"That was my introduction to what he says: you’ll learn the first day, what to do and when to duck. So I learned a whole lot in the first day, yeah."
We landed in Greenock, Scotland. Apparently some of the docks can’t handle this ship. When we went to Scotland, we got on the train and they took us south to England, and to a place called Aldershot [headquarters for the Canadian army in England], which is a holding unit or a reinforcement place. That’s where you finish your training and you were at a place where regiments that need reinforcements call there to get your reinforcements, that’s what you are. We were being called to go out to, this was after D-Day, but they needed reinforcements for the Lake Superior Regiment [(Motor)]; and they were in the 4th Canadian (Armoured) Division. They were the infantry there, and they were a mobile infantry.
They went in half-tracks [regular wheels in the front and tracks in the back]. We found that out when we got there. We got there in the evening and they had been back from the front lines to have a church service for the ones that they lost; and so I went to A Company and so I was anxious. I asked the boys, I says, you know, I’m not sure just what I’ve got to do here. And they said, well, I tell you what, you go in the back of that truck and you get yourself a weapon; and you clean it all up and you load yourself up with ammunition because we’re going back up there in the morning. And then you’ll find out what we do. And so needless to say, I was quite nervous.
And then I had got good marks in the Bren [light] machine gun. I thought, I’m not going to have this here bolt action rifle [in which the bolt is manually operated]. I’m going to have something that’s going to shoot lots of lead. And so I cleaned up a Bren gun; and I loaded up the magazines [ammunition storage]. I says, well, I guess I’m ready, but I’m not sure, but we’ll see in the morning. We went to a small village and the people come out there cheering and going on; and we had, at that point of view, ran into enemy. You left your vehicles and went by foot, like the infantry does go. And so we were out of the vehicles and we went through the village; and we come to the other end there and they were waiting for us. They had three big guns there; and they opened fire on us and their infantry too were in the barn there near us, firing at us. The corporal that was with me, we ran and jumped into this big hole in the middle of the highway. It must have been from some bomb and we got in that there, and tried to shoot back. But we couldn’t handle the three big artillery guns, so they decided that we should pull back and go back and regroup, and have our supper before it gets dark; and that officials there figured out what we’re going to do tomorrow. That was my introduction to what he says: you’ll learn the first day, what to do and when to duck. [laughs] So I learned a whole lot in the first day, yeah.
It was frightening, but fortunately, the corporal that I was with, he knew the game. He was a lot of help to me. And now he says, the guys are leaving; they’re going back, so you and I are going to do some counting now. There’s three guns there and you hear them go off, and then you’ll hear the shells come in and land. When they land, we take off and then we run; and we duck into a house and wait for the three to start again and then when they land, away we go again. And he had it down pretty good. We got all the way out of there without being hit.