THE TRAIN SGT-MAJOR

The author of this story submitted it for publication on condition of anonymity.

It wasn't a memorable send off when we left for Korea . No cheering crowds, bands or banners. No press. Just a small number of wives and a few children, perhaps twenty in all, who lived in PMQs to see their loved ones off. As the movement of dependents had not been permitted, the few married men in the unit had left their families in their home towns or with their mothers.

For the trip to Seattle , the unit moved in two trains, two hours apart, which arrived in turn at the siding on the outskirts of the camp an hour before departure time. There were no vehicles or heavy equipment to accompany us as it was planned to take over the support weapons and vehicles from the unit we were to relieve in Korea so the only heavy baggage was one kit bag per member which was transported from the H-huts to the siding in trucks and a few wooden crates containing 'company stores' such as a typewriter which was loaded by a work party in the two baggage cars. The companies were marched from their barracks to the siding wearing full-marching order: Large pack, small pack, ammo pouches, canteen, ground sheet, bayonet, rifle and steel helmet, the latter secured to the large pack. As it was winter, greatcoats were worn avoiding the need to cram it
in the large pack which carried an extra pair of boots, socks, underwear, shirts and other clothing.

My company was on the second train and I was one of those detailed for the work party to load the kit bags in the baggage cars; I've always been lucky that way. Things proceeded smoothly but by the time we had finished loading the kitbags and found our seats on the train, removed our webbing and our greatcoats, we were drenched in sweat. Along with others, I removed my tunic and loosened my tie in an attempt to cool off. It was then that the Train Sgt-Major made his first appearance. He was the CSM for the other rifle company on the train and, no doubt because of seniority, he had been appointed "Train Sgt-Major." One of the company commanders was "OIC Train" and he and the other officers occupied a separate rail car near the rear of the train and we seldom saw any of them. The Sgt-Major immediately made his presence and authority known. Not addressing us directly (for we were but minions), he berated the Sgt in our car and told him in no uncertain terms that everyone was to be properly dressed at all times with tunics on and buttoned, ties properly secured and web belts worn! This hardly endeared him to us and our first impression was hardly favourable. To make things worse, he occupied the corner roomette in our car along with our platoon Sgt so there was no getting away with anything. For the two-day trip to Winnipeg, he occupied himself almost full-time preening and marching solemnly down the aisle of the cars, immaculately dressed with headgear and with his pace stick firmly stuck in his armpit berating anyone who might have a button undone or a necktie loosened. At our infrequent stops to change engines and their crews, usually a 20 minute stop, no one was allowed off the train except the officers and the two unit military policemen and, of course, the Train Sgt-Major! During these stops, the Sgt-Major paraded up and down the station platform like a toy soldier; it must be admitted that he presented a soldierly image but, to judge the reaction of the locals who lounged about the platform, the people of Marathon and other towns along our route were not overly impressed and were prone to laugh outright.

-continued on page two

 

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