Otterloo Holland, April 1945. The days following and the stories that have been revived and retold.
I promised I would relate the story of Clarence Cawkwell's watch. During the war anyone having a workable watch had a great asset. A watch would be handed from sentry to sentry, and gunner to gunner. This way shifts were changed and the watch in the morning always came back to the owner. On the night of 16/17th April Clarence Cawkwell's watch was the only one in the drivers' section of Fox troop. At the time of the attack on the drivers Bill Bancescu was wearing Cawkwell's watch. During the violent action Bill Bancescu had awakened all drivers before the Germans hit the wagon lines. Seeing they were out numbered and out gunned, Bill Bancescu took a gunner by the name of Feuillatre [name spelt wrong] out of danger and down the road. A mortar bomb hit the ditch on Bill Banescu's side filling Bill with a tremendous amount of shrapnel. As Bill fell to the ground his last words were to Feuillatre was see that Cawkwell gets his watch. Bill Bancescu died at the aid station. Clarence Cawkwell still has that watch and it is worn every day. What a wonderful, true story do you not agree?
Bill Lloyd the 76th Battery Sergeant major was following the road toward regimental HQ when he and a young gunner with him heard the cocking of a rifle and some German words spoken to them. The gunner with Bill Lloyd was going to run but Bill held him with one hand and in the other he had his revolver. Bill advanced on the German in the weapons pit and said Handen Hoch or something like that. He now was almost upon the German and Bill kicked the Germanís rifle to one side and reached down and plucked the German infantry man out by the scruff of his neck.The chap that was traveling with Bill told me that no one will ever tell him that Sgt Major Bill Lloyd does not have GUTS" or would you say nerves of steel!
I have not mentioned that when Sgt Darcy Spencer and I were locating the aid posts and their records for our wounded that we passed by the compound where they were holding the prisoners of last night. A couple of the prisoners that Don Bulloch and I were watching in the command post looked out of the wire and gave me the sign that they remembered me from early last night. Quite unusual, what they were meaning to convey in the sign who knows? Maybe it was thanks you did not beat us or kill us, I will never know. The Germans had some dogs with them and Toby Colpitts of 60 Battery adopted one of these dogs, a large Doberman who would not let a civilian pet or have anything to do with it. Toby had this dog cleared to bring to Canada but some Dutch civilian stole the dog days before Toby left for Canada. I jumped ahead but it is my memory and I'm allowed to do so.
Here is one. Bill Strickland from E troop was behind gunner Vogt and when Vogt went past the corner of building a German machine gunner caught Vogt in a stream of fire killing him instantly. Strickland jumped over Vogt's body and through a hail of bullets placed his bren gun on the hood of a vehicle. Bystanders say that the German machine gunner was firing at Strickland and the tracers were going past Strickland's head. Strickland returned fire and held on until he killed the German gunner.
The unsung heroes should get mentioned. That was E troop cooks who spent the night in a dugout under a manure pile unseen by the Germans that walked and ran all over them. Daylight came and the cooks came out and fired up the burners and soon breakfast was on.
I did not mention the terrible sights that Darcy Spencer and I came upon on our way to locate our wounded. The main street in Otterloo was littered with German dead, and some not a pretty sight. At the time we were pretty hardened to death and likely thought no more about it than an animal lying on the street. I would not feel the same now.
Bob Anderson the tank driver for Capt Don Pyper was at a cross road on the outskirts of Otterloo when a GGHG tank officer directed Capt Pyper to be sure and be alert to cover a certain area as there was supposedly Tiger tanks approaching. Capt Pyper informed this officer that he was not going to knock out a Tiger tank with a wooden gun as this was a observation tank. Talking of Bob Anderson I had picked up a beautiful Beretta sub machine gun in Italy on the Hitler line. This gun did not have a magazine but knowing Bob's mechanical prowess Bob soon filed a Schmeisser magazine to fit. On this night he had handed his Beretta to Mike Propopenko for Mike's revolver as the Beretta was too cumbersome for the tank driver. Here is what happened with the Beretta in Mike's hands during the battle and in the light of just burning buildings Mike saw a figure run past and get under a truck Mike said he gave the password but no reply so he let fly a few rounds with the Beretta. Unfortunately he hit Gunner Bob Bates in the legs. Hospital for Bates and the Beretta apparently thrown into the bushes never to be used or kept as a souvenir.Too bad. It was a beautiful automatic.