J Savage, 5th Bn Highland Light Infantry

It was 3.00pm that afternoon on the 6th June we got the order fall in on the parade ground, we are on the move, full marching order, our kit bags had been loaded much earlier, we moved out of Perth barracks, ‘I for one was not sorry’. We marched down the road toward the railway station, when we got their [sic] the train was already in the siding, the Q.M.S. had already loaded the contents of the trucks on to the train, we board in platoon order, first seven platoon, then eight, and nine, company HQ next, officers had their own carriages.

The train was comfortable, in between each pair of seats was a small foldable table, so it was not long before card games were in progress, it was at 1800 hrs the train pulled out of the siding, we were on our way, but the 64,000 dollar question was to where.


It was at 20,00 hrs, when the Q.M. Sergeant came into our carriage, and asked for six volunteers. As I said before, I volunteer for anything, so I was amongst the six, he wanted us to distribute the sandwiches, one cornbeef, one cheese, one jam, and two bread rolls per man, this did not take long as we were only catering for our own company. A large teas urn was carried into each carriage, and the lads helped themselves. The Q.M.S. said our next meal would be when we reach our destination where ever than maybe. I reckoned that all the officers and N.C.Os knew where we were going. Most of the lads had a few hour’s sleep, we stopped a number of times, never found out why, at dawn’s early light we tried to guess our where abouts, we passed lots of stations that did not help, all station name plates had been removed.

At 0600 hours the duty officer came around each carriage he had a bag of coins, each man was given a single shilling, this was compensation, because the army had failed to find us a bed the previous day. At 0900 hours we had completed our overnight train journey, we had not reach[ed] our final destination yet, we were about to embark on a sea voyage. Southampton was chosen for our departure, as we detrained and made our way to the dock area, we could see the ships that were waiting for their human cargo. The Royal Army Catering Corps had prepared breakfast for us in one of the warehouses, ‘typical English’ sausage bacon and egg, no porridge. One hour later we boarded ship…

Go home, go home

As we marched out of the harbour area, and into the streets of Cherbourg, small boys were cheering, but the older men and women of Cherbourg were telling us to go home. They were shouting La Boche, La Boche are coming, go home, go home, they knew the Germans were coming, and so did we, but we had a job to do. Most of us knew that the mission was bound to fail, it was suicide, and on such a beautiful day…

It seemed to us that the whole French army was on the move, guns and tanks, lorries loads of French soldiers, all going in the opposite direction to us. We only covered another 50 miles that day, the trucks pulled of [sic] the road and took cover in a wooded area. It was only about six in the evening, it was a lovely evening, still plenty of sunshine about. We could still see remnants of the French army, heavy guns that were now useless, if fired again they would kill more French than Germans. The French soldier knew that his country would soon he under German rule, perhaps they were trying to get back to their own part of the country, before they surrendered. Everyone knew that France, like the other invaded countries, would have to surrender in order to save lives and property.

Once more the Q.M. Sergeant proved his worth by serving up a hot meal, it was real steak, a little on the tough side, perhaps. It’s a funny thing we had been without food for over twelve hours, yet no one had complained. Their [sic] were no shouts of when do we eat, I think because of the tension, most people forget about food. When you do get that long awaited meal, its only then that you realised how hungry you must have been. It was still light, what a lovely evening for walking down to the nearest town or village, and chatting up all the French birds, or even hitch hiking to the coast line and boarding the ship for a cheap one day excursion to see the white cliffs of Dover, or even walk in the same direction as the trucks are now facing, meeting your first German, shake hands, and say, let’s call the whole thing of [sic]. I wonder what the Q.M. put in that stew it seems to make one indulge in day dreams.

Morale low

We knew that their [sic] would be no breakfast served up this morning as the Q.M. had not returned, so we had to make do with day rations. Morale amongst the troops was on a very low key, I could see that some of the lads had not shaved since they set foot in France, and discipline seemed to have gone out the window. The lads were bored, nothing had happened during the last four days, their [sic] was a couldn’t care less attitude, we were 250 miles inside France, and we hadn’t even seen a live German, come to think of it we hadn’t seen a dead one either.

It was not long before the platoon sergeants were shouting, right lads on your feet, No 7 platoon fall in, 8 and 9 platoon were given the same order, 7 platoon took up position 700 yards past the farm, 9 platoon the same distance on the opposite flank. Headquarters had the farm area, 8 platoon were about 300 yards behind HQ and in reserve. Now it was up to the platoon officers and sergeants to find the best position for digging in, 7 and 9 platoon were lucky, they had a ditch, so half of the platoon would be spread out in the ditch, the other half would have to dig in on open ground about twenty or thirty yards in front of the ditch … in front of us, the view was not very nice, you could not see the enemy coming over the hill, their [sic] was no hill, only a large dense wood, and it was only 400 yards in front of us.

The Germans are coming

This is now the 14th June, it was about 0900 hours that we heard someone shout , bloody hell the Germans are coming. Everyone rushed to their positions, the Germans were making their way through the trees, one long line of them, perhaps fifty or sixty. ‘We knew we had to hold our fire until the order was given’ they spread themselves out, about two feet separated one from the other. They wore their greatcoats. They walked slowly away from the cover of the trees, they had both hands on their rifles, they had fixed bayonets.

We expected to hear an almighty roar, as they charged for us. There was no roar, and their [sic] was no charge, just a slow steady walk, and they got even closer to each other. The farmhouse was their objective, it was uncanny, what were they trying to do, scare the living daylights out of us? Did they expect us to get up and run for our lives? Did they know we were waiting for them? My own feelings were that these were not the Germans that had swept through Holland, Belgium and now France. They were zombies, not the kind that had risen from the dead, they were the dull, stupid type, who could not think for themselves. T

hey could have been dope[d] up to their eyeballs. My thoughts were broken when the shout of fire was heard, so one Bren gun and about thirty rifles opened fire at those wearing the German uniform … The firing continued for about one minute, their [sic] was no order to cease firing, each one just stopped firing when their [sic] was no more enemy left standing. How many had died, and how many more wounded, and how many had dropped to the ground when the first shot was fired, we never really found out.

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