Seeing things! Eyes Closed

On the night of 6th October 1944, my Company was involved in clearing some enemy units out of an area which had to be secured before the next major attack by our division. I was still commanding 17 Platoon. On this operation, enemy resistance was very strong and we only managed to get a foot hold on the objective on the first night, resulting in us having to dig in and lie low all the next day; on that night after a heavy artillery bombardment we completed the task.

It was whilst waiting with my Platoon before consolidating the newly won ground at about 1am that I had a most peculiar experience; we were all quite tired, hungry and feeling the loss of sleep having been on the move for two days and nights but nothing worse than had happened to us many times in the past. I was sitting on a bank waiting for the Coy. Commander to tell me where to position my Pl. and had great difficulty preventing myself from falling asleep. I knew that if I kept my eyes closed for only a few seconds I would have gone fast asleep and would have been difficult to wake up.

I realised that I would have to get to my feet and move around, as I stood up I involuntarily closed my eyes and was immediately startled to see – with my eyes closed – a skull and cross bones, so clearly that it was like looking into a kaleidoscope. I immediately opened my eyes and after a few seconds closed them again, you cannot see things with your eyes closed, but the same thing happened again and again. On the third occasion after these few seconds, I was very wide awake.

The skull and crossbones is a sign with which the Germans marked the perimeter of their minefields.  The word “minen” above fairly large skull and crossbones painted on a board of about a foot square.

If I had been found asleep on that operation and in command of a Platoon, it would be safe to say that I would have been in serious trouble and would, of course, have put my own personal safety at risk.

Someone must have been looking after me!!!

I never told anyone about this experience at the time in case they might think that I was going loopy. It wasn’t until long after the war that I felt I should talk about it.  All that I can say now is that the experience at the time made my sleepiness disappear in a flash!