André Charlebois at Bruges' hospital, Belgium, March 15th, 1945.André Charlebois
André Charlebois (3rd from right) in Germany, 1946.André Charlebois
Canadian National Telegram to André Charlebois' mother, Alexina Charlebois, stating that his son was severely wounded, March 20th, 1945.André Charlebois
André Charlebois in Utrecht, The Netherlands, 1945.André Charlebois
Letter from the House of Commons, written by Minister of Transportation Lionel Chevrier, to André Charlebois' mother, in order to comfort her. March 13, 1945.André Charlebois
"Someone asked me if we were really scared. We had our moments, sure, but we got tired of being scared."
When I ended up alone in my trench, it took me three days to get a replacement. The guy who ended up replacing me after three days was very shy. He prayed all the time. He had a rosary in his hands. You know, I don’t have anything against prayer but I would have liked to have someone who was braver than me. I will never forget that; the guy who was shy became a good soldier later on. He was scared and it was natural. Someone asked me if we were really scared. We had our moments, sure, but we got tired of being scared. So we were calm unless a tragic incident occurred then we would become scared again. But we weren’t continually scared, it was nature. You don’t become brave but you become less scared. It happens gradually.
They said to us, “We’re moving out, we’re going somewhere else.” We would start to feel something in our gut. Some soldiers don’t like to be directed to the front line. Training in Canada is different than training on the front line. Because I can’t say to someone, “Do this, do that.” The guy will get sick of it. He won’t accept the orders as much as if we were in Canada. The officers are just as scared as me. They are careful about how they treat the soldiers. I should say, they have less authority. I noticed that. Maybe I’m wrong. But that’s how I interpreted it.
I remember one soldier who had had enough and he told the officer that he wanted some time off. The officer responded that he couldn’t have any time off since we were missing too many men. I wasn’t at that point yet. I hadn’t been around long enough yet. We heard a mortar bomb. In the army, we were trained to count up to eight. After 8, we continued doing what we were doing. I counted to 8; one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. Maybe I counted too fast. I felt something burning in my back. I had a raincoat on; we called it a gas cape. I turned the gas cape around and I noticed a hole. I knew that I had been hit. So then it was my turn to go to the hospital.
Before joining the occupation, my regiment set itself up in a little town in Holland. The town was called Assen. We offloaded in a factory. What was nice was that it was a factory that made mattresses. So each soldier had a mattress. We caught up on lost sleep. We were there for a week and each night, we had a mattress. We thought it was very funny; having a mattress after having slept in the trenches.
Maybe a lot of those people were happy that the war was over since they didn’t have enough food. They were used to being served and being paid a small salary, but still. Used to being in the army. I was looking for work. I was a little scared of all of those things. I didn’t find work quickly. Maybe I wasn’t super-intelligent since I didn’t tell my future employers that I had participated in the war, can you give me a job? I didn’t even think about getting work by telling them I was a veteran. So that’s why it took me some time to find a job. It would have helped me but I didn’t think about it. We were young, we didn’t know all the ins-and-outs.