On 18 August 1918 in Truro, Nova Scotia, John James and Harriet nee Riggs Searle had their seventh child. I was named John Alfred Searle, but my friends call me Jack. My Dad John worked as a Coach Carpenter for the Canadian National Railway and my Mom was a housewife. My siblings consisted of five sisters and three brothers. I went through the Truro schooling system obtaining a grade 10 education.
Prior to enlistment in the Canadian Army I was employed at Truro Print and also at Lewis Ltd. for a short time. I joined the Nova Scotia North Highlanders in 1939 in Truro and later transferred to the Nova Scotia West Highlanders in order to go overseas. My Basic Training was in the South of England and then I went to Sicily and received training as a Dispatch Rider. I sailed from Northern Scotland in 1943 on a bonding ship landing on the beaches of Sicily, up the Strait of Messina, up through Italy. My Regiment then crossed Italy to Leghorn and landed at Marseille, France. From there we conveyed to Holland to gain the rest of the Canadian forces.
I was overseas five and a half years when I was sent home. When VE Day was announced we were crossing the Channel. I have no regrets and many humorous stories I could tell. My fondest memory are the two exciting days I spent in Rome. I wasn’t injured but had close calls. I also have a lot of sad memories like losing close friends. When I went to Italy and Sicily in October 2004, I visited many of their graves. If I had to do it all over again I’m sure I would, but I’m too old to fight in a war now.
I was released from the military in 1945, end of demobilization. I married Neilia Cameron and we raised three boys. I’m involved in Scouts Canada, a local Seniors Club, Card Club and I’m a member of Colchester N.S. Branch No. 26 Royal Canadian Legion.
NEWSPAPER ARTICLE DATED DECEMBER 4, 1943
HAS CLOSE CALL - Truro Soldier Has Brush With Germans in Italy
“With the Canadian Forces in Italy-John O’Callaghan of Ottawa, is now carrying as a souvenir a crumpled German machine-gun bullet that “had my name on it but went to the wrong address” O’Callaghan is with a Signals unit and one day in a jeep laying cable along a road, he rounded a corner to come under direct close range fire of two German machine guns just off the road. “I could see bullets whiz past my face between my head and the windshield of the jeep.”
O’Callaghan and a companion Jack Searle of Truro, N.S. dived headlong under the jeep, which in a few seconds was riddled by more than 75 bullets. The pair escaped scrambling down a ditch and back around the corner. They reported to the nearest unit and a group of Bren carries set out for the spot to capture nine Germans and four machine guns. Then O’Callaghan discovered a tear in his trouser leg. Investigating the shot up jeep he discovered one bullet had pierced the steel side of the jeep and with final force had torn through his trousers to inflict a slight scratch on his hip. He found the battered bullet on the floor of the jeep and now it is a prize good luck piece.”
Jack Searle, is well known in Truro. He joined the North Nova Scotia Highlanders in 1939, later transferring to the Royal Canadian Signal Corps. He has been overseas four years, and is now as this news item indicates, right in the midst of action in Italy. Only recently his father, John J. Searle, retired Coach Carpenter C.N. Rys. received a letter from his son Jack stating “he was still going strong!” From particulars of his experience in Italy it would appear he had a “close call” with the Germans, and must have maneouvered well to get out of such a dangerous trap.
He has a brother Fred K. at Barrieville, Ont., who is also a member of the Signal Corps, attached to the Royal Canadian Artillery. Another brother William T. is employed in the local C.N.R. Freight Office. Jack, before he enlisted was employed at Lewis Ltd., for a short time.
Many friends in Truro, will read this account with interest, and be glad to note, Jack, and his companion from Ottawa, Ont., both of whom have been together during their army career of over four years, were smart enough to put it over the Germans by escaping with injuries, and then return with reinforcements, capture nine Germans and their deadly equipment.