|The Border Jump
© Copyright 2003 by Dave Weinke
I enlisted in the Regular Army for three years, hoping to get a choice of which branch I wanted to serve in. As it turned out that was not possible, but by a quirk of fate I ended up in the Army Air Corps, subsequently arriving in Thorpe Abbotts, England, early spring of 1943.
Cpl. John Ferris, who worked in the battery shop, and who was as bored as I was with the whole bloody war, asked me one day if I would be interested in taking some of our furlough time and making a run to the Irish Free State- Southern Ireland, to you uninitiated folks. Since my motto has always been that I was available for any adventure that wouldn't incarcerate me, I said, " Let's do it". Thus began the saga of "The Border Jump".
John began the address search and found that he had an uncle who lived on a farm just south of the border with Northern Ireland. He wrote him a letter and a regular correspondence began.
An aside: The Irish Free State was a neutral country, not involved in the war, and as a matter of fact there were many Free Irish workers in the UK and some even worked on our base as laborers, doing very well money wise, and not at all interested in getting into anything military. I could understand that.
These Irish fellows were fine fellows, hard workers, who always stopped for tea about ten-ish in the morning. They would build a little fire if there was no heat available, and brew up their tea. We, of course, would "ha, ha" them as we walked by on our way to our coffee break, that is if the mess hall guys were being generous that day. Having a tea break, how silly of them, but taking a coffee break, perfectly proper of course!
At long last the trip was all arranged. We received 14 days leave, with our destination Cardiff, Wales. From then on we were on our own, but we knew from past experience that once you were on your way, no one ever checked your papers.
So it was on to the train for Cardiff and then to negotiate with the ferry folks for a ticket to Belfast. All went well and soon we found ourselves at sea. The Irish Sea can be very rough at times and this was one of those times. The ship was the S.S Irish Rover. Have you ever noticed how the Irish work the word Irish into everything they can?
At any rate she was there and ready to go, and so were we. The seas were rough, the ship was a roller, and soon John and I were not feeling as well as we might and were unable to get involved in the generous amounts of Guinness that were there to be had. And it was cheap too! The beer supply that was available in the UK was meager at best, and one almost wept at the thought of not being able to partake now. However, we knew that better days would be ahead as soon as we arrived at Uncle Patrick Ferris’s farmstead.
Belfast soon hove into view and then it was on to the bus headed for the little border town of Somewheresmall. There were no problems with the police, for there were many Americans stationed in Northern Ireland, and we didn't cause any stir at all.
We arrived at Somewheresmall without incident and sure enough there was good Uncle Patrick with a farm wagon full of hay. The plan was that we would hide ourselves in the hay when we got to the actual border.
There was just a gravel road, no guard, nothing to indicate a border crossing, but we, at Uncle Pat's urgent suggestion, buried ourselves in the hay and clopped along. On the other side of the border he told us that we could get out now. I guess he was exercising a little power. Maybe he really was afraid, of what I couldn't imagine.
Shortly we arrived at the farm. All the Ferris's were there and were delighted to see their American relative, Cpl. John Ferris who was in the army and had a uniform too!
Then the party began. John and I let it be known that we had plenty of English pound notes to spend for food and drink for everyone and soon people from all over came to the party. There were lace curtain Ferris's, wannabe Ferris's, shirttail Ferris's, all who came for the fun. There were hams to be baked, chickens to be roasted, Guinness for thirsty throats and of course lots of Irish whiskey for the men folk. Most folks arrived by team. Not many cars in those days, not in Southern Ireland.
A most interesting thing was that the police never came around at all. They surely knew that we were there. Maybe they took off their uniforms and came to the party just like everyone else.
Our concern was that if we had gotten caught, we would have been interned and would have had to sit out the war someplace in Ireland. Not good. I’m sure the army would have looked with jaundiced eye at us and would have been mad as hell about it all. Besides we really didn't want to leave our unit, we only wanted a vacation.
Meanwhile back at the farm, festivities continued. John and I even did some haying and milking. I think we could have kept this picnic going for several days more, but alas, it came time to go, and there was more than one moist eye at our leaving. (Irish ladies are really attractive: dark hair, dark eyes, etc. I was already "wifed". John looked with interest at them however, but when we got back to the war, they were soon forgotten.)
So it was back across the border in the hay wagon. We had to crawl under the hay yet again. Then on to the rickety bus and on to Belfast where there were many American soldiers so nobody paid any attention to us. The Irish Sea was calm for a change and our trip back to good old Thorpe Abbotts and the 100th Bomb Group was uneventful.
We exchanged a couple of letters with the Ferris clan, or rather John did, but as usually happens, the letters became fewer and eventually stopped.
"Well, how was London this time?" one of the lads asked.
"Well, ya know, same old, same old, no raids, but crowded as hell, and glad to be back". Later we told them where we really had gone and what we had done - our border jump!
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