Harvey Clemens' Soldier's Service and Pay Book from 1940.Harvey Clemens
Pictured here is the Bible that Harvey Clemens carried with him throughout the war from 1940 to 1946.Harvey Clemens
Button Shiner issued to Harvey Clemens when he first joined in 1940 and engraved with his regimental number.Harvey Clemens
Harvey Clemens just after enlistment, 1941.Harvey Clemens
Harvey Clemens' original uniform worn during the war.Harvey Clemens
"We escaped out through the turret; and we were about 20 yards when the second shot hit the ammunition sight and everything went up."
They decided to send 30 of us, officers, sergeants and privates, over to the Coldstream Guards [Coldstream Regiment of Foot Guards] in England for training for armoured, 21st Armoured Regiment (Governor General’s Foot Guards). And I’ll never forget Morse Code, trying to get it hitched up there. We managed and we done our training, and the regiment come over in November. We got our tanks, [M4] Sherman tanks [American tracked, armoured vehicle], but while I was in England, I used to be trained in a Ram [cruiser] tank [Canadian-built tracked, armoured vehicle], driving and gunning and crew commanding, and wireless operator with the [No.] 19 [Mk III radio] set in them all.
We went in to France in Cologne [Boulogne-sur-Mer] and from there, we battled France, was a very hard battle to get through. And our tank was hit. Major Laidlaw was the first to get it and he was killed, and his wireless operator was killed too that day. And then the next morning, just at daybreak, the 88 [mm German anti-tank gun] struck right in front of the gunner, in the turret ring, jammed everything. And the driver, Jimmy Webb, was down below and he couldn’t get out. But I moved ammo, when I got awakened up after the shock, I moved ammunition, got Jimmy up into the turret and we escaped out through the turret; and we were about 20 yards when the second shot hit the ammunition sight and everything went up. We stayed in German slit trenches and all we had was egg [fragmentation hand] grenades for protection.
The next day we found our regiments and put me in another tank. Jimmy and the driver the same too; and we cruised around, and some days was sunshine and some days all clouds. But as we went on through Belgium and Holland and had lots of good days as well as bad ones, and we got to the Dutch border in Germany, we’d used our tanks for artillery over the water. Then they moved me to a 17 pounder [field gun] as wireless operator. That’s when I had to use the Morse Code. I was quite mixed up sometimes, but we went on then and through the mud and stuck a few times; and the Germans had went, fell all these big trees across, both ways across the highway. We had to stay off the highways, and odd time, we just didn’t make it.
We did find Holland an awful friendly town and it was blown to pieces. And we were run into snipers up church steeples. I was in control of the tank, had levers for the height and depth; and one day I missed a sniper up a tree and he got our commander. Our little commander kept his hatch open; he should have been closed down. The gunner was the only one that had a telescope, the others had periscopes. So, I guess, you couldn’t see too much. With a telescope, you watched everything. But the day that the sniper got Fritz Palmer, we were on three German tanks and I took the blame for it, for losing him anyhow.
Interview date: 8 November 2010