Veteran Stories:
Leonard Turcotte

Army

  • Portrait of Léonard Turcotte, England.

    Léonard Turcotte
  • Portrait of Léonard Turcotte

    Léonard Turcotte
  • HMT Queen Elisabeth, issued postcard, dated by Léonard Turcotte.

    Léonard Turcotte
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"I boarded the plane and they sent me to France. I went with 17 guys. We went to prepare the ground."

Transcript

I boarded the plane and they sent me to France. I went with 17 guys. We went to prepare the ground. There were two guns we needed to knock out and no one knew how to do it. An officer came to get me and asked me if it could be done. I answered yes. I asked him if he had ever gone hunting. He said no. When you go hunting, you can’t let the barrel of your gun drag through the snow or sludge. If ice forms on the barrel, the bullet won’t exit the right way. It will shoot out from the back. The same thing goes for a cannon. So we made balls of clay. The clay wasn’t hard to find and the balls weren’t hard to make. It was difficult to insert them. For an 88-calibre cannon, you needed three. So that’s what I did. It was necessary to prepare. I was there for seven days. Every night, I would go and sleep in the underbrush. I could observe everything that went on there, down to the hours and minutes – everything was timed. On the seventh day, I went to plant them. Two days later, they fired the guns and the bunker exploded. There were seventeen of us and two observers. They placed us in the area where our units were to land. We had to sweep the beach; it was full of antipersonnel mines. You couldn’t cross it. When it was dark out, we would go out with a rod and a bicycle wheel. You would stick the rod into the sand and if it hit something, you would dig a hole and see if there was a mine. An antipersonnel mine is triggered when a person steps on it and it explodes when the person removes their foot. So when you put your foot on a mine, you had to have the nerve to keep it there. Then you had to unearth it. I always kept nails in my pockets, two-inch nails. You would look for the hole and then put a nail in it. After doing that, you could take your weight off of the mine and it would be ok. It’s in moving back that it explodes. You put your foot on it and you hear it click. You feel it under your feet. You had to keep your foot there, it’s hard. Your instinct is to flee but you had to stay on it. You could not be seen, heard or smelled. The Germans had dogs. We couldn’t touch them. They would come to see us and then leave. You would hold out your hand and they would turn around right away. The Germans knew how long the dogs had taken to go and come back and in which direction they had gone. The dogs were trained and we couldn’t approach them. They were all German Shepherds. I went into the German lines. It was the easiest place to work because you had contact with them. They spoke French, a Belgian [sounding] French. You had to judge what was going on between two people, the actions that of each person. It was wrong to be too scared and it was also wrong to be fanciful. You had to take the time to diffuse things. I never had any problems. I took two officers to the German lines with me one night. I was always welcomed warmly. They didn’t want the war any more than we did. They were human like us. War is one person or several people, it’s not everyone.
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