Veteran Stories:
Douglas Langtree

Army

  • Discharge Certificate of Douglas Langtree, M.M., who served in the Royal Canadian Artillery from 1939-45.

  • A recent photo of Mr. Langtree.

  • Italy 1944. A moment of leisure, paradise regained.

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"You never know what you can do until it happens, that's the unfortunate part about war."

Transcript

My name is Douglas Langtree, MM. I was in the non-permanent inactive militia before the war and on September the 1st we were called up. They said that there was a war imminent and that we wanted to be ready. I had the motor bike and I did a lot of dispatch rider work calling up a lot of the people that were in the NPM as I was. And then on September the 8th, just after the war started, we were called in for the duration. My regiment went over on the Aquitania. We finally went to Italy in 1943 and we stayed there 'til early 1945. I know that we are called the D-Day Dodgers by Lady Astor when we were in Italy. We get mostly uptight at the fellows that fought in Sicily and Italy because we