Cattolica Italy, January 1945. The regiment arrived in Cattolica in the late evening and, if memory is anywhere correct, there was an advance party waiting to guide us where to park our guns and vehicles, also accommodation for the troops. I think the cooks were on the advance party so we were fed on arrival.
The 76th Battery was billeted in a jail, least that is how I remember. Any of the houses we were billeted in were without windows doors and no fuel for fire . But at least most were rain proof. Can you imagine arriving somewhere in a terrific snow storm and someone pointing out an old windowless, door less building and saying there it is! It is all yours. Canadians are pretty resourceful and we soon had scrounged tarps and stuff. If this was to be our home for a time we better get comfortable. I had an old first war veteran that used to say any so and so can be uncomfortable and miserable but it takes a good soldier to overcome this adversity and be comfortable.
We soon had rubble shoveled out of a room or two, our fart sacks laid on the concrete floor, and candles lighted. Soon all you heard was the snoring of a crew out of range of any enemy guns and just the elements to combat. Could we do it now or could the youth of today do it? Being Canadians, I would say they could. It took us a day or two to settle in.
We had our sergeants' mess set up. It was our place away from all and the gunners glad of it as they did not have the sergeants breathing down their necks 24 hours a day.
One evening while in this sgts' mess, Sgt major Chuck Savin had a visitor from another unit, the 11th Fld Regt RCA. They were permanent force men attached to our unit and the 11th. During the conversation of Chuck and his friend they were discussing a Sgt Major called Windy Bill or some such name.
Chuck's friend was going on about this Windy chap and stated that he was a scrounger supreme going into no mans' land to catch pigs, turkeys, cows, and what ever he could plunder. He also went on to say that this Windy had went too far forward to plunder and the City of Windsor Spit bombers mistook his truck for a German truck, machine gunning it and setting it on fire completely destroying the truck. Windy had to walk home. No charges laid. He then went on to say I think Windy's latest escapade has really done it. Chuck said how is that? Well Windy was up beyond the Cape Breton Highlanders and came under some mortar and machine gun fire. Not wanting to lose another truck and his load of chickens he tore down through Mezzano and crashed into a 1500 CWT truck from another outfit killing two or three fellow Canadians. At this Orme and I that were listening now knew the SOB that killed our friends Floyd Burton and Gnr Cowan and nearly killed Gnr Spink.
It was very upsetting to us and Chuck Savin saw our faces and knew how we felt. He took us to one side to console us. We all vowed that Windy, if we ever saw him, we would have a word or two to say to him. Strange in wartime. Floyd and Cowan were killed less than a mile from us on 4th Jan 1945 and we were not told what had happened or who was the driver of the other vehicle. Floyd had been transferred to 60 Battery and I suppose no one gave it a thought to tell anybody in our battery. I remember writing his Dad who had moved from Vanguard Sask to North Dakota. I did not receive a reply. Yes, I saw Windy at Harrod's staging camp in Leghorn Italy a couple of weeks later but did not have an opportunity to talk to him. He was a giant of a man. He had been a motorcycle policeman in Toronto and had the look and the bearing of a Nazi bully and a loud mouth. I imagine he is long gone. So be it as he was not ever to be a friend of our regiment.