Photo of Gerry Macdonald in England at the age of 17.Courtesy of Gerry Macdonald
Photo taken on Juno Beach as soldiers tended to the wounded. Gerry is facing the camera.
"I was shell shocked. I think I still am."
I’ll tell you about the D-Day, was it was a dirty day of course it was you know, and it was cancelled there for a couple days because of the weather you know, report. And they cancelled the thing - different time - and everybody know by now what’s going on. So they couldn’t turn back in a war so we had to take a chance. So, going onward I was on one of these great big troop ships and about 10 miles out from Normandy, a place called St. Aubin-sur-Mer that was the beach;two beaches, Bernières-sur-Mer and St. Aubin-sur-Mer. But I was tasked for the North Shore Regiment, “C” Company, on D-Day, so we went in to St. Aubin-sur-Mer. And we got in there early in the morning, very early morning.
And I was seasick, of course, like everybody else was, I guess. So when we hit the beach and then I was getting off our LCI, LCT, LCA, whatever you want to call them. And when I was getting off, after we were going down, we got hit by a mortar shell and it drove the ramp right back up in our face, everybody got knocked down like that. Then they almost finished us off. And it happened the second time, we got off okay but of course, these Germans were shooting at us, right there you know. But you never had time, I was seasick anyway, so it didn’t make any difference to me. But you don’t think of these things. And being young, it’s different altogether.
It did not frighten me at that time; but later on, when everything hit you, you know,you say. As a matter of fact, for 10 days before that - I didn’t know this until about a year later - I have being in hospital in Belgium with diphtheria, March the 18th . And my sister wrote to me and she told about my poor brother, Ronny, he was with the Cape Breton Highlanders. And what happened there, she told me, she said, Ron got killed on the 26th of May 1944, and he was 23 years old at that time. You see, I didn’t know. And that was the same day President Roosevelt died [American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt passed away on April 12, 1945]. So that was two hit the one right there and Ron, my favourite brother, of course.
All these things happen. But you haven’t got time to think. Too exciting, it’s too, there’s so much going on. Hard to remember all these things. But as time go by, things come back to you. And you think you would never forget, people; you should forget these things but you can’t forget them. And later on, this is where shell shock is coming at you. Or you don’t know you are shell shocked. I said, well, I didn’t want to, I was shell shocked. I think I still am.
I think the longest time I had my boots on I think about a week, I never slept for about a week. And what happened there, I kind of fell asleep and so in a way, this was just outside of Caen [Normandy, France] there. And we were up on a hill like that and not far from Caen. And we had a tent set up like up there. So anyway, I don’t know how long I was sleeping but anyway, I woke up and when I fell asleep it wasn’t anything, it was around dinner time and it was a nice beautiful day and I was, everything in darkness. I didn’t know where I was. I kind of woke up and it came back to me you know. And I was back in that tent where all these corpses are there andI was right in the centre.
So anyway, I had to walk on these guys and everything else outside around dinnertime too, I remember they used to do different thing like that. And when I got outside, some of the boys see me, they said, they look at me and they said, you ok? We almost buried you; I could have been buried alive. And that happened different time I think. We have four or five days no sleepingBut they could have picked me up and they dug a hole and put me in it. And as time go by, years go by, these things come back to you.