You don’t worry about getting hurt or whatever but you worry about being afraid and showing it, I think.
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I think really what you were afraid of was that you will be afraid and show it. That’s what you worried about, you know. When you’re that age, particularly. You don’t worry about getting hurt or whatever but you worry about being afraid and showing it, I think.
We were on the outskirts of Caen, there was a river there to cross. There had been a lot of heavy bombing there. The first night we got there, on our side of Caen, looking down over the city sort of thing, the sergeant told me there was a recruit had come in and we were supposed to sleep alongside a hedgerow that night and he was complaining there was a grenade where he was supposed to sleep, he thought. So the sergeant told me to go get rid of it. So I went, it was a German concussion grenade. I threw the thing as far as I could. The only piece on the grenade that could hurt me was the base plug. But one chance in several million, it came back and hit me in the jaw. So I got sent back to England then.
Not too sure what our objective was but we had to cross a pasture and cross some more, about two or three miles we had to go, cross some open land, farmland. There was a lot of machinegun fire at us. We sort of got broken up. I wouldn’t say we were lost but we weren’t in real units anymore. I know my section, my Bren gunner disappeared and I don’t know where he was, I had no idea where he’d got separated from us. And we finally come to a canal where everybody was pinned down, at a dry canal. The machine gun fire was just vicious over top and one fellow lost it, apparently. He was walking around through this, it’s amazing he didn’t get killed. And everybody’s trying to get him down and he wouldn’t come. Finally he got close enough that a lieutenant grabbed him by the boot and hauled him down and he was just plain out of it. That really shook me— to see how somebody could really lose it.
I may have been 15 days at the most. When I got back, the platoon that I was in, there was one person left in that platoon. The rest were all, something had happened to them or for some reason or other, they were all strangers. Well, there were big farmyards with big houses that the Germans seemed to like to take over as command posts. Usually a platoon-sized job would go out and clear these. And usually when we showed up, the back door sort of thing, they’d be gone out the front. But one time, they didn’t go, that’s where I got hurt. We had a new lieutenant that day, I had never seen him before, I suspect that was his first bit of action— I’m not too sure— because, just the way he acted. And he was eager to go sort of thing, you know.
We come up on this, it was this big home and some other buildings and so on, we come across a pasture. And it just wasn’t right, it was too quiet, there was no action anywhere. We were down in the pasture of course in little pits, low ground, waiting to see what would happen and somebody around the side would probably stir things up. And there was some branches cut off a tree, which normally, nobody would be trimming a tree in that, you know, under those circumstances. So I just was squeezing a shot into a pile of branches when he stood up to see what was going on or what would happen and he shouldn’t have, of course, a bazooka must have hit him right in the head and he was ahead of me, oh, five, ten yards or so ahead I guess; the explosion knocked me out. And when I came to, his head was just absolutely gone. There was no blood or anything. I went to roll over and my foot stayed where it was so I rolled back on my face again. And then I kept passing in and out, that’s where I got hurt.
In fact, I came to the next morning and I think near Antwerp somewhere it was, there was a nun, full habit, looking down at me and I was on the stretcher on the ground. And sort of nodded as if I was, I was all right.