British Element Trieste Force 1945 - 1954
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Departures for demob. occurred from time to time causing vacancies in the Sergeants' mess. So, not long after my return from leave, I was given a third stripe. Robin Smith apparently refused his and remained a corporal for the rest of his service.
The Corporals' Mess also experienced demob losses. Early in December l952, it became time for Sam Gage to return to Maresfield for demob. "Sam" Gage never rose above the rank of corporal and his military career is unrecorded in Debrett, although his younger brother, who is now the eighth Viscount Gage, is noted as having been a 2nd Lt in the Guards. Perhaps it's the Intelligence element they would want to keep "sub rosa" .A leaving party was held for Sam on the eve of his departure, to which the OC, Major Carew was invited. Towards the end of the party, a dispute arose between them as to the extent of Sem's inebriation. The OC claimed that Sam could not walk a straight line but Sam maintained that he could.
Somehow a wager developed and the major agreed to Sam's generous requirement that if he could walk straight, the OC would cancel all parades for the following month. So, a chalk line was drawn straight across the centre of the room. We all watched Sam proceed from one end of the line to the other, possibly without hesitation but certainly without deviation. Our OC kept his word; there were no parades for the next month.
These parades were held in a cleared area in our garage, a sensibly discreet location for them. On one occasion, however, our OC thought that we ought to show the world (or a bit of it) what a smart unit we were. So that morning, he had our sergeant major RQMS Smith march us out of the garage and, the traffic being held up, across the Via del Coroneo to the piazza in front of the Palace of Justice. The OC, RQMS and, I think, another officer accompanied us across the road but stayed at the corner as we marched across in front of the palace, putting the Brigade of Guards to shame.
Presumably, as we approached the half-way point, the OC thought we had gone far enough and told the RQMS to bring us back. Unfortunately, no-one had appreciated the noise produced by Lambrettas, Vespas and Apes (the commercial version of a Vespa; vespa: wasp, ape : bee). Maybe it was thought that our fine performance would have brought all these to an impressed halt. Anyway, about the last third of us heard the order 'About Turn' correctly and did so, no doubt with some panache. The middle third heard something, interpreted it as 'Mark Time' and did so. We at the front heard nothing and continued marching, smartly until the RQMS caught us up. Nothing was said, by anyone: we were all too crestfallen. We never entertained the Triestini with a repeat performance.
At Whitsun 1953, we had an extended weekend with the Bank Holiday Monday. Four of us decided to visit Lake Garda, the other three being David Piper, David Caswell and Ralph Roberts. For this excursion into Italy, I needed a passport. I obtained an application form from the office of the British Polad when delivering to them. Robin Smith took the necessary photographs. Capt. Richards provided the authorisation. I took the completed application etc to the British Polad ( I think that the official I always saw there was Mr. Snellgrove) on my next visit and about a week later collected my passport, issued by the British Consul at Venice.
We went to Desenzano by train. Walking from the station, we passed a number of pensioni and hotels to each one of which at least one of us objected. We finally reached the lake and all agreed on the last hotel, Hotel Tripoli. The weather was fine and we had a pleasant stay. I don't remember how we went to Sirmione, but the only incident that has not escaped me occurred at our last evening meal which we had outside the front of the hotel. The choice for the last course was either wild strawberries or strawberries in wine.
David Caswell chose the latter, the rest of us the former. We were served first and had finished by the time Cas received his. Almost at once he complained. Why had we not noticed the wine with our strawberries? We none of us had eaten wild stawberries before and had attributed the flavour to that.
To assess our proficiency with our standard fire-arm, the .38 revolver, all TSO went to the appropriate range at Bassovizza sometime in late summer that year. As there were four targets, we fired at them in details of four which proved to be a reasonable arrangement. In my detail,I was again second from the right or, perhaps, third from the other end. We were each given five rounds to fire from our loaded revolver. My target suffered six holes/hits (I did not waste energy throwing the revolver at it). The two lads on either side of me claimed that they together had contributed all of them. Both were upset that I had not been similarly generous with their targets. The OC had brought the Browning automatic and attempting to damage one of the targets found that it was jammed and could not fire anything. This discovery brought to an end the Wednesday afternoon escort service for the British Polad.