Veteran Stories:
William Sharlow

Army

  • Major-General B.M. Hoffmeister, General Officer Commanding 5th Canadian Armoured Division, in the turret of the Sherman tank "Vancouver" near Castrocielo, Italy, 23 May 1944. Credit: Lieut. Strathy E.E. Smith / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-204155

    Credit: Lieut. Strathy E.E. Smith / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-204155
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"We were on this boat for 29 days before we got torpedoed."

Transcript

We didn’t get any grand training. We did some training in Trail [British Columbia], but just a little bit, killing time. And then we went to Calgary [Alberta] and we did some training in Calgary until we [3rd Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery] went overseas. And that was in December in 1939. They moved us around from area to area. Actually, we were supposed to be the defence of London [England], that’s what we were there, artillery and we were in the surrounding areas, we had large guns and we were the defence of London. And then from there on, we moved to different parts of south of England, Sussex and Surrey and Kent. We were right in the centre of the bombing, some of the worst bombings that went on we were actually out in London during that time. My wife and I - we were married at that time - but we were lucky each time. Everywhere we went, I kept my eyes open for phone boxes and I would phone home and get on the phone with Deb [his wife] for 10 or 15 minutes, and sometimes only a minute, telling her what’s going on; not with the army, but with myself. We didn’t know [where they were going, while the 1st Canadian Infantry Division was en route to Sicily in June 1943]. As a matter of fact, we were on this boat for 29 days before we got torpedoed. And it wasn’t until that day that we knew where we were going. We were called into the captain’s cabin on the ship that we were on, different groups, and told what we were to do when we got to the place where the invasion, like in this case, Sicily. We were told that we were to take certain beaches when we were to land in a place called Sugar Beach [in support of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade]. And from there on, we would go from there to different locations and different pickups. And we went with the Princess Pats [Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry], the [Loyal] Edmonton Regiment and the Seaforths [The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada], all those regiments, they were all in our division. When we got torpedoed, we ended up in Algiers; when the invasion was going on, we were in Algiers [French North Africa, today Algeria], when they invaded Sicily. The war in Sicily was just about over when they got the survivors moved into our regiment again. And we joined our own regiment and got our own jobs back again. And from Sicily, we went to Italy, across the Strait of Messina. While I was a driver/mechanic, I was assigned as a driver for our colonel. And when our colonel got wounded - and this was before Ortona [a fierce battle between the 1st Canadian Division and the German 1st Parachute Division, December 20-28, 1943], he met up with [then Brigadier Bert] Hoffmeister [commander of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade] and was Hoffmeister’s assistant and Hoffmeister saw the kind of vehicle that I was driving and he said he wanted that vehicle and he took it and he commandeered the vehicle. And in this vehicle, there was two radios in the equipment and it stayed with him until just before the taking of Ortona: Ortona was a big battle at that time.
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