The regiment arrived in Wervik, Belgium. 7th March 1945. Everyone was placed in a house with families, so before nightfall all were looked after. I had a good billet picked out with a lawyer and his family by the name of DeVoss. This family has been in the same home, and all solicitors for three or four generations. It was a terrific home and Chuck Savin and I shared a room. The DeVoss family were father mother and three children, Therese, Monique, and a boy, Jean [John], plus a maid who was charming and her name escapes me at the moment. I think the first thing that Chuck and I did on arriving at the DeVoss home was to toss a coin to see who was going to get into the monster tub in the bathroom and have a real bath.
What luxury! A tub, after years in Italy, unlimited hot water and clean white towels. We were in heaven. I would likely think that Chuck was first in the tub as he had rode a motor bike from Marseilles to here. He was about ten or twelve years older but regardless who was first, the other chap being second did not want for hot water as it was there in a plenty.
I should explain who Chuck Savin was,and how he was with the regiment. Chuck was an assistant gunnery instructor, a trained professional soldier in the fine art of gunnery and was assigned to our regiment. It seemed he had a great affinity to our battery so when I was on the advance party to Belgium Chuck assumed the duty of troop sergeant major fox troop. Chuck was well liked in our battery and fitted in well with Orme Payne and Sid Robertson and also had good relationship with our officers. Chuck was always willing to lend a hand. Mind you he, with his curly hair, was quite a ladies' man.
The next day, March the 8th, the word was out that ten day leaves were to be granted immediately to the United Kingdom. Any one with family were given first choice. Those that had not taken a leave longer than a two day pass would qualify. I did not have a long leave since June of 1943, almost two years ago so I was on the list, along with Sid Robertson who had never had a leave since coming overseas in 1941. Sid and I were off to Ostend and on board a steamer landing in Dover England. Disembarking there on to a train and arrived at Waterloo station not many hours later.
We could hardly believe we were back on British soil as we strode off the train at Waterloo station.
I will always remember the hundreds of wives' and mother's , girl friend's, dad's and brother's of someone. As all this throng of folk were waiting some I suppose never to meet a loved one arriving. How they looked into your face then turned to look at the next one wishing it would be that special person.
When the train left and all of us had walked off the platform this forlorn group would melt way lost in their own thoughts. My dad had spoken of this in WW1 and I would think a lot of the men this group waited for, as they or groups like them, waited for fellows that never came back, buried over there . It was a sad gathering only brightened when all of a sudden someone in the crowd cried out there he is! You're home, followed by the tears and hugs and hanging onto them as if they were going to disappear. Oh yes, memory has brought a shiver up my spine just remembering. Sid and I had no one to meet us so we took a taxi to his cousin and her husband's place in east London. Here we spent a couple of day . As we slept in their house V1and V2 missiles rained down on London. The explosions not too far off caused a crack in the wall to widen so Sid and I said it is safer at the front so we will leave for Scotland and visit my relations in the morning.