Veteran Stories:
David “Hal” Stephens

Army

  • Photo taken just after D-Day, 1944. Hal Stephens is bottom left. "We were there digging slit trenches just above the cliffs of Dover to provide shelter from the shrapnel."

    David (Hal) Stephens
  • Photo of Hal Stephens taken at stop in the Canadian Prairies during his train ride home to Vancouver, British Columbia, February, 1946. "It was very reassuring to be stepping on my coutry's soil again."

    David (Hal) Stephens
  • Photo take in the Spring/Summer of 1945, near Apeldoorn, The Netherlands. Hal Stephens is second from the left in the back row.

    David (Hal) Stephens
  • Hal Stephens on the deck of the SS Ile de France, on his return to Canada in January, 1946.

    David (Hal) Stephens
  • Appreciation Letter of Good Service, signed by Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery, mailed to Hal Stephens after the war. "I can remember shaking hands with Montogmery several times as he visited our troops at camp, and remember him always asking the men to 'gather around the table.'"

    David (Hal) Stephens
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"The Falaise Gap was terrible. Well, there was so much killing. The Germans, I don’t know how many thousands was killed and I think we suffered quite a loss, too."

Transcript

When we landed in Normandy [with the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps Headquarters Units, 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, in June 1944], we had no landing vessels, so we had to land in American vessels. And they were brewing coffee and steaks and all that kinds of good stuff and then it was quite a change. We were still on rations, we were still on the old army rations, and the Americans were eating pretty good. I was in the administration’s headquarters, moving hospitals and medical outlets around to the different places where they were needed. Well, it was quite interesting because they were still shelling Caen when we landed in Normandy. And I remember the big shells going overheard, they was just like freight trains. That was my first experience, really, when we landed. Going into Falaise, the Falaise Gap, have you heard of that? Okay, went into there and that was a terrible, terrible massacre. And that stood out in my mind an awful lot after we left that. It was kind of straight through to Belgium, I think it was. That was, but the Falaise Gap was terrible. Well, there was so much killing. The Germans, I don’t know how many thousands was killed and I think we suffered quite a loss, too. And then from Belgium to Holland, we spent a very, very cold winter in Nijmegen, Holland. Very, very cold, and the people were starving. Oh, there was a lot of snow and it was really cold. It was one of the coldest winters they had experienced for a long time. 1944, December. We were in Oldenburg, Germany, when the war ended [on May 8, 1945]. I don’t know how we got the news but that’s when we heard it. Well, we couldn’t celebrate because we were still out in the field. I mean, we weren’t in town, where all the fun was. And then when the Germans got really defeated, I was there when the prisoners and all that were escorted back to Germany, [those] that we had held. Probably some you’d never see again, it was all their troops being dragged home, horses and – well, it was unbelievable to see. A beaten army. I was on leave and I met my wife, a girl in Nottingham [England] and we fell in love and I brought her home to Canada after the war. Oh, how we met was at a dance, the Palais de Dance in Nottingham. I know I went back to Holland until January of 1946. And then we shipped back on the [SS] Île de France and then I applied to get my girlfriend into Canada. And when she did come a year later, we got married.
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