stationed with the 39th Regiment Royal Artillery at Sennelager, West Germany, and I was a young lad of twenty five, with plenty of energy. Then in the middle of January 1961, a
few days before my birthday, the Regiment was asking for volunteers to make up the numbers on a two week training exercise.
I was always told never to volunteer for anything, but this looked O.K. as there was no training involved. We were just administration
staff, to look after the lads who were on the training. So I volunteered with about twelve other lads, and the next thing
we were on our way to set up camp in Winterburg. I was to work in the Officers Mess with six other lads. I was the chief washer
up and spud peeler, but it was alright. There were two shifts. I was on the early one with two other lads, that was from six
in the morning till in the afternoon. Then we had the rest of the day to ourselves.
So the first
day after duty, we were all ready to go out at ten to three that afternoon. The three of us, Tom, Dave and myself, thought
we would go down town and see the sights. We started off down the steep hill that led into town. Looking back we could see
the building where we were staying. The Officers Mess stood on the hill surrounded by the wooden huts where the lads on the
exercise were staying. It looked very pretty set out among the snow covered fir trees, and the snow on the surrounding hills.
I think it used to be a hotel once, before it was taken over by the NATO troops. Different units of the NATO forces did their
winter training there.
On the surrounding hills lots of people were skiing and it looked like good fun. Even the small
children had a special slope made, with a little chair lift to get them up the small hill, and there they would ski down.
It looked so easy.
I said to Tom, "We will have to have a go at something like that."
Tom said, that he was
often on skis and would love to have a go, sometime.
We were approaching our first pub (guest house) and we agreed
to have a quick drink there. I noticed the crossroads just beyond the pub. The traffic seemed to be stopping and starting
as if a policeman was controlling it, but I could see nothing. Then I noticed this thing hanging over the center of the cross
roads. It looked like a rectangular box, something like the lantern that hangs outside some houses as a porch light. But this
was much bigger. The lantern like object was bright yellow in colour. On each of the four sides of the box, there was a large
circle split into eight segments. The segments, on the top and bottom were red. They occupied nearly half of the circle. The
two segments on each side of the circle were green and did not occupy as much space as the red segments. There was four orange
segments, one between each colour, but those were very small, about quarter the size of a green segment. There was an arm,
like that on a clock, but this was the full width of the circle and pivoted in the center. The arm was moving slowly around
the segments. One half of the arm would be pointing to the red segment on the top of the circle, and the other half of the
arm would be pointing to the other red segment at the bottom, and the same when the arm moved to the green and orange. On
the other sides of the box-like object was the same layout, but I noticed when one side of the clock hand was on red, the
other hands on the other side were on green, and then when it was on the orange segments, they were all on the orange together.
sat in the guest house near the crossing and watched with amazement at how well the traffic flowed. All the drivers were obeying
the signals. After a few beers we got fed up watching it and moved on down town.
The town was small. We looked around
a few shops then ended up in a guest house and then another and another. We were getting hungry and didn't have enough money
to waste on food, so we decided to go back to our camp for the evening meal, and then we might go somewhere after. As we were
leaving the building, there was a taxi outside, and the driver somehow must have known that we were English, as he offered
to drive us to our destination, very cheap! Tom negotiated the fare and we all climbed in. The other two were in the back
so I got in the front. The driver started talking to me in German. I told him in my best German that I didn't understand,
but he kept on talking. As we took off, I shouted to my mates in the back, "I hope we get there!"
Then he was playing
at dodging cars in and out of the traffic.
My mate shouted to him, "We are not in that much of a b...y hurry."
driver turned around to talk to the passengers in the back.
I shouted, "Keep your b....y eyes on the road mate."
roads were clear of snow, but some was piled up along the pavement otherwise the road was O.K. I saw the first guest house
that we had been into ahead and turned and pointed it out to my mates. As I turned my head forward, the driver was braking
hard and I nearly went through the windscreen. There was a bang and then we were waltzing around the road, and we came to
a stop as the car hit a pile of snow. The driver was out of our vehicle even before it stopped, running to the other car waving
his hands all over the place. We got out and were looking for the damage, when our man returned. He beckoned to us, and pointed
toward the guest house across the road. He was in front, and at the bar first. We wondered what was going on and thought he
must have brought us here out of the cold while he made a statement.
The barman was placing some full glasses on the
bar and our driver lifted one up and said something, so being good soldiers we joined him. There was a glass of beer and a
glass of spirits. He lifted the beer glass first and took a large drink, then wiped the froth from his lips with the back
of his hand. Then he lifted up the glass with the spirt in and said, "Prost." Then the drink disappeared down his throat.
