Veteran Stories:
Walter Detheridge

Army

  • Mr. Walter Detheridge's Statement of War Service Gratuity, issued in 1946 by the Department of National Defence.

    Walter Detheridge
  • Pictured here is a page from Mr. Walter Detheridge's Soldier's Service and Pay Book.

    Walter Detheridge
  • Mr. Walter Detheridge's War Deparment Driving Permit issued June 21, 1944. Mr. Detheridge served as a driver/mechanic with The Essex Scottish Regiment.

    Walter Detheridge
  • Shoulder Flashes for The Essex Scottish Regiment.

    Walter Detheridge
  • Cap Badge for The Essex Scottish Regiment.

    Walter Detheridge
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"Those would fire 1,000 rounds a minute, those heavy machine guns. I thought there was a hive of bees flying over my head quite regularly."

Transcript

When I went to England, they moved me to the infantry and I was in the 2nd [Canadian Infantry] Division, 4th [Brigade], the Essex Scottish Regiment from Windsor [Ontario]. And then I got wounded in France at Falaise, just past Caen, on the thirteenth of August [1944]. I got hit four times with a machine gun and luckily, I didn’t get killed. There was 13 of us there at that time and five of them were dead, and four of us were wounded.

I had a sergeant there, he was from Windsor, and he had been to Dieppe because the Essex Scottish were in Dieppe and they only had, I think, 46 come back from Dieppe out of 800. He was one of them. He was the nicest, he got killed the day I got wounded. And it’s a shame, but I don’t know what his name was even, I can’t remember it. But he was a real nice fellow.

In fact, when I got hit, I hollered at him and I said, I guess I got hit; and he said, well, just lay down on the [Bren Gun] carrier and, because the infantry’s coming through on the other side, it’ll all stop. Well, there was 75 Germans come out of there. Which they had 12 heavy machine guns there and it was a bad, I don’t know who figured that one out, but they only sent out one section of carriers, which is three carriers, to see if they could hold this one [German] machine gun, which it turned out to be 12 machine guns. And they were heavy guns. Those would fire 1,000 rounds a minute, those heavy machine guns. I thought there was a hive of bees flying over my head quite regularly. But it was quite an exciting day.

But luckily I lived and sometimes I wonder why because I got two bullets in one arm and across my shoulder and one between my ear and my head, and split the skin, but it bled pretty good. But about a quarter of an inch further over, it would have gone right through. And there was four holes in my steel helmet. It was a bad day.

I went back on a hospital ship to England and I was there for a few weeks, and then I went back to Belgium. I was driving a Bren Gun [(Universal)] carrier [light armoured tracked vehicle] for a captain and he said, Detheridge, we’re going to go and get a forward authorization post for our mortars. And I said, okay. So we started down the road in Holland and we rode for a while; and then a guy come out of the ditch, a Canadian fellow, and he said, this is the last, this is the furthest there is. Everything past here is German. So the captain, he says, well, doesn’t look too bad up there, we’ll go a little further. So we drove along a little further, like a little further like a half a mile maybe; and I said, what’s that coming down the road? And there was a little girl on a bicycle coming down the road. And she was about 10 years old, I figured. And she put her hands up on top of her head, that’s what the Germans did when they surrendered, and then she pointed down the road, so we said, well, we’ll follow her.

So we followed her down the road another quite a ways. And we come to a house and there was a cottage and it had a kind of a lean-to on beside of it. And she pointed to the house and so we stopped; and I put the machine gun across the Bren Gun carrier and the captain had his pistol out. And I hollered, come out, and they opened the door and a white flag come out; and I thought probably it’s going to be one guy come out and there was 28 come out, a whole platoon.

So they pulled out, and I said, anybody speak English? And the sergeant, he come over and he says, I speak English. And I said, good, line them up on the road. So he hollered something and they all run up, gone on the road and lined up in formation. Well, stupid me, I thought, well, I’ll go in and have a look in the house. So I, which was a dumb move, like you didn’t know what was in there. And they had all their equipment all lined up in that lean-to and I come back out, I got a pistol while I was there, but, anyway, come back out and we started marching them down the road and following them in the Bren Gun carrier.

Before we started marching, the gun was pointing over the thing and the barrel fell off of it. The locking handle hadn’t been pressed down on it. So with that, the little girl walked over and picked it up and gave it back to me and I put it back on again and then we marched them down the road; and when we got back to headquarters, the captain, he got told off quite severely for going that far down past the end of the road.

But, anyway, I heard that they, whether it was true or not, I heard they named a street after him in this town. The town was Zutphen in Holland.

Interview date: 7 September 2010

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