The Middlesex The R.A.S.C., The R.E.M.E. and The Signals It was the red hair that first attracted my attention.“ Youre not aScot are you?” I asked. The young officer looked up and grinned. “Why not ?”he replied. He was Lieutenant Roderick McPherson from Dron Bridge of Earn the only Scot in the Middlesex Regiment the only English regiment in the Highland Division. But there was a reason for it. Roderick McPherson had been trained as a machine gunner with the Malayan Volunteer Force and at the outbreak of war had returned to Britain to join up. Being a machine-gunner he was commissioned into the Middlesex. For the Middlesex are all Cockneys. They wear the side hat they have a brass band they lay no claim to the kilt. But they areas proud of the H.D. as any of the kilted regiments. “The Middies— theyre the wee boys ”withe guts say the Jocks of the kilted regiments welland they have proved it. I never forget my first sight of them at Alamein trudging on behind the infantry carrying eighty pounds of machine-gun equipment on their backs. And on the way to Tripoli when the Black Watch were in parlous plight in the Hills of Homs it was the Middlesex machine- gunners who hiked their way over wadis and hills man-handling their heavy machine-guns to open up in time to save the day. For the Middlesex have a reputation second to none as infantry in the last war and even in this when put to it they have shown that they have lost none of their skill. It was in the closing stages of the Sicilian battle. The Middlesex had gone forward to occupy a hill they had been assured was clear of the enemy. Lt. Rampling walked over the crest to find himself face to face with two Germans !He fired his revolver at them and got back. There were Germans all around. One band was only twenty-five yards from a Middlesex post. The Middies couldnt fire on them for the ridge. ”“Cover me said Corporal Fred Dean and crawled forward. Lance-Corporal Sidney Mundy kept his eye and his rifle on the Germans. Corporal Dean got within twenty yards and jumped to his feet and rushed into the post. Then discovered to his horror that his tommy gun had jammed. Nothing daunted, he used it as a club and the Germans were dealt with. Eighty prisoners were taken in a few hours by such forays. And then the Middlesex settled down to their machine-guns again !The Royal Army Service Corps has a twenty- four hours job. Its trucks are- constantly on the road upbringing rations ammunition, petrol— the lifeblood of the army. Ive seen our lads driving their trucks through the fiercest shelling quite conscious that their load was ammunition and a hit meant death. But also conscious that the ammunition must get through. And right in the front line are our men of the Royal Army Medical Corps. With every battalion is the doctor and his little band of stretcher-bearers ignoring the heaviest fire to treat the wounded and get them quickly back. Typical of them was little Johnny from Dundee. He was really unfit for foreign service, but he was so attached to his doctor friend that he begged hard togo overseas with the others.“ Im only a ” stretcher-bearer he told the officers and they gave permission. So Johnny came to Egypt and during the battle of Alamein he went missing for twenty-four hours. He returned to reveal that he had been working all day and night treating Highlanders and Germans and Italians alike. In the outpost were two wounded. The German sniper made rescue impossible. But Johnny didnt think so. He crept out treated the wounded men and on his way back was himself shot dead. “Only a ” stretcher-bearer but its of such stuff the R.A.M.C. are made. And what the R.A.M.C. does for the men, the R.E.M.E. does for the trucks. In the battles the mechanics ranged to search destroyed vehicles for spare parts. And no matter how badly your truck had been treated R.E.M.E. could put it right. It was they too who kept the wireless sets going. When we first landed in Egypt Australians took up the front line for training and one bit of advice they gave u :“Keeps your lines of communication open.” Thanks to the Royal Corps of Signals communications never failed. Ive seen the linesmen carry their line just behind the infantry. Sometimes they had to stop and fight. But afterwards they would carry on. Often they were killed. There were others to take their place. And the fate of battles depends on the knowledge of what is on.going Page Forty-two
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