Italy September 1944, in the vicinity of the Fortunato Feature. Here, if memory is correct, I was transferred back to E as their sergeant major. George Green had been acting RSM and he was replaced by RSM Gunter, a senior man from the holding unit. Captain Brown of Fox troop wanted George Green back with him as they had been together for a year or two. It made no difference to me as I knew all the personnel in E troop. Capt Ernie Madden was E troop commander with Lt McIntyre and Lt Forget as gun position officer and troop leader.
Before we left the Coriano area, we were called to an orders group on the outskirts of Coriano. I rode my motor bike up to the site. I saw where all were assembled and had a feeling that I should park my bike and take a leak even though I did not have to. I parked my bike, walked over to a lorry and unbuttoned my fly [no zippers ]. At this moment a couple of armoured brigade officers drove past in a small armoured scout car. In a second I heard and felt a blast close by and on looking up saw a wheel from the scout car spinning twenty feet above my head. It soon landed and rolled down the hill. The scout car had run over a mine. The two officers were shook up but not killed. If I had not stopped because I had this feeling I would, along with my motor bike, have been history. [dead ]. Some one was looking after me.
Our advance party was off again. This time we were to set up the a gun position near an old Church. This Church, except for a pigpen, was not near any built up area. There were mines all over the hillside where the rains had exposed them. These mines were a yellow wooden box type. It was a sort of spooky place as when we arrived the British were burying a Canadian Sergeant from the 4th anti tank regiment killed by friendly fire. The Brits thought the M10 tank destroyer coming out of the dust cloud was a German MK 4 and they mistakenly shot the destroyer commander. Sad fact. I wonder if the dead sergeant's folks ever knew how he was killed.
Soon the British unit had orders to move on, leaving us a chicken stewing up in a can which we ate. I started to look around and looked through an opening in the pigpen and saw a dead German in the pen. He must have crawled into the pen and was looking out the opening that I was looking in and either a sniper or a shell splinter killed him.
All of us on the site felt this was one spooky place. As the afternoon wore on we had a surprise visit from the M10's of 4th Anti tank and we found out here was a good friend of ours, Lt Rosie Rosenbaum, a troop leader. A good fellow, Rosie. He said it was a shock to lose his sergeant through the friendly fire incident. Lt Rosenbaum had been a member of the survey party 17th Fld regiment. He had been one of ours.
We had an evening meal and a motorcycle rider came to tell us the guns would not arrive as planned but to stay where we were. We ate the chicken along with some hard tack and prepared to spend the night.
I drew first shift. Picture this lonely old church, a burial that had happened, a dead man in the pig pen, plus a lot of shell damage to the church. It was a bright moonlight night. I was standing in the shadow at the door way keeping an eye on our vehicles. I heard one of the officers say Sergeant major, "Watch out ! There sounds like a patrol coming alongside the church". I heard the officer say there must be a lot of them. Well I backed in beside the stairway and had the Tommy gun on full automatic. If there were that many coming where was any of the rest to help me. The next thing I heard was Orme Payne laugh and he came out to tell me all this great patrol turned out to be was a small rabbit thumping around the room where all were trying to sleep. Orme tells this about the rabbit. It was shouldering furniture aside. Book cases were like feathers to this mighty rabbit. Least that is the way he played on every ones imagination. SOME HEROES!
About three AM on Gunner Bassham's shift there was a lot of noise and screams. "Tedeski returno Inglesh Inglesh". Bassham entered the room where the elderly caretaker couple were in their bed. The shell weakened ceiling came down on the poor scared old folks pinning them in their bed. Their screams were nerves shot from all they had been through. Bassham pulled the old couple out and we gave them some food and cigarettes and hoped they would not have anything more happen to them. Dear old souls .