I’m posting the First World War memoirs of my grandfather-in-law, Sampson J. Goodfellow, a few pages at a time…
One time during the Battle at Passchendaele, I was loaned with my truck to the 2nd Division Ammunition Column. While at Willshay Corner, we saw our Aeroplanes were all beating it away from the line. We could not make out what was happening but we found out. The German Bomber Planes, protected by their fighter planes, were over us dropping bombs on the Ammunition Dump. This was the time the German’s had supremacy of the air.
I was sitting in my truck while the troops were unloading the shells. I looked around and saw them all running to a certain location.
I started after them right away and just in time. A bomb dropped at the entrance, on a pile of Cordite, and, of course, it went up in flames.
We were in the dugout pushed against the opposite wall, to escape the flames and fumes (odor).
These troops in the Labor Battalions were shell shocked soldiers who had done their stint in the trenches.
They started to shout and carryon, and believe me I was scared.
I said, “Fellows, I am not going to stay here. I am going to run through the flames so if you want to live, follow me and take your chances outside.”
I started through the flames. Fritz was certainly dropping the bombs. I saw an Officer behind a pile of shells so ran there and got beside him. Whenever a bomb exploded we ducked.
After a while, all was quiet. The aeroplanes had left. The fellows in the dugout were O.K. and the damage that was done was to the Cordite pile and my truck.
A bomb had dropped in front of it and shattered the radiator. I couldn’t find the pieces. It had come disconnected from the engine at the top and bottom hose inlets.
I could not see anything else wrong so I said to myself, “I wonder if the engine will start.”
I got my crank, gave it a swing and sure enough it started.
I immediately stopped the engine, got a piece of wood, shaped it to the size of the bottom inlet, took my handkerchief, wrapped it around the wood plug and drove it into the engine outlet. I got a two gallon empty Shell Co. gasoline can, filled it with water out of a shell hole by making a cardboard funnel and poured the water in the top inlet. Not a drop leaked at the bottom.
The Officer signed for my load and said, “Goodfellow, you are lucky.”
I said, “So are you.”
He said, “You don’t know what I mean. Look at the back of your seat.” A piece of shrapnel had torn the back to pieces where I had been sitting.
I realized my Guardian Angel was looking after me.
I said good-bye and started home with my damaged truck. I could only go about a 100 yds. before I had a steaming engine. I would jump out and fill the engine again. When the troops jumped onto my truck I would say,
“Fellows, please get off. I don’t want any more load. Look what I am nursing home to the base.”
I had to fill that engine a number of times before I got to our parking place which was the other side of Poperinge.
I thought, now I will get a rest till my truck gets a new radiator, but no luck. They had a new truck for me in the morning.
I got into other experiences, which were hair-raising.
Finally, I went to our Staff Sergeant (The one I mentioned about the Rum) and asked him why I got all the dangerous jobs to do.
He said, “You are going to the Flying Corps, and we didn’t want anybody else killed. We don’t mind you getting killed because we are are going to lose you any way.”
I said, “Isn’t that nice.”
I made it my business to find out if my paper had come through to go to The Royal Flying Corps. They had but this Staff Sergeant was keeping me as long as he could.