Veteran Stories:
Norman C. Newman

Army

  • Photo of Sergeant Norman Newman at the age of 23 in Aldershot, England, 1940.

    Norman Newman
  • Letter from Norman Newman, Aldershot, England, March 8, 1940.

    Norman Newman
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"The bomber landed right in amongst the people who were just gathered for supper and needless to say, it was an awful mess."

Transcript

Well, war broke out [Canada declared war on Germany on September 10, 1939] and then we were the 1st [Canadian Infantry] Division; and we were the first ones to go overseas with the 1st Division. We [2nd Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery] did a lot of training there [in Britain] until we went down to Sicily in 1943. We travelled the Mediterranean [Sea] and saw quite a few things being sunk, being torpedoed. The strangest thing… I was sitting up in the forefront of the ship, talking to my [gun] crew. I was taking them for further studies. I didn’t know them very well; I was given a new crew, so I had to see what they knew. I was looking out there and we were right up to the front of the ship. I was just looking over and something whizzes right by; it was a torpedo. Right in front of us, believe it or not, and it went right ahead and it hit one of our ships directly in the centre. I think only one or two people were lost in that explosion. Everybody got off the ship alright. And then the survivors made it into North Africa, but we got away with it on our ship. We eventually got into Sicily. And we landed in Sicily and we fought the good fight; artillery. Eventually, the Germans they got off Sicily and they went, because they landed in Italy. The people in England, they thought the Canadians were having a great time of it in Italy, but it was really a bad one because the Germans were ensconced high up, looking down at us and was firing at us all the bloody time. And so it took a long, long time to get, like for instance, to Rome [Rome was liberated on June 5, 1944] and so on. That was our aim, to get to Rome and then to get the Germans out of Italy. We were just about finished our action in Sicily and I was cleaning my gun, a gun meaning a piece of artillery, field artillery, cleaning it, and my friend, Tommy Hallow of Montreal, he was sergeant major there, came over. We were talking and this was a big beautiful blue sky, you never seen anything like it; it was a white blue sky. We were looking up ahead and there was a bomber travelling from left to right about five miles up and five miles away. I stepped out, looking at it; and I said, Tom, "I don’t like the looks of that." It was one of our bombers, like a light bomber. Sure enough, right up ahead of it, the Germans were sending anti-aircraft and they hit the bomber. About three parachutists, I think, or three people, came out of the plane, parachuted out. And then I don’t know why to this day, but the pilot, instead of tying down his throttle, sort of kept on going straight ahead. He made a right turn; and he headed straight for us, where we were, the Canadians. I said, as soon as I saw him making that turn, I said, "Tom, he’s going to be coming down on us, on you right away." I don’t know why; he’s five miles away. I said, "he’s going to come down on us." Sure enough, he came roaring right overhead. Some of the parachutists got out, some of the people got out by parachute. The bomber was on fire from wingtip to wingtip, just roaring and the bullets [ammunition] were on fire in the plane ̶ tackety, tackety, tackety [sounds], you’ll read about it. The pilot jumped out. Darned trouble is, he jumped out too late. He landed right beside us, beside Tommy and myself; and everybody was running from here to there. But I couldn’t run, I was paralyzed. I just looked. Tommy was with me as well and the pilot landed right beside us; and needless to say, it was quite a messy job. So that was one little incident where we took the pilot and we buried him in a slit trench. He was a South American. He was from South America actually, a pilot from South America. I don’t know what happened. I still don’t know to this day as to why he didn’t tie down his throttle and go straight ahead and land in the German lines. But he made a right turn and he landed on top of us, and he roared overhead. To this day, I still don’t know why, he didn’t land on top of us, really, but he landed right behind us, where our men were just gathering for supper at 5:00. That’s what I called 1700 hours, 5:00. The bomber landed right in amongst the people who were just gathered for supper and needless to say, it was an awful mess.
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