"Buildings were smashed beyond recognition. Wherever you went, you were pretty well going over rocks and mortar."
Buildings were smashed beyond recognition. Wherever you went, you were pretty well going over rocks and mortar. And you always had to watch because that’s where the Germans hid themselves, was in the basements and everything. And you had to watch where you were at.
Well, we moved so fast, you didn’t get to realize where you were or where you were going, because we just got off the boat at Ostend [Belgium], the next thing you know, we’re on trucks and we’re gone. Where we were going, we don’t know. So we ended up going up to the front.
From there, we just got moved around, wherever you were called for, you went. And that’s when I ended up with the Winnipeg Rifles. Because so many would go to each unit; some went to Regina Rifles and some other outfits which were short of personnel.
I got there just shortly before it [the war] finished. So I decided then to stay for the occupation, of course. They were glad it was over. Because I met some guys and our vehicles didn’t have headlights. All it had was little dots [blackout lights]. And this one guy come up and he says, you should fix that, he says, so he says, you come early tomorrow, he says, and I’ll do it. So I went up there, drove up, and he had just like a garage, took it in there, put in new headlights and everything, no problem at all. After I did that, all the units started to find that place too and he started doing headlights and everything. And he did all this just for cigarettes. A lot of cigarettes.
I think my favourite one would be back in Holland. Holland and the people there are excellent. Mind you, I never went back after the war, but that’s an excellent country. They think a lot of the Canadian people. And as a result, we really got to know them.
Going back to Germany, I was there when we captured [German] General Kurt Meyer [Commander of 25th Panzer Grenadier Regiment, 12th Panzer Regiment, convicted of war crimes against Canadian prisoners of war]. Well, we had to go to Bremerhaven, to the airport and we arrested him there because he was sent back from England [where he had been brought for questioning]. And we brought him back to Aurich [Germany, where a Canadian Military Court was convened]. And he was quite a guy. We had a sergeant, same name. His main thing was he wanted to meet the sergeant with the same name he had. And he went over to see him, our sergeant told him, if I had my way, he says, I’d pull the trigger right now. It’s the things that you remember that comes back to you. So it’s, but in the time we were there, and he was put on trial and everything in Aurich [December 10-28, 1945], after that, he was shipped back to Canada. And he was kept in Canada [at Dorchester Penitentiary in New Brunswick] and they brought his wife and his family. And they lived downtown in a motel or a hotel and lived the life of Riley while we had him imprisoned [although sentenced to death, upon appeal this was commuted to life in prison. He spent five years in Canada before being transferred to a British military prison, and was released in 1954]. So then they eventually sent him back to Germany, where he died [in 1961].