An undated photo of Bruce Melanson taken during the war and a brief bio of his service.Bruce Melanson
Bruce Melanson, present day.Bruce Melanson
Bruce Melanson on Parliament Hill meeting Stephen Harper.Bruce Melanson
"So it wasn’t fun, war is not fun and if you want the biggest part of my war history, we fought during the battle of Authie prior to entering Caen. We fought the toughest German army that Hitler had made."
I landed on Juno Beach on D-Day on the second wave, with the 3rd Light Ack-Ack [Anti-Aircraft Regiment], as I transferred from infantry in England with my older brother, Dave -transferred to artillery and [British General Bernard] Montgomery [commander of land forces participating in the invasion of Normandy] broke some of our units up prior to the D-Day invasion and I ended up with the 3rd Light Ack-Ack Regiment.
The noise of the planes above us for instance, thousands of planes, and there were hundreds of guns going off at the same time and a lot of veterans - I hate to tell you this - but a lot of veterans went out of their mind from the shelling. And it wasn’t all bad all the time but it was pretty rough trying to get out of there, especially with us because artillery, they had to build us a platform to get the cars out and guns because our Bofors gun was being carried by a truck of course. And we used that in two ways in that Second World War. We used it for airplanes of course, shooting down planes and covering the infantry as much as possible against aircraft. And also we used it for ground defense at the latter weeks of the war. We used it for houses, for buildings, for haystacks that were built like haystacks but they were all camouflaged with Germans in behind them.
One day during a little bit of a lull, I decided to grab a little bit of water and take a bath. And after I was in the tub taking a bath, four or five Messerschmitts [German fighter aircraft] started to shell us. So I run to the gun like heck, naked, and started firing with no clothes on. But then, all of a sudden, out of the blue skies, came three or four Spitfires and they knocked down two or three of them immediately.
So it wasn’t fun, war is not fun and if you want the biggest part of my war history, we fought during the battle of Authie prior to entering Caen. We fought the toughest German army that Hitler had made [12th SS Panzer Division, Hitler Youth]. And that was under General Kurt Meyer with the SS troops [Meyer commanded 25th Panzer Grenadier Regiment, of the 12th Panzer Division]. And that is why it took us five to six weeks to capture Caen where they thought we were going to capture it in two weeks. In that battle alone, North Nova Scotia Highlanders and the Quebec [Sherbrooke] Fusiliers were really massacred. They suffered a hell of a lot of casualties there and notwithstanding the fact that Kurt Meyer murdered 25 of them in the abbey there, the big abbey church [the Abbaye d’Ardenne], he murdered them. He didn’t have to kill them, he was a soldier like the rest of us but he didn’t have to kill them, he murdered them; that’s what he did.
And that was a tough old battle. You know, we lost more than 1,000 soldiers in that one battle alone, in the Battle of Caen.