- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Railway Crossing Keeper Frank Cox + Farmer Fred Bennett + Mum, Olive Cox
- Location of story:
- Salmon Pool Crossing, Uton, Crediton, Devon.
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 04 June 2004
Where Am I ?
There were often exciting events for me as a child during the war, during the period that American soldiers were billeted in Devon, and there were many incidents involving the railway.
One of these. On a Sunday night, the family were sitting in doors, listening to our old farmer friend Fred Bennett, recounting one of his very many tales, when the railway ‘phone rang our number. On answering it, dad was advised that following a drunken fight on an up train, an American Soldier had been thrown out onto the track, and could dad start a search for him, from us towards Yeoford. As dad replaced the telephone receiver, a down train rumbled past. “ God!” said dad, “That poor devil will have had his chips now.”
I was promptly sent to bed whilst dad and Fred started their search.
Somehow, in the dark of the night, dad and Fred became separated, but as Fred continued along the railway line towards Yeoford, he became aware of the plaintive cries of someone calling desperately from a field adjacent to the line. “Where am I ? Where am I ? Where am I ? in this American voice.
Eventually Fred located the young soldier, but couldn’t actually reach him. Imagine the language difficulty between a guy with a strong American accent, and Fred with a broad Devon brogue.
“ You bide still matey, don’t you go going backward or you vall in the river. You bide where you’m too. Your friends ‘ ll be yer in a mimute
Amid great excitement, mainly among the authorities who suddenly arrived at the scene, the victim was brought into our kitchen, where he was seen to be so drunk, that he had no idea of either his injuries or his whereabouts. Fortunately he only had minor head injuries and a broken collar bone.
While all this was going on, Dad was being pestered by the Railway Authorities in repeated ‘phone calls, demanding that he intervened to get details of the soldier’s travel documents, and the like.
As it was a virtual impossibility with American officers, other soldiers, the fire brigade, the police, two doctors, and heaven only knows who else in our tiny kitchen, and with mum trying to satisfy demands for hot water. It was chaos. I won’t record dads comments.
All this time I was just an excited little boy in his pyjamas, trying to see what was going on, and hoping no one would notice that I was not obeying my instructions to stay in bed.
Eventually the soldier was treated and taken away by ambulance, and the authorities also moved on.
The American army officer promised mum and dad faithfully that he would tell us how the soldier got on, but nothing of the incident was ever heard of again.
PS. I do have a recording of many of Fred Bennett’s stories, which I made in 1959, which includes Fred actually relating his version of events that night.
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