Veteran Stories:
James H. Clarke

Army

  • James Clarke showed off his Seaforth Highlanders uniform shortly after he enlisted in the Army at age 19.

  • On February 18, 1945, Mr. Clarke was hit in the back of the leg with shrapnel from a German mortar while his unit was at the Dutch-German border. The surgeons that removed the shrapnel, gave Mr. Clarke these pieces to keep as a souvenir.

  • This magazine is a detailed guide to D-Day on June 6, 1944.

  • Mr. Clarke was interviewed by Rosalind Duane of the North Shore News and shared some of his wartime experiences for their Remembrance Day issue. 2005.

  • Mr. Clarke with his dog tags. November 11, 2005.

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"Basically, what our problem was during the war, was that we were trained for the First World War, not for the Second."

Transcript

When the war started I was still a teenager, so by 1941 I joined the first Air Cadet squadron in Canada, 1601. It was started by Nick Carter, who was a fighter pilot in the First World War. I went from there into the Seaforth Cadets and the Seaforth Militia, and then finally when I was eighteen, they came and said, "No, you can't go overseas until you're nineteen, but if you get a letter from your mother saying you are nineteen, we'll accept it." So I became a soldier. I went overseas, supposedly to the Seaforth Highlanders when I got to England, but I was put into the Canadian Scottish, the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division. Our division and our battalion finally landed in Europe, and in my trip through Europe I got wounded three times. The first time, a guy stepped on a mine in front of me. I got a chunk in the elbow and it kept me out for about seven days. Then I got two slugs in my right arm, and luckily they went on each side of the bone. Basically, what our problem was during the war, was that we were trained for the First World War, not for the Second. Our training was, basically, take the bayonet to them running across a field, into the machine gun fire. This was ludicrous. We were trained in Canada for new tactics. The idea: Spread out, work in small groups, have machine guns, but when we got overseas we were back to the old rifle and bayonet. A Russian General came and inspected us, and he was just appalled. "Number one, your equipment is First World War, your training is First World War, and today's fighting is mostly street fighting. You can't use a rifle and bayonet." The war went on, and we spent the winter in 1944/45 in the Nijmegen salient, up in the lines two weeks, and then coming out for a week's rest. The problem is, we had no winter uniforms and no winter equipment. We had one hell of a time. We got M&V stew from Argentina, which was just cans of grease with a couple of chunks of meat in it and a couple of peas, and we had no way of heating it. That was our biggest complaint: food and clothing. We had no warm clothing. We were using our army newspaper which we got every day for putting insulation in our jackets. Most of us didn't have gloves, so we were using our spare socks. Our boots didn't have tongues in them, and in Holland there were two inches of water. You can imagine, we had wet feet all the time.
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