Scottish Lion On Patrol Ch 6
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Three Men in a Car

At St Gabriel the three members of the advance party were waiting to welcome the regiment with the air of seasoned campaigners, which, indeed, was what that old cavalryman Sgt Millroy was. This is the story of their adventures and misadventures :-



We left Angmering on that dull Sunday evening, June 11th, in a light reconnaissance car so humped with its equipment, our equipment, unit signs, extra petrol and" Compo" rations that it might have been mistaken for an overburdened camel. In other characteristics, however, it was to bear greater resemblance to a mule. We expected to find 227 Brigade in its hotel on the front at Worthing, and eventually traced it to a park by the Horsham road, where the car was put in convoy with a large board strapped to its front and we were put to bed until 3.30 a.m. That morning was cold but splendidly fine. We drove through a sleeping countryside, and stopped at Sutton for "char" and "wads". Northeast of Clapham Common we stopped again, but only the car knew why. No fault could be found in the petrol system, and the plugs were sparking. More petrol was poured in and stirred violently, a whim of the driver which was presumably successful, for the engine started and ran well enough for Kay to maintain a terrifying pursuit of the convoy, guided by the route boards " S " and "T " over Waterloo Bridge, through central London and out on to Lea Bridge Flats. Oxford Street was crossed against the red light and at 50 miles an hour while a policeman held up other traffic. At Lea Bridge Flats we caught up the convoy, and again the engine died out. Unfortunately,
after persuasion and blowing, we arrived at the old Territorial camp at Purfleet in such good running order that it seemed silly to take the car to the overworked R.E.M.E., and two days later Kay, on his way to the unknown dock at the end of route "M ", found himself in the middle of Dagenham with an unresponsive vehicle. Three hours passed, the car was towed to the City of London Workshops, the wrong dock party was notified, and in the evening Kay and car arrived at Millwall, where his irate crew waited, and whence the MTS had sailed. The night was passed in the customs sheds and the next day in awaiting the arrival of an LST, on to which we drove the only "funny-looking" vehicle among a cargo of R.A.S.C. three-tonners and staff cars. The voyage was down the Thames, through the Straits of Dover at night, along the coast to Portsmouth-a magnificent day of lazing on deck, listening to the news of the battle, writing and reading and across to France. Our introduction to Normandy was a smoke screen and a solitary attempt at low-level bombing, at which everybody stood gaping on deck. We drove in darkness across the sands and on and on, following the shape in front, until morning found us in the middle of nowhere and certainly at the wrong report point. However, by mid-morning we had reached divisional headquarters, which already
displayed signs about not raising dust.

The regimental area (never used by the regiment) was a few hundred yards away, across two or three fields, but owing to the traffic system the journey was more than a mile by road. It was a farm which was unapproachable for half the day because it was beyond the one spring in the area and therefore the rendezvous, it seemed, of every water truck east of Bayeux. The first night we slept in a field, and woke wet. Thereafter we shared an outhouse with the cattle. There we stayed for seven days - unitless, midway between the coast and the Battle of Cheux.

Having a splendid ration system (it allowed a fair surplus), and ability to speak the tongue, and three sets of earphones through which the farm people and an increasing number of their friends could listen to the news in French, we were soon properly "feet under" with the farm, the laundry girl and the barber. Our days consisted of searching for ammunition that had been left about by the Germans; driving down to the beach to see whether the regiment had arrived on the tide; visiting divisional, corps and army headquarters (in chateaux of increasing magnificence); being constipated; and fetching mail until we were surrounded by it. In the evenings, we had the company of the people of Vienne en Bessin from 9.15 ("lci Londres") until midnight, at which time the bombing of the coast was deemed to have ended and Madame la Fermiere would order "Au lit" in such a military fashion that none refused. The two most vivid memories of these days are of digging the car out of an immense dung pit, into which Kay had tactlessly backed it, and of listening to the peculiar gurgle of the large shells fired from the battleships in Arromanche Bay at Germans fifteen miles away. In spite of the sound of the shells and the sight of the Allies' big bombing raids, this life was altogether too much like an exercise to last. We were ousted by a mapmaking unit and relegated to a ditch outside St
Gabriel. The next day, unannounced, the regiment arrived. The holiday in France was over.


 

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