April 14-May 9, 1944

April 14 – Had to return to Corps again this morning. Most of our hospital canvas is own and packed ready for embarkation. Good job we started it as it is raining hard today and wet canvas is very difficult to move. Our Advance Party left this morning, we expect to leave on Thursday. Everything is a mess today as all our personal luggage goes in on Monday. Everyone is busy sorting now. Guess I will be going back to France without any leave – but I guess the quicker we get there the quicker we’re finished.

April 16 – Sunday. We had a Church Parade in the Sgt. Mess this a.m. It was a week late, but was an Easter Service. The rain was pouring down and just prior to Church we had a rum issue.

April 17 – Not raining today. Packing continues. Sent all our personal belongings to Aldershot today. Expect to move on Thursday.

April 18 – Packing about finished. EVerything in good shape. It is not raining but is terribly cold and damp. Can’t move any too fast to please us. Made complete Unit allocation table and loading table today. A deuce of a big job.

April 19 – Last night was the coldest night we have had yet. Our big black and white dog had five pups in the night using one other boys tunics as a bed. We sent her into the pound this morning in Lewes and on the way in she had one more pup. Everything is down not but our personal tents and Mess tents; some of those will come down after dinner. At 8 p.m. definite orders for the move came, so all canvas was struck, trucks loaded, convoys formed  in their echelons and now all that remains is for 5:30 tomorrow morning when we move off.

April 20 – We slept out doors last night. It rained hard and we got a good drenching. At 4 a.m. we were up, had breakfast in the mud, rain, darkness and fog and set out for Folkestone. MacDonald (O.M.) and I drove in the jeep and went in convoy until they were well on a straight road, then we speeded on ahead and arrived at the Metropole Hotel, Folkestone, at 8:15 and with the aid of the Advance Party, had everything in shape by the time the Unit arrived at 12 Noon. We are in lovely billets and are just starting to settle in. Expect to enjoy it here very much.

April 21 – Had a glorious sleep last night – lovely bed with two mattresses on and between sheets. The CCS arrived about midnight last night; our boys had prepared a lunch for them. Today has been very busy – we have both been settling in and we have set up a M.I.R. and Miner Surgery. This is one of the grandest billets we have had, a place very familiar to me in the last war. On Sunday I want to take a drive up around Shorncliffe where I was stationed quite a while before. There is a great deal of air activity around here, and lots of flares dropped, but no bombs as yet have fallen in the two days we have been here. They tell me there is a terrific German searchlight which lights us up right across the Channel, but I haven’t seen it yet.

April 22 – Saturday.  In the evening Mac Carson and I strolled down town and watched a parade “Salute the Soldier: All sorts of organizations were represented. Canadians, Americans, and English troops marched. It was a very good parade. Nothing of importance today.

April 23 – Sunday. Very lazy day. This morning sat on the beach watching flight after flight of airplanes flying towards France. A steady roar overhead all morning. This afternoon went to a baseball game. 6 FDS – 17, CCS –2. Tonight went to a picture show in the ballroom of the Metropole Hotel. “Five Graves to Cairo.”

April 24 – usual day – ballgame at night. 8th Field Hygien – 11, 6 FDS – 10

April 25 – Brig. Farmer visited us for a few minutes. We are still working on loading. Medical meeting at 3 CCS at night.

April 26 – Whole second floor of Hotel is being made into a 200 bed hospital – CCS moving up to 3rd floor. We have moved up to 4th floor, with Field Hygiene and Dental Co. are on the 5th floor. Went down to 13th Gen. to see if I could get Arnold Hodgkins for a few days. Had a letter from Slim Hooker today – will most certainly try and see him and get him if possible into the Unit.

April 27 – Received a letter from Poop Deck today. Saw Brig. Farmer and have asked for both Sgt. Hodgkins and Slim Hooker. We will have to wait and see how we make out. Went to a musical review tonight – Ronny Place, Paul Carson and I. Not bad. There is an air raid on tonight, but it does not seem to be anywhere near here.

