Veteran Stories:
Joseph Adélard Thibault

Army

  • Joseph Adélard Thibault in Lévis, Quebec, June 5, 2010.

    Historica Canada
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"You tried not to swallow the water. You choked. You swallowed a huge mouthful. Finally, your feet hit the ground. I turned around and saw the ships that carried the regiment get hit; men being flung in the air."

Transcript

The last place was Portsmouth [England]. It’s a seaport. From there we [Le Régiment de la Chaudière] boarded the ship for France. I was third; there were 35 others behind me …I didn’t know how to swim. We couldn’t get our rifles wet; and the steel helmet was about three feet around. You tried not to swallow the water. You choked. You swallowed a huge mouthful. Finally, your feet hit the ground. I turned around and saw the ships that carried the regiment get hit; men being flung in the air. I spent the night there. The next day, I gathered helmets with heads inside them, legs. Who does this belong to? We didn’t know. We put it all in a corner to be buried. We were in the country … The enemy knew where to hide. They were waiting for us. It happened in the night. It was a patrol. It was dark out; we set off flares from time to time. I saw it. I saw a head come out of there. A revolver, I wasn’t supposed to have it. It was against the army [rules]. I had seen a beautiful one and I’d kept it. He fired. I jumped over a mound of earth and landed headfirst into a hole. He thought that he was firing at my head but he hit me in the knee as my legs were in the air. He came out. The big guy came out and said, “Save me, save me!” He wasn’t hurt. I was in pain but I didn’t let him pass. I shot him and then I put a finger in the hole in my knee, to stop the bleeding. I waited for about ten minutes or so and then it coagulated. I made myself a bandage. Then I left to meet up with my regiment. I had lost the password. It unnerved them a bit; they didn’t want to let me through. I went along the road where there were ditches. I bathed in one. I didn’t know where I was, but I managed to get back in the lines like that. We started speaking French. They [the locals] understood that we weren’t Germans. I heard, “Hey, those aren’t Germans. Don’t shoot.” After introductions, we embraced warmly. I was injured but I had my bandage. My wound didn’t take well to water. They sent me to the rear. They sent me to England. They put me in a cast from my ankle up to here, this high. That was advanced, for 1944. They left a space so I could tend to my needs. I was there for two weeks, I believe. One morning, they told me they would be removing my cast. He hadn’t even crossed the room before I had removed it myself. One night, a patient went missing. He had escaped. They had lost a patient. He made it to the port. He wanted to get on a ship but the captain wouldn’t let him. He had all his crew. I made myself scarce, among the oil barrels and some mattresses further away. It was very dark out. When we arrived in France, there was an extra man aboard. The captain asked what I was doing there. I thought he had said yes to me. He didn’t understand it at all. He was English, from England, and I was speaking to him in French. I left there and I walked quite a distance. I stole an American Jeep. I didn’t steal it, I borrowed it. As long as I had gas, I drove it. From time to time I could snatch bits of news from the regiment. I got all the way to Holland that way. I was less lucky with the second Jeep. It had less gas. When I got back to the regiment, my superior was not pleased. Not you! He uttered some swear words that made reference to the church. He wasn’t pleased, because I was limping. I was his responsibility. So he told me to go meet up with the other men. I did so and they were really happy to see me. We continued on like that all the way to Germany.
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