Veteran Stories:
Minto Maxwell


  • Minto Maxwell at an event for The Memory Project in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, August 11, 2010.

    Historica Canada
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"Quando i tedeschi erano qui, hanno preso loro tutti."


I was a driver, number two. There was two drivers; and I used to drive a quad [quadruped: gun tractor]. We towed a gun; it’s called the 25-pounder [field gun]. We had two drivers, in case one fellow got killed, the other fellow’s got to take off. So I was the driver. And we had a sergeant and five gunners. They were upside with the guns. And we hauled ammunition. There was the gun. There was two parts to the gun: one was a limber [two-wheeled cart]; and you’d have a 100 rounds of ammunition. When you’re hauled into action, you had 100 rounds to work with. Then they used to go back to the [ammunition] dump and get the cordite, and bring it, haul the ammunition up. You were always up to the front line just about all the time when you’re hauling ammunition. When your soldiers died, you took them, you wrapped them up in two blankets. It was blankets, no coffin or nothing like that, which was common; and you tie them up with hay wire and you put a dog tag on them. You sent the other dog tag home to his parents, saying that he was dead. Well, we were going up at this time, and we’re digging in; and we came across this German. He had his shirt on, and they were in a cave. They used to bring their gun out, fire and go back in the cave again. And a lot of women’s shoes; I guess a lot of women went, I don’t know. Anyhow, he had no pants on, just his shirt, so we took a piece of [material] and we wrapped him up into it; and we buried him right there. That was it. The water was coming down on him, not on him, he was lying in water. He was a German, so I remember we had a fellow from Grand Falls, he had tears coming right down on his cheeks. He said, he’s some mother’s son. I remember him saying that. He said, he’s some mother’s son. That’s what he said. Yeah. We used to always do a bit of cooking in the wagon line ourselves. We always had, probably, a sack of onions, a sack of potatoes, whatever vegetables we could get. We swiped them off of the Italians, out of their gardens. So one time, we had I think we were having chicken. We had a couple of chickens, but we didn’t have enough, anyhow. This fellow, Da, he said, give me my Tommy gun [Thompson submachine gun] now; and he said, I’ll go see if I can pick up something else. So he went. He come back. No, he said, I never got a thing. That was alright. I said, give me the Tommy gun, I’ll go. He says, okay. So when I was going to this vineyard, there was a grape farmer working there on his vineyard. So I went all the same way to go. [He said to me,] Quando i tedeschi erano qui, hanno preso loro tutti [when the Germans were here, they took everything with them]. So no, I come back. Nothing. So coming through back to the vineyard again now, there was a place, a little brook. You couldn’t see the brook, all the grass was like this, like growing right over. I went to jump the brook, up come five big white ducks. So I grabbed one around the neck like this; and I took it up back, and I got it there. I put it in the quad. I opened the door and there was nobody going there, right on through. So I put him in there; and by and by, this Italian came back looking for his duck. We said, we’ve got no duck, we’ve got nothing. Just as I said it, the duck comes right in, got in the driver’s seat, quack, quack, quack, just like saying, here I am, master, here I am, you know. Now, this is true, I’m telling you. And he said, io, io, that was his. That’s my duck. He’s says, he’s going for the captain. He goes, capitano. He says, he’s going to see the capitano. So while he was gone, we killed the duck and we buried it. By and by, up comes the captain and the buddy [the farmer]. The captain couldn’t speak Italian. So we had our meat. So we invited the sergeant major down for dinner, and he never got his duck back.
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