Veteran Stories:
Sandy Sommerville

Army

  • Bdr. A.R. Sommerville in Glasgow, Scotland, May, 1945.

    Sandy Sommerville
  • Photo of Sommerville brothers, taken after the war, 1945. From left to right: Hugh, Brian and Sandy.

    Sandy Sommerville
  • Buffalo, the amphibious vehicle Sandy Sommerville drove.

    Sandy Sommerville
  • Sandy Sommerville in Olds, Alberta at event held by The Memory Project: Stories of the Second World War, June 29, 2010.

    Historica Canada
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"There was many an infantryman that appreciated the help they got, you know."

Transcript

What I did, I would go between the forward observation officer and I can reconnoiter the course, the road we were going to take. Then I would come back to the guns, pick up my crew in the Universal Carrier [also known as a Bren Gun Carrier] they were in and we would lay a telephone line from the guns to... And that way, the Germans didn’t; they could pick up the radio but they couldn’t pick up the telephone, you know. First couple of weeks I guess, I was riding in a tank, operating radio. Well then the NCO [Non-Commissioned Officer] in charge of the signals, he was wounded by machine gun fire so they gave me his job. And from then on, I was in charge of the troop signals. [On D-Day] we travelled all night from Southampton, England across and that morning at daybreak, we could see the shore and we had got our orders to start firing at 11,000 yards. And that’s when the… we kept that up until the infantry had to land. And then we stopped firing at that time and we had to wait for them to get on before we could go in and land. The Germans were firing at us and we were firing at them. Between us was a village of Courseulles [-sur-Mer], on the coast there, Juno Beach. When we got off on the beach, there was lots of bodies laying around. And as we were working our way off the beach, we got bombed from the German bombers, you know there. And I was in the tank; I was up in the turret. The explosion - we didn’t get hit directly, but the explosion blew me down in and tore my helmet right off my head. Anyway, then we got off it and our sergeant major came by on a … and I got hold of him, I said, get me a helmet. And because they had a band on it, you know, it took quite a blast to pull it off. So I said, there’s lots of them laying around there that nobody needs anymore, so he got me one. I felt more comfortable then. Yeah. We were there for over a month. I think it took a long time to take the city of Caen and that area, because one experience at Carpiquet was an airport a few miles from Caen and I always remember we were in a kind of grove of trees there and okay, looks clear. So we poured the gas to it, got across. We had just got where we wanted at the airport and there was another carrier behind us. They said, well you made it, guess we can too. But they only got started out and they got hit. And then, you see, the Germans had time to swing their guns around and get ... So that was good fortune for us. But then they took us out of the line, took us back to the beach, well, not that beach but to the coast there and they took the tanks away from us and gave us the 25-pounder artillery gun because it was cheaper to operate and it was more of the artillery weapon. There was many an infantryman that appreciated the help they got, you know. One fellow, he stepped out of line, they were going back through our line, and kissed the gun. He says if it hadn’t been for you, we wouldn’t have made it, you know.
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