Veteran Stories:
Donald Thompson

Army

  • Letter addressed to Donald Thompson's parents that he mailed on June 6, 1943, one year before landing on D-Day. The letter expresses his pleasure at recently being promoted to Captain.

    Donald Thompson
  • Letter dated from December 25, 1942 written by Donald Thompson to his parents talking about his feelings about being overseas on Christmas Day.

    Donald Thompson
  • Telegram received by Donald Thompson's parents describing the nature of his injury. Dated June 16, 1944.

    Donald Thompson
  • Donald Thompson on leave in Scotland visiting relatives, August 1943.

    Donald Thompson
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"Then I went flat down on the ground. My first thought was I sprained my ankle. Tried to get up again and fell again, and looked down and there was blood on my left ankle."

Transcript

So we enrolled in the active service force and then time went on, and we did more training on Vickers [water-cooled .303] machine guns and rifle shooting. After a few years of that, I had wanted to get overseas, but didn’t manage; and one day, the colonel announced that there was to be a company picked from our regiment, Saint John Fusiliers MG [Machine Gun Unit], for overseas [with The Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa (MG)]. That was 1942. We trained and trained a great deal, and then we got ordered about action; and we went down and loaded onto the craft. We went on a Landing Ship, Tank [LST]. And because we had mortars, machine guns and we had a lot of vehicles, so we went on the ship that could handle the vehicles that we had, Bren Gun Carriers [lightly armoured tracked vehicles] and trucks.

We were quite a few days onboard the craft out in the harbour, and the weather wasn’t good; and we got word that the navy called off for a few days the assault and we were all just hoping in some strange way, we were hoping it wouldn’t be because we felt that if you unloaded everybody again, you’d never get that spirit back up to where it was originally. Fortunately, word came that said that we would be going and the weather would not hold us back. So we cast off and crossed the [English] Channel and then came up to Normandy. On the eighth of June, it was the sixth we landed on, pretty busy time, and then on the eighth, the Germans put in a fairly heavy counterattack.

They were really lacing us pretty hard; and we had to get out of position. So the Bren Gun Carriers had towed the trailers with the [M4] 4.2 [inch] mortars onboard, were back to the rear. So I went back to tell them to go forward and hook up. So I went to the first one, told him what to do, just left him; and then I went flat down on the ground. My first thought was I sprained my ankle. Tried to get up again and fell again, and looked down and there was blood on my left ankle. I crawled to the other three Bren Gun Carriers, told them what to do. Then I crawled back to my carrier and I will never figure out how I ever got into it, but I did. We started down the road to pull him out of there, they looked down at the sandbags in the bottom, we had sandbags in the bottom of the trailer to take some of the shock if you ran over an explosive, and it was quite red with blood. But we got along the road a piece.

And we came to a first aid post and it’s funny how your mind works, things like that. I thought, I’ll just hop in here and get this blood stopped. Well, I tripped out of the Bren Gun Carrier and landed on my wounded leg, ankle, and the pain was terrific. I couldn’t get up, so they come along with a stretcher. So I gave some compass and things to my second in command, told him to take command, and I said I’d see him later. They carried me into the big marquee hospital [tent], put me up on a table, put canvas under the leg and then put me to sleep. When I came to, we were just coming out the other end of the hospital tent, got down to the beach and they were loading us on, there was a big hospital ship right in the harbour, and so they were loading casualties onto that.

We got out in kind of a small boat, out right beside the hospital ship; and the water was pretty rough. They dropped the hook down, hooks down to hook onto our boat to lift us up. I remember to this day that our boat was ready to launch in the breeze, in the wind and the waves, and one of the crew members was jumping to catch the hook, to hook us up. I remember he jumped over my head a couple of times, and I can still to this day see his boots. But we finally got hooked up and we got loaded up on, and they put us in, they had the beds lined up head to foot, head to foot inside. I think it was later that day or the next day, that hospital ship took us to England. I will never forget the men in my D-Day platoon, 13 Platoon. The fellows used to say, lucky 13. We may not be the best, but there’s none better.

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