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Monday, November 28, 2011

Les Goff WWII

I see it has been 3 years since my last (and first) entry of my Dad's WWII story here so maybe its about time for the next installment. If you missed the first one you can review it here
This photo is one of the guys my Dad was with for a while in the 18th battery , 2nd anti-tank division. "Snuffy Schafford" was the name my Dad knew him by. Here Snuffy is sitting on the front fender of one of their gun tower trucks.


......There were six of us gunners so we soon had the gun turned around. The driver managed to get the tow truck turned around and we made our way back. It didn’t seem very far. It was a bit moonlight so we could make out some objects along the way, some knocked out tanks. Both German and British. Then we turned up a narrow road with quite a lot of trees and hedges. We came to the place we were to exchange with the British gun crew, take out their gun and crew with our tow truck and put in place our gun. Same location alongside a very large tree and more hedge. All was going fairly good and we didn’t lose any time making the switch when suddenly there came that howling sound of mortars. It was the first time I had heard anything like it. Instinct took over and I dived for what looked like a trench between the gun trail. It turned out to be what I thought it was but there was a couple of the British gun crew still in it. I landed on top of them.




6.Luckily it was below ground level so that’s pretty safe unless you get a direct hit. When the dust settled I got out to see what had happened expecting to see some great holes in the ground but there was no sign of anything like that. They make terrific blast and shrapnel . In this incident the British officer was killed. We didn’t lose anybody at this first introduction to “ moaning minnies.” They are fired from either six or twelve barreled apparatus. Known as Nebelwerfers they can bring them down quite accurately with devastating and harassing effect. Jack Faibish , our Sergeant in charge of the gun and myself took over the trench beside the gun with our ammo piled at the back of us, not realizing the effect of a hit or near miss by small arms or mortar.

7.You are never told much about your location , who was to your left , right or rear. I soon came to the conclusion that our gun was pointing to the rear which bothered me as all the firing was coming from behind us. Mostly machine gun and mortar. There would be a lull and then they would start blasting away again. I didn’t know where the rest of the crew were but assumed they were close by. It was not safe to move around after dark so we laid low . A half ton was left near us in case we had to leave in a hurry.. We soon found out it was a lost cause as by morning it was completely out of commission. It was our first casualty.

8.Come first light of morning there was a lot of motor noise about two or three hundred yards behind us and the sound of tank tracks. Jack tells me to get on the gun. We are not sure who they are, however I must follow orders unless I recognize it to be friendly. I was given the range which I put on then ordered to fire when ready. I went through the necessary sequence and pressed the foot pedal trigger. Nothing happened. I then realized I had not removed the safety catch. I said, “damn, I forgot the safety catch” . Jack shouted “Hold it, I think they might be our tanks”. So we sat for two or three minutes, studied them as they were amongst some trees. It was hard to identify. At this time of year it becomes light very fast and early. These tanks appeared to be British Crusader type tanks. That was the one and only time I neglected to remove the safety catch. It took a while to get over thinking what the results would have been if it had not been for the safety catch. I can’t remember if we said much about it after. When you are taken into position after dark you are pretty much in the dark as to what is happening all around you.

9.We stayed in this position for ten days. The temperature was around 80 degrees F , it was pretty hot. The stink was pretty high from the dead animals and men in the area. These were left until the battle moved on as it is impossible to bury anything due to the shelling. You didn’t go far from your hole in the ground. The second day we were there, Jerry dropped a big shell right along side our gun. There was quite a bulge came in our trench. A tire on the gun was flattened and several holes through the heavy gun trail plus some of our ammo cases. Luckily no ammo burst or flared up. There was a big hole in the ground which proved to be quite handy as a biffy. Those trips were made in record time as you never knew how much time you had.

10.After a day or so I discovered Sgt. Pete Barret of Indian Head with his crew were not far from us. During some shelling Pete’s ammo was hit and went on fire and  due to fire or exploding shells, Pete was wounded. Its funny but I can not remember sleeping at that position. If I did I think it must have been by day. I do remember sharing a trench with one of the other gunners one night. We would take turns as every one did two hours watching, listening mostly as you couldn’t see much. This character was quite nervous and when he was supposed to be on watch, every few minutes he would say to me, “Goff, I hear something”. I was somewhat relieved when after three days this man and two others were taken out and back to headquarters. Jack told them to have their kit and rifle and be ready when the ration jeep came about dusk and unloaded and beat a hasty retreat. Those three men didn’t waste any time getting on board. For one it was his first time out of the trench. He left everything behind. It was at this same place I lost some of my equipment due to mortar fire. My rifle and mess tins and various odds and ends of army issue I had put out of my trench for some reason. After a mortar shower that I knew was very close I found the butt of my rifle was gone. My mess tins had holes in them. I think I lost my shaving gear which I didn’t need anyhow as we didn’t shave for ten days at which time was the least of our worries. We had shaved our heads prior to going to France so we were pretty dirty and crumby looking after ten days. This was the place where my boots stayed on continually for ten days except to change socks.....................to be continued.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Benefits of Blogging