So we did the same! The three of us nearly choked on the liquid, as it burned our throats and went down our gullet. That was
the first time any of us had tasted, 'schnaps.' Over here we call them 'shorts.' Then there were more set up on the bar, so
we had another drink with him. Just then the German Police arrived. Our driver greeted them and tried to hand them a drink,
but they pushed him away. Then they were talking to him. He was still swinging his arms around, and he then pointed to the
three of us.
The Policeman came over and said, "British soldiers, yes?"
We all nodded our heads and said,
He then spoke to us in broken English. "You from the camp up the road?"
We again nodded and said, "Yes."
He then turned around and went over to our ex-taxi-driver and said something. Then they both left. Our man waved to
us and then he was gone. We still had some drinks on the bar so we stayed to finish them. We were informed later that our
driver had done that, so the Police could not prove he was drunk when the accident happened. So we had a cheap night out and
walked to where our beds were, and we had something to talk about to our other mates the next day.
So that evening
we had a go at skiing. Tom said, he was pretty good on skis. For Dave and me, this would be our first time. We signed for
our kit from the ski store - ski boots and sticks, gloves and an oversuit. Tom showed the two of us how to put the things
on, then gave us a demonstration. We got the hang of it, learned how to move off, turn and stop. I found the best way to stop
was to sit on my skis. We all had some good fun, but kept to the small slopes. We were really tired that night, and our limbs
were aching. I thought I was fit - but it was not in the right places! It was the back of my legs that were aching. I had
a good shower, got my head down for the night and went out like a light.
I was willing the time away next morning,
and then at that
afternoon we were all ready to have another go. The weather was not that good as it had been raining earlier in the day and
the snow was a bit slushy.
The store man said it was not good for skiing and it could be slippy on the nursery slopes.
We said, we would watch out and off we went.
We kept to the area where we were the previous day - it was a bit slippy,
so we went around the woods where the snow was not used that much. It was all good fun, especially when we were on the narrow
tracks, with the over-hanging branches. If you put the stick up and touched them, all the snow would fall, and if you were
behind someone that did that, you could be covered in snow. It was great, but it got boring so we decided to venture to new
pastures. We went further up the hill. It was very misty there and the evening seemed to be setting in, so we made tracks
for our home base. It was surprising how far we had travelled and we were getting worried as the mist seemed to be settling
down. Everything looked white.
"Which way?" I could hear Tom shout, as he was the leader. Just then Tom saw the lights
of the village and we knew to keep to the right. The terrain was very rough and we were all getting tired.
to myself, "I will be glad to be back in my bed!"
Tom was at home on the slopes and soon disappeared into the distance.
Dave was in front of me and I was doing my best to keep up with him. Then Dave fell, and I was in front. I looked back and
saw him starting to follow. So I raced on. Then it happened! I was sliding sideways. I flung myself to the ground, but it
made no difference. I was still tumbling and rolling out of control, then I came to rest in a pile of snow. I tried to get
up, but I couldn't. I had lost one ski and the other seemed to be under me and my foot was still in it. I rolled over sideways
and nearly passed out.
"My b....y foot!" I shouted.
Just then Dave arrived. "Are you O.K. Mick?"
said, "There is something wrong with by b....y leg!"
Dave tried to pull me over and my scream nearly caused an avalanche.
It was really dark now and we could see nothing. Just then Tom arrived and said, "What's wrong?"
I said, "I think
I have broken something!"
He and Dave had a feel around and took off my ski, then said, "Yes."
It was really cold now, I had not noticed it before, but I was freezing.
I said, "What the F... do
we do now?"
By that time Tom was back on his skis and said, "The best thing is, for me to go and get some help, our
base camp is only over there."
Then he was gone! I don't know exactly what happened, but the next thing - someone
was holding a glass in front of me and placing it in my hand and moving it closer to my lips. I took a sip and it seemed to
warm my throat up, so I took another and another. I was lifted on to a stretcher and carried to a room with bright lights.
I was told that the man looking at my ankle was the local doctor and he had said, it was broken. After about an hour I was
placed in an army ambulance, a converted land rover, and taken to the CanadianMilitaryHospital which was the nearest, and that was around ninety miles away. I had a very rough journey and arrived there about
did sleep a bit on the long journey with the help of drugs they gave me before we left. I was well wrapped up, with the blankets
tightly around me and then strapped onto the stretchers. I could not move even if I wanted too and with the drink and the
drugs I did not want to move anyway. It was a good job I was drugged up to the eye balls as the journey turned out to be a
nightmare. They did not take the main road but a short cut, that cut about twenty miles off the journey. The road was covered
with hard packed snow and sometimes, where the snow had melted, there were pot holes and I felt them all. I would be drifting
off to sleep and then we would hit a pot hole. The driver and his mate would say, 'sorry.' The vehicle would slow down for
a bit. Then it would gather some speed as the road looked clear in the headlights. Then the driver would hit another bump
- 'sorry,' and then gather speed again and so on! I was very relieved when we turned on to the main route and some smooth
I was even more relieved when we arrived at the hospital. I knew I was there, when I heard voices speaking in
English, or should I say Canadian. Then the rear doors were flung open and I was greeted by someone saying, "You will be all
right now, mate, you are in good hands." I said "Thank you," to my driver and his mate, as I was lifted out on the stretcher
and carried into the reception area. I knew this, because a nurse said, "You are now in the CanadianMilitaryHospital reception area." Then she said, "We must
un-wrap you. You look so very comfortable there." I said, "Thank you." I was then taken to another room where all my clothing
was removed and a white gown was put on me. My leg was still in the splints that were placed around it by the doctor in Winterburg.
