Author Topic: 9th Battalion anecdotes  (Read 1636 times)

Offline Robert Bonner

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9th Battalion anecdotes
« on: April 16, 2016, 12:09:58 PM »
Lieut-Colonel 'Algy' Parsons commanded the Ninth between 1943 and 1945. At the end of the war he was promoted Brigadier and commanded a brigade in Austria, returning to Italy to take  up the post of Military Governor in Trieste.  His son Robert has written to say that, having just read Volunteer Infantrymen of Ashton-under-Lyne he has a few unpublished family anecdotes about his Father's service with the battalion, which are:

1.    Motor Cycle. Having owned and ridden motor cycles as a younger man, Father as CO was rather dismissive of his MT Sergeant’s efforts to instruct him in riding the motor cycle , newly issued for the CO’s use. Soon after, on a battalion move in transport, there was humiliation as the CO crashed into the back of a 3 tonner full of mildly interested soldiers. Father’s main recollection was the blank and unemotional faces of the soldiery in the truck watching their CO failing to control a motor bike.

2.   In Italy. The battalion was in position on one side of a river before a major night  attack on the Germans, on the other side of the river. The river was in something of a steep sided valley that led out to sea. In the morning before the attack,  a cock pheasant got up and flew down the river at some height. Most weapons on both the British and German sides opened up on the pheasant to the fury of managements demanding cease firing. The firing was intense . Ammunition expenditure excessive. Never the less the pheasant flew , unscathed through a curtain of fire before banking round a hill feature into the safety of the British lines. The pheasant’s initiative was of value because some German machine gun positions were identified which made life easier for attackers that night.

3.   Father was with the Brigade commander’s recce group looking at the ground ahead to be crossed by the Brigade. Florence was in the distance and Germans could be seen withdrawing over the Ponte Vecchio. The Brigadier called upon his Artillery to plan the destruction of  the Ponte Vecchio. Father pointed out that it was The Ponte Vecchio built in the 14th Century, a unique treasure, perhaps worth preserving. The Brigadier agreed and changed his request to his Artillery. ( I think the Germans had also decided not to blow the bridge because of its historic significance.)

4.   9th Manchesters were being rested out of the line. In camp somewhere North of Naples. Naples being the significant port of entry for supplies. The order came to change from winter Battle Dress to the summer KD . The 2 i/c of 9th Manchesters was of an unusual shape and could not be kitted out from  the available supply of KD. The 2i/c was sent off at my Father’s instruction to some enormous supply depot to get something to fit him .
The 2i/c returned later that day without KD , having been impolitely handled by the CO of the enormous supply depot.  Father was incensed that some ‘Bloody Jam Snatcher’ should treat his 2i/c in this way and countermand his orders. The next day Father set off to sort out this impertinent person. On arrival at the depot he was stopped by Military Police. They irritated Father by asking too many questions, being less than servile to a Lt Col than a Lance Corporal should be and generally holding up the war effort. Eventually my Father well stocked with indignation found himself seated in front of a Military Police Officer who  demanded to know my Father’s relationship with the OC of the supply depot. Eventually it was explained that the OC Supply had been selling petrol to the locals at huge personal reward. Not only had he sold the stuff , he had got the money into Switzerland via a contact in Alexandria. This was galling , given that entire armies , including 9th Manchesters , were trying to get to the borders of Switzerland, and failing to get there. This story does not include whether the 2i/c got a suit of KD that fitted him.

5.   At the same  camp near Naples from which the 2i/c set out to get a set of KD to fit him, the Adjutant put a message in front of my Father. The adjutant was a bit anxious about the message. “9th Manchesters to provide to the Military Government of Naples Area,  one officer of subaltern rank to command the Firing Squad , in support of the Military Governor. Duration 2 weeks . With immediate effect.” After much muttering and consultation with wise heads, Father addressed the assembled subalterns before lunch , asking for a volunteer. Eventually one did volunteer. He was swiftly dispatched to HQ Military Government. Two week later he re-appeared looking sleek and tanned. Naples was noted for being a den of many iniquities at the time. He reported that his day’s work was completed within an hour of dawn , leaving him free to enjoy the numerous delights of Naples until shortly before dawn the next day.