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Memoirs of Gordie Bannerman

Regroup and Retrain

The Canadian Corps were scattered in rest areas out of action to re-group, retrain, and hopefully to get replacements in men and equipment. This period was not all that it was supposed to be as dysentery was rampant throughout all units. This caused some great concern as men were so badly hit with this, were carted off to hospitals, and some died from this type of malady. At this time I was duty sergeant at Regimental Head Quarters. The Regimental Sergeant Major and I shared a tent. The RSM, Jim Murray, had a violent attack of dysentery and was getting extremely sick. I had our MO Capt Strashin come and check the RSM. His comments were to evacuate the RSM to a hospital. The RSM, Jim Murray, was a proud man and did not want to leave the regiment and give in to his sickness. As the days past I was extremely worried that Jim Murray was going to die in the tent near me.

Something had to be done. One evening Jim Murray was so weak he could barely speak or take a drink of water. He was at death's door and I knew it. I went over to our aid post and saw Bombadier Joe Deshane who was the senior medic around at the time. I told him the RSM must be taken to a hospital immediately and to get his driver to come to the rear of our tent and while he talks to the RSM, the driver and I will load the RSM, bed and all, into the truck. The truck backed up to the tent and Bdr Deshane spoke to the RSM and said we were taking him to hospital. When they arrived at the causality clearing station the doctor remarked how could this man have been left in this state for so long? The doctor then summoned a priest to give the RSM his last rites. Jim Murray was diagnosed with severe dehydration peronitis and at death's door. He did recover, but never to the form he once was. He never returned to action.

All ranks were well briefed in the handling of explosives, whether it was our ammunition or theirs. Leave mines and other assorted ordinance that you knew little about were left to the engineers. In one of the rest areas, a good friend of mine, Bob Anderson, was walking past the rear of a truck where some of the fellows called him over and said have a look at this fuse. Bob took one look and told them to leave that dangerous stuff alone. They were taking fuses off 20mm cannon shells. Bob had gone a few feet from the back of the truck when there was an explosion. He turned around and Gunner Jeffery was holding his hand up now minus a finger or two. A rather war ending lesson. Oh yes, we all did some stupid things and survived.

Through a combination of circumstances on July 22, 1944, I was informed by Colonel Armstrong that I was no longer the senior sergeant in the regiment, but now I could sew on the crown and wreath of a WO2, as sergeant major of Fox Troop. I was promoted and went to report to Captain Brown Fox Troop commander. This happened almost four years after I joined the army. Battery sergeant major Bill Lloyd was eager to congratulate me on my promotion and presented me with the brass crown and wreath attached to a wrist strap. This wrist strap I wore all during months when we did not wear battle dress.

Towards the end of July King George the sixth travelled incognito to Italy. King George reviewed the Cassino battlefield. At this time 100 of our officers and other ranks went to witness King George pin the Victoria Cross on Major Mahony of the Westminster regiment for valour at the Melfa river crossing. Anyone who had ever met Major Jack Mahony agreed that he deserved all the awards that could be given to him. I think at this time Lt Perkins of the Lord Strathcona Horse received his DSO. It was the only time that a Lt. received such a decoration. It usually went to Majors and above. Both deserving recipients.

On to the Gothic Line
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