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If England was not in the strictest sense part of the ET, memories of England certainly were. Memories which would linger in the darker days to come. For the 385th was indeed fortunate in having been billeted in Bournemouth with its hotels, beaches, gardens, restaurants and theatres, its beauty and its war-time gayety. Memories which persist: the nightly Regimental raid on the MP's guarding the Regimental boundary, the daily hikes through the town and along the barricaded beaches, concerts in the Pavilion on Sundays, the Pavilion dances and afternoon tea. the old Christchurch Abbey, the ever-present sausages in the restaurants, the pubs and English ale, and everywhere, of course, the English girls.

And there was London too, with the Bournemouth Station jammed each morning with the daily quota for the trip, men packed tightly into the tiny compartments of the train and leaping from it at Waterloo Station, to sprint like Hell through the subways to be the first to reach the Red Cross billet. London with its sights and its people. London wearing thin perhaps, but wearing a smile, and all the while each corner bearing mute testimony to her sufferings. The Tower and Trafalgar Square, and blacked out Picadilly with its alley-filled, laughter-filled streets crowded each night with Yanks on the loose, money burning holes in pockets. Yanks out for a final fling before the Channel crossing. London, and perhaps the blast of a V-Bomb in the distance or near-by. London with a couple of drunk GI's in the open rear of a cab being shown the sights of the city by an elfin cockney cabbie. Yes wonderful days.

And working days as well, for there was much to be done: boxes to be uncrated and unpacked, the work of McCoy's packing detail to be undone. Cosmoline to be soaked off weapons, vehicles to be loaded and serviced, and final issues to be made of gun patches and oil, and wound tablets, and sea-sick tablets and of all the other impediments of War. And work too for those who arranged the dances and staged the shows, got the bands and the girls, and helped see that the lads had a good time. Work for all and not too much time to do it, for on the 7th of January, the Regiment started moving by motor and by rail to the Port of Southampton.

The Channel crossing was routine except for those who went with the Regimental motors on LST's. Routine in the sense that by now, convoys and troopships were nothing new. But the shore of France on a gray morning was a different thing, however. And until the Regiment debarked on the 10th, the decks were crowded. Le Havre was something to behold. Its utter devastation was a shock. Here, before the eyes, was War. Here, in the twisted remains of the giant piers, and in the piles of rubble, once buildings. etched now with a covering of newly-fallen snow.

Le Havre was also a half night spent waiting for trains in a huge, unheated shed, lit by small fires built on the concrete floor. A wait relieved by the almost miraculous appearance of the Red Cross with hot coffee and doughnuts, complete with some charming girls to do serving. It didn't particularly matter that there were fifty lines trying to converge on one point and that the coffee and doughnuts ran out. The sight of the gals was enough.

Close by midnight, the Regiment entrained for an assembly area in the vicinity of St. Laurent, France. More than 50 men were packed into each tiny French box-car with a sprinkling of straw on the floor. (If you were lucky.) Fifty men and fifty times fifty pounds of pack and equipment and arms. There were those who argued that mathematically, it could be done, and it was. But God alone knows how. It meant half the men sitting, some kneeling, some standing, and all cramped and uncomfortable. For the Dough's it was a miserable ride to an unknown destination and it seemed to go on forever. It was an epic, and no man who has ridden in a French box car will ever forget it. Nor being dumped out into the snow-bound French countryside before daybreak. And no buildings in sight. Nothing but snow.

The following day however, the Regiment got settled in billets (in some cases pre-Revolutionary Chateaux,) and the Regimental CP was set up at Bacqueville, where it remained until the 18th. A scramble for the GI French handbooks. "Parlez-vous francais?" . . . "Hell, no. But what difference does that make. If, the Yanks in '18 had their French mademoiselles . . ." To be sure, the little handbooks didn't quite cover all the situations, but they were a beginner, and the French were more than friendly, throwing open the doors of their peasant homes, for this was provincial France. Bacqueville was another period of hard work too, for now came the final preparations. It was sensed that the next move might take the Regiment to the front.

And it did. For by the 21st of January, the 385th was located in the vicinity of Ortho, Belgium, after a long convoy through towns redolent of World War I: Vouziers and Sedan, Libramont and St. Hubert. Some said that the interminable convoy was led by the Colonel's dog, and it did go on forever. The men were wedged tightly into open trucks, and the temperature was down around zero, with a bitter wind and flurries of snow. It was a desolate, freezing trip, and the ruined, gray and forlorn little towns of Belgium at the end of the line offered little reassurance. For this had but recently been Bulge country and the Boche had but recently retreated.

Here in the vicinity of Ortho, the Regiment stayed until the 24th of January, when it was alerted for a move into Luxembourg to relieve the 346th CT "on a defensive-line extending for 7000 yards from Born Luxembourg to Merfert." This was a line along the West bank of the Sauer river. And after a night convoy in brilliant, frosty moonlight, through the sleeping city of Luxembourg, on the 25th of January at 2400, the 385th was committed to action for the first time in the European Theatre.

Luxembourg and the Sauer were strictly defensive jobs with Jerry on the other side of the river, except for the town of Waserbillig, which he occupied in part. 385th was holding on sacred ground where, but a short time before, American Regiments had contained Von Rundstedt's Christmas offensive from breaking south into Luxembourg city. It was night patrols and nasty little skirmishes. It was barns burning in the night, and first casualties. And it was the beginning of a new-found confidence as the 385th was tried and not found wanting.




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