Now, to get back to our move and my first experience at driving a gun tower partly loaded with men, arms, and a three ton gun behind. We started off in late afternoon, raining of course. Everything was going well until for some reason we had to take a dirt road which was pretty well ploughed up by the traffic and it was narrow and muddy with trees on each side resembling our fir trees. Darkness is coming on so this makes it hard to see with no lights. Just follow the gun ahead of you and that little red light in a funnel on the gun muzzle. After following this light for a while it becomes hard to tell how close or far you are from it. Our man in charge is Jimmy Erwin standing up on passenger side where there is a door opening in the roof for observation. Everything is going ok for a while . We are moving but slowly when suddenly there is a burst of machine gun fire which sounded pretty close. Jim starts to holler “everybody out” which we did with out hesitation with rifles and crouched beside our tower expecting more fire. Nothing happened. Suddenly I noticed our tower was starting to move. I had not applied the hand brake. I jumped in but it had gone toward the shallow ditch and there didn’t seem to be any return. As it seemed to have quietened down we unhitched the gun and I thought it wouldn’t be any trouble to drive out. I had it in four wheel drive but it just continued straight ahead and followed that ditch. Two wheels on the road , two in the ditch and it was real mud. We ran out the winch cable, tied on to a tree. I pulled out three trees before I managed to get free of that stubborn ditch. There were a lot of words said that I won’t repeat. After re-hooking the gun we went not so merrily on our way, but very cautious. After a while it got so dark that Jim walked ahead of me with a white rag. Jim had a loud voice which was good. He said, “Goff , if you hear me shout, stop”. We were traveling in a convoy made up of our battery. I do not know who was leading. It might have been some of the infantry, however, it was slow going on account of the darkness. The only light being the little red light in the gun muzzle.
We had not gone far when I hear Jim roaring for me to stop.
Stopping is quite common in a convoy. Especially at night.
There gets to be a sort of accordion effect . Sometimes we get
too close packed and have to space out a little. We continued
on for some time passing through a small village where we
stopped for a while. Our gun sergeants were shown where to
put each and every gun in a defensive position. Finally Jim
comes back and informs us a position had been located not far
from where we are sitting waiting. The ground rises up to the
east of the village about two or three hundred yards ahead.
Our objective is to put our gun in position on the high ground.
This of course being dark we could not see much of anything so
proceeded to spot with Jim leading on foot. We could not hear
any shooting close by. There was a house near the top of the
ridge and a little further along a big heap of fagots, small
bundles of brush tied like a sheaf for heating. We decided to
put our gun right next to it and use some of the bundles to
camouflage the gun. Resting the gun muzzle on the ground,
making it look like a part of the heap. While we were busy
doing this there was a loud bang close by. Some one said that’s
grenades. Knowing Jerry was close by made us work as fast as
possible and dig a two man size trench beside the gun leaving
two men on the gun. Jim and I took the tower back down to
the village where it could be out of sight. Then back to the gun
digging more trenches as there was six men in all. We
managed to get one dug close to the house and by pulling
some doors off
the house to cover it. Four guys could squeeze into it. We threw
dirt on top to make it a little more safe from air burst or
mortars. We scrounged some bedding from the house. Nice and comfortable. Its nice and quiet for a change. The spud
islander and myself go back to the gun to relieve our guard. We take our rifles and shovels.
The soil was quite sandy, easy
digging but also kept caving in . We decide to make it a little
deeper. We take turns digging. Its starting to rain so we find
some sticks in the pile of fagots, place them across the top,
place some more fagots over our heads leaving the center
open so as to be able to jump out.
After a couple of hours we are relieved by two others of the
crew. Its getting daylight and seems to be quiet for the time so
we run back under the crest of the hill to our main diggings for
a bit to eat. That is when I notice quite a concentration of
Shermans behind us in the village. About this same time our
officer Dave Heaps came along in a jeep, stopped behind a
house and came running over to where we were. He had his
thirty eight drawn and looked quite concerned as if he
expected to find us in a grim situation. We assured him there
wasn’t much happening , however he decided to leave his jeep
in case we had to leave in a hurry. However, we were to learn a
little later that Dave had reason to be alarmed. There was
German infantry not more than a hundred yards away. Also our own infantry, the Essex Scottish were dug in on our right and
the Jerries on the left. This was something we didn’t know
we had made our way back to the gun again about noon. Still
raining, we settle into our trench again by the gun not
expecting much to happen when suddenly we are getting some
shelling all around. Not a heavy concentration so we try to see
where its coming from. We can not see much for fine rain. I
saw a couple of infantry trenches get direct hits close by so we
decide to keep our heads down. The spud is digging out more
sand when suddenly something cleans my little shelter from
over my head. It would seem to me that it was a dud as the
others were all High Explosive.