"I listened to the voices; and something was wrong. Then I realized they were German troops. So I came out, I walked right into them. I think they were surprised to see me."
They never liked you to, I’m talking about the commissioned ranks or the top leaders, they never liked two people to get too chummy for two reasons. One good reason, because sometimes you can see a friend, I’ve seen it happen, over there wounded and really in trouble, but then one wouldn’t go over to help him. You can’t do that because you can lose two men instead of one. It’s sort of cold blooded, eh? But you can’t. They didn’t want you to do it, anyways. But there’s a close relation to people in front line action. We’re all just like brothers to each other.
I remember another time, we were advancing, this was, I think, advancing into one of the biggest forests in Germany; I think it was the Hochwald Forest [in Germany], if I remember right. And behind that forest, well, you can call get it ditch, or whatever you want to call it, the Germans were in there with machine guns. We were going through territory as flat as this plate. [The Germans] were spraying this whole area [with machine gun fire]. And you often wonder, how the heck can you get through that without getting hit? But a lot died. I guess that’s war. Some lived, some died, some were wounded.
But, anyways, then my company commander, who was like a dad to me, he was about 36 years old and I was about 22 at the time, and he was a good commander. I was always with him. And in a company, there’s three signalmen because, basically, you’re working almost around the clock. In an advance, I would be transmitting information down to each company and down to brigade headquarters, so they have an idea what’s happening.
It’s just all memory. So I remember this time, I lost my company commander because I just looked at something and the next time I turned around, and he was gone. He disappeared. We were running through into the forest, and I said, oh God, where is he? So I started to go, and I figured he’s got to be ahead of me somewhere; and I didn’t see him. But then I heard voices. I listened to the voices; and something was wrong. Then I realized they were German troops. So I came out, I walked right into them. I think they were surprised to see me.
But I stayed on my transmitter, stating what was happening so they know this is happening. I realized there was six infantry, German troops, and officers. And I suspected right away, I looked at them, I was just saying to myself, well, I hope they’re not SS [Schutzstaffeln: German paramilitary organization] troops, because they’d shoot me right there, right then and there. But they weren’t. I also realized one of their men was wounded. And a week before we went in, there was an awful Allied artillery fire. Some of them, I think, were a little bit [makes noise] in here [their minds]. It was tremendous. I’ve never seen such fire in my life.
But anyways, I knew that they wouldn’t kill, they were trying to get their way out. But one was wounded. And I’m not sure where he was wounded, but somewhere around the legs or between the legs. And they were carrying him. And so I told them, lay him down beside a tree and put some pillow, or whatever we could find, the German sheets, and we left him there, assuming that he’d be picked up.
Anyways, I had these troops. I finally found my way out. I gave these troops over to another regiment, not my regiment [Essex Scottish Regiment], but another regiment, to get rid of them. I left them there. And then I remember I finally did join up with my company commander; and I remember that I was told by the people that I gave the prisoners to, they said oh, we’ll take care of them, but I took the their word for it. You know, I heard that guy crying almost all night. I still think of it. When I could have done something else.
I tell you one thing the Germans used to do. They would change road signs to confuse the Allies who were advancing. And they’d have Canadian uniforms on. And we’d look at them and sometimes you wouldn’t think too much about it, they’re Canadians, you know, but they weren’t. But when they were caught, they were executed for that. There was that kind of stuff happening too.
I remember as we liberated different countries, particularly Holland. I remember Holland very well. It always makes me cry when I’m talking to you, to see these people with tears in their eyes. They’d been occupied for probably six years. The Germans stripped everything from them. Their cattle from them. In many cases, some of them were starving. [Avro] Lancasters [heavy bombers] would come up every once in a while, and drop something down for them to eat.
Anyhow, they were so happy ̶ just to see them that way. War is a terrible thing. I mean, it’s not a game. It’s a case: some live, some die. Some were crippled for life and some of that stuff. It’s a terrible thing.