After their arrival in Great Britain on September 15th, 1943, the 506th P.I.R began setting up billets in various parts of Southern England. Jake McNiece and his unit set up amongst the Regimental Headquarters and Service companies on the vast acreage of Sir Ernest Wills’ manor place. Wills was the cigarette magnate of Britain, and provided the many Quonset huts for these Americans, unaware of a certain squad that would unleash trouble over the coming months.

The 506th began training at once. Everything was as physical as could be made. Men ran exercises and courses so much they could count every thump of boot in their sleep. Just as wasted, and turning in each day with McNiece, were the rest of his squad, twelve men, many of whom would be transferred in and out all the way up to the departure for Normandy. There were valid reasons for most of these, but over the weeks, McNiece learned another method was in play.

Discipline was paramount in the Regiment, and the overwhelming majority of the men adhered to that standard. However, there was the odd man who thought he knew more than anyone else, and clashed with authority. Besides the stockade, if there was room, and it seemed there always was, they would find their new home in the Quonset hut of Jake McNiece’s section.

Discipline might as well have been a foreign word to them. Hell, they didn’t even salute officers. The new arrivals found out it was only their continued prowess in training that kept the whole lot from being busted and hauled before a court martial. And if it did happen, they would likely appear as they always did, unshaven and filthy from the black dust that followed them out their quarters each time.

Their hut had stone floors, and bunk mattresses stuffed with dried corn shucks over wire frames. They found that, if they slapped a mattress, it would spume a black dust cloud. If they didn’t get the dust out of the mattress, the men who slept in their underwear were covered in the stuff. So the most effective thing for them was to sleep in their uniforms seven days a week. They felt cleaner this way, not that it mattered, as they never cleaned their barracks anyhow.

Anytime an inspection occurred they simply told the officers to help themselves. The stuff the inspectors found, and its associated stench, would gag a maggot. Fish skins, heads and guts lay strewn over the floor, as well as unwashed uniforms, which offered a variety of smells. McNiece explained they were rationed to one bath a week, a cold one, and they had to wait up to three hours in line for it. And what good would it do to wash clothes when the dust would be back on them before morning? Besides, they figured they only really needed showers when they went on leave into town to get drunk, or to find the one thing that would set McNiece off to scrounging… Good food.

McNiece and the others hated the stuff the army had shoveled into the plates back at Toccoa, so he went foraging for tasty alternatives. One day, he threw his gaze over the fence and into Sir Wills’ estate. There, he saw deer and rabbits and the squad’s future food supply. He and a comrade began going over day after day to poach game and bring the festival full circle by having fresh meat for dinner, as well as kegs of beer and fresh fish, courtesy of McNiece sidetracking to a local hatchery and stuffing his pockets with as much fish as he could.

One can surmise the reaction if the rest of the regiment had discovered that some misfits were eating like kings every day, while they had to stand in line to receive their paltry portions. But day in and day out, that is the way it was, better than home, at least until Sir Wills inspected his grounds and noticed discarded deer heads, rabbit fur and various other once-living oddities strewn about.