Veteran Stories:
James Albert “Bert to the Squirt” Proudfoot

Army

  • Sherman tanks of "C" Squadron, 8th Princess Louise's (New Brunswick) Hussars, taking part in an indirect shoot on a German-held crossroads, Tollo, Italy, 4 February 1944. Credit: Lieut. Alex M. Stirton / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-193902

    Lieut. Alex M. Stirton / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-193902
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"I said, you call that a big gun against the 88? And they said, yes, that’s the only one we have, get the hell out there."

Transcript

My name is James Albert Proudfoot. I was born in Inverness on March the 25th, 1925.

Much after we went to Britain and had some additional training there. Then I was posted to the Hussars. The task was for us to have the tank unit. Tanks were two class, heavy and light. And I had the heavy weapon, the 2-and-a-half-inch weapon, but I couldn’t match the German 88s. But that was our opponent.

There were five of us in the tank. Except they got knocked off, and so we were short down to two. And then when they got down to two, they told me, take the bloody tank and get it out there. And I said, I only have two and they said, well, you’ve got the only big gun. I said, you call that a big gun against the 88? And they said, yes, that’s the only one we have, get the hell out there.

So I took the tank out with a small weapon compared to the 88, the 88 was a much superior weapon. My tasks were multiplied in this territory. I had to run off the radio and do the gunning.

We got the Germans moving. We trapped a lot of Germans and took them prisoner. And so it neutralized them. And we became guys who moved prisoners. We had a quota of 15000 and every morning, from one camp to another, we had them staggered, to move the Germans out.

Well, we had these camps established, where we could feed them and water them and look after them. Every morning, we woke up, we took a little group out from camp A to camp B. And in camp B, we’d get them ready to move them tomorrow.

One thing that impressed me was that so many of the German prisoners had pockmark. They had smallpox and a lot of them were pockmarked on the face and scalp and so on.

We were originally in North Holland. The natives were very sympathetic and very cooperative. And we stayed with them. Well, it was a very good experience because the Dutch were very appreciative, there was no question about their loyalty. They wanted to be liberated.

I remember we were going to move out and the mail came in and there was a shipment of cigarettes from my mother and chocolate bars, and I cracked the parcel and there was a little boy there, Carlo, and I gave Carlo a chocolate bar and his mother began to cry. And I said, what happened? I said, I just give him a bar. He never had one before, that’s what happened. Here I’m going to use it as a, as a gift, he took it very hard that I gave him the bar.

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