Veteran Stories:
Chester Whelen

Army

  • Chester Whelen (in middle) with two comrades on a hospital ship during the war.

    Chester Whelen
  • Photo from a Newspaper article in Alberta, which shows Chester Whelen's comrades.

    Lac la Biche Post
  • Portrait of Chester Whelen in uniform.

    Chester Whelen
  • Chester Whelen, 2010.

    Chester Whelen
  • Chester Whelen in 1942.

    Chester Whelen
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"We were out in a wheatfield, a bunch of them guys went up in the air, arms and legs coming down."

Transcript

We were just reinforcements, more or less. When we landed in England, wasn’t there too long, three or four months, I guess, and then D-Day. All the planes were up in the sky the day before D-Day. I’ll never forget that because the sky was black. Gliders, and everything else. Then, I don’t know, about a week after that, we went over on the barges and we landed on barges in France, Normandy. Bény-sur-Mer they call it. There was still a little bit of fighting on the beach yet, not too much; there was just a few snipers now and again. From there, we went right up, we were about seven miles into France then. We took over from the North Shore [Regiment of New Brunswick], that regiment was there and we took over from there… I remember the guy that I took over from. He was crying in the trench there, a young guy. And then we took over there, and we took an awful beating that time. Only 19 of us came out of our whole company there. They shot them big 88s [German anti-tank mortars] over, and they landed [on] a bunch of guys left to me. I’ll never forget that. We were out in a wheatfield, a bunch of them guys went up in the air, arms and legs coming down. When we came back together, walking back in the dark, it was dark then. We heard a noise beside the road there. It was dark. We went over there and there were two Germans there, wounded. One had his head on the other guy’s shoulder. Well, one guy was shot through the chest and the other guy, he was hollering and hollering; and he had a bullet through his big toe, that’s all he had. We kind of laughed about that after, that guy screaming and hollering. I guess he was in a lot of pain there. But he had a bullet right through his big toe. The other guy was dying, but they were laying down, they had their head on each other’s shoulder, like head to head. It was getting dark then; and the Germans, there was a big haystack in the field and it was getting dark; and they set that on fire, the Germans, and then it lit up everything. We took an awful beating that time. They were trying to explain as close as they could what was in front of us. But lots of times, they were wrong. The last day, I can’t remember the last day, not too long before I got wounded. The Germans there, they came over a hill one time; and we were going in the attack here with bayonets. Well, there was some guys there in that German Army, I bet you they weren’t any more than 15 or maybe 13, 14, 15; and some of them were crying. You know, we never shot at them. They didn’t shoot at us either; they just gave up. I remember one guy had a bandage around his head; and the other guys were stepping on that bandage. Things like that stand out in your mind, you know, because you actually felt sorry for them young kids. Pretty young soldiers, that bunch. That was towards the end.
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