Veteran Stories:
Charles Jeffs

Army

  • On October 9, 1944, at the Shceldt, Holland, Mr. Jeffs and fellow soldiers were hit with mortar fire. The watch in Mr. Jeffs' battle gear took quite a hit and saved his life. He spent months recuperating from the multiple wounds he received that day.

  • Mr. Jeffs' wife, Olive, received this telegram informing her that her husband was injured in battle.

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"One night during a shower of sulfur mortars, two French Canadian soldiers who were on patrol appeared at my slit trench and promptly jumped in."

Transcript

I'm Charles Jeffs. I was a Lieutenant during World War II. I sailed to England in August '42 in a draft that was designed to replace the Canadian troops that were lost at Dieppe. There were thirty SD & G – Stormont, Dundas & Glengarry – Lieutenants where we ended up at Aldershot, England, and we had no troops to train. Hence, we took turns commanding the other twenty-nine officers and made some lasting friendships. With this number of reinforcement officers for our unit, only a few could be sent to SDG's for field training. I joined the unit for three months, and during this period enjoyed going to Rothesay on the Isle of Bute, where rigorous training included assault landings with live ammunition. One of the thirty officers mentioned was Lieutenant Fred (Sterland?) from Belleville, who was mortally wounded during this operation, so it was pretty realistic. The unit returned to the Southampton area and embarked on the HMS the Duke of Wellington, from which the following morning we had a wet landing. We had been confined below deck on the ship and everyone was violently sick. Upon landing we had to climb a massive set of rope ladders. They must have been about twenty feet high. Then you had to crawl over the top of this horizontal set of rope ladders and descend on the other side. I remember feeling so sick and weak that I had to periodically lock my arms through the ropes to avoid falling. There was no stopping, as I was leading my platoon. Following the posting to the unity, I was sent to Bisley, the small school for the British Army, just outside Woking. While there I met my future wife, Olive Brook. We met the 9th of January '44 and were married the 25th of March '44, and have been most fortunate to share sixty-one years together. I missed D-Day invasion, as I was now in the reinforcement stream, and landed on the 1st of July '44, and eventually joined the SD&G in Caen on the 10th of July '44, as 16 Platoon, Dog Company Commander. On the 20th of July '44, we moved to (?) for rest and, at minimum, manning position. This was indeed hard to understand, as the unit was being shelled, mortared by 'moaning minnies', and treated to sulfur bombs after dark. There were many disabled tanks in the field, so we were able to get plates of armour and cover most of the openings in our respective slit trenches. One night during a shower of sulfur mortars, two French Canadian soldiers who were on patrol appeared at my slit trench and promptly jumped in. How we managed in what I thought was a one man slit trench, I do not know. Unfortunately while in this position, a mortar hit directly on a slit trench and two soldiers were killed. We dug them out after darkness, and the company commander asked me to take them back to the burial ground. The jeep had provisions for two stretchers so they were placed on these, and the driver and I took them back in the blackout on congested roads to the temporary burial ground and presented our comrades. The answer was, "Here are two shovels, there's the spot, remove half of the dog tags and you do the rest." These simple burials wrapped in army blankets will always remain in the back of my mind. Having joined the unit on the 10th of July '44, and serving continuously until being wounded on the 10th of October '44, I had visions of surviving the entire campaign. I was hospitalized from October to January of '45 and did not get back into action. I consider myself fortunate to have served with so many new-found friends.
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