they were shelling us with 88s one day and I was in the slit trench and one landed right out in front of my slit trench. I don’t know how far; I can’t even guess.
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The second night we were in, the second night of the invasion of Sicily, we were doing very well and we’d moved up, we’ve moved inland and it was all very, very quiet and so the order come down, post guards and go to sleep. So everybody got out their blankets and posted a guard and we lay down to sleep. And I woke up with a machine gun rattling and the guard shouting, paratroops! And I looked up in the air and my God, the sky was full of parachutes. I said, oh, Jesus, you know. Grabbed my rifle and I pulled over in behind the gun limber. And I crawled in behind the wheel there and geez, I had big visions of some giant German creeping up behind me and cutting my throat. And anyway when they were down, by the time they were - a lot of guys, a lot of firing going on. I never fired a shot but a lot of the guys did - and then everything went quiet. And then an order came over, we had a PA system hooked up to the troop command post, to each gun, and the order came over very quietly, do not shoot, it’s possible these are friendly. And that’s what it turned out to be. They were Americans, they’d landed in the wrong spot. But it was quite a scary thing, I can tell you.
We went over to the Sangro River and we were heading for Ortona there. And there’s another little incident at the Sangro River, it was pouring with rain, oh it was coming down in buckets. And the Germans had blown up the bridge over the river and of course, we couldn’t get across without a bridge and we were lined up there waiting to go across. And a man came along on the outside with a raincoat over his head and everything and he knocked on the door and he says, you’ll be a little while, he says, the engineers, he said, they keep throwing mortars at them he saus and they’re having a tough time with their bridge. I said, Jesus, you look wet. He says, oh, I am. I said, oh, come in for a shindig. Oh yeah, fine, he says. So he got in the truck, we were sitting there talking and he says, anybody here from Montreal? And I says - and it’s a pitch black night - so I said, yes, I am. Oh, he says, where are you from? And I says, the Rosemont area. Oh, he says, so am I. He said, did you know anybody out there? I says, oh yeah, quite a few. Well, he says, my name’s Ben Smith. And I laughed my head off, I said, it’s Charlie Hunter. He said, Charlie? I said, yeah. He said, how’s Jimmy? And I said, Jimmy’s dead. Anyway, he was a friend of mine, his brother was more a friend of mine; he was a friend of my brother’s because they were older. But Bill was a friend of mine and so funny little thing, to have that happen.
We went over to Cassino. We went over to help the American Army take Rome of course. And that was pretty bad over there. We got, the first night we were moving up and this was the funny thing, the German airplanes come over and started to strafe our column and bomb it. So we all got out of the trucks and we ran to either side. And as it happened, we found a bunch of slit trenches and they were nice and deep, they’d been built by the Germans. And when we jumped in them, there was already somebody in there. It turned out they were full of dead Germans. The British 4th [Infantry] Division had gone through there and I guess the Germans they killed, they just threw them back into their own slit trenches.
But we snuggled up to them until the airplanes disappeared and we got out again. And the 88 [millimeter gun] was the best gun in the war and it belonged to the Germans. And they were shelling us with 88s one day and I was in the slit trench and one landed right out in front of my slit trench. I don’t know how far; I can’t even guess. But I could hear it coming through the ground and I said to myself, that’s coming right in here with me and I held my breath and nothing happened. It was a dud. But I said to myself, Charlie, that could be a delayed fuse, so get the hell out of here. And I did and I ran 300 yards away before stopping. It never went off, though, it was a dud. I thank the troubled workers that were working for the Germans because they used a lot of forced labour and I said to myself, one of them guys built that shell and then made it so it wouldn’t go off.