They had removed my clothing without disturbing my leg. Now I was dressed only in my white gown, and lying on a more comfortable
stretcher, I had my splints removed, then my leg and ankle were cleaned up and an x-ray taken. I was informed that I had fractured
my tibia and fibula, and they would have to operate to get them back together, then they would place my leg in a plaster cast.
Then the doctor said, "There is a small problem, and that is, there is too much alcohol in your blood, just now."
Then he said, "Did you have a drink after the accident?"
I told him about the glass full of something, that
I thought was rum, that I drank while I was still in the snow.
He said, "We will make you comfortable, but can't operate
on you just now as the alcohol level in your blood in very high".
I said, "How long?"
He said, "Twelve to twenty
I was wheeled into a ward, which was in darkness except for a light over a bed with curtains drawn halfway
around. The nurse helped me onto the bed and then placed a cage over my legs, pulling the bedclothes over it and me.
said, "That will take the weight of the bedclothes off your foot." Then she gave me a injection to help me sleep. I closed
I could hear voices, I was wondering where I was! Opening my eyes, the room looked so bright - people were
walking around. I thought they had just finished breakfast as I could hear the clatter of crockery.I looked around. There
were curtains drawn around my bed. I lay there looking at the ceiling and wondering what was happening, when the curtains
parted and a head popped in. It was a pretty nurse.
She said, "You are awake then, the man from Blighty."
approached my bed.
I said, "Hello."
She then started tidying the bed up and said, "Are you comfortable?"
nodded my head, and said, "Well, yes!"
I then said, "Have I missed breakfast?"
She said, "You have just missed
dinner!" She then explained that it was gone one-thirty and dinner had just finished.
She then said, "I don't know
about you? I will go and have a word with matron."
And off she went. A minute later she returned with another nurse,
who turned out to be the matron.
Matron said, "You may be going to have your leg fixed up later."
turned to the nurse and said, "Nil my mouth."
I said, "My mouth feels like, as if there was a chickens farm in there."
said, "You can have a mouth wash."
The nurse then brought a basin of water, soap and towel and gave me a hand to wash
She said, "You could do with a shave."
She then handed me my own bag containing my washing kit. I had
a battery shaver there and soon cleaned my face up. I felt a bit better.
Then the screens were removed and I could
see around the ward. There were six beds set out around the room. It looked as if there were only four occupied. Then a chap
came over to me and put out his hand. I shook it, and said, "My name is Michael."
As he let go my hand, he said, "I'm
He then said that he had the same sort of injury. He had fractured his ankle while skiing on exercise. He
sat talking to me for a while, then he went back to his own bed. I closed my eyes.
I was awakened by a nurse, a different
one than before, and she informed me, that she was going to test my blood. Then she took a few pints out of my left arm(!)
saying, "We will see if you are going to have your operation today."
Five minutes later a nurse arrived with a tray
full of food, and said,
"You might as well have some food as your operation is at ten tomorrow morning." I was glad
to see the food - scrambled egg, toast and marmalade and a nice cup of tea. I thought I was hungry, but I just nibbled at
the egg and toast. I downed most of the tea. I was getting stomach pains and wanted to go to the toilet. The nurse returned
and took my tray, saying, "You were not as hungry as you thought?"
I said, "Thank you. You are right, but the cup of
tea was great!"
She then said, "Is there anything else I can get you?"
I said, "No thank you, I'm just waiting
She then left with the tray. I meant to say to her, that I wanted to go to the toilet, but I was shy!
I lay there thinking - I must go! I must go! I even tried to get out of bed, but when I tried the pain was too much, I nearly
blacked out. I lay there looking around the room and trying to forget! I must have had an anguished look on my face, as the
nurse came over and said, "Are you in pain?"
I said "No, but I would love to go to the toilet!"
"That's all right! Do you want a bottle or pan?"
I looked at her, and she must have read the question in my eyes!
For she said, "You want to pass water or the other?"
I said, "The other!"
She then drew the curtains
around me and disappeared! I was waiting with great expectation. Then a minute later the nurse returned with something covered
with a cloth.
