Robert Grant's dog tag, which he wore throughout the Second World War.Robert Grant
Insignia worn by Robert Grant during his service with the 166th (Newfoundland) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery.Robert Grant
German bullet that Robert Grant pulled out of the tire of his 25 pounder gun during the Italian Campaign, 1944.Robert Grant
Robert Grant's Discharge Certificate, May 30, 1946.Robert Grant
Robert Grant with a 25-pounder gun, R Battery, "E" Troop, 166th (Newfoundland) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery, Italy, 1944.Robert Grant
"And I was up all night with one of the gunners because he was sort of bomb-happy, trying to settle him down"
We were converted to the 166th (Newfoundland) Field Regiment in January 1941. And we’d done all our training and when the training was all over in England, Scotland and Wales, we sailed from Glasgow on the 23rd of January, for North Africa. Arriving on February the 1st in North Africa, and we had one heck of a time. Because, at that time, we were the [British] First Army with very few personnel there, depending on the French colonial troops who we were supporting with artillery. And after the battle was over in Tunisia, we took part in the victory parade in Tunisia.
From there, we came back to Sétif, to fix up all our equipment and get ready for the invasion of Sicily and Italy. When we were with the [British] Eighth Army, we were relieving the SP guns - that’s self-propelled guns - and I was up all night with one of the gunners because he was sort of bomb-happy, trying to settle him down. And the next day, we went into action.
And during the afternoon, I said to my second-in-command, I’m going to have a rest now, so I took my greatcoat and folded it up; went into my little pup tent, lay down. And it seemed in no time that my father was standing in the door. And he said to me, what are you doing here? I said, I’m having a rest. He said, this is no place to have a rest. He said, you should get out of there. And he always had a moustache but this time, he had no moustache so I said, dad, what happened to your moustache? He said, never mind my moustache, he said, I’m telling you to get out of this tent.
Now, to my imagination, the little pup tent was a big tent and he was standing up. So I jumped up and he was gone. But the tent was there. So I went out into the gun pit and just as I got in the gun pit, a shell landed on number one gun, caught fire to the camouflage nets and wounded the sergeant. The next one landed behind my gun and the fellows on the gun said, well now he’s after bracketing number one [gun], he’s after bracketing, and the next shell is here. But the next shell landed up by number three gun.
So that night when it got cold out in Africa - when the sun went down, it was enough to freeze you - so I went in and got my greatcoat and when I opened it up, a piece of shrapnel fell out. The shrapnel came down through the tent, right through my greatcoat; just like that, where I had it folded up. So the Lord was with me.
I would like to stress the fact that the 166th was a Newfoundland Field Regiment, recruited in Newfoundland and volunteered to fight for the British Army. And that is the reason, when people ask me, why didn’t I join the Canadian Army, they don’t understand today that in 1940, we were a protectorate of Great Britain. Great Britain had taken us over. And this is the reason that here we were in the British Army, not under Newfoundland government. Newfoundland government had no control. The British Army paid us; all we did was volunteer for the Army. We had two regiments, the 166th, which is the 57th and the 59th [Heavy Regiments, Royal Artillery]. The 59th went into France. We went into Africa and we finished up in Italy.