Veteran Stories:
Kenneth Wilfred MacArthur

Army

  • A photo of Kenneth McArthur's Soldiers Pay Book, Feb 1944.

  • The inside of Kenneth McArthur's Pay Book, Feb 1944.

  • Contemporary photo of Kenneth McArthur, 2010.

    Courtesy of Kenneth McArthur
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"We was the only ones that got out with one – my tank was the only one that got out."

Transcript

In Germany [during the Rhineland Campaign], I was put on this night attack. It was just five in our bunch [from the Canadian Grenadier Guards], we said that was our platoon. We was the only ones that got out with one – my tank was the only one that got out, I was the only old driver that was, I knew how to do it. But there was so many new fellows coming in, they were getting killed. Some of them weren’t trained half. Anyway, I was the only one that got there. We couldn’t do anything much but we knocked it out; knocked out the German - bought as far as out that door - in the dark. It was up against an apple tree, a great big Tiger Tank you called them. And we knocked it out. It was that close. Beat it: get out of here, the boss says. But it took us four days before we took that place. But then they knocked our tank out that night, after four days. And it was right up close, it was one of them bazookas [Panzerfaust, a German portable anti-tank weapon]. I was the only one that got out with a gun. I was on this side and the gunner was on this side. I always told a new fella, make sure your gun is out over the … Because sometimes we had to go with the turret, with a cap that’s shut down on us and then there was a periscope we look through. But it was poor seeing in the dark. But it was down this time, they were coming from all quarters. You get so excited. Whenever it hit, she wouldn’t fire, just woof. And he got excited. He got out first and got over the great big transmission, about that high from the bottom. And I had to get over it, with that much difference. I had my pack on my back and got out after the rest of them got out and they would’ve seen me I was on the top , had to jump down off the tank, put a piece up, six or eight feet. The only place it hit me was on my little finger. But my clothes is full of holes. This was him. And we got down and, oh, the artillery, something furious. We couldn’t even sit handy to the tank because it was on fire, like the…. So got down on the ground and stayed down as long as we could. Anyway, there was one fellow who seemed to be pretty close with a machine gun and I could see the blast of the gun barrel. And I pulled my pistol out and shot at him and I heard him say, it sounded like ow but it was in German. But anyway, the guy on the machine gun hit me right up close put two bullets in this one [his arm]. I got that kind of wrapped up and tucked in there, but it was still just hanging, you know, blown. We got down again and there was a thing, a bazooka [Panzerfaust], a gun they called. It was a one-man thing, put a tank out at very short range but they had the woods in the dark, they could walk right up on us and we couldn’t see them. Anyway, they fired this thing and they made that it was a bazooka, it hit me in the face, took this eye out and a few scars. And that was, I’m not done yet. There was a, it was strange too. We didn’t know who was winning yet in this thing and the Germans was pretty hot and then someone come over to us. They said, you fellows are our prisoners. Well, I lost my gun, well not lost it but I couldn’t find it in the dark and nobody had anything, so we had to go. He [the German]took us over to a house, this was a woods, but it was not too far from woods. And there wasn’t a tree left, big heavy shells had knocked it off or something. Took us in a house, it was vacated because the Germans had all left when we were coming on. And he said, well -we couldn’t have done anything anyway, we was all wounded,one fellow was dead or he died shortly after - and he said, you Canadians? And I said yes. And he could talk a little bit of English and he said, you shoot prisoners. And I said, no. They threw their arms all down on the floor and I think it was 13 altogether, gave up. And we stayed there until there was, they had rigs there for, going up to the front to get the wounded. See, they called back on a wireless set and they come up and with this tank, it was an old [likely a Kangaroo, a converted Armoured Personnel Carrier], ones that we trained with in Debert [a traning centre in Nova Scotia] in Canada. They took the turret out of it, the round part that turned and threw it away and made it open in the bottom. And picked up walking prisoners there. So we got into walking prisoner or walking patients [wounded] I’d guess you’d say. We got back halfway and we got knocked out again by Germans in the woods. So we had to get out and walk. But we got there, some guy come along, picked us up with a Bren Gun Carrier, took us right into the … Then I went into our old doctor, the Halifax Rifles Regiment, our doctor, he went with some of the regiments too we’d never seen him. And I went in and this eye, I could hardly feel this one only just sometimes it was barking. And the old MO, that’s the medical officer, the doctor, who was in with the Halifax Rifles, I said, I know, I spoke to him. He said, who are you? And I told him. Oh my God, I know you, he said. And he had said, what can I do for you? And I said, well, I got one eye gone and, I said, I’ve got, I think my arm is broke. I knew it was broke but I just thought maybe. And he pulled it out and pulled it out of the thing and it just flopped like that. My God, you’re not, no, it’s not broke, he said. It broke right off. Anyway, I got patched up. Stayed there for four or five days and I think they changed the, what do you call it, plaster cast they put on them? Cast, yeah. Twice. Take it apart and put the pieces, what was left there together. And I got in a an old plane, it was to carry troops back and forth. But I was the only one that was in it and they flew me to England. And it went over a couple of places where the Germans still had the anti-aircraft. And you could hear the things tinkling on the side of the … So I was there for 5.5 months before I got home. And that was it.
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