Otterloo Holland 16/17th April 1945. This long night wore on without any further German attacks on our guns. At Sergeant Spencerís gun some of us dozed off to sleep for a moment or two. Gunner Straub who had fallen asleep awakened with a cry those SOBís are not going to get meand he immediately fired his rifle towards the bush to our front. It all happened so fast and it seemed he never really awakened as he was again in a sound sleep as if nothing occurred.
Daylight came and we could see the wasp flamethrowers of the Irish Regiment clear the ditches of the Otterloo, Apeldoorn road of the German troops. The blasts of flame sent the Germans running, hollering with uniforms on fire trying to get away as fast as they could.
We learned later in that ditch with the Germans was Gunner Iverson HE. He had been captured and held by the Germans all night. His captors had taken his shoes and socks off and informed him if they were defeated he not be taken back with them in other words, Shot!.
When the flame hit the ditch Iverson received third degree burns on his hands but being a tough little fellow he grabbed a pistol from one of the Germans and informed a couple of Germans they were now his prisoners. I have jumped ahead of myself in time as I did not talk to Iverson until the next day. Back to the gun position .
After the Wasp flame throwers left the road we were to see a Royal Engineer Churchill Tank coming up behind our guns It commenced firing all their machine guns into the bush to our front. The tank stopped near one of our guns and a tank crew member would load a large bomb into a projector on the tank. This was called a pitard. After loading, the bomb was fired into the bush. We could see this giant bomb hurtling through the air where it hit and exploded near our command post house.Sgt Spencer and I seeing that this tank was doing such a great job left our trench and went to check on the other gun crews. The first gun we came to was Sgt Johnsonís with all crew safe and they had escaped being attacked. Along with Johnsonís crew was Lt Alex Ross who had spent the later part of the night with this crew. Lt Alex Ross had made three trips into the village to try and get infantry or tank help to no avail. The trips were extremely dangerous as Lt Alex Ross had to crawl through the Germans that were advancing on the village. Lt Ross did a brave thing.
From Johnsonís gun we went to Sgt Barkwellís gun and the sight that greeted us was dead and wounded Germans all around the slit trenches of the crew. What a story could be seen in Pop Barkwellís face, grimy, tired, grey whiskers full of dirt, a scene from hell.Pop Barkwell was in his late thirties or could have been forty. We were to learn later in the day what a magnificent stand they had made last night. When the Germans attacked POP Barkwells crew, Pop was up and into them knocking the Germans down with his fists. Pop and his crew fought the Germans to a standstill. L/Sgt Bill Velestuk and gunner McNeil each shot two attackers from about a foot range.
Popís crew like all the crews had shallow slit trenches about a foot or so dee . Velestuk and McNeil were lying on their backs and the attackers were crawling up to them. At the sign of any movement or when the attackers were outlined, then Velestuk and Mc Neil would fire at point blank range resulting in four very dead Germans. Near this four dead were a few more a couple of feet further away. Next to them were a couple of wounded Germans who had been hit early in the night and were still alive but not in the best of shape. The Churchill tank was still firing into the bush and out of the bush came a German waving a Red Cross flag. He was a medic.
We let the German medic come up to us. He was pretty nervous so we gave him a drink of water and a cigarette. He then went to work on the wounded Germans trying to ease their suffering.
Our next stop was with Sgt Humbleís crew. All were safe here. they too had a pretty wild night.They had made the initial capture of the enemy earlier in the night. I did not mention that before we left Spencerís gun that gunner Kahgee showed us a crease on his throat where a German sniper had fired and just broke or burnt the skin on his throat, a bit too close for comfort. At this point we had checked on the gun crews but had not gone back to the wagon lines to check on our drivers and vehicles. We had good reason to be worried .