There is great heroism in non front line tasks – take this story upon Mr Reginald Horace Northcote from WW2.
My Father was in Italy during the war as a driver with the North Devon Yeomanry and was attached to the British Fourth Division. He saw the bombing of Monte Cassino and entered Rome as part of the Liberation force. As a boy he used to tell me the odd stories of his wartime experiences in Italy which were fascinating. In his truck cab he told me he had a motley collection of liberated weapons: an Italian rifle, a Beratta pistol and his pride and joy a German P38 automatic. He used them regularly for target practice.
In 1944 the German army was retreating in Northern Italy and the lines were very fluid. He was in his truck driving through a wooded area when he saw some soldiers in the distance puncturing oil drums and pouring the contents away. He thought they were American soldiers by the shape of their helmets. Has he drew nearer he realised that they were soldiers of the elite Herman Goering parachute regiment. The German soldiers went for their rifles which were stacked nearby and my father said he did the fastest reverse in history with rifle bullets whizzing past him.
He told me about the legendary German 88s which played havoc on the mountain roads : knocking out the first truck of a convoy and then the last before proceeding to take out the middle : a ghastly logic of elimination. On another occasion a German 88 was causing “difficulties” at their O.P. post. An Officer who was assigned O.P. duty put his hand in a truck door and slammed the door on it so he was injured and would be excused duty : my father witnessed this. German booby traps were another problem : poisoned wells, explosive devices disguised as fountain pens and left on tables. Also the dreaded S anti personnel mine. The Germans observed that British Soldiers never walked through rain flooded ruts on the road and always put these mines on the edge of the ruts. It was a horrible weapon. In the north of Italy near a place called Forli the Germans had a huge railway gun. During the day it hid in a railway tunnel and then at a precise time it was trundled out and fired huge shells into the Allied positions.The gun was eventually captured. Near that place in a village my father remembers a German staff car passing through with German generals in. They were surrendering that area of the front. These are just a few memories of the stories he told me, after Italy it was on to Greece and Athens where he was suddenly thrown into the vacuum of civil war caused by the retreating Germans. It was Greek against Greek with the British in the middle. But that’s another story…
Another trucker – Private First Class Romeo K. Bisson of Rochester, Vermont, a trucker with 16 years experience in civilian life.