Friday, February 24, 2006

Lt.Whitfield and the Butterfly Spring

Photo shows: Our 15cwt Wireless Truck, drawn from memory in 1946

In my story “Lt.Whitfield’s directing debut" (A4268658) I had the pleasure of introducing you to Lt.Whitfield. I’d like to tell you about another episode in which he played a leading role.

We were parked in this nameless field in Sicily, just outside a similarly nameless village.

Ted Dudley and I had just stripped down our Johnson Chore Horse preparatory to carrying out maintenance , and that otherwise excellent two stroke battery charger was now laying in pieces on the tailboard of our 15cwt wireless truck.

Suddenly Ted exclaimed 'S*d it !' and I knew what had happened even before he had a chance to explain.

The tiny butterfly spring that normally sat in the carburettor had jumped off the tail-board, was now somewhere in the grass below and Ted and I we were now in deep s**t. The engine could not function without the spring.

You need to understand that the afore-mentioned butterfly spring was only about 3/8th of an inch in diameter (sorry, I can't measure in metric ) and we did not have a spare having already lost it on a similar operation. The spring was now off the tailboard, in the surrounding scrub and as far as we were concerned anyway, gone forever.

Just at that moment Lt.Whitfield came ambling by (did I mention that he was rather portly) and spotting that something was amiss demanded to know what was up.

One of us said ‘We’ve lost the butterfly spring Sir’.

“Nonsense” he said , “you havn’t lost it, you just don’t know where it is”

He then took charge.

“Where was the spring when you last saw it ?”
“ How far do you think it could have jumped ?”
“What does it look like, what colour is it ?

Having been given the necessary data he then made us mark a three foot circle with minefield tape, shift the truck forward and then BURN the grass within the inner circle.

He then made us sift the remaining sand through cheese-cloth obtained from the cook house and empty the examined waste OUTSIDE the magic circle.

I can’t remember how long the operation took but to our utter amazement we ‘found’ the missing spring !.

Our emotions on making the discovery were mixed.

Gratitude ? certainly, he had virtually saved our bacon. Chagrin ? that's for sure, nobody likes to be made to look like a fool, but, to his everlasting credit , Lt.Whitfield only said ‘I told you it wasn’t lost’ and then ambled away again , no doubt to tell the rest of the officer’s mess how he had just solved another problem.

Please Lt.Whitfield, tell me you are still around and I will buy you a much deserved drink.

Ex-Driver/Op Goldstein.R, 14300260, 84 Bty, 49th Light AAA Rgt. RA

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