A DESERT RAT'S STORY
LIBERATION OF DENMARK
We had little work to perform at Thors Molle, just guard duties
and a certain amount of discipline. For the first time in years it was possible
to get some of our back pay and buy whatever was to be had in the shops in
town. I was offered two weeks’ leave to England and decided to take
it, glad to be able to deposit at home the oddments I had acquired during
the last six months of the war. Amongst my collection was a wonderful Luger
pistol, which I had stripped down for safety reasons.
The journey was long and involved getting to France and then across the Channel. Some troops based in Copenhagen managed to scrounge a seat on a plane but my trip took ages. Once home I saw as many people as I could, but my thoughts turned to Denmark and how soon I could get back there. Rationing was still on in England and would be for some years ahead. Denmark at that time was a far better proposition. When I finally arrived it was to find that Tom Hickmore had moved into my place whilst I was away, bit of a cheek I thought at the time. Back into the old routine, I partied and generally enjoyed life. Then came the news that we were to get ready for the next move, to Aabenraa down South not all that far from the German border.
We had all formed close friendships with the local people and on the day we left the newspapers made a big thing of it and photographers were out in force. We came down to the seafront and then moved along the road, behind me came Triggs in a rear Daimler with a Dingo in between. Just as I turned around to look behind a photograph was taken which appeared in the newspaper the following day with the usual farewell caption. Several marriages had been arranged by then, one in particular was Tom Hickmore to Aase. They settled down in a small cottage near Chichester, West Ashling, which was where I visited them from time to time when travelling in that area. Tom worked as a plumber and they raised four children.
When we arrived at our destination, the huge Grand Hotel was to be our new home. Triggs and I took a front room on the first floor. Catering was by our own cooks, with Danish food of course. Various meetings were arranged for the improvement of our minds, a sort of open forum where the whole squadron met in the largest room. I recall one particular discussion about whether or not we should we fraternize with the Germans now that the war was over. The meeting was chaired by a 2nd Lieutenant, green and fresh out from England a month ago. Various bits of rubbish were spoken for the first half hour, then up stood Smokey Grover, the oldest man in the room and not particularly bright with it. In his solemn, loud cockney voice he stated, “Fraternizing is alright until sex rears its ugly ‘ead.” This brought the house down and caused the young officer so much embarrassment that, scarlet in face, he muttered a few words and closed the meeting.
The "A" Squadron, Royal Dragoons, 1945
Smokey Grover had been put in charge of one of our Staghounds during the last two months in Germany. He was part of my troop and on one occasion I had to call him up to our forward position to put some heavy shells on a small building from which the enemy was giving us some trouble. We could not dislodge them with the two pounders we had. As he came level with my car I could see him peeping out of his turret looking like a scared rabbit. He fired one shot blindly without taking aim and reversed out as quickly as he could. Full of bullshit was Smokey.
By now my left thumb was swollen and the pain was awful, throbbing
all the time. A tot of Scotch now and again did nothing to ease it at all.
One night I could stand it no more and walked to the nearest hospital and
asked for help. The doctor, Dr. Schalberg, said poison had set in and it was
necessary to perform a minor operation at once. I was taken into the operating
theatre and the anaesthetist put the mask to my face and asked me to breathe
in deeply. The doctor then cut into my thumb with his scalpel. I felt every
bit of it and reacted by swinging both arms up, causing the scalpel to tear
away at my skin. My right fist caught something soft -I was later informed
that it made contact with a young nurse named Jørga Kjaer who was knocked
flying to the other side of the room. In the meantime Dr. Schalberg took control
and he said to me, “Do not behave like a German.” That cooled
me down a bit and I let him carry on.
The weather was glorious and gradually we adopted a lifestyle totally alien to that of the previous six years. We were all more relaxed not at all anxious to get back to England. It was enough just to have survived the war in Europe. The Japanese were still fighting and we were now hearing of the treatment they were giving our troops they took as prisoner. So far we had little information of the concentration camps in Germany and, not buying newspapers, did not know of the slaughter of millions until later.
We stayed at the Grand for two months and then were told our next base would be Kolding, a larger town about thirty miles north. We took over some barracks on the edge of town, rather high up and very spacious. I had a room to myself at the front of the building, opposite was Triggs, and down the centre was a passageway with rooms on either side shared by ten men to a room, all sleeping in bunks.
An Officers Mess and Sergeants Mess were started. With our Sergeants
Mess we all chipped in money which we gave to our cook, Dennis Mawer, who
purchased fine food. Those in the ordinary mess hall made several comments
about the civvie restaurant which had opened up next door when they saw the
food going in. Dennis was a first class cook in civilian life he delivered
coal for a living, humping it upstairs on his back month after month.
Life was changing for all of us now. We were looking toward the future.