- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Alexander Dall
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- Contributed on:
- 13 December 2003
Long after actual hostilities had ceased, lurking dangers remained. For instance, any road used by the Germans was likely to have been mined. One favourite trick was to select a verge where a shell had partially destroyed the macadam surface. The natural thing for a driver to do was to avoid the rough infill and use the opposite verge. Here a big Teller mine was buried, about two feet down. Every wheel that passed over it compressed the soil till sufficient pressure was applied - perhaps weeks later - to actuate the detonator.
I well remember rather idly watching one of the squadron Crusaders following our ACV (Armoured Command Vehicle).The sergeant tank commander was standing up in the open turret. Our vehicle steered round some obstacle, putting its offside wheels on the verge. The tank driver followed. Suddenly the earth under its track erupted with a great explosion, and I saw the sergeant fling his arms up into the air before the tank went over on its side, its shattered track and bogies flying in all directions. Surprisingly, the crew's total injuries comprised one broken arm, two broken legs, cuts, bruises and concussion. I suffered from an attack of cold sweat, realising that we were the last to have passed safely over this hidden menace.
The other real nasties were the S-mines, known, very aptly, as 'debollockers'. They were about the size of soup tins, with a pencil-like projection at the top, and were buried in great numbers with only the tip above ground - that is, they were almost invisible.If anyone was unlucky enough to kick one in passing, the first small explosion hoisted the interior of the mine about two feet into the air, where it exploded, scattering a collection of metal fragments laterally. Nuff said. If you wanted to be a hero, you kept the kicking foot on it, allowing the subsequent explosion to blow that foot off, but sparing the others around you. This was known to have been done.
R.E. Bomb Disposal and mine clearing teams were at work long after the final surrender in Italy, blowing up or rendering safe this ghastly arsenal. To everyone who knew them, they were the real 24-carat gold heroes, facing terrible risks on a daily basis.
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