April 29 – Rather foggy and damp today, but really not raining. Regular routine work. Last night we had a Unit dance at which 3 CCS, 8th Hygiene Co and 9th Dental Co. were guests. It was held in the large ballroom of the Metropole Hotel, with our own orchestra attending, and was a great success. This morning I am waiting on a visit from Brig. Farmer DDMS. Tomorrow I have to send a R.A.P. to Corps H.Q. – Capt. Geggie will be going. Brig. Farmer has been and gone. Had lunch with us. A very successful inspection.

April 30 – Drove to Cuckfield to the 13th Can. Gen. Hospital to see Arnold Hodgkins. I had perviously put in a claim for him, but I do not believe he will be physically fit to come. It was a beautiful drive – the countryside was glorious. During the night there was terrific air activity over the Channel and all sorts of coloured lights could be seen going up from the French Coast.

May 1, 1944 – “May Day” the big day in Russia, I wonder if anything sensational will happen. It is a wonderful day out. We are having a Unit photograph taken today. Col. Cooper, 3 CCS; Col. Porter, 2 CCS and I starting for East Anglia some time today on a scheme. Expect to be done four or five days. We left Folkestone at 4 p.m. proceeding north, we had our driver and batman along and had two staff cars and one jeep and two 160 lb tents. we passed through London, north to Litchfield (sp? Letchworth) in Hertfordshire about forty miles and pitched out tents in a farm yard. Mr. and Mrs. Seymour invited us in, where we had a wonderful meal of fried eggs and chips.

May 2 – Started north again at 9 a.m. passed through Stamford, Grantham, Lincoln and straight north to Scunthorpe where we are billeted with Xth Field Amb. Gus McCarrol and I went into Town and spent the evening. This exercise we are on is known as “Kate.”

May 3 – The district where we are now is Lincolnshire in the Midlands. The Town of Scunthrope is a large steel manufacturing Town. We are practising crossing a tidal river 350 yds wide in Pontoon boats. we in Corps troops are to supply the medical services for the crossing. The river is the River Trent, a tributary of the River Humber. I made a recce of the whole district today in my jeep.

May 4 – Got up at 3:40 a.m. and proceeded to Barton’s Ferry to watch the assault Inf. Bn. cross the river in their storm boats – small boats with outboard motors. They were followed by a #9  raft which is a pontoon boat bearing at least two Bren Carriers or one 60 cwt. These in turn were followed by #18 raft about twice the size. Each raft is propelled by four outboard motors. We crossed the river in a duck, and who should be on the same duck but Hughie Young, now Brig. O.C. – 6 Bde. It is now 8 p.m. and I have just returned from the river. Expect to start south again either tomorrow or the next day as the scheme is now over.

May 5 – Met DDML and ADMS and went to Jolly Sailor for hot rum. Broke camp in pouring rain and started for home at 2:30 p.m. It was a mighty cold wet drive. We came as far as Litchfield and slept in the barn at Seymours – where we again had a wonderful supper and breakfast.

May 6 – Drove straight to Tilbury Ferry where we crossed the Thames to Gravesend and swung onto the Canterbury Road. Stopped at Sittingbourne for lunch then went to Ashford and then thru to Folkestone. Was mighty glad to get back home again, where I found enough work to keep me busy for the next few days.

May 7 – Sunday – am up read to go to church, then will get back in my books again. It was very clear today, we can see the shore of France very distinctly from here and even with the naked eye can make out rows of buildings. The alert is on for shelling from there, but so far no shells have dropped here. Perhaps they are dropping a few in Dover. The shell alert is simply two air warnings a minute apart with no “All Clear”.

May 9 – Went to a Corps meeting today outside Dover. The first time I have been to Dover since I was brought back as a casualty in the last war (Doc Alexander suffered what was known during the First World War as “Disordered Action of the Heart.” It was better known as shell shock, or today, PTSD. When he left Europe, he was in a mortar unit. When he returned, he was transferred to a medical unit and served as a stretcher bearer. This had a deep affect on him, leading him towards medicine after the war. Prior to enlisting to serve in the First World War, he was studying agriculture at the University of Saskatchewan).  Not much excitement – still busy building improvements in our trucks. They are gradually becoming very slick.

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About Rob Alexander

I am a writer, photographer and historian and the author of The History of Canmore, published by Summerthought Publishing of Banff, AB.

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