Sgt Spencer and I were perched on General Hoffmeister’s armoured car. We proceeded along the street in Otterloo to the Apeldoorn cross road. This was the site of our driver's gallant stand last night. Turning to the left we arrived at E troop gun position .
General Hoffmeister stopped his vehicle and dismounted and a group from E troop came up to talk to him. Right away the General spotted a dead German officer and said who shot him? Sgt Studs McQueen said he did sir. The General then congratulated all the assembled group for their stand last night. I thought it was a good opportunity to enlighten him on the exemplary conduct and leadership our gun position officer Lt Alex Ross exhibited last night.
I told him Lt Ross had gone through the enemy to the village three times trying to get help and when help was not forthcoming he had brought back sten gun ammunition. General Hoffmeister said he would like to meet Lt Ross so I replied that I would go and get him.
I went over to our command post house and found Lt Ross busy getting things back into order cleaning everything up and having Ken Nicolson’s body removed. I spoke to Lt Ross saying the General was waiting on the side of the road to meet him. Alex Ross’s reply was I have no time to talk to Generals this morning. I left but did not tell the General that Alex Ross did not have time to talk to him.
I told the General that seeing Alex Ross was the only officer in the troop and could not come at the moment, but to thank the General for his concern and interest. This satisfied the General who said to extend his regards to Alex Ross for a job well done.
General Hoffmeister was a soldiers' general. He never sent troops into a major battle before the area to be fought over first being well and truly reconnoitered.All that served under General Hoffmeister’s command thought he truly was the best in the Canadian army. Too bad there were not more like him. Many lives would have been saved in the war if other commanders would have exercised the skill and knowledge that Hoffmeister had for the safety and concern for the real fighting men. Before leaving our area General Hoffmeister praised all battery personnel for the fighting stand last night. He then drove off and I do not remember if we gave him a cheer or not.
When the General left the area Capt Les Hand drove up and said there were to be medals handed out, adding there not going to be many. At this time all the Fox troop sergeants were gathered nearby. If medals were scarce we would give our support to Lt Alex Ross and recommend him for the Military Cross for his courageous act far beyond that of the gun position officer. Alex Ross did get the Military Cross and deservedly so. Alex you did good!
The rumour mill started along the way that some officers helped each other get the decorations but not so in Alex Ross’s case. His award was of the highest quality. Alex more than earned it.
Not long after Otterloo Alex Ross and I were talking about the awards and we regretted neither Sgt’s Humble or Barkwell or their crews were recipients of any medals.The crews of these two guns fought lke supermen. The leadership of the two Sergeants should have earned them both the Military Medal and their crews to a man mentioned in dispatches Hind sight again as none of us, including Alex Ross, were given any time to think of medals or awards. We were glad to have survived that terrible night. The regret and sadness over losing our fellow gunners was such that there was no room worrying over awards.
All personnel accounted for which included the news that Gunner Bill Bancescu had died of wounds that brought the total of twelve wounded and two killed. This included gunner Kahgee who was grazed and evacuated.
The troop had 45 all ranks, so we took the most causalities in the regiment with our drivers bearing the brunt of the wounded.
Years after Alex Ross said he did not have to be as flippant when asked to meet the General. What Alex went through that night made up for any flippancy.
In the next couple of days Lt DeBelle returned from England and Alex Ross went on his deserved leave. I now had to find out what had happened to Orme Payne as up to this point I did not know if he survived.
There will be stories about last night. Cawkwell's watch and many more.