Veteran Stories:
Percy Leitch Ball

Army

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The first vehicle I was in was just a Jeep that just had a stretcher on it. That’s the first thing. They took me from where I got in, they put the bandage on me first… there had been a concrete gun emplacement, and they got me down the ladder. I can remember when they --- couple of the fellas took a hold of me to pick me up and put me down. I can remember saying, just leave me alone, I can do it myself. And I can hear the officer saying, leave the fellow alone. And he says, ‘If he can do it himself, he can do it himself.’ And there were steel posts there, and I can remember I got a hold of the steel posts and I got myself up without hurting as much as the two of them trying – I guess they were trying to lift me here and bending me a bit. But, on the whole, I suffered bad that day. Cause every bump we hit – and we hit an ungodly lot of them, seemed ot bump all the time – we must have travelled 40 miles that day.

And you couldn’t stay on the road?

No. He was occasionally, but no, nothing going back had any right of way. It was all equipment going up. You had to get that stuff up there. And so we were….

And I remember, they took us to one hospital. And I say hospital, they weren’t hospitals, they were just big buildings turned into hospitals. The one was full; and when they came, they started out taking us to another one, the starter wouldn’t work. So we had to put it in neutral and somebody gave a – and got to a hill. And we started down that hill and he’d throw her into gear, and chuck-chuck-chuck-chuck, and [laughing] I could’ve killed him.

The last thing I remembered that night, and the last thing I remembered for eight days – my jaw. I tried to hold it, and I broke a tooth trying to hold it. A nurse – I presume it was a nurse, a female named Emily – knelt down beside me and asked how long I’d been doing this. And I can remember saying it just started just a little while ago. And I don’t remember any more until 8 days later, I came to, and the Padre was sitting beside me. So, I was unconscious for that long, or out with drugs, I’m not sure which. He and I had a great (?) and I thought it was just the next day. I was sure. And the first thing I did, I tried to get a cable away. Yes, he said, it was possible for me to send a cable. Well I said, would you send a cable to my wife, tell her I’m all right, because I said the army will have sent a before it, and if you can get a cable away now you get it there before theirs would. And he said, not possible, she’ll have word long before.

‘No way!’ I said. ‘It was yesterday.’ He looked at me, and he said, ‘Just 8 days ago.’

Well then, I said, I wanted to get a piece of paper and write her a letter. And he said, ‘You couldn’t write a letter!’

I said I could. He said, ‘Listen, I sat all day yesterday with you, didn’t think you were going to live. You’re trying to tell me you could write a letter today?’

I said yes, if you get the paper. And I did, and she still has it. I don’t know how she read it, but I got enough down, told her that I was all right, I made it. Because they did send a pretty bad report: that I was severely wounded on the one day and becoming dangerously ill the next. Now I don’t know what they meant by dangerously ill. That was shock; it was the loss of blood that was making my teeth chatter.

 

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