Veteran Stories:
John Finlay Code

Army

  • Lance Sergeant John Finlay Code's discharge photo taken in Calgary, 1945. "They allowed us to wear a tie and unbutton our vests. Earlier in the war we would have gotten in trouble."

    Finlay Code
  • Mr. Code's Canadian Army Discharge Certificate, October 12, 1945.

    Finlay Code
  • New army recruit John Finlay Code marching in a Victory Bonds parade in Calgary, Alberta in 1940. These types of images were used as advertisments for war bonds. Mr. Code is second in line in the column closest to the camera.

    Finlay Code
  • Nominal roll, also called a "flimsy", for "J" (Jeep) Platoon, 3rd Canadian Infantry Troops Company, Royal Canadian Army Service Corps. Lance Sergeant Code brought this document with him during the D-Day invasion.

    Finlay Code
  • Members of the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps boarding the SS Louis Pasteur for transport to England in 1941.

    Finlay Code
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"When I saw what the heavy bombing had done and I saw where the Germans had built the fortifications, concrete blocks - two and a half feet thick on end - and I realized what man can make, man can destroy."

Transcript

The day that we left England, or two days before [in early June 1944], we were sealed in a camp, we couldn’t get messages in and out. They issued us French Francs, so we knew where we were going. Occupation money.

[On D-Day, the Allied Normandy landings of June 6, 1944] we went over in a LCT, a Landing Craft, Tank. A Landing Craft, Tank would take a 45 ton Sherman tank, and that’s all it would carry. It was flat bottomed and it was just this kind of a scow. We could get two jeeps and two trailers on an angle in the bottom of this; and that’s what we landed from, a LCT, Landing Craft, Tank.

I was given a jeep platoon of 20 jeeps. I have a nominal roll with me, with all the names of the people. Our job was to retrieve trailers off the beaches as the troops were landing, and pushing these half ton trailers loaded with ammunition, supplies and etc., collect them and take them to the infantry regiments. That was the prime job that I went. I landed on D-Day, Normandy at approximately 1100 hours.

My biggest concern was my men; and that’s one asset when you’re in charge, you think more of your people, you don’t think much of yourself. You’re thinking that you want to protect your people. Our jeeps were all waterproofed, so that the first thing we did when we landed, we went off into about four or five feet of water, was to strip off the insulation and everything, and get the jeep motors running clean, you see. I had to administer that. So the administration kept me so busy; and I was pressed into the job because I hadn’t been in on the training. The sergeant that was in charge of it went out one night and got drunk, and the military police locked him up. I was promoted out of nowhere to go and take this unit over, about three or four days before they left. So I was raw, I didn’t know anything. I was learning, you see. I didn’t have time to think about much else.

It’s amazing what I saw. The first thing I saw was a poor old bull in a field, standing in the field after all that shelling and everything. It was standing there, in a pasture. And that’s the first thing that I saw when we landed, was an old bull. Unfortunately, I was well aware of what happened when our Colonel Bessonette was killed. We were along a hedgerow. In fact, our jeep platoon, we had found a mustard field there, a small mustard field; and mustard in France grows six, seven feet high. We were scattered in there as concealment; and we had dug our slit trenches.

A quarter of a mile down, Captain Eaton was in the corner of a field and about a light distance to the north, Colonel Bessonette’s main headquarters had just moved in. When he heard that Captain Eaton was killed, he came down there and by that time, we had been told, the Germans would shell three shells and then quit because the flashers didn’t want to indicate where they were. But always they expected three for some reason. So we stayed underground until the third one came in. Well, he come down when the first one came in, the second one got him. And he didn’t have enough brains, hadn’t been over there long enough to realize that this was such. We knew this, just by experience. We had been shelled a bit and so we dug down; and that’s the first thing, as soon as we stopped, we dug slit trenches. And get below ground and you’re a lot safer.

I was told to get a burial party and dig a grave in a churchyard; and we buried him in a 25 pounder [field gun] ammunition box because he was blown up. When I saw what the heavy bombing had done and I saw where the Germans had built the fortifications, concrete blocks - two and a half feet thick on end - and I realized what man can make, man can destroy.

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