Veteran Stories:
Roger Ptosnick

Army

  • The Memory Project, Historica Canada
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"Then on the way up there, I heard the shells or something whistled by, and the shell hit in a ditch there. I got off my bike or got thrown off the bike actually, but it was a dud, thank God. [I] picked up the bike and kept on going."

Transcript

They said we [Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians)] were going to Ireland. Well, Ireland became North Africa and we got off the ship there, and headed for Italy. We got off at Naples, some time in 1943, I guess it was. Well, they were just sort of holding a line there for doing shelling there. But my job then was just taking some messages or papers and that, to the different headquarters of each squadron. So that wasn’t too bad. You got shelled along the road there. They would be shelling, but you just kept going and that was it. If your time was up, I guess it was up, that’s all the way I looked at it.

I saw lots of the guys that are wounded and that, for instance. One time we were going up, I guess I was in towards the Melfa River; and the 2IC [second-in-command]... We got held up, we were, it was an echelon [formation of military vehicles in parallel lines]we were going to supply them [with] some equipment, like petrol and ammunition and food to the tanks up ahead. We got held up and then, of course, the only ones that could get through would be a motor bike, so I scooted in between the vehicles up ahead and then I met one of the guys that was in battle, and he was badly wounded. He said, where the hell are you going? And I says, well, the 2IC is sending me up to see what’s the holdup. So he got on the bike and we went back, and he told him, he says, don’t go, you can’t go up there, we’re getting shelled very heavily in the area. So that was the extent of that episode for me.

Then on the way up there, I heard the shells or something whistled by, and the shell hit in a ditch there. I got off my bike or got thrown off the bike actually, but it was a dud, thank God. [I] picked up the bike and kept on going.

At the Melfa River, we had a couple Italians, one of them could speak English, so we had to make some graves and paint some crosses. So they were pretty good painters or at least they were, what would you call them, sign painters, I guess. I had to make sure that the names of the bodies that were badly burned up, were just maybe a bundle, maybe a guy that maybe was 150 pounds, maybe we’d be lucky if he had 10 pounds left, was wrapped up into what they called a 10/20 [operational standard issue] blanket that everybody got issued in case you got killed, that was what you were buried in. And then the dog tags that we had, took that one off, that was for information and the other one stayed with the body, because it never burned. That’s how we managed to find out who the identity was and buried it at a little cemetery there in Italy somewhere, I can’t remember the name of the place now. But that was my worst part of the job. These were the guys that I served with, knew quite well, and here we were burying them; and there’s about 50 of them, I guess, at the time.

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