Veteran Stories:
Alfred George Sellers

Army

  • Mr. Sellers right after he enlisted, August 1st, 1940.

    Al Sellers
  • Mr. Sellers beside a G.G.H.G Sherman Tank at the York Cemetery in North York, Ontario, November 11, 2010.

    Alfred Sellers
  • Cease Fire order received in Northern Holland, on May 5th, 1945.

    Alfred Sellers
  • Photo of Mr. Sellers' Dog Tags issued on Aug 1, 1940 at Stanley Barracks in Toronto, Ontario.

    Alfred Sellers
  • Mr. Sellers's service medals (L-R): 1939-45 Star; Italy Star; France and Germany Star; Defence Medal; Canadian Volunteer Service Medal; War Medal (1939-45).

    Alfred Sellers
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"So I zigzag all down this road and missed everything until I reached the corner. And I must have zagged when I should have zigged, and ran over a Teller mine"

Transcript

Fighting in Italy was totally different. We were not liberating that country. They had surrendered because they were former allies of Hitler, of course, [Japanese] Emperor Hirohito was in the same group. It was different when we got up into northwest Europe, Belgium, France, Holland, they were all occupied. So they were liberated. And people welcomed us. People down in Italy sort of put up with us.

Tank fighting was very different to hand-to-hand or close fighting such as the infantry would be involved with. Our job, we’d be something akin to the artillery. And we would be in support of an infantry attack and rather than see enemy up close, we would be looking up maybe 500 yards, 1,000 yards at a house where a tank, something they couldn’t handle. So we would range in on either one of these targets and go with it until these returned or were knocked out. And to do that, we would draw a bead on the target. And you would just put your loader, what type of a shell to put in the gun. You would give the gun, the gunner an approximate range. The driver would stop his tank and fire at will. And when the gunner felt comfortable, he would press his foot on a trigger and we would go.

Machine gunning is something we don’t just aim a machine gun at a target. We aimed them like hose piping. The ammunition belt would hold a tracer every so many rounds. And it would show red or orange as it left the gun. So the gunner would fire the machine gun until he saw that orange flare range in on the target.

Life in the tank wasn’t pleasant. They were noisy. They smelled. The tracks clattered. The bogies [unpowered wheels] rattled. Our load springs squeaked like blazes. The idlers made a lot of noise, the engine boards. But the engines in all our tanks were air cooled. So they drew in cold air through the hatches. So in the wintertime, we were cold. In summertime, we were hot. We always wore gloves because in the summertime, the metal would get so hot, it would scald your hand. In wintertime, climbing into a tank, you still would be so cold, you’d stick to it. Hence the gloves.

You didn’t have a washroom. And you used whatever was handy, an old shell casing or a can, which had a tendency to upset now and then. So the tank turrets were not the nicest smelling places.

You saw some things you wish you hadn’t seen. You did some things you wish you hadn’t done. But I think the most memorable day was when the order came to ceasefire. After we lolled around, nobody went on parade, we did nothing. We sat around talking and said, well, what the heck do we do next? It’s the only job we know. So thoughts did run around: boy, wait’ll we get home, what will it be like? Well, I was in the army five and a half years, so I lost touch with a lot of things.

I remember we were going, supporting an infantry regiment and I drove by this group of infantry fellows who were dead. They had been caught by a Spandau [Maschinengewehr 08] machine gun, which had a high rate of fire. And he managed to get a whole section of infantry men in one shot, one volley. And I felt so sorry to see the way they were laying as they were shot. I can still see them.

There was a time when I was a tank driver. And it was a tactical headquarters tank and I was driving along this road. The crew commander and his adjutant were busy studying maps and I came across this road loaded with mines. I could see the mines all down the road. I stopped the tank and reported; and they said, driver advance. I reported again; and they got mad and said, driver advance. And I thought, what the heck, they must know. So I zigzag all down this road and missed everything until I reached the corner. And I must have zagged when I should have zigged, and ran over a Teller [German anti-tank] mine and blew the, fractured the transmission or differential. We were knocked out, so were my ears. My eyes were full of mud, actually turned to dust. And the noise was something horrendous.

But the funniest thing about that was the bow gunner, he was hurt and we tried to get him out of the tank and he said, I’m bleeding, I’m bleeding. Well, it turned out what he thought was blood was just hot oil. But he had both legs broken. The same chaps, we were on an approach march down in Italy once and this road was getting mortared. It was under fire. At this time, the convoy had stopped. Jerry had jumped out of the tank to relieve himself and took his shovel behind some bushes. And when the shells started coming in, he thought he’d better get going. It was kind of humorous to see this guy with his pants down, try and run with his pants down. He still thought to bring a shovel though.

Life in the service was all three. It was a love-hate relationship. You learned to hurry up and wait. As far as adjusting to the army life, no. If I was to tell the truth, I’d say I loved it.

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