Veteran Stories:
John H. Hamilton

Army

  • Breastpocket steel mirror with metal nail file enclosed.

    John H. Hamilton
  • Mr. Hamilton's wallet and the identification he carried during his service overseas.

    John H. Hamilton
  • Mr. John H. Hamilton, standing in front of The Royal Winnipeg Rifles monument of Courseulles-sur-Mer, France during the ceremonies marking the 35th Anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1979.

    John H. Hamilton
  • Telegram reporting on Lance Corporal John H. Hamilton's wound, dated July 18, 1944.

    John H. Hamilton
  • Mr. John H. Hamilton's dog tags.

    John H. Hamilton
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"So he started the operation. I think I had maybe about seven on the right eye. The right eye was the worst, taking the lead fragments out."

Transcript

So the [Navy] got us ["A" Company of The Royal Winnipeg Rifles] into shore [Juno Beach, on June 6, 1944] under heavy fire. I was second off in my section; and the lad in front of me took a machine gun burst in the stomach and died instantly. And I got across the narrow beach to be hit in the face with a piece of artillery shell and knocked out for some hours. Nobody was around when I came to. The only thing to the left was a lot of Can Scots’ [The Canadian Scottish Regiment] bodies because they were a support company to us and they had quite a few casualties. It was bicycle platoon; and there was just the dead bodies and bikes scattered around. And the poppies were in bloom and what hit me when I came to was the idea, [Lieutenant] Colonel [John] McCrae’s poem, In Flanders Fields, “the poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row.” So there was nobody about; nobody to bandage my face and that. I went along the beach; and then two or three wounded, I can’t remember who they were or what, we formed up kind of a section. It was so quiet, the initial forces had swept inland so fast, there was nobody about, no medics or anything. So, all day long, we were very much on the defensive, afraid of some of the enemy being still active, you know, shooting. We didn’t run into any opposition that way. It was about 9:30 at night; it was dark when we arrived at the gravel pit at Creully, CREULLY, where the [The Royal Winnipeg] Rifles were bivouaced for the night. And our MO [Medical Officer], Colonel Caldwell, he checked over my wound; and he said, Hamilton, I think you got a glancing blow. But I didn’t; he cleaned the wound and taped me up because a lump formed there and that’s the piece of shrapnel I’ll show you now and it grew out in March [1945] when I was on staff at [Canadian Army Overseas Base] Aldershot. We got off quickly into the field. There was five Brandon [Manitoba] boys in our platoon [No. 7 Platoon]. Johnnie Banducziak, he was in my section. We went right over the bocage [hedge], into a field. Jerry was dropping 88 millimetre [German anti-tank artillery] shells along us; and pretty close to John and I, one fell and it didn’t explode. And later on, we found that the workers in the Czech factories were putting in either faulty detonators or filling some of the shells with sand. So there was twice that, in different actions, that we had 88 [mm] shells land close to us and not go off. So some of us were lucky to escape that. So then we landed [having been sent to England as a result of his wounds] at Southampton and an English nurse, a middle-aged English nurse, she says, oh Johnnie Canuck, you’re homeward bound (because they thought I’d lost an eye). And like if you lose a limb or an eye, they quickly get you back to Canada. But, anyway, I got six days in Leatherhead Emergency Hospital [Royal Blind School], right in “doodlebug alley” [South London]. And that was pretty grim there because one lad, he had been a tank commander and, I guess, they had the flap up and his tank was hit. And, of course, the whole crew was incinerated, and he was blown out. And he was a fellow Canadian, I guess he would be, I don’t know whether he’d be Sherbrooke Fusiliers [27th Armoured Regiment] or the Winnipeg outfit, Fort Garry Horse [10th Armoured Regiment]. But, anyways, he had his lost his mind; and when the doodlebugs [German V-1 flying bombs] came over, he just cried and screamed, and wake us up in the middle of the night. And that was really bad there. Six days. So I think what happened, because of my eye wounds and that, they finally got an opening in the eye, nose and throat ward at No. 18 Canadian General Hospital at Horley. That’s where Gatwick Airport is now. And the Canadian MO there, said, Hamilton, if you let me, he says, I think I can save your eye. And sure, I want my eyesight saved. So he started the operation. I think I had maybe about seven on the right eye. The right eye was the worst, taking the lead fragments out. Coming back from overseas, you know, they still had sugar coupons here. Sugar, some stuff was still rationed.
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