Not that they were any worse or any better, but they seemed to hang together in the Canadian army. Everybody watched everybody else’s back,
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I had been on course as a wireless operator, and a fellow by the name of Murtha and I were friends. I was going to a French Canadian regiment. Murtha, he was going to another regiment; and we talked to the officer and we got Murtha transferred. So the two of us went, and we met two other guys. So basically it was four wireless operators that were English speaking and one, what we called Act, observation, he was assistant to the officer. The one we had was Brace and he stuttered. The smartest man I ever met; and probably smarter than the officer.
I was very proud of the Canadian army; I can tell you that, compared we’ll say to the Americans who we had a little bit to do with, and the English. Not that they were any worse or any better, but they seemed to hang together in the Canadian army. Everybody watched everybody else’s back, we’ll say. That’s something that I always, like the four of us that worked together always watched each other – Watmore, Murtha, Keenan and Grant.
Murtha and I used to run together a lot. He’d take us and go to the observation post or the GOFOO, which is a forward observation officer, if we were with the armoured division. Left two back, took two. And the reason for that, and I hate to tell you this, because it was too hot. He figured we wouldn’t be able to take it all the time. And he was right. So we’d take, we’ll say Murtha and I went. Next time, Keenan and Watmore would go or any combination of us four, at an OP, observation post, it was like playing hide and seek. You’d try to hide and see what they were doing, and draw fire on them. They’d tried the same thing on us. For instance, if you were in a building and in the second floor, looking out over, trying to find where the Germans were, you didn’t go right up by a window because you stayed back, oh, maybe five, six feet, so they couldn’t see you. The reason is if you were up close, they could see you and they’re going to shell you. Not just you, but anybody else that was around because there would probably be four or five sets of us from different regiments, real close to each other.
We took a prisoner. To us, he was an old man. Now, I’m talking I was 19 or 20, he was 35 or so. We had him peeling potatoes before we could take him back to the prisoner of war camp. He saw a newspaper laying there, an army newspaper with where we were and where things were; and he asked if he could look at it by signing. And we said, sure; and he started to cry. And between a little bit of English and so forth, his wife was in the Russian side that had been taken by the Russians and he was afraid for her. I felt so sorry for that guy, the only German I ever felt sorry for during the war.
But he had been up to Russia and then come back, and he knew what was going on. I felt real sorry for him, as a matter of fact. And don’t think all this was all bad. There was some good times too. And what I mean by good times, you’ve got a good laugh about something. And I’ll tell you one.
We were in Germany and we were with a Bren Gun carrier [light armoured tracked vehicle]. We run into this building. I don’t know what it was, a cement block building, to get out of some German tanks around; and jumped out, we headed for the basement. And this voice said, hey, Grant; and I looked up and it was a guy from home, with the Essex Scottish [Regiment]. He’s frying a pork chop [laughs] over a fire, you know, a little fire. He said, hold this for me a minute, will you? I said, yeah, okay, what do you want? He said, never mind. So I held the pork chop, frying it while he went down to the basement. He had been down to get his tin hat [helmet]. He didn’t have it with him.
And then in the same area, Murtha and I were coming back from the, we called it the chow wagon, the truck that brought our food up when they could. We had our mess tins, we had our food and Germans started to shell us and Murtha, he dove through the hole in this barn and it’s a wonder the barn didn’t come down. I never heard so much rowling in my life. He dove into a pigpen with his food. [laughs] That doesn’t sound funny, but you ought to saw him. [laughs] Anyway he come out and washed his tins all up and everything, and went back and got some more food. [laughs] He didn’t live that down for a long while.
Well, I got back in Canada in November. They had us taking down bomb shelters that were in the middle of the road and different things like that, just to keep us busy until we came back. I can tell you, the day I got home, November the twentieth. Well, I was a real happy fellow. I had been going with a girl who eventually ended up as my wife; and that’s the first place I headed for when I got home.