Veteran Stories:
Frank Henry “Brownie” Cramp

Navy

  • Photo taken in 1939, in Portsmouth Barracks. Frank Cramp, 18, is approximately a month into his training with the Royal Marines.

    Frank Cramp
  • Frank Cramp, with the 45 Commando, somewhere in Britain (possibly Eastbourne) before D-day.

    Frank Cramp
  • Frank Cramp, 18, a month into training with the Royal Marines, Portsmouth Barracks, 1939.

    Frank Cramp
  • Frank Cramp in Olds, Alberta during an event for The Memory Project: Stories of the Second World War, June 29, 2010 .

    Historica Canada
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"And every bullet that hit him knocked him back about six inches, still with his gun dangling in his hand and he was going back, back, back, blood coming out everywhere."

Transcript

This is the story in my mind forever. To back out, they had to have protection so they picked me and my number two man on the Bren Gun to defend them whilst they retreated. So they retreated, didn’t see them anymore until later but the two of us kept passing each other, firing at the enemy, slowing them down, move back another 50 feet and fire again and move back, fire again. That’s what we was doing. And then I lost my number two during that time. He… not lost there, he got lost, I couldn’t find him. So I was on my own and I was getting close to my base there and I thought, well gee, I’ll make one big dash and I’ll be back to that little schoolyard or post office, where we had left. So I fired off a burst of the Bren Gun, put a new magazine on, luckily - which I was always taught to do - and turned around and started running, like mad. Running there, with the Bren Gun there. I came to, on my left was a fence, a stone metal fence that you have between the gardens now, you know the very thick wire? So I’m rushing like mad and I tripped and I fall over, kind of backwards and onto my back with my legs facing the fence and I banged down there, with my Bren Gun over across my chest there, facing upwards and towards the fence. At the same time as I hit the ground and open me eyes, there was a German which looked huge to me. He was huge because I was looking, I realized, because I’m looking from the ground up. And he is behind the fence, just approaching it and the fence is about, I’d say 30 feet away from me. And he came up, had a machine gun, he came up the fence and brought the machine gun up to his shoulder and he fired a whole magazine of ammunition at me from 30 feet, and he didn’t hit me. Now, I was laying… I’m still laying on my back. As soon as I saw him and he started shooting, I, funny enough, automatically thought of crossing my legs to protect myself from the groin down, you know what I mean. It automatically come to my mind, I don’t want to get hit there! So I crossed my legs, yeah. And my body was shaking with every round, I shook like that, shook, shook, shook, waiting for a thud of bullets to come into me. The ground was going up all around me and it was going flashing through my mind, I’ve had it, I’ve had it, like you know. And then he stopped firing. And he ceased firing and I looked at him, he brought his hand up and whipped the magazine off that was empty and then he brought his hand back to get another magazine to put on. But he couldn’t open his flap. He couldn’t open that, for some reason, he was fiddling around there. And whilst he was fiddling there, I brought the gun over and opened my legs up and fired from the laying position and I fired about twenty - I didn’t fire all the rounds - I fired about 20 rounds. And each bullet hit him in the chest and his whole chest burst out in red, terrible sight. And every bullet that hit him knocked him back about six inches, still with his gun dangling in his hand and he was going back, back, back, blood coming out everywhere. And then I noticed that there was another two Germans coming on his right hand side, two fellows, one behind the other. They saw what was happening. They stopped. One brought his rifle up to fire at me, so I had to, that’s when I stopped shooting at this guy, brought it around to the other one, fired him and luckily I hit him. He went down. The other fellow got in a panic, dropped his rifle, turned around and ran like mad back to go around a brick building. He disappeared. I jumped up, naturally, and ran like mad. And got to this post office or school or whatever it was, and there was a wall there, it was about five-foot high and I think I went over that wall with the gun held in one hand and I think I went over there in one leap. There was a commando looking over the top of it. He said, Jesus, he said, I saw all that, Crampy - this is what they called me, Crampy - I saw all that, Crampy, he said, what the bloody hell happened there? I said, don’t ask me, I said, but he tried to get me and he just didn’t. And from then on, it was getting out and back to our own lines and that’s quite another story.
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