"Those 48 hours, that to me was D-Day"
I wanted to be on the guns, so I started off as a gunner and got to be a lance bombardier [artillery aimer] with one stripe, which was hard to sew on. Got to be a bombardier and had two stripes; and my sergeant went away on course and I took over the gun. I had that gun from the time I was a bombardier until I got to be a full sergeant some time in France.
I had a good gun crew. Trained on [Quick Firing Mk II] 25-pounder wheeled vehicles, but for the [Normandy] invasion, we had American Mark 10 SP [self-propelled anti-tank] guns. They [were] called [the] “priest.” They fired 105 millimeter shells. And the reason they called it the “priest,” there was a pulpit on the right side of the gun, [M2] Browning [heavy] machine gun mounted on it
We loaded up on a landing craft on the first of June. So we were five days in the Channel [laughs] to go a few miles. [laughs] I don’t know how we hid all [that time], but anyway. Our job was to fire 1,000 rounds going into shore. The infantry was ahead of us on small boats, small landing craft; and we had four SP [self-propelled] guns to a landing craft and there was 24 in our regiment, and we had four regiments. So that’s 96 guns firing a barrage on the way in. The navy kept us on for line and we kept elevation [indirect weapons fire]; and so every once in a while, we’d drop 200 yards. Our job was to go next to shore, come back and ready to fire another barrage if needed.
This we done the first run in, come back out, waited to get our turn to land on shore; and we had our radio tuned in. OP [operation] officer got killed and his ack [anti-aircraft gunner] got killed, and young Johnny Oldsman’s just a gunner, I think he was about 17 when he joined the army, I still think he’s about 17, but he took over and ran the show with the Regina Rifles [Regiment]. We were out in the water and he was calling for fire, and we were out helpless there. Frustrated, couldn’t … He finally got a hold of a tank outfit; and they said, there’s, they had tank blocks [anti-tank obstacles] there. Well, he said, come up the blinking bleep, bleepin’ track, he said. Railroad track. [laughs] So he’d done very good. He got MM [British Military Medal] for that. But, as I say, we were up there 200 yards offshore and couldn’t help, but frustrating and helpless.
And so, anyway, I landed and the tank ahead of me got hit, blew the track off; and an officer said, sergeant, I’ll find a way off, you stay here; I’ll find a way off the beach. The next time I seen that officer was the next August in Edmonton, Alberta at a horse race. He’d got wounded and couldn’t get back. But we got off the beach and got in. But I met him at the racetrack there in Edmonton; and I said, you know, I’m still waiting. [laughs]
We were told that if we could hold the beach for four days, we’d be in France, Paris in 90 [days], and the war would be over in six months, which was pretty good thinking.
Getting supplies was the big thing and we were allotted 25 rounds [of artillery ammunition] a day. But about the fourth day in, the German armour tried to break through the Regina Rifles, so we got a target and 25 rounds went pretty quick and they said, keep firing. Pretty soon they said, fire until half your ammunition’s gone. So in the morning, there was a lot of tanks knocked out, a lot of dead Germans. But Regina Rifles held and that. That was, to me that was, those 48 hours, that to me was D-Day, still on D-Day as far as I’m concerned. That was the big deal for us, as far as us and the guns were concerned.
Traveling near Caen, when the Regina Rifles went through, one of the highlights was a gun sergeant broke off, not a gun sergeant, [a] Regina Rifle sergeant hopped up and kissed my gun barrel and so made me pretty proud.