Robie Hancock (right) with friend Roy Levy, in Italy, 1945.Robie Hancock
Robie Hancock with a Dutch civilian in Stadskanaal, The Netherlands. At this time, Mr. Hancock was part of the Canadian peacekeeping force, stationed right near the German border. For the photo, Mr. Hancock is wearing a pair of her wooden shoes, while she is wearing his army jacket and beret.Robie Hancock
A letter Robie Hancock sent to his mother in December, 1943 which recovering in hospital near Syracuse, Sicily. Seven men were killed and many more badly wounded, including Mr. Hancock when a large German gun blew up.Robie Hancock
The cover and last page of a letter Robie Hancock sent to his mother in December, 1943 which recovering in hospital near Syracuse, Sicily. Seven men were killed and many more badly wounded, including Mr. Hancock when a large German gun blew up.Robie Hancock
Robie Hancock at an event for The Memory Project, September, 2010 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.Historica Canada
"The Germans was all dug in and they had their machine gun nests; and they were dug in well, well fortified for us. That’s why it was so hard to get through there."
I was in Sicily about, I suppose, eight months, that’s where I got burnt so bad, in Sicily. We was checking out a great big field, field gun on the shore of Sicily. Big German guns there, shore gun. It was made right into the bank of the Mediterranean, and we was in checking it out. I don’t know if it was a booby trap or what it was, but when I was in there, I thought I smelled something burning, so I said to myself, I guess I’ve got to get out of here, this place may blow up. So I got outside, and I just got outside when it did go. It blew up and there was seven burnt to death; and there was 27 of us went to the hospital burnt bad.
Well, I was burnt. Burnt my hair off and my face was burnt; my arms was burnt. Well, I was in the hospital about six months. I went back to the RCDs [Royal Canadian Dragoons] and by that time, they was moving out of Sicily; and we was going into Italy. When we got in Italy, we got in the front lines and the Hitler Line. The Germans was all dug in and they had their machine gun nests; and they were dug in well, well fortified for us. That’s why it was so hard to get through there.
The second time I was wounded, we was all past the Gustav Line; and I was wounded in a field where, right near [Monte] Cassino. We went up looking at a river, we was looking around the river to see if we could try to find a spot where we could make a bridge across in the night. Well, when we’d come back out of that, we got into our armoured cars to go across a field to get back to our headquarters, the Germans had crawled across and took our corduroy [temporary plank] bridge out, so we had to stop. And when we stopped, well then the German big guns just fired at us continuous, trying to get our armoured car, you see. That’s how I got shrapnel in my back. The shell they was firing at this armoured car.
See our big guns behind, they seen the flash of the guns where it was firing at us and so they fired at them, and they got it. They got a direct hit on the gun. So that stopped it from firing at us. Yeah, but I was already wounded then, you see. Oh, I was in the hospital, I suppose, about four months. You see, they had to operate on my back and they had to put rubber drains in my back to drain the poison out. Those shells that the Germans had, there was poison in them, and they had to get that poison out of my back, so that’s why they had to put the drains in. So it was quite a while getting that drained out.
It wasn’t long after that, that I got out of the hospital, that we moved from Italy up into Belgium. And then we fought from Belgium up through, Belgium and into Holland; and then when the war ended, we was in Germany. I was sleeping in an old barn at that night when they come around and they told me and another fellow that was sleeping in the haymow. They said, the war is going to be over tomorrow morning at 9:00. So they wanted one of us to go to drive a jeep, to take some officers up to the German, to you know, some meeting they was going to have with the German officers.
Anyway, the fellow that was with me drove the jeep and on the way up, the jeep hit a mine and it killed him. So I was lucky I didn’t have to drive that jeep that night.
Interview date: 21 September 2010