62. Harassing the Germans
The regiment moved from the Orsogna gun position to LaTorre. This location was south and west of San Leonardo. It was in this position that the regiment sent out a gun or sometimes two guns to a selected spot to harass the enemy all night long and if possible get him mad so he would fire on the harassing gun. I do not know how I was picked, maybe my gun was sitting on higher ground and was able to move out to this harassing fire position. We were nicely in position with our aiming point out. This aiming point was a lantern hanging high up in a tree . The type of propellant that we were to use was E which designated a type of cordite that when fired gave a tremendous flash. The reason , so we were told, was to attract return shell fire. This would give a group of people called Counter Battery Specialists the opportunity to do triangulation as one method of telling where the enemy battery was. Sound was another method. Here the counter battery sections had microphones set along the front and the calculations made gave them the range and direction the enemy battery was firing from.
Now I was the fifth gun in as many nights to set up in this harassing fire position and the enemy was getting fed up with this damn nuisance keeping them awake. Early in the evening we were at the gun to fire more rounds when there was a vicious crack of incoming airbursts, possibly 88mm. The flash of the bursting shell was very low above our heads with the shell splinters rattling off our gun and whacking into the earth around us. The whole group were cuddled up to the gun to see if we could get some protection, and over came a few more exactly over the gun. Oh yes we had unleashed a hornet! As quickly as it started it stopped. We fired a round or so, left two guards on duty and went to a nearby house to wait then fire again. Well our enemy was not finished with us. He pounded all around the gun! Dozens of shell sounded like freight trains. This was no 88mm stuff but at least 27cm [11inch ]. The shells crashed for a long time and it seemed that about three out of ten were duds and did not explode.
When there was a lull we went out to the gun and called for the two fellows. No answer for awhile then repeated calling and they answered from a distance down a small draw. They would have been mince meat if they had not gone down the draw to escape the shelling. The gun had lots of splinters around it. The lantern was knocked out of the tree and a tree or so torn up. So far so good so we kept up our firing the rest of the night and had one more vicious amount of returning shells. This happened when our firing program was over and almost dawn. At dawn we went out to limber up the gun and depart. Here was a 200 pound shell that had skidded in knocked a tree down and came to rest in a long trench that it had carved in the field. Lt Art Debelle said Sgt Bannerman see if you can turn this big shell over so I can get the markings of it. My reply was Sir that shell has part of the fuse broken off and you know that it is against orders to touch or move a potentially dangerous item. So I did not touch it, but he asked my driver Fred Prokopenko to move it. Well Fred did and Lt got the writing off the shell , But do you know what the rest of us did knowing the danger? WELL WE STOOD AND WATCHED FRED MOVE IT . How very stupid we were as that big shell could kill anyone if it exploded hundreds of feet away.
Oh youth! Some one was looking after us ...