She said, "Here we are," and pulled the cloth off a sliver object. It looked like a wash basin.
then said, "We sit on this!"
I started to laugh, at the thought of 'We'.
The nurse then placed the thing under
me, saying, "Move your gown."
I sat there, it seemed for hours! I felt very uncomfortable sitting up there in the
world! The object was removed later. The moving around in the bed started to make my leg hurt. It was really the first time
since I had occupied the bed that I had had a good look at my leg! It looked so large all wrapped up in cotton wool! Just
then the nurse came over and handed me some pajamas, saying, "Put them on, you might as well be comfortable for the night."
supper, I settled down and drifted off to sleep. I was dreaming of skiing, when I was awakened by a hand on my shoulder. I
opened my eyes and there was a pretty nurse, with a trolley full of tablets and medicine. She gave me some tablets and then
said, "Turn on your side." Then she gave me an injection, saying, "That's for the pain, and it will help you sleep!" It
was quite dark now. As I glanced at the clock on the wall at the far side of the room, it read - eleven fifteen. I closed
my eyes again and drifted off to 'wonderland'.
I was awakened by the sound of a basin being placed on the table next
to my bed, and a smiling nurse who said, "Time for a wash."
I put my hand into the basin, wet my fingers, then rubbed
them over my eyes and dried myself with the towel. I could see a noticed over my head that read, 'Nil by mouth.' I then remembered
- ten o'clock! I said to myself, "Wish it was over."
The time passed slowly. A doctor came to see me and said,
is the day!" He explained what he was going to do. Then a nurse prodded me with a needle. I started floating on cloud nine.
It was like being in a cinema watching a movie. I was lifted onto a stretcher and wheeled away. I was watching things fly
by. Then someone said to me, "Count from ninety-nine backwards." I started counting '99, 98, 97, 9! *!'
calling my name. "Michael, Michael."
I tried to open my eyes, but they were so heavy!
Then again, "Michael,
Michael!" I was determined to see who was calling, so I forced my eyes open! I was amazed to see two eyes, two large nostrils
and lips, that were moving, saying,
"Michael how do you feel? It's all over."
I tried to say something, but
could not move my lips.
Then the voice said, "We are going to put you into your own bed and there you can sleep it
I had this horrible taste in my mouth and tried to ask for a drink but couldn't. I drifted off to sleep again.
opened my eyes. I was back in my own bed. My mouth was so dry! There was this pretty nurse leaning over me.
and said, "How do you feel?"
I said after a while, "I could do with a drink?"
"Just a sip then," she said,
holding my head up with one hand and holding a glass with some water to my lips. I took a sip! I then noticed my leg hanging
from a rope that was on a pulley over my bed!
I said, "Thank you." I looked at my leg again. It was covered in something
that looked like plaster! Plaster cast. Just my toes were sticking out at the far end - surrounded by cotton wool. They looked
really comfortable! I tried to move them, but I couldn't. After a few goes they finally wiggled. I was wondering how far down
the plaster had come? I moved my hand down onto my hip, and was amazed to feel the cast there. It had come right up to my
hip! I thought to myself that it was my lower limb that I had fractured. It felt like concrete-so solid!
handed me some pajamas and helped put the jacket on and then one leg in the trousers.
I asked her, "How long are we
usually in the cast?" pointing to my leg. She said, "Your leg may well be up in the air for a few weeks! It helps with the
circulation. They usually remove the plaster in about six weeks, after an x-ray."
I said, "Do I lie here all that
"No," she said, "You will be able to get up in a wheelchair and maybe crutches. But when you are in bed, your
leg will be placed on the pulley to keep it lifted up in the air!"
So the weeks rolled by. I got to know a lot of people,
mostly Canadians. When it was visiting time I never had any visitors! So they took pity on me! Some of the families used to
bring me fruit and cookies. As I was a long way from my unit I very seldom got anyone from the Regiment calling! But I made
some good friends there and was invited to call on them if I ever visited Canada. I never got around to going and it's too
I spent about four months in the hospital, as I had some problems with my leg. I broke it a second time.
I was making my way down the stairs in the hospital one day and tripped! I woke up back in my bed in plaster again. I was
informed that it had snapped and had to be put back this time with screws - four altogether. Then after a couple of weeks
the plaster was removed. Then a few weeks later, I had to have another operation as the screws became loose and had to be
removed. So after about four months altogether, I was released from the hospital. I bet they were glad to see me go!!!
was then air-evacuated to Southern England by the R.A.F. I stayed with then in a rehabilitation unit to
be checked over to see if I was fit enough to continue with my army career. After a few weeks I was granted leave, and went
over to Ireland for a fortnights holiday. I then reported back to my unit in
Sennelager, West Germany, fighting fit!!