Posted 27 May 2009 - 01:39 AM
Slipdigit posting for Old Hickory. This section originally followed some discussion about Normandy. I decided to move it here.
This is Old Hickory, I want to back up a little bit and talk about life in England In 1944.
England had had a hard time with the German Air Force bombing them day and night in the blitz of 1940. In 1944, they were still bombing them England every night, sometimes in the daytime.
The main fun that they had in England was at the pubs at night. They would all go to the pubs and eat and drink that brown ale and bitters and whatever it was that they liked. It was warm beer, sometimes it was hot. They didn’t serve cold beer. They ate a lot of lettuce and a lot of Spam. The fast food was fish and chips, which they wrapped in a newspaper.
The money in England was much different than ours. They first time I tried to buy something, I asked the girl “how much” and she said, “Six, eight & ha penny.” I didn’t know what she was talking about. I said to myself that I was going to learn how to count this money. It was six shillings, eight pence and a half a penny. I did learn to count it.
The famous song in England at that time was “The Blue Birds Over the White Cliffs of Dover.” They said that the blue birds had quit flying over Dover because of all the air activities, the bombing and all of that. They usually went over Dover. This song went that tomorrow everything would be good.
They also sang “Deep in the Heart of Texas,” “As Time Goes By,”and “I’ll Walk Alone.” The big dance they did, and they did it every night just before they’d close the pub up, was the Big Apple. Everybody would get out and do the Big Apple.
I will say that England during World War II was the darkest place on the face of this earth. The days were long in the winter time because it was close to the arctic circle. It would be dark at 4:00 in the afternoon. It wouldn’t be light until 8:00 the next morning. I never got used to that. There was so much fog at night that you’d better not get far from where you were unless you had somebody to holler out to tell you which way to come back because we couldn’t have any light.
In the Spring the days began to get longer. In the summer just before D-Day, it was dark at 11:30 and it began to get light about 2:00. It was hard for me to used to the weather. I admired the British people very much, because they were tough. They went through a lot and still kept their heads up and were in good spirits.
I want to say one more thing before I leave. I went to Slough, England one time to pick up something from a hardware store. I looked for a hardware store all up and down the streets of Slough. I finally stopped and asked a bobby, a policeman, where there was a hardware store. He didn’t know what I was talking about. I kept trying to explain it to him and he finally understood. He said, “Oh, you mean an iron monger.”
As we waited on the docks at south Hampton waiting to go to Normandy, a Brig Gen walked up to where we were and asked the Lt, “ Were we ready?”
The Lt replied, “[There is] Not one in the crowd that wouldn’t spit in your face, if we asked him to.” I don’t believe that I would have spit in a brig. gen.’s face, but we were ready. The trip across the channel was boring and very dull.
On June 3rd, we dressed in full-dress uniform. We put on our wool uniform and then put fatigues on top of them. Those uniforms were gas impregnated. They stood up by themselves and they didn’t wear real good. That’s what we wore and a jacket. The clothes we had were: 2 pairs of underwear, one on and another one, we had 2 pairs socks and our jacket, a pair of long underwear. That’s the clothes we carried and one blanket.
We went to South Hampton. We thought we were going to Normandy, but we weren’t sure. We went down there on the 3rd and they briefed us and told us what we were supposed to do. Then they put us inside a barbed-wire fence and we couldn’t talk to anybody but each other. We couldn’t mention where we were going or what we were going to do. We knew that something was coming. We saw the airplanes flying the night before the invasion.
They had briefed us, but they didn’t take us out on D-Day. On the second day [June 7th], they took us out to get on something to cross the channel in. Well, they took us back in. On the third day, they put us on a landing craft, tank. That’s what we crossed the channel in, with a little barrage balloon going up from it and a 2-man crew. We didn’t get in on the third day, but on the fourth day [10th], we got on the LCT and started toward France. We got in sometime in the afternoon. The LCT that I was on lowered the front end of it and a jeep went off [the ramp]. That was the last time we saw that jeep; I don’t know how deep the water was. Two British guys were operating the LCT. One of them said, “I think it’s too deep, mate.” We moved down and we got in that time.