Veteran Stories:
Harold Villers

Army

  • Harold Villers in Fredericton, New Brunswick, July 27th, 2010.

    Historica Canada
Enlarge Image
Listen to this story

"And when we got shelled a lot, them lines were always being cut, so we had to go out during shellfire and repair them. But you got used to it."

Transcript

The Signal Corps and artillery is the ones that fire the guns. They lay out the pattern of fire; in action, they man an outpost in between our infantry and the German infantry. That’s usually where we were, was in between the two infantry. They were usually in pretty dangerous positions because they were, in order to see the Germans, we had to get in up on high ground. And we’d use deserted buildings and things like that. The Germans knew that. So they fired a lot of artillery onto the forward artillery positions. We lost an awful lot of men up there, up there in the forward, the command posts at the forward command, well, it was called forward command post. We had a major in charge and a sergeant who plotted the position of the gunfire and a signaler. But once in a while, we’d have two signalers there, one on radio, and one on telephone. But mostly we just had one. One day we were up in Falaise [Normandy, France] and we were on the outside village, the outside edge of the village. We had captured the village. We were on the outside edge facing the Germans. And we’d seen a couple of troops of German artillery moving into a field in front of us. So we’d seen it but we, when they got in position, our major had been killed during the battle. So the only one in charge was a sergeant. So he said, I’m going to call for a Victor Target [a codeword used to call on all the guns in the corps to concentrate fire on a single target]. Now that is quite a thing because in other armies, only a brigadier or something like that would be able to call for a Victor Target. In the Canadian Army, anybody can. As I say, the Canadian Army ran different than the rest of them. So he gave me the plot plan and the fire orders and I sent them down by radio. I don’t know how many guns fired, hundreds of guns fired on that position, fired over our heads, come down in the field; we killed every one of them. There wasn’t a gun left on wheels. Yeah, I’d spent most of my time on a motorcycle, to be truthful. I was either, I had to bring the guns up into new positions every time. I had to go up and find a position that was suitable for the guns and figured how to lay telephone lines to the guns from that position. And then I’d go back down, take the sergeant major up and show him the position and he’d say yeah, okay, this is good. So then we, we’d go back down and bring the guns up. Sometimes, sometimes I’d have to go down and bring a bulldozer up, to dig gun pits. I’d do that at night, an armour-plated bulldozer, two-inch armour on it, take it up at night and dig gun positions. Then go down the next morning, I’d bring the guns up. The sergeant major would follow me up and I’d be on a motorcycle, he’d be in a Jeep and the guns would be behind him. That was my biggest job, was bringing in the, and then laying lines, laying telephone lines. That’s quite a complex thing. The guns had what we called a Tannoy system. There was a loudspeaker system in the command post, connected to each gun; each gun had a loudspeaker. We had to lay lines for them. And when we got shelled a lot, them lines were always being cut, so we had to go out during shellfire and repair them. But you got used to it.
Follow us