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BILL COLLINS' WWII MEMORIES, Page 3

  
About 4 weeks after landing I had a week end pass to go to London, and stayed at one of the 3 Red Cross Clubs for 50 cents a night. The beds had sheets on them and when I arrived back in Andover I had a pair to go over those rough old biscuit pillows I had been sleeping on. The Covent Gardens in London was a very large dance hall where every GI would go. One dance in the afternoon and another at night Two big bands playing our kind of swing with girls outnumbering men 2 to 1 ! ! First time I had ever had a girl to cut in on the girl I was dancing with. They served soft drinks and watercress sandwiches. The evening dance would end about 11:00, and then we would take the tube back to the Kenssinger Red Cross Club.
   
We found a small restaurant that could cook SPAM with eggs that was out of this world. The train would arrive and leave at Waterloo station. Heading back to the station one night during a big raid when the Germans were using the V2 bombs, I saw it go out above me and ran to the nearest building which was a small brick waiting station for bus passengers. The bomb landed about a block from me and I believe every brick in that building jumped up with the explosion. The walk over Waterloo Bridge that night turned into a run.
   
There were several other dance halls in London and at each one was a large registration book to sign listing your hometown. I ran across George Hixson, Bob Gray and Jim Mossbarger's names. Jim Mossbarger who was stationed in Northern England in a bomber Group of the 8t1 Air Force called me and said he had bailed out of the plane and had been given a 7 day pass and also 2 bottles of booze. He wanted to know if I could come to London and meet him, you know the answer, and what a time we had. We took in The Covent Garden, went thru the booze and stayed in a small hotel during one of the biggest air raids the Germans made on London. However we did not realize the air raid had happened until we read about it in the next day's paper. Being off for 5 more days Jim came to Andover and spent the time with the guys in our Headquarters. One night while I was on duty Jim went " Pubing " with Gordon W. Molesworth in a vehicle from our base. On the return to camp the truck stopped and Jim, being the ranking Non Corn had quite a thrill when an Officer stopped to see what the trouble was, and actually started the truck for Jim who was really sweating it out. They had three girls and Molesworth in the rear. Jim always has been lucky!!
  
Molesworth was from Michigan and probably the unluckiest GI I met during WWI 1. He spent most of his time taking Penicillin caused by "the ladies of the evening". Each time he was restricted to the base for 30 days. Two days before we were to ship home, he was unlucky again and missed that shipment home.
   
Cpl Charles "Chuck" Fouratt, who was the Chaplains assistant, was another character a book could be written about. When Chuck joined our Group at Camp Shanks before we left the USA, he spent most of his time playing a guitar and singing hymns. He had planned to go into the ministry when the war ended and we were all convinced he would succeed. Chuck wrote each day to his girl friend. His language was perfect, really liked the Chaplin and the work in his office, plus driving the Chaplin in his jeep. However, when we arrived in England, he had a week end pass to London and went with Pfc. Ferraro, a Italian from Brooklyn, who introduced Chuck to several" Ladies of the Evening" and Chuck's life changed forever! ! From then on Chuck was the Lover of our Group, and being from NY City he knew a couple languages and was our Romeo. After the war Maxine and I visited one evening with Chuck in Boston, who said when he arrived home, he and his girl friend Bermida did not get together, but I am sure Chuck found another.
   
I will never forget a trip I made to London with Sgt Joe Oles from Pennsylvania. Once we got off the train we headed for a Pub, and after a few warm beers, a black soldier came in and said something that annoyed Sgt Joe. The girl, who was the bartender, took it up and we were told to leave. I was glad to get out for they closed at 2:00 till 5:00. Never went with Oles again
   
T Sgt Bill Martin from Florence Alabama, and about 8 other GI's from our Headquarters, were playing basketball while we were in Connecticut before shipping overseas. During the game I dropped my upper plate, which I had since I was 18 years old. Martin called me "Chop Chop" which was a nickname I was called from then on. These were the same teeth that I lost in the Atlantic Ocean while swimming with a group of guys and girls in Atlantic City. Luckily I was fast enough to grab them on my third attempt and to this day I have stayed away from the waves when swimming.
   
Capt. Starke from Illinois had been a history Professor, and now in our S 1 dept had all the books and guide papers on England. He needed a driver to take some records to northern England and asked me to drive, so I saw a lot of historical towns on a very eventful trip. After WW 11, 1 had lunch with Starke who was then working in Washington DC. Starting at Andover, which is in southern England, we traveled to Liverpool, a costal port in Northern England. Spending three days on the trip e visited Chester, Oxford Bath (a city that was built on top of the remains of the city that had been built a century ago). We also stopped at Sulgrave Manor, home of President George's ancestors. We met the director who said he was the first person our government had permitted to stay overnight at Mount Vernon, really did not make history, but at that time I was really impressed. We also viewed the home of Ann Hathaway at Stratford on the Avon and went thru the home of William Shakespeare. Our trip also took us thru Coventry, the city that the Germans had bombed for 12 hours in November 1942, trying to destroy everything. After all the bombs had fallen, the walls of the Cathedral remained. The history Captain Starke explained on the trip made it a very memorable experience.
   
Westminster Abbey in London, where the English people had stacked thousands of bags of sand inside around the religious statues, so the constant bombing would keep it intact. England had provided a guide to show the GI's the interesting parts of this great Cathedral, in which many Nobel and Historical people are buried. The English would have to purchase their space, which was priced for the amount it would take to bury the casket. One space with the name on top was only about two feet by two feet, which the guide said was paid for by the tightest man buried in the Cathedral who insisted the be buried standing up. His name was Johnson and you will recall, Mother's ancestors came from England!!
   
The Air Base just outside Andover was full of English bicycles for us to use. However being brought up on our coaster bikes it was a big problem to ride with brakes on the handlebars and the most uncomfortable seats made it a chore to ride. However a bakery in the rural countryside made it worthwhile to ride the mile, and obtain some of the best SCONES 1 had ever tasted.
   
The week Jim Mossbarger spent with me at Andover was good for both of us. However by the time we had returned from London, I was out of money, so I went to a Barkley's Bank in Andover, and persuaded the cashier to cash my check written on The Peoples National Bank of Greenfield, Ohio. It was written for $50.00 and caused much concern when it arrived in Greenfield for payment. It worked so well I got another cashed before we left for France.
   
As D Day was approaching we were all restricted to the base and knew the big action was about to begin. About a week before, Capt Starke asked me to drive him and Capt Richards, the Group Chaplin, to Winchester, where General Eisenhower and Prime Minister Churchill were reviewing the troops in the staging area, prior to the invasion. I noticed as they approached, about a half block down the street no one was standing, so I ran down and when they arrived I saluted the General and he returned my salute. In my later years I shook hands with President Kennedy and President Johnson and could say I was saluted by Ike, and waved to by Prime Minister Churchill!!
   
The night of June 5th 1944 was one I can never forget for the skies were full of planes. First the Bombers with the Fighter escort, then the Gliders, and finally the troop carrying planes with Airborne troops. The sky was so thick with planes, they just kept coming; you really could not see the sky.

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