Veteran Stories:
John J. H. Connors

Army

  • Lieutenant John J.H. Connors in the uniform of the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps prior to D-Day. Signed the photo for his "Dearest Angel," and he sent the photo home to her.

    Major Connors
  • Military issue mess tin. A soldier's tea went in one side and food in the other.

    Major Connors
  • Body armour issued to British Commando units. The largest section went over the stomach. Major Connors received the armour from a Commando he treated in his work as a medical officer.

    Major Connors
  • Dispatch issued by the Lieutenant John Connors.

    Major Connors
  • An example of Nazi propaganda circulation for Allied soldiers. In this leaflet, a supposed Allied soldier is writing home to describe how comfortable the conditions are in the German POW camp.

    Major Connors
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"Our red crosses on the top of the ambulance were huge, and visibility was perfect, and I asked myself, Would the Germans honour the Geneva Convention?"""

Transcript

My name is Major John J.H. Connors. I put the initials in because my son was also the same rank but he was 'J.G.'. I served thirty-two years in Army uniform, commencing in 1934 with the militia in Kingston – the Princess of Wales Own Regiment. Permanent force the RCR – the Royal Canadian Regiment – in 1935, and 1938 transferred to the RCAMC, the Medical Corps.

I didn't know that war was coming, but I guess I was the only person who didn't. During the war I was commissioned and was posted as a Medical Corps. Officer to No. 11 Canadian Field Ambulance, which was 4 Canadian Infantry Brigade and 2nd Canadian Infantry Division. My section was operating on this occasion with the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry. My orders were to move behind the regimental aid post that was moving in a protected part of the convoy. That means that we had bren carriers in front of us and bren carriers behind us. Our portion of the convoy ran into intense mortar and shellfire, and we were ordered to find immediate cover and dig in, and we did this. But I must say, it was rather hairy because this was the first time we encountered 'Moaning Minnies' firing at us. We moved off again about 21:30 hours, and traveling in slow convoy arrived at the town of Elbeuf. The Germans were up on the cliffs, and the Germans were across the river, and after being halted there for over an hour received an order to turn our vehicles around, but the convoy couldn't move.

The enemy began sending many flares over our position, and still no freedom of vehicle movement was possible. I became quite alarmed about the regiment I was with and about my own men, and I attempted to clear some carriers to the side of the road to permit at least the soft-skinned vehicles of the regiment and my own to attempt retirement, as I realized that the flares were a prelude to attack. No luck.

What seemed to be small mortar bombs were now exploding among the vehicles and many casualties were resulting, and I ordered my driver, Private Wiebe, to batter his way through, and ordered the RAPs – the Regimental Aid Post – of the regiment to follow me if they could. I was now very worried about the position of all of us, and I ordered Wiebe to batter forward again. We got forward perhaps ten feet when at least five grenades or mortar bombs, whatever they were, exploded near the vehicle and my driver was badly hit, and I'm afraid he died from his wounds later. This was my first encounter with an enemy ambush, and it is one I would go to great lengths to avoid in the future.

I replaced the wounded driver myself, and ordered all to follow me who could, and I would try to batter my way out of the trap. I succeeded after side-swiping three bren carriers, a jeep, a 15cwt, and a house after tearing off its porch. My 15cwt was hit repeatedly, its transmission could now only be driven in low gear, and a number of tires had been hit. Five of my 14 men were wounded and my driver later died. The wounded from the regiment in my vehicle were also brought back to Elbeuf for treatment and evacuation to the Advanced Dressing Station some miles to our rear at the time.

Later that morning, I determined to revisit the scene of the night's carnage because somebody had given the information that the Essex Scottish wounded were already nested in a cave on the side of the cliff and could not get out without being shot at. To finish this unfortunate episode, Miller and I returned to the cab of our ambulance and prepared to run the gauntlet. He had admitted that he did not feel too good about driving the knoll ahead, and I told him that I certainly shared his feeling of insecurity. Nevertheless, an attempt would have to be made, in case there were wounded there that we had to get out. Our red crosses on the top, side, back and front of the ambulance were huge, and visibility was perfect, and I asked myself, "Would the Germans honour the Geneva Convention?" As I started over the knoll in low gear, they left me no doubt about their decision. The ambulance was riddled, but again I was not hit. To put it bluntly, it had been one hell of a night for this Lieutenant and his men, not to mention the men of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, many of whom were newly arrived, green reinforcements from Canada. Later, and as a result of this engagement with the enemy, the substance of the following appeared in the Canada Gazette, Number 13, Volume 79 of March the 31st 1945: "Honours and Awards: The King is graciously pleased to approve that the under-mentioned officer be mentioned in dispatches in recognition of gallant and distinguished services. Lieutenant John Joseph Hayward Connors, Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps."

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