"Another time, I was coming back to our headquarters when I noticed one of our bombers smoking badly and going in the same direction as I was."
My name is Dale Brecknell, and I was born and raised in northern Saskatchewan, but I ended up joining the army in Winnipeg. I took my basic training there, and I tried to get into the artillery but they gave us an aptitude test and I was transferred to the Signal Corps, where I was trained as a dispatch rider. When I completed that course, I was sent overseas to England.
After being in a holding unit for a while, I was sent out to a signals section attached to the 2nd Field Regiment of Artillery, part of the 1st Canadian Division. After more training in Britain, the regiment was sent to Scotland, where we were loaded on landing ship tanks – LSTs – and we set sail for what turned out to be the invasion of Sicily on July the 10th, '43.
One incident that stands out in my memory was when the American paratroopers were dropped on us by mistake. Quite a few of them were shot before they hit the ground, before everyone realized the mistake.
Another time, I was coming back to our headquarters when I noticed one of our bombers smoking badly and going in the same direction as I was. It crashed a bit ahead of me, on one of our battery headquarters. The spewing, burning fuel killed nine men and badly burned twenty-seven, so that was a very poor incident as far as our men were concerned.
On September the 23rd, '43, we invaded Italy. While traveling through the mountains, I was ordered to deliver a message to the regimental commander at the head of the regiment. I was pretty tired when I got that done, so I pulled over to the side of the road and went to sleep beside my motorcycle. Early the next morning, I felt something tugging at my boots. It was a group of Italian women – they thought I was dead, so they were trying to take my shoes. One yell and they took off.
Another incident that I remember clearly was that the regiment got orders to move to a more forward position one night. I was doing traffic control, and I tried to turn the regiment at a crossroads, but the major leading the convoy told me I was wrong and he knew where to go. We waited at the crossroads until he finally realized his mistake and turned the convoy around, which took a couple of hours. We pulled into the place where we were supposed to set up, but instead of setting up in the dark, we were setting up in the daylight, and the Germans had us pretty well covered, and we got shelled pretty hard all day. We had thirteen casualties in our section of thirty-six men. The artillery regiment had about the same number of casualties proportionately, and the day was Friday the 13th, by the way.