The worst one we had was the battle of the Gothic Line. That was real tough; we lost quite a few men there, quite a bit of equipment.
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I knew some of the fellows I went to school with, they were joining up and I said to my dad, they’ve brought in conscription. I says, it probably won’t be long. So I was from Comox, up in the island [Vancouver Island]. So I said to my dad, I think I’m going to go down to Vancouver and get joined up. Well, he says, that’s okay. My dad was in the First World War.
Went to [Canadian Armoured Corps Training Establishment] Camp Borden [Ontario], I had a short mechanics course and so they figured, oh well, we’ll put you in the armoured corps. So actually, gunner operator or some used to say loader, I was the one that loaded the guns. It’s a big gun, the breach came way back inside the turret. And then I also had the machine gun which was belt-fed; and then I had the smoke gun on my left side. If you got into real trouble, you popped the shells in and they went out, and clouds of smoke, clouds of smoke right away. That was all part of my job.
Then I joined the regiment, the British Columbia Dragoons [(9th Canadian Armoured Regiment)], and we were there for a while and we were down to Brighton [England] and was there for a few days when we were up to Liverpool onto a boat and over to North Africa. Then we landed in Italy; and the worst one we had was the battle of the Gothic Line. That was real tough; we lost quite a few men there, quite a bit of equipment. There was three of us, three tanks: officer's tank, sergeant's tank, and the corporal's tank. We got up the hill and into flat open country; and there’s a big Panzer [Panzerkampfwagen IV] Tank sitting there, trying to make a getaway and we all, of course, open fire on it and knocked it out of action. But hidden in the bush very close by was anti-tank guns; and they opened up on us. They got the officer's tank on our left and the corporal’s tank on our right, and ours and the sergeant's tank, in the centre. They were firing at us. We got a glancing blow; and by that time, as soon as we saw they were knocked out, we went reverse, backing down over the hill from where we just came from. They were machine gunning us, firing over. Once we got back down over the hill, I was laying a smokescreen in front, so it was kind of hide behind the smokescreen like. Then we got back down out of sight and picked up what was left of the crew, like of the two tanks.
A friend of mine, the gunner in the officer's tank, he was killed instantly. He got a direct hit, killed him instantly. The officer had a piece of, there was a shrapnel - a shell ricocheted and took a piece out of his forehead, knocked him unconscious, but the driver and gunner/operator were able to get him out and pulled him back down over the hill; and then we picked him up, and we went back down to headquarters, where they were stationed by. And went on from there.
The next day, some of the fellows went back up to have a look at the tanks and the two that were knocked out of action; and they had caught fire and, of course, they burned, which often happens in those hits ̶ the ammunition, cordite and gasoline in the tanks.