Hoot Gibson and I usually paired up when it came to crawling under machine gun fire or any of the ardous tasks and we always volunteered to go first as that way we could sit and watch the other poor devils go through the hoops after us. If they were using snipers to fire as you crawled the fire lanes these snipers would get trying to see how many shots they could fire hitting sand bags along your route. If like Hoot and I, the snipers were just getting going so we felt they were not carless at the start but were getting a bit silly by the time 75 fellows had crawled the lanes. Explosives, gas chamber, crawling through muddy water filled culverts, climbing up to a 20 foot height and as you went to jump over the water filled moat below you, the instructors blew it up in your face. The order was jump, and jump you did and all this stinking mud and water would come down on you . Then the order was run and run you did. Oh yes, some of it was fun allright and the groups were reduced each day with men not able to take the harassment or the actual hard work.
The armoured corp officers were not in too good shape so many went back to their units with a poor report on their performance.
Another of the schemes was to take us out in a blackout truck for goodness knows how many miles, drop us off two at a time to live anyway we could and get back to our starting point without using any bus or railroad. Hoot Gibson and I teamed up and through good map reading were able to do all the points we were supposed too.
A British artillery unit thought we were German spies and separated Hoot and I. They questioned Hoot and he soon proved who we were. Hoot bedded down in the officers' quarters and I in the sergeants' quarters. Both of us had been fed dinner and breakfast by this artillery unit. Good fellows.We made our way back to camp walking a fair distance and hitchiking the rest. We made our report out and had a good good night's sleep ready for the next day of running and shooting.
I think the greatest fete that our section did was to march 43 miles in the one day, 26 miles during daylight hours and 17 miles after we had eaten that evening. We were the only section to do this and were wrote up a year later in the Toronto Star that wrote the article about Major Brady's school of hell or something.
Oh yes some of it was fun allright. My good friend Hoot Gibson won the commando knife for sheer determination and grit shown by him during the three tough weeks. Hoot went on to Italy, and ended the war as a Captain and I think was wounded twice. Hoot died in 1977 at a regimental reunion in Vancouver. His widow now 90 still is alive and she attended all reunions after Hoot's death. Actually Hoot was named Tom but his nickname was always HOOT.
Claire Gibson widow of Hoot Gibson passed away July 2003