Veteran Stories:
Orme Payne

Army

  • The citation for Sergeant Orme Payne's Mention-in-Despatches, gazetted on April 4, 1946.

    Orme Payne
  • Sergeant Orme Payne in The Netherlands, 1945.

    Orme Payne
  • A Canadian Army hockey team, The Netherlands, November 1945. Orme Payne is in the back row, second from the left.

    Orme Payne
  • Trumpet Band of the 17th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery at Petawawa, Ontario, July 26, 1941. Gunner Orme Payne is on the far right of the back row.

    Orme Payne
  • Sergeant Orme Payne (centre, with open collar) and comrades from the 17th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery returning home to the Prairies on the train, 1946.

    Orme Payne
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"If I was young and foolish, I guess I’d do it over again if, you know, if the circumstances were the same."

Transcript

In 1943, I think it was October again when we [the 17th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery] left to go to Italy. The 1st [Canadian Infantry] Division had gone down there and invaded Sicily in July; and I was in the 5th [Canadian Armoured] Division, an armoured division. For whatever reason, well, they wanted our equipment for the [Normandy] invasion. Now, we went down there just about naked. We took no equipment, turned in all the equipment that we looked after so darned well and picked up all our equipment from the 7th Field [Regiment], Royal Artillery. There was a member of the old Desert Rats [nickname of the British 7th Armoured Division]. And you never saw a bigger bunch of junk in all your life. We went to pick it up and there was trucks with flat tires; and one truck towing another, and just a mess. My equipment that I got, the radios and so forth, looked like they had been through several wars before we got them.

It was a prairie outfit that I was with, primarily. Those boys had learned to make things work when they didn’t work, so they patched everything up and got it going again. We spent another month or more calibrating the guns, more schemes, getting lined up, and then we went into action, just after Christmas, in January. That was on the Adriatic front. We started out in San Leonardo, just out of Ortona.

There was two lines of defense that the Germans had put in. There was the Gustav Line [German defensive line that ran near Monte Cassino] and the Hitler Line [German defensive line in central Italy]. We were to crack that line and go through up the Liri Valley. So that was done eventually on the twenty-fourth of May was when we finally broke through, I guess, and then made a rush up the Liri Valley to where we sprung the Americans out of Anzio, who had been there since December the year before. We were pulled back and they were allowed to go in and take Rome. They were the conquering heroes; and we were the guys that made it happen, but we got no credit. There was no Canadians allowed in.

So anyway, from there, we went into more training for a month or so; and then up to crack the Gothic Line [German defensive line running along the Apennines, an Italian mountain range], which was north of Florence. The 5th Division really did itself proud there. That was my division. They smashed through the Gothic Line; and it was supposed to be impregnable, but it wasn’t. The Perth Regiment [of Canada] was the first to get through there; and just as a little aside, the Perth Regiment had to march something like 35 miles and then go into action, and the British sat there with all that transport, they could have moved them up there. Now, they wouldn’t do it. And it’s just, I don’t know what goes through their mind when they were trying to get the best out of men and treat them like that.

But anyway, we got through the Gothic Line and fought our way on up into the Po Valley. I guess Lake Comacchio was the last spot, the last gun position we had. In a way, it was a good time. Met a lot of good guys. If I was young and foolish, I guess I’d do it over again if, you know, if the circumstances were the same.

Interview date: 18 October 2010

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