"And all other ships, transport ships, taking all these soldiers going to invade France on that day. It was quite a memory to see all that; and feel the anticipation of the raid itself."
My name is Alfred Peter Siegel, SIEGEL. RCNVR, that’s Royal Canadian Naval [Volunteer] Reserve. Come D-Day, we were about 5:00 in the morning, waked us all up and said time to go, we’re going to go to France now. So it was great fun and nerve wracking kind of, but pleasant, if that’s possible. And we were the lead ship for the English invasion of Germany in France. Like we had to go to, I believe it was, Gold Beach.
We looked up in the sky after breakfast and it was just loaded with aircraft. There must have been a thousand big bombers making a tremendous racket above us. And all other ships, transport ships, taking all these soldiers going to invade France on that day. It was quite a memory to see all that; and feel the anticipation of the raid itself. And when we got there, it was, we were standing on deck at, let’s see, about 9:00 in the morning, having a cup of tea. We dropped anchor there to wait to transport our escort and the troop ships back to England to get another load and we would escort it back the next morning. We didn’t have the opportunity to go ashore at all, we could just watch from the beachhead. It was kind of sad because there were bodies, some bodies, not a lot, in the beachhead.
In the morning we’d leave right away, 8:00, and go to France, unload all the stuff there and the next day, we would bring them all back. As we got more used to it, they increased it. We’d go over in the morning and come back at night and pick up another load. We crossed the Channel, in the month of August, we crossed it 31 times. And on the way back, a sea plane flew over us and signaled that we should go back a little bit because there was a small German boat following us. So we immediately went right back, the five of us all went back, and we captured this ship. It wasn’t much of a job because it was just a small thing, it was a trawler. And they had a crew of five, I guess, on there and I’ll send you pictures of the crew as we captured them.
Then we brought that back up to Portsmouth with us. But on the way, we went to the Channel Islands, which are south of England about 100 miles, I guess. And we went to, I can’t remember the name of the main island there, but they were the dominant place to go and we had freed the local government of all Germans. They eventually all left the island; and they all had their freedom again. They were really happy to see us there. And they had their freedom and they couldn’t, they wouldn’t be molested by the Germans sailors or nothing.
You could see by the action of ships coming in that things were, we were on the winning side now and it was a lot nicer because you weren’t as nervous. And there were fewer planes coming around so you could almost visualize that the end was coming pretty near.
We come home and I was kind of scared when we got home; and I stayed up in Hamilton for a day, kind of orient myself with the Canadian ways and the cars, and all that again. And next day I come home to St. Catharines. I got on the train in Hamilton and when the train pulled into the depot here in St. Catharines, I saw my mother out there and I thought, my God, what’s she doing here? And I got off the train and there she was; she was so surprised to see me. I said, what are you doing here? And she says, well, my brother [her son] come in on the train this morning and we come to meet him. He was in British Columbia. And he had come home the same day as I did and we both got home at the same time kind of. So it was a real happy reunion that we were both home again.
When you get back here, everything seems a little bit dull. But when you’re away, you look after yourself more or less. And you make new friends when you’re away too. I used to go with a girl in Portsmouth, but she was a building wrecker for work. There was a lot of girls, the buildings that had been bombed, they went in there and demolished them further and then they put new houses, a new house up. It’s funny to think of that, you’d have a girlfriend that was a building wrecker.
I guess everybody’s father went. It seems that way anyway. That a lot of their fathers went. So they didn’t talk about it at all. Even when we were asked to make a little speech at school, they didn’t seem impressed with what we did. It was just a day in their education. At least that’s how it affected me, that they were not too interested. They had other things to do and, I guess, their parents were busy, you know, bringing them up and working and trying to get a house built. All these things, it has more impact on the kids. Which is I guess good. We wouldn’t want them to think that war is a great thing, it is not. It’s really a bad thing.