Yes, sometimes there are beneficial side effects to this waste of time called blogging. One of my blog postings way back a while was  called Charles and Kate along with a nice studio portrait they had taken of themselves back in England before they came to Canada in 1910. Seeing as Charles had the unique name of "Hobetzeder" I used it as one of the labels or search tags thinking it might bring some interesting feedback. Sure enough I eventually had a couple of contacts from people who were distant relatives of Charles (and me) and wanted to share a little more information about the family history. Finally someone to share this wealth of old photos and letters I have accumulated over the years.
Charles , or Karl as he was known in his homeland of Austria received and saved many postcards and letters in the 1920s from old friends and family back in Austria. Of course all written in german and I could not read much more than "leiber Karl".
Now I am busily scanning the old letters , photos and postcards to send back to the fellow in Austria who contacted me initially. He translates them into english for me, lucky he is fluent in both german and english.
This postcard from 1907 shows Karl (middle row, second from the left) standing beside his friend Sebastian who sent many of the letters and postcards.
Translation of the text on the back..........
"I hope you are fine, healthy and contented with your life. In my life nothing has changed, it's always the same.


Some better news from home, at least my sister is a bit better. I fear mother won’t ever recover her health again.
A sad thing, but that’s life.
Best wishes from all who are familiar with you.

Have you got the specialist journal, I've sent? – Please write back very soon. Greetings from my grandmum.
She hasn’t sent back my photo of you either. Elias wrote a letter to you.
Best wishes to you.
Your faithful friend

Sebastian Mair"

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Remembering WWII on November 11

I posted a couple of entries re: Remembrance Day over at Nevardblog so thought I might add a little something here from WWII in memory of my Dad, Les Goff. Thats him in the photo relaxing with some of his buddies in the 18th battery 2nd anti-tank division of the Canadian Army. The photo was taken just after the end of the war near Oldenburg , Germany. No doubt they were feeling pretty good knowing that they had survived the past few years of fighting and would now soon be headed home.
Dad had volunteered in the fall of 1940 and started his basic training in April of 1941. I guess after living through the depression years of the 1930s with plenty of hard work and nothing to show for it, the army looked pretty good. 3 meals a day and a dollar a day sure beat farming.
Took his first boat ride crossing the Atlantic in 7 days and then spent a good long while with more training and exercises preparing to go in as reinforcements. He got to know the south coast of England very well in that time. He missed out on D-Day, June 6, 1944, arriving in Bayeux, France in July of the same year. From there on things got serious. Plenty of live ammunition and explosives came his way and the dead bodies of animals and humans became a common sight as they moved on through France, Belgium and Holland. Luckily Dad wrote down a lot of details of these experiences in later years.
He made it back home to Sask. in November of 1945 to try farming again. Government grants through the veteran land act were available but it seemed that you had to know the right people and politicians to get anywhere . Dad never got any help from them and had to get by on his own . He did ok.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Multi tasking distractions, etc.

I guess I should'nt multi task but I do. Trouble is I get distracted by things and end up wasting more time than I saved by "multi-tasking".
Yesterday for example. Getting a jump on predicted winter snowfall for the weekend I got busy installing the blade on the tractor. It went well. I threw the jackall onto the hitch of the tractor to head back to the shed and call it a day. Driving past the old rotting stack of bales it occurred to me that this would be a good chance to push those bales out into the field for burning now that I had the blade on the big tractor. Turns out the pile was a bit too big even for this tractor and I was only able to demolish and re-arrange the pile before running out of traction. So head for home but first better take a quick run through the field to clean the muck off the tires so it didn't fall off in the shed. While making this "quick run" I noticed the big rock I had dug out the other day and hey, no time like the present to push this rock off the field into the slough. And speaking of sloughs, this might be the last chance this fall to burn off the dead grass in it. Having done all that I proceeded back to the yard at high speed shaking off more mud from the tires. All the time forgetting about the jackall that I had been carrying precariously on the rear hitch of the tractor. Until I went to unload it in the shed. Surprise, no jackall.
So by tractor lights I re-traced all my tracks looking for the lost jackall in the field. No luck. My only conclusion is that it must have fallen off while pushing the rotting bale stack and is now buried somewhere in this pile. The only way to find it will be to grab a pitchfork and go to work tearing apart the pile in hopes of hearing the welcome sound of metal fork tines on steel jackall without having to go through the entire pile. And now it is snowing.
Since I am going to have to handle all this material anyway I might as well take the old IH gravel truck out there and throw the bales onto it to haul away.Sort of kill two birds with one stone. Thats if I don't get side-tracked on the way out to the truck.