms, three at the same time.  Some of the guys' arms swelled up and they could hardly move them.
They also issued new weapons.  I got a Sten gun with an inch of grease on it.  It took a half-​day to clean it.  There weren't too many dress parades, mostly on what to watch out for when we went into action.  I think the pep talks were to boost our morale.
I was orderly corporal for a week and the hardest part of the job was trying to get the guys up on time for break­fast.  One morning I decided to try something different.  I took an old broom and put the end of it against the corrugations on the outside of the hut.  I held it tight against the side and ran down the length of the building making a hell of a racket.  It must have sounded like a machine gun inside, because the guys came flying out both ends of the hut.  They got up on time after that.
It was now near the end of July and we boarded the train for the south coast.  It was late at night when we arrived at Portsmouth and, after a quick meal, we were issued twenty-four hour ration packs.  Everything was dehydrated and was supposed to last a soldier for a day.
Around ten o'clock we boarded the infantry landing craft and I went below to find a bunk.  I fell asleep at once, but when I woke up around three in the morning the place smelled like a sewer hole.  I think that most of the guys were seasick and the temporary toilets were full and over­flowing.  The vomit bags were all over.  It was a mess!
I went up the gangway and a sailor asked me if I was seasick.  I told him no but that everybody below was.  It was really stormy with the ship going up and down in the big waves.  The sailors invited me into their cabin for some tea, freshly made bread, and jam.  It sure tasted good and I can still remember it.  I stayed up on deck and at first light I could see the shores of France.