55. Getting our Equipment in Order
I did not mention on the move to Gravina we arrived with many vehicles coming in days later, but a credit to all the mechanics and LAD from the RCEME, who eventually brought all vehicles to Gravina. BSM Bill Lloyd and his driver lost the brakes on a small Bedford truck and in the runaway vehicle ran over and killed a couple of Italian civilians who were at the roadside looking for a handout of a cigarette or so. They lost their lives in a split second. I cannot remember if there was a court of inquiry or not, but I do not know who to ask as Bill Lloyd passed away a few years ago and I think the driver passed on years before. So that will be closure on that one . .
Here is where we wondered how well our acquired guns would perform. Were the barrels worn so that it would be difficult to calibrate them? What all could go wrong with this much used equipment? Well on 8th of December the guns were taken to the Adriatic coast at Fasano. Here is where Lt. Casselman, John Wiebe, Jim Sinclair, and Stu Goldstone and the rest of our survey section doing the observing and the necessary adjustments made to each gun as each gun fired a little differently and all had to be in the 100 percent zone as we were to go on a scheme with the infantry. The infantry was going to advance under a curtain of fire, so we had better be good and careful. The scheme went over very good with great cooperation with the infantry, so it was back to Gravina for Christmas.
Sid reached back and handed Capt, Floyd Brooks a live duck with a "Merry Christmas to you sir."
Christmas day was great a long way from home but the meal was wonderful, also the church service in the large church with five or six hundred in attendance. The service was taken by the senior padre in our division. I remember him going on about what each race was equal too , and he went on to say, &"the wop is a singer and we should leave the wop sing". I never forgot that as there were quite a few Italian civilians in attendance and I thought the senior padre showed poor taste.
Our stay in Gravina was soon to come to an end but we had good times there. We met families that had children that could sing better than anything we had ever heard. Also there was always an Italian mother that would cook up a feed of Spaghetti and enjoy watching us eat it as if she were our own mother. She quite likely had a boy or husband either in a POW cage or was wounded in Africa or fighting in Russia with the Blue Brigade.
That time in our lives was special. Here is where we found out that the Italian women were the back bone of the country. The men in this Fascist town did not seem to do anything but stand around in the square in the evening with black capes across their shoulders observing all and not saying much. A real spooky group, much like a couple of hundred Zorros !
At last we were able to get tactical signs and unit insigna painted on our vehicles and other equipment. We soon, with a bit of paint and after firing the old guns, like true gunners we started to look after the guns once again and take pride. The loss of our guns in England we had to put out of our minds and concentrate on what we had. WE WERE GUNNERS !