etg life in england

Isaac S. Blonder ETG  6

Funny Things that happened on the way through ETG 6.

Nov.'41,arrived at Ft. Monmouth. First duty was to collect my gear. Besides army issue, we had buy the officer's uniforms from Kislins in Red Bank. The clerk gave us a choice - long or short outercoat? As a penny-pinching New Englander, short coat, of course. From then on, my poverty was exposed, but there was one benefit, in group photos I could identify me instantly!

On one of the very few occasions I had to discharge the duties of an officer, I served as the payroll officer for the Staff sergeants quarters. In effusive gratitude they invited me to dinner. "How many steaks did I want and how well done?  Steaks??? All we ever received at the Officers Club was ground meat disguised as gourmet treats!  "How did you obtain the steaks?" I stammered, to the master sergeant.  "Simple", he replies, "our rations of meat come in with too few steak cuts, so we keep the officers from fighting disgracefully with each other at dinner time."

St. Johns, Jan. '42. Crossed the Bay of Fundy on a Ferry. Roughest trip of my life. All of us crowded the men's room unloading the remnants of breakfast.  Funny? Only now.

Boarded the "Strathedon" which I believe was formerly the "Empress of India", and operating as if it were a luxury liner transporting the Posh in a Posh vessel. The meals were identical as before and we soon discovered we were treated as paying guests with all the privileges thereto. Instead of individual orders, we demanded the entire menu be delivered as written. Food fit for a king!, except --- it was my first encounter with curry saturated into spoiled meat. My guts blew up like a balloon and I dragged myself to the dirty infirmary where I was diagnosed as having appendicitis! They wanted to operate immediately in the midst of worst storm of the century.  I imperiously donned the cloak of privilege as an AMERICAN OFFICER and oozed away to my room to die of natural causes. Recovered the next day, of course.

London, Feb.'42. England was cold and damp, houses were without central heating, and the bedrooms felt like the inside of a New England icehouse. I survived by going to bed with all my clothes on and shedding one garment after another as the bed got warmer.

We were allowed two lockers, one of which I filled with clothing and the other with random goods from the Monmouth commissary.One item I tucked away, turned out to be the greatest gift an American could bestow on a Britisher. The sister of one the lovely ladies I met was soon to be married, and the ceremony had to be blessed with a white cake or the gods of marriage would be furious. I produced a pound of confectionery sugar and this Yankee took on the halo of a Greek god!

Another spell of stomach ache from a curry dish. The British Medical Officer gravely recommended giving up boiled brussel sprouts, cabbage, and carrots, which didn't appear to me to be the hardship diet he thought he was prescribing.

Next to my room in the Richmond boarding house (while at radar school) was the bathroom equipped with a "Geyser" hot water heater operated by dropping in shillings. The automatic pilot would often go out due to the irregular supply  of gas and the prospective bather would feed the animal and seeing no action would light a match to activate the pilot. Meanwhile the room is full of gas and a resounding explosion resulted which shook the building. I would rush in to rescue the unclad victim and properly restore the geyser to its normal function. Unfortunately no lady was ever beholden to the gallant rescuer.

April '42. The National Whole Wheat bread became the only bread from the English bakeries. Made with 25% sawdust it resembled a log in texture. One needed a very sharp knife to produce a thin slice. I was tempted to try a hacksaw. The taste was acceptable. A great delicacy in the Officer's mess was a thick slice soaked in bacon grease and fried in a pan. The odor kept me from even tasting this masterpiece.

Lights went out at the boarding house. I volunteered to put things to rights, and discovered a 230 volt lighting panel with no visible mains switch, and binding posts with strands of copper wire as the fuses. So the bold American hero with one hand tied behind his back gingerly installed a new strand of wire which restored the lights for the gentle ladies and the mocking American bystanders.

Falmouth, May '42. Radar site in open country. Went for a stroll to see the sights, and  passed a little old lady who stared at my "candy" pants and green coat and hurried back into her rustic little cottage. Presently, a rather large bobby riding his official bike, headed directly for me and demanded identification. Seems that I was reported to be a Nazi spy who had parachuted into Cornwall and was about to commit sabotage!
Austin 4 cylinder utility vehicle popped off the head of one of the exhaust valves. Now unable to visit the various radar sites. Motor pool says two weeks. I rushed into Falmouth, found a valve in a civilian garage, and ground it into position the same day. As if it wasnt enough to see the Yankee get his hands dirty doing radar repairs, it was a rotten show to have an officer stoop to labor in the enlisted workplace.

Hasenpfeffer be damned. Occasionally someone will shoot a wild rabbit (H) and it is then hung up to age. Cold climate, so it doesn't putrefy. On the day that it is to be served to the officers, I can smell it five miles away downwind. Fortunately, being an officer and possessed with a vehicle I can go to the local village pub and indulge in fish and chips (off the ration).

Mutiny! Yes, I witnessed a mutiny in my  British Royal Marine Anti-aircraft company. One of the officers tipped me off that there was going to be a big to-do at the Colonel's quarters. Sure enough, the enlisted men, led by the handsome, bemustached master sargent marched in military file up to the door on which the MS tapped respectfully. The door opened immediately, and the colonel appeared without his jacket. "What is the meaning of this interruption of my duties, Master Sargent?"  The MS smartly saluted, "The men say the food is too rotten to eat and they refuse to continue with their duties until they get fed better rations". "Men" declared the Colonel, "I eat the same food you do". The MS again saluted smartly, turned on his heels, and marched off with his crew. End of mutiny!

Perhaps being in a foreign country tickled my sense of humor, but the rest of my military career seemed anything but funny except at Ft. Monmouth when, in 1946, my captain tried to get me to stay in the army (not enough technical officers reenlisted). He made this pitch to entice me to stay (or anyone else).  "You will be stationed at Ft. Monmouth until you retire on pension, only one hour a day is necessary to do your duty, and we will guarantee that you will never have to serve overseas in the unlikely case of another war!" Boy, did that ever hit my funny bone!

  Copyright  Isaac Blonder
Questions on this web site? contact