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'Stretcher-bearers': (36) Bomb-happy

by hugh white

Contributed by 
hugh white
People in story: 
H.A.B. White
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29 January 2006



There was whirring shrapnel, but by about 10 p.m. the onslaught slackened a little. Now the mortars,including "Sobbing Sisters", the German multiple rocket launchers or nebelwerfers were concentrating on the ridge to our left.
About midnight another shower of mortars fell close and a few minutes later Corporal Walton was summoned by the Regimental Sergeant Major of the Lancs who said that one of us was needed to escort back a Ls corporal who had been blown into a mortar hole by the blast of another mortar and was slightly bomb-happy. (Shell shock of World War I was now called anxiety neurosis, or to us, " bomb-happiness".)
When I reached the sergeant major's trench the major commanding was also there. The Ls corporal, shaking frantically, was holding the major with both arms, inviting him to dance!
The major asked me if I could find the way back I had to admit that I did not know it perfectly, only that it was via a winding track churned up by mules and littered with equipment and dead animals.
The major gave me instructions to carry on straight for 300 yards and then turn right to "B" squadron under the hill, but, since it was completely dark, except for the firing of tracer bullets and the glow of searchlights miles behind the front, we soon lost the track.
The corporal was still shaking, but unconcerned, even happy about our floundering in the dark. He behaved as if mildly drunk, hence the expression "bomb happiness". I was carrying his small pack and at times we were ducking down, taking shelter from mortars and milling about on hands and knees. Progress was very slow.
Eventually we heard voices and were challenged with the password "Tokyo". We answered "Bound" and found that we had reached "B" squadron.
We asked for further directions to the Rear Headquarters and the RAP.
"Over there" said our guide.
He was pointing, but it was almost pitch dark ahead. Eventually I gathered that we had about another half mile to go, that there was an extensive minefield roped off with white tape, and that Jerry on our left would have to be given a wide berth.
After I had stumbled into an empty slit trench we walked on, the corporal steadier now. We kept right and seemed to be losing our way, although the Lewis gun to our rear and the Smeiser to our left helped us.
After further slow progress we came to a halt. We were now on a ploughed field, but there were no white tapes visible. I guessed what had happened, that the tapes had been shattered, and asked the corporal whether he wanted to continue.
"Keep on until we hit something,", he said, ironically enough, so we plodded to the edge of the field. At last I recognised a white blob as the carcass of a cow which I remembered passing on the way up and we crossed on to the safe side of the white lines which now came in sight After that it was easy.
We were challenged again and directed to the back of a shelled house where the Regimental Aid Post was situated. The corporal was admitted to stay the night.
It was now 2.30 a.m. We had taken over two hours to reach the Regimental Aid Post.

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