Mr. Lorne Barlett is pictured here in uniform during the war years, when he worked as a sniper for The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry.Lorne Barlett
"Once you get pinned down by a sniper, with their scopes like ours, if they’re a dead shot, you’re dead."
I was transferred to go to Sicily with the First Light Ack-Ack [Anti-Aircraft] Regiment, aircraft, and we landed in Sicily. And in that course of time, I was chosen to take a course as a scout and sniper course over a period of a couple months, which was quite an extensive course and I made very good marks. So I was a sniper corporal and eventually wound up platoon sergeant of the scout snipers.
It was a really difficult, hard time. It was dirty, cold in the wintertime down there. The Germans had their divisions down there, holding up the lines to distract the war up around Russia. And my cohort and corporal, Ken McDonald from Toronto, he’s now deceased. He and I worked together and we had quite a score between the two of us. I had about 32 sure shots, you know, killed, and my corporal had gotten about 14, I believe.
It took a pretty smart man to be a sniper and scout. You had to be very cautious and know what you’re doing and thinking all the time and you’ve got to be looking behind your back at all times. And when you’re shooting at a target, most of the time, we’d have to depart quick because as soon as somebody gets knocked off on the other side, they’d send over the mortars right to that position where we were spotted. So it’s a hit-and-run job. And you had to go out and go ahead of the regiment sometimes, scouts report to the commanders where the action is and so forth. And one time I had to go out during a bad storm in the northern part of Italy there and it was raining and they were still shelling the hell out of us. And I had to repair a telephone line for the company commander, which I did. And on the way back I got lost and then I look up and here’s the sign that says, Do not enter: mines. Here I am right in the middle of a mine field. And so I was tiptoeing, hoping I wouldn’t lose one of my legs. But that gave me quite a scare.
We’d go out in the daytime but in the night, we’d just stay behind. You can’t shoot at night. We didn’t have the modern sights like they have in the army now, night firing scopes and whatnot. We just had the ordinary .303 Lee Enfield rifle. And it was a one-shot; you had to pump up the magazine to get the next shot in. But usually when you’d get a sure shot, you’d get out of there quick.
One time we were in the position there, Ken and I, and we were coming back from mission and we had to cross through an open area. And we got caught by a German sniper in the daytime. And I said, just stay low, Ken, because this boy’s a sharpshooter and if we get up and start running, you’re going to be a dead man. Well, we had to stay there in that afternoon sun for about three or four hours before we could move. And when we did move, we got through. But once you get pinned down by a sniper, with their scopes like ours, if they’re a dead shot, you’re dead.
We were out on this mission this one day, Ken and I, and we noticed a couple of these soldiers running ahead of us in open ground and I said to Ken, we’ll get this fellow here. So the Germans come around behind a tree and I got my sights and I got him, dead, dead shot. So the other one got the hell out of there in a hurry so Ken and I moved over to see about this German, see if he was dead or alive or whatnot. He was dead alright but he’d dropped his German Schmeisser machine gun, which is a very fast firing machine gun, handgun, and I said to Ken, you know, I think we’ll take this home, back to the company headquarters and see what to do with it.
So I took it back and talked to the company sergeant major and I said, I’d like to send this back to my dad because you could just mail it in three parts almost. So he helped me dismantle it and put it in a box and mail it back to Canada. My dad got it just two days before Christmas, that complete Schmeisser machine gun. My son’s still got it.