"I can remember landing in France and Caen hadn't been captured but it had fallen after about five days after we were there."
Norman William Gilmore. I enlisted at London, Ontario in July 1941. And I was awarded the 1939-45 Star, France and Germany Star, Defence Medal and Canadian Voluntary Service Medal and class. I can remember landing in France and Caen hadn't been captured but it had fallen after about five days after we were there. My first experience was one morning when the sergeant-major called me. And he said, "Sergeant Norm, will you get a group of volunteers for the Padre?" So I said, "Okay." And I walked up and I walked up and I asked the Padre how many he wanted. "Oh," he said, "Approximately a dozen or more." And I said, "What is your project?" And he said, "We have to bury the dead." So we picked up the shovels and our picks and, away we went and followed him and he had some jars and that, he put the dog tags in after he took them off. And we walked around the field and he said, "There they are. All over the field."
And we picked them up, only this time their complexion was very, very dark and it wasn't a very nice job. So one of the fellows with me came in with a body. And we wrapped him up in the 10-98 blankets. And I said, "How's it going?" And he said, "Oh," he says, "terrible. I don't know if I can keep it up, Norm." So I said, "Do you want to trade?" And he said, "Yes." So I took his place and I went out to help picking them up. And I'll agree, it wasn't too nice. But anyway, in our search going out, we come back with another body and we had the graves dug. Now they're only like slit trenches and enough dirt over to keep the flies off them 'til the regular burial party could come along and pick them up. And I said to the Padre, "We have another body out there." And I said, "He's right beside one of our brothers." And I said, "He has a grey uniform on." He said, "Oh, dear." So I said, "What do we do?" So he went ahead and he completed the service. We'd stand at the foot of the grave and him at the head and he'd say a service for each one. And then they would cover them up and we'd go back.
So, when I was leaving to go he said, "Oh, you better bring him in, Norm." So I did. And we brought our other comrade in and we went back and we got him. And we buried the two of them just side by side. And I can still remember the words of the Padre. He said, "Soldier, I don't know what your religion is, but I'll bury you under the United Church." He was a United Church minister. And we covered him up, but we didn't salute him like we did our other. But we did stand at attention while the service was on. And then went back out to pick up more.