WWII short story of Sergeant Gordon Johnston (Jock) Walker

Sten Gun and move away from the spot; about a minute later I stopped and listened - nothing, no sound, just silence except for very distant firing. So I stayed there until first light so that the view would be much better. Not that I had a clue where I was, I didn’t even know if this particular terra was Sicily, but with the sun rising, and assuming it was Sicily, it would be a simple matter to orient myself and not travel in the wrong direction. Sorting out the south, I crawled on my hands and knees to a stand of trees on the edge of the field and on arriving had a quick look around to see if anybody was about and saw nothing untoward, so standing up amongst the trees to have a really good look I saw a farmhouse some distance away and decided to take a chance and go to it, as all the area appeared to be deserted, not even a sign of my travelling companions being around. I don’t know what happened to them, as I’ve never seen them from that night onwards. Arriving, very cautiously, at the house - and a right poverty-stricken dump it was - a civilian appeared at the door with his hands up, shaking with fright. To cut a long story short he thought I was a German, due to my type of helmet, which was that worn by the Paras, but after making sure he was alone I told him, “Me Inglise, where Tedeschi?” This was their word for the Germans and, with a bit of arm-waving and pidgin English, I established that they had passed the previous evening, and his family had gone to meet the British or Americans they had heard were coming along; he thought I was a German, coming back to shoot them all, so with the good news under my belt, we shared my rations and his vino and I waited for the Allied troops to show their faces, which they did later that afternoon. I made myself known to them and was passed back to intelligence, who interrogated me to establish my bona-fide, which was soon done as no foreigner alive could imitate my accent for a start and of course my knowledge of the night’s events could only be known to somebody who was there, and I told them what the civilian had told me. Then I was told about the shambles that the operation had become, due to the Navy not receiving information about us, and our not sending out a recognition signal. As I understood it, only about a third of our force got to Sicily, the rest went back to Africa with damaged aircraft, or were at the bottom of the Med. Once more the Gods had smiled on me, or as it was put later - the Devil looks after his own! Back to North Africa and eventually homeward bound; it was three-and-a-half years since I had left France, and a bit of water had flowed under the bridge. A short leave home to see my parents and relations and, whilst there, I met up with our local minister, a dear old theologian who lived in another world. We met in the street and the following conversation took place: “Good evening, Doctor,” (he was a Doctor of Divinity) “remember me?” “Yes, of course. I haven’t seen you recently, have you been away?” “I’ve just returned from North Africa, Doctor. It is three and a half years since we last met.” “Oh yes, something to do with the war, I expect. Are we winning?” And off he tottered, muttering to himself. Leave over, back to the unit and an awful lot of hard training, including long, fast route marches; commando training, learning new methods of sneaky killing and all the mayhem associated with being hard, very efficient, ‘first in’ troops; in fact we were so fit it was unbelievable. Voluntarily, many of us used to do a regular five mile trot before breakfast, as it kept you up to the peak and made further training that much less odious because, believe me, it was arduous and always with the terrible thought that if you didn’t measure up, you would be returned to your original unit. There was no disgrace in this, it was simply that the Para demanded, got and retained the best. It sorted out, at the training establishment, the lads who volunteered in order to get a Red Beret and an extra 2 shillings per day jumping pay, from those who really wanted to be part of the newest, greatest band of fighting men that Britain had ever seen; and with these words I include our comrades in arms, the Commandos, who, like us, were highly trained, dogged and resourceful
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