The honour of the regiment

(Canscene) — Brown fedora planted firmly on his head and wearing a dun-coloured raincoat, he  planted his huge feet in my office and demanded to inspect the men’s quarters.

It was in the early spring of 1944 and my outfit, the 63rd Anti-tank Regiment was billeted in and around Folkestone, Kent an area under Nazi shell fired from across the Channel. My battery was billeted in some of the houses in an abandoned residential area; those unoccupied  were under lock and key.

Our battery was out on a tedious three-day exercise and I had the good fortune of being left behind as caretaker of the properties.  I remember the delicious sense of privacy that was allowing me finally to go deep into Tolstoy’s War and Peace.  Until the detective arrived.

He said that he suspected our soldiers of looting some of the abandoned and supposedly secured homes. I, too had suspected this may have been occurring but resenting the detective’s attitude, demanded he produce a search warrant and after a heated argument, stomped out to get one.

For the exercise, each soldier carried essentials in back and side packs. Personal belongings were left beside bedsides in tubular canvas kit bags. Fortunately, a large truck had been left behind, complete with driver and he and I loaded every kit bag into it and I told him to get lost for the rest of he day and to phone in for further instructions.

Back came the detective with the search warrant and I took him on tour of the men’s quarters. The only hint of felony was a wrapped package of egg powder left on a window sill.  I undertook to place the  returning private “on charge.”

The poor sod turned out to be anything but an intellectual giant and when I brought him before Major Charles Priestly, with the gloating detective present. But it was the latter who came in for the most searching questions.  What was he doing in the mens’’ quarters?  Why did he suspect looting? If he did, why didn’t he inspect the officers’ quarters?

The private’s defence on possession of the egg powder was “I thought the rats’ bin at it and was goin’ to send it ‘ome fer the folks.”

Priestly peremptorily sentenced him to a month confined to  barracks and the detective who I believe was expecting the accused to be turned over to police justice, crammed his hat on his head and stomped out of the room without a word.

And thus was the honour of the regiment saved.

One Response to “The honour of the regiment”

  1. Bill Says:

    It’s an amusing tale, Ben, and well told. There’s a shade of grey in the regimental colours, but you knew clearly whose side to take.