West Nova Scotia Regiment, 1st Canadian Infantry 1942-1945
I joined in Halifax in January 1942 when I volunteered at #6 Depot. I went through basic training in New Glasgow NS. We shipped out of Halifax to Newfoundland the 103rd Coast Defense in Newfoundland. I went over to Newfoundland on the Lady Rodney. I spent a year on guns at Fort Amherst at the entrance of St. John’s Harbour. Then a year on search lights and engines at Cape Spear Navy Station. I came back from Newfoundland and took advanced training for infantry for reinforcements overseas. I was in the West Nova Scotia Regiment of the First Canadian Infantry.
I went overseas on the Mauritania. On the way over, we took a roll in the mid-Atlantic. I slid off the step and went up against the side of the bulk head. I hurt my right arm and went to see the surgeon to get something for pain. I waited in line for awhile but did not get very far so I just went back to the hammock. I still have a lump on my arm today. I don’t know what caused the roll. Some said that the steer man may have fallen asleep, we never did find out.
Near to British Isles, we cut right through an armed trawler and I could see from the deck both parts of the trawler turned over in the wake of the ship. I heard an explosion. There was a hole in the bow of the ship. A V-shaped thing was built in the deck and the order came to resume course and speed. They put the ship aground in North Ireland to get repairs. I got on a ferry across to England. I stayed at Aldershot in England for awhile.
I shipped out of Aberdeen Scotland for Italy on Camp Sythia. On the way to Italy a submarine torpedoed a ship coming behind us. The torpedo was meant for us. The ship that was hit had nursing sisters on it. Our ship picked up survivors. On that same trip, I was looking over the starboard side of the ship. I saw a periscope coming up out of the water. The gunner was above me. I heard the order to target starboard but wait until the base of the conning tower was visible. They fired and put a hole in the conning tower. Just after that a white flag came up and they surrendered. The escort ship came along and removed the enemy crew from the submarine and then they took the submarine off and sank it.
We went on to Naples. In the harbour there were a lot of wrecks and we had to ease the ship around the wrecks. We could see Mount Vesuvius from the harbour. There were rest places to stop along the line. Coriander Ridge was on the way up. I got to the front line at Ruminy, from there to Senial River. Battle of the River was between two rivers – the Montone River and the Lemoine River. Just north of the river there was a ditch between the rivers where we faced the enemy on the front line, Suloviaculpa. It was there that two bullets pinned the helmet on my head on the left upper side of my head. The bullets dented my helmet. When things quieted down, I tried to take the helmet off my head but I couldn’t. I was there all night.
The next evening at Cita Rosa there was a make shift hospital set up after line went by. In the meantime, we took some prisoners and one of them grabbed the helmet from my head and took it off. My head bled a lot. The nurse at the hospital told me to get on the stretcher. I said that I was fine, I didn’t need a stretcher, but she said to get on the stretcher. They pulled two bullets out of my head with tweezers. The doctor said if I lived till morning, I would have a 50/50 chance of getting better. They checked the next day and I was still alive. I spent about six or seven days in the hospital altogether.
I don’t remember much about the rest of time in hospital. Except that one day I was standing by door in the hospital someone came along and asked me if I wanted to go for a drive. They drove me up to the front line. We walked right up to the dyke with the enemy on the other side. I still had the bandage on my head and I was helpless. He drove me back. That guy got a talking-to for taking me up there.
In January 1945, I had a bullet go right through my nose. It injured my eye a bit and I was laid up for awhile. We were there until February 23 or 24 which was the last battle in Italy. One morning, they got a truce. There was so many of the enemy killed. I looked out over the dyke and the field was full of wounded and dead. We got a truce and a cease-fire. We had to gather up the wounded. That was the last battle in Italy. We came out of the line the that day. Came back down to and stopped at Ortonail one of the staging depots and came across to Leghorn one depot and came across to Marseilles in France and some sort of landing. We came up through France to Belgium and went to the Refall Forest for a time.
In April, crossed the Ijessel River to go up to Holland (boundary of Holland) in river big boxes called Buffalo. Each one carried a platoon of about 35 solders. Shelling landed in the middle of one of the Buffalo and everyone was killed. There is a picture in one of the books of a Buffalo. We were sent up to Grebbe Line, the most fortified line in Holland. There was a truce and cease fire 25th day of April. Before we got to the Grebbe Line, before we went over the dyke, a tank opened up and shells were going past us. When it was over we took the tank out. One of the solders told me to take my tunic off. I did and looked at the back of it. The whole back was burned off. I felt something on my back but nothing hit.
I was one of the guards in the room where the truce was signed where the picture was taken. The Canadians fought for Holland and brought in so much food for the Holland natives that it lasted till after the war ended. I remember the words of General Foulkes to the German General – “the war will soon be over; if you keep the war going, you get the death sentence”. The German General agreed to a truce and cease fire no violations. The German General asked that as soon as his soldiers laid down their arms that the Canadians escort them out of Holland to Germany. It was agreed upon. After the war was over, there was a victory parade in Amsterdam, Holland.
I took sick and was sent back to Halifax on the hospital ship the Lady Nelson.
I had two brothers who also served in the army. Clarke, was drafted in 1940. He did his basic training in Camp Borden, Ontario. He was in the Service Corps There was an instructor there who taught people how to drive trucks and tanks. After they were instructed, Clarke tested them. Clarke went overseas just before I did in 1943. He went over on the Queen Mary and served in Belgium and returned on the Queen Mary.
Another brother Gerald was drafted in 1944. He went directly overseas to Holland. He was in the infantry (All Canadians) Pioneers attached to the infantry for mine sweeping. Gerald went overseas on the Louis Pastour and returned on the Isle of France.