I was the Weapons Platoon Leader. Company I made the transition from Fort Jackson to Congleton, England, where further preparation for eventual combat progressed. Every day saw us on the road for our daily 10-mile march, one half of which approached the border of Scotland. “Big John” Swanson, as he was to become known, was always in the lead. “Big John’s” idea of a 30″ step was heel to toe which was not the way we marched. I was always out of breath.
There were two incidents in Congleton that had a distinct effect on me. The first was one evening while I was the Charge of Quarters and one of our Company “I” members had too much to drink and was spoiling for a fight. He was brought in by the MPs who told me if he stayed in the barracks they would not report him. I had always enjoyed favor with this individual so I agreed with the MPs who then left the Orderly Room. After a while, “P” started to get mean and began punching holes in the wall. I tried to subdue him and put him to bed. This time he stayed put. When Capt. Swanson came in the next morning and inquired as to what happened, I told him everything except the name of the individual. From that time on, Company “I” had a permanent Food Inspector in the mess hall for all their meals – ME!!
The second incident was probably the worst of the two because to this day I feel the consequences followed me throughout the war. Lt. Lamont and I were having a few beers at one of the local bars when a man and wife in their early 50s came in and sat by us. We struck up a conversation and the wife mentioned her son had a disability classification and was working at our officer billets. She also mentioned she had a daughter who had been seriously disfigured on her arms, shoulders, and face when a bomb struck the chemical plant in which she worked. She mentioned that the girl was visiting from London and due to water rationing was unable to properly attend her wounds. Without thinking, I told the woman to have her daughter go with her son, who worked at the Officer’s Quarters, and use those facilities. I know now it was stupid but at the time I thought I was doing a favor for one of our allies. WRONG! Our battalion commander inspected the barracks and blew up when he found that Lt. Watson had authorized her to bath. As a small indication of his displeasure, I was made Pay Officer, which may not seem like much until you figure converting script, which was first paid in English pounds and then ensuring that every person had 200 francs for our landing in France.
Previously published in
The Golden Acorn News