Veteran Stories:
William Robert “Bill” Palmer


  • Mr. Palmer in 1945.

    William Palmer
  • Mr. Palmer in 2010.

    Historica Canada
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"The Hitler Line was the first time we went in action as a unit. We got our first real taste as to what was going on. Pretty scary. Some survived, some didn’t"


I had a tank and I had a crew of five men. And that was, I was called tank commander I guess they called it. I was a sergeant and then we had a corporal or bombardier, who, if anything happened to me, he would take over. And then there was a wireless operator and driver, some gun-layers. So it was quite a, quite an experience. The Hitler Line [German defensive line in central Italy] was the first time we went in action as a unit. We got our first real taste as to what was going on. Pretty scary. Some survived, some didn’t. I was on the tank. You could see other tanks getting knocked out by German artillery and it was pretty scary. But I was one of the lucky ones, never got hit. That’s the way it was all the way through. Luck, you have to have luck to survive. You just took your orders from your superior officers, they’d tell you to move here or to move there and tell you when you could shoot and when you couldn’t shoot and tell you when to jump into a foxhole and different things like this. That’s, I can remember at our first -the Melfa River they called it - one of the first rivers we crossed, we had dug slit trenches. And a guy, a neighbour of mine that I grew up with, he and another guy had slit trenches and my friend jumped in the other guy’s slit trench. A shell landed into it and killed him. I mean, if he’d have got in his own slit trench, he’d have been okay but that’s the way it goes. So no, it’s not a pleasant thing to be in the army. It’s pleasant sometimes but not when you’re actually doing the fighting. When we came back from Italy to Belgium, anyone that was married, had a wife in England got a leave. And we got a chance to go back to England for a couple of weeks. And I think I was over, I think I went back three times while we were in … crossed the English Channel in a rickety old boat and never knew what minute a submarine was going to hit you but you didn’t worry too much about that either I guess. That was part of life and we were never in any part of England where the heavy bombing took place. Most of it, the majority of the bombs were in London. But we were down on the east coast and we didn’t really get … Actually, I don’t think there was ever a bomb landed close to where we were, which was a good thing. I’ll never forget the first time I heard the air raid siren. That was enough to scare you right there, to hear that going off. Anyway, nothing happened.
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