England (Part 5)
We vacated Camp Blandford, Dorset, and that afternoon we arrived at
our bivouac area, a large field almost in the shadow of Stonehenge --
one of England's "wonders". (We were inclined to wonder at many
things, in England, but this is one that is listed in all good guide-books.)
To a globe-trotter, this might seem an intriguing spot in which to spend
some time. Perhaps -- but we were more consumed with a zeal for home-making
than with curiosity, and we failed to appreciate the ruins immediately.
Our primary task was to convert a small part of the barren Salisbury Plain
into a thriving pup-tent community.
The first week or so was devoted to development. Tho the development
period was favored with balmy weather, we were soon subjected to some
of the same weather that inspired the building of Noah's famed Arc. Subsequently,
the little techniques of comfort learned while draining our tents aided
us greatly when, in later months, fox-holes became the fashion.
As we had never before lived under full-scale "field conditions"
we had some amazing misconceptions of what it would be like. For instance,
some of us were under the impression that garrison routines would now
be disregarded. No sooner had headquarters set up its typewriters than
we were hit with a schedule of reveille, calisthenics, close-order drill,
and enough formations to wear out the first sergeant's whistle. Surprisingly,
we all survived.
It was here that our first super-deluxe "six- and "eight-holers"
were engineered. Indeed, the high quality of work turned out by our carpenters,
in every country visited by the 115th, can be traced back to these original
There were no losses due to extra-curricular activity, either. Yes, we
were given passes. In fact we had ten percent of our personnel scattered
throughout England, one time, when all passes in the E.T.O. were cancelled.
This was during one of the "invasion feints" familiar to U.K.
veterans, and the boys who were out came back with some pretty colorful
stories about M.P. dodging, cross-examinations, and languishing in assorted
Also in the line of recreation, an inter-battery Soft ball league was
organized. When "A" Battery came through, undefeated, they entertained
hopes of being represented in E.T.O. competition -- but got no further
than the next field, where a TD. pitcher had somehow contrived to transfer
the muzzle-velocity of his 75 into his right arm.
Aside from our regular A.A. training, the most outstanding highlight
on our training schedule occured on May 17th, when one gun from each battery,
plus range equipment, went to the Exmoor Artillery Range to undergo F.A.
trials. On the 19th, we proved capable of accepting F. A. missions, should
the occasion arise, by scoring hit after hit on our targets. There were
also a few reports concerning several mangled sheep that filtered, somehow,
into the "results" data of our firing.
On our return to Stonehenge, instead of being greeted with anxious inquiries
about the firing, we were swamped with excerpts from a speech given by
General Timberlake. Other than making some very optimistic forecasts,
the garrulous old gent had salted his talk, heavily, with language generally
attributed to top-kicks. Everyone agreed that he had imparted much of
his confidence of spirit to our invasion-leery bunch, and we were proud
that we were to be in his Fourty-ninth Brigade when the big operation
As D Day approached, the problem of supply became overwhelming. We've
often heard that "Necessity is the mother of invention", but
it took those trying days to teach us that the supply sergeant is its
father! It became so increasingly difficult to obtain our essentials "through
channels" that each battery's supply sergeant was turned out to fend
for himself. How well they managed to bring home the bacon was aptly illustrated
by the thorough way with which all our vehicles and equipment received
their vital water-proofing. Another of their great achievments was the
substitution of rubber tracks on our "cats'' for the old-style metal
cleats. When riding on the latter you pictured your kidneys as a cocktail-shaker
in the hands of an over-enthusiastic bartender!
The seriousness of the time was impressed upon us, more strongly than
ever before, on June 1st, 1944, when we bid farewell to our advance party.
They were placed on detached service, in order to go ashore in advance
when the invasion started and prepare our way. Specifically, they were
to select battery positions and generally acquaint themselves with the
On the morning of June 6th, 1944, we realized, without official announcement,
that D Day had arrived! None of us will ever forget the sight of thousands
of B17's and C47's, their heavily laden gliders in tow lumbering across
the sky. Others that had preceded them across the channel were winging
their way in the opposite direction, with side-doors off and static lines
On June 8th, we were a sober crew as we loaded up and headed for our