Veteran Stories:
John Robertson

Army

  • Missing in Action report sent to John Robertson's mother on April 19, 1945.

    John Robertson
  • Mr. Robertson and his wife Dorothy on their wedding day April 23, 1948.

    John Robertson
  • John Robertson when he joined up in 1943.

    John Robertson
  • John Robertson at his home in Burlington, Ontario, in November 2008.

    John Robertson
Enlarge Image
Listen to this story

"...and hollered hand to hoe as I reached the bottom stairs, hands up sort of in a broken German. And I had the gun trained one everybody I saw in the basement. There were probably 10 or 12 men down there."

Transcript

As we [the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise’s)] approached the town of Veen [Germany] on this creeping barrage, we had to keep going to ground because the one gun was firing short, that meant that the shells were landing from the one gun right around our location. So as we proceeded from there, each time we went to ground, there was always the danger of becoming lost or mixed up because it was a very black night and we couldn’t see one another, and we had to almost go by touch. As we were going forward, I believe that is what broke us up and when I actually got into Veen, I found I only had about 10 men. I can’t be sure, but there were a group of us anyway.

We were at the crossroads by this time; and we found the house we thought was the one to be our attack point. So I headed over and by some strange means it seems, there was a light coming out of this one particular house which is probably helpful to attract us there or maybe, I don’t know why, but anyway, this was the house that I selected as our pinpoint or objective. And so when we got right to the house, I decided to go in and precede the rest of the group and I told them to lay low until I came back and got them, and gave further direction.

I went in and crept along the main floor to the cellar where the light was coming up and all of a sudden, my inner self was told to rush the stairs; and I did with a machine gun at the ready, and hollered hand to hoe as I reached the bottom stairs, hands up sort of in a broken German. And I had the gun trained one everybody I saw in the basement. There were probably 10 or 12 men down there. They were doing what soldiers do when they have a little bit of time, mending clothes and polishing equipment, and so on. So they obeyed without fail. They all put their hands up and behaved in a proper manner. I had no further difficulty with them. Maybe they thought, wow, the war is over for us or something, I’m not sure. But anyway, they were no trouble at all.

After a few negotiations back and forth with the Germans in a broken English-German mess, we managed to get along okay. After we got settled with the prisoners in the basement, we had one man outside and it came to [our] attention from him that a bad firefight had started out on the edge of the town where we had come from; and we could tell by the sound of the shots that there was a combination of English, we were hearing English and German weapons being fired. So that meant that the men on the outside of the town that hadn’t caught up with us were under siege with the Germans, so I decided to go back down with one or two men and see if we could do anything or find out what was going on. When we got back to where all the noise was coming from, we made the mistake of firing on the house and hollering, hand to hoe, and trying to pretend that they had been surrounded with fire from the rear of the houses while there’s fire coming from our comrades on the front of the house.

So after we fired, all of a sudden, return fire came back from the house immediately, and with that, the first burst of fire bursted my head and was tracer. So I could tell that’s where it was. The next one, he raised his sights slightly and got me in the back, and he really walloped me. I went flying. I flopped around like a cowboy in the old cowboy and Indian movies; and I don’t know what happened, but anyway, I bounced around and ended up on the ground. I thought I had been badly wounded because I couldn’t get my breath; and it turned out in a few minutes that it was just my wind knocked out, and I couldn’t get my breath. And that’s what made me think, oh, it was pretty serious, he got me in the lung. But that wasn’t so.

But anyway, I called to the two fellows that were with me that I’d been hit and that I think I needed help to get up, and get back to the house we were in. And with that, the friendly fellow that I brought with me, came over to me and gave me a hand to get up and get started moving back to house, which didn’t take very long because it wasn’t a long distance. When I got to the house, the Germans I had in the basement could see that I was in bad shape and immediately, they joined in with help to get my upper clothes off and find out where I’d been hit. They performed first aid to see if they could get the bleeding stopped, and applied bandages and so on, until they got the bleeding stopped.

Follow us