A long & dreary winter (1944) 0
This is the latest in a continuing series about Portage la Prairie resident Orille Hogue's memories of the Second World War. War Stories runs regularly in the Central Plains Herald-Leader.
After my escapade with getting my friends' money exchanged for British pounds, I was done with that kind of stuff.
I laid low in camp and never went back to London for more than a week. As we were only 30 minutes from Brighton, I would visit there a couple of times. It sure had changed since we were camped just outside of town at a place called Passing Word Park.
Visited the skating rink and upstairs there was a large dance hall. The last time I went, the dance hall was not even half full and no one I knew. We would go to a very nice town by the name of Reading, which had a couple of dance halls about three theatres and a few restaurants. As it was only about twenty minutes from our barracks and we would take a double-decker bus to get there.
One of the things that baffled me was how those bus drivers handled those big double-decker buses. Most of the winter it was foggy day and night or else a misty rain. As it was forbidden to use headlights, these guys would race down the highway, which had a lot of curves and hills. Also they had to deal with those famous roundabouts.
All the time I rode those busses they never were involved in an accident. We used to ride upstairs in the bus and it was quite a thrill as these busses careened around corners. It seemed like no time, the bus drivers would call out our stop "Cone" next stop, though we couldn't see anything. By this time it was getting on to the end of January and nothing was happening on the western front. There was nothing different at our base.
One day I was called to the office and I was told to pack up as me and another wireless operator were being "loaned out" to an infantry training centre.
We were to operate the radios 6-pounder anti-tank ranges. A couple of days later, we were off to our new assignment.
On arriving we were booked in and got a reasonably good hut to live in. Our orders were to go on parade for roll-call in the morning we would be dismissed for the day.
Boy, what a snap that was as they only took the troops out to the firing range once or twice a week. The rest of the time we were just hanging around. You know it got real boring, so I started going back to London every few days. My friend wouldn't do anything so I went on my own.
Things were going great, hardly no work and no parades or any practice of any kind. Anyway, this one day I left for London and visited never being caught but when I got back my buddy was in a real tizzy. He couldn't tell me quick enough that I had been put on charge (AWOL) and I would report in the morning to the office.
Apparently, some Brigadair General visited the camp and wanted to see the firing range and how it all worked. As I was missing, a lieutenant took my radio and ran the show. The next morning I reported to the office and the charge was laid. On going through my file they found that I was only on loan for work, so they couldn't charge me. They went one better as my buddy and I were to pack up and we were shipped back to our barracks at Cove.
The next morning we went on parade for roll call and the orders of the day. When the sergeant major marched on the parade square he would call for a "right marker". That meant whomever's name came up you would smartly march to where the Sgt. Major was standing. Would you believe that he called out my name.
I had never been a right marker as they liked guys who were over 6 ft. On hearing this, I thought there might be another "Hogue" in the crowd. All of a sudden he barked out my name again only twice as loud. So I thought I better get going, so I smartly marched to face the Sgt. Major. Then he barks out the order to "fall in," which meant that the guys rushed out on the square and formed platoons and companies.
A platoon has ten to each rank and three ranks for the 30 men with four platoons to each company. After roll call, the orders of the day are read out. At the end of the orders there are special assignments. The following will report to the office for further instructions.
The names are called out with my name being first and my buddy second, then eight others. We report to the office and are told to pack up as we are leaving after lunch.
After lunch, we wait by the office and a truck comes up and we climb aboard. We don't know where we are going, so off we go. We end up at a little used airstrip and there is an airplane sitting on the runway. We climb aboard this old DC3 and away we go. We figured they didn't want to lose us. After crossing the channel, we land on a rough runway. Just outside of Ghant there is a large holding unit where we are to wait to go back to the front lines.
Just think, just because some Brigadier General had nothing to do and didn't know what was going on around him, he comes around and shakes the cradle.
The end result, we are in Ghent Belgium living in tents. The prospect isn't good neither as we might be dodging bullets in a few days.
At times, you wonder if the army really knows what they're doing or what's going on.