Veteran Stories:
Thomas Jamieson Stewart

Army

  • Mr. Thomas Stewart in Vancouver, British Columbia, October 18, 2010.

    Historica Canada
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"The German aircraft came over and dropped a string of bombs and there were, 22 of them were wounded and killed. That’s the first night."

Transcript

I was assigned to the [1st Battalion,] Canadian Scottish [Regiment] out of Victoria [British Columbia], but by the time we got there, we were in Debert, Nova Scotia. And we shipped out of Halifax around the end of April 1944. And so I really only had six weeks in the UK and then D-Day [the Allied Normandy landings of June 6, 1944] happened and away we went. We were actually listed as first reinforcements for the 3rd [Canadian Infantry] Division. And I believe they called us 46 Company, whatever that meant. I’ve forgotten whether it was late morning or early afternoon that we actually landed on the beach and by that time, the beach was secure. So when we landed, we didn’t come under any fire at that point. And they assembled people, you know. How much time does it take to get 2,500 guys climbing down the scramble thing and jumping into landing craft and getting, it would only carry 50 guys at a time, so you have to wait until they emptied the boat. And we assembled, oh, about five or six miles or kilometres inland. And around Courseulles and Bernières-sur-Mer and that area. And we dug a hole to, as we were properly trained, and there was lots going on. It was just like a fireworks display and we were just in awe of that. Nothing was close. And a bunch of fellows were coming in, it must have been about midnight and the thing is, remember, it’s June, and you stand to an hour before sunset and an hour after sunset. And in the morning, you stand to, which everybody’s awake, an hour before sunrise and an hour after sunrise. So by that time, you know you’ve got about three hours sleep and you’ve got to do two hours guard duty. So the way it worked out anyway, we didn’t feel terribly abused. But there were a bunch of fellows coming in from Ottawa [The Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa, the 3rd Division’s Machine Gun battalion] and we were just there and assembled and they were coming in and the German aircraft came over and dropped a string of bombs and there were, 22 of them were wounded and killed. That’s the first night. And we didn’t really think it was very fair, when you don’t even know where they’re coming from. But it did kind of bring it to our attention. And then in the morning, somebody had thought there was a sniper somewhere in the area, so they thought we should go and see if we can find them. And I remember thinking, that’s not a very good idea, going looking for snipers. But we didn’t find them fortunately, he either left or got captured. And then we moved further up and I ended up in the North Nova Scotia Highlanders because the way it worked out, the North Nova Scotia had moved through the 9th [Canadian Infantry] Brigade, which they were a part of, and ran into General Kurt Meyer and his [12th] SS Panzer Division. So they were rather badly mauled and that’s why we were sent, to reinforce the North Novas and we just stayed there.
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