We came under light mortar fire when we hit the beach, hit the sand, and a cluster of mortar bombs came down very close.
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We were in around Seaforth [England] and various places along the coast. And a few months on the Isle of Wight, and we were back in the region of Southampton in 1944. We had done several practices of landing at Studland Bay and including putting on all our equipment and ammunition. So we got another call and we thought it was just another routine training exercise, when later on that evening, we were on the mother ship and the ship that my company was on, the ship that the Canadian Scottish [Regiment (Princess Mary’s)] was on was the [HMCS] Prince Henry. And that was the mother ship with the landing craft on, the LCA, land craft assault, hanging from the deck.
Well, about 10:00 that night, they told us the news. They said, this is for real, we’re sailing. And they told us where we were going to Normandy, and they issued the aerial photographs and the maps of the Seine Bay, and Juno Beach where we landed. We came under light mortar fire when we hit the beach, hit the sand, and a cluster of mortar bombs came down very close. And the man that was in front of me was my number one mortar fire controller, and he was killed. He got a piece of shrapnel right through the forehead and I got shrapnel in my face just about two inches below my right eye. And I only had it taken out about five, six years ago because some of the metal was still in my face, and I couldn’t get an MRI.
So I put my hand up and I got a handful of blood because what happened, the shrapnel had cut an artery. And the medical officer there, a fellow by the name of Captain [J. C. G.] Young at that time, that was our regimental medical officer. The first aid man came along and he said, hold the pressure point, which I did; and Captain Young came along and he said, I’ll fix that and he sutured it. I said, am I good to go and he said, yes. And my company commander, a fellow from Duncan, Major Dick Lendrum, said are you ready to go and I said, yes. And he said, well, get your platoon organized and get off the beach. He said, you’re now the platoon commander because your officer’s been knocked out, he’s badly wounded.
The briefings were so thorough and training, and the maps and aerial photographs, they knew that this kind of thing would happen, which it did. But through the training and the information that we had, we knew where the objective was and the aim of the game was not to fight. If you ran into enemy pockets, you contain it by fire and bypassed it. I eventually got up to my company that night about 9:00, just after they had arrived at the objective. At that time, we had landed, and our brigade was the Royal Winnipeg Rifles from the Winnipeg area and the [Royal] Regina Rifles [Regiment] from Saskatchewan, and the Canadian Scottish. That was known as the Western Brigade and that was the only organization that got all their objectives on D-Day.
And my company commander took a look at me and he said, I said, now, I can stay. I said, I’m not in all that much pain but I was, I looked bad because I was covered with blood that had dried on my uniform and my face, and caked with blood and dust. And I looked bad and he said, no. He said, sergeant, you’d better go back, he said, because your appearance is bad for morale. So he said, better to go back and get patched up, he said, and come back again.
I went back and I spent a night on the beach, near the beach again and there was dogfights [aerial combat] all night long and the gunboats were shelling inland with big heavy 12 and 16 inch [naval] guns, the battleships out in the bay; and then there were dogfights and everything else, and small arms fire and the whole thing. And it was a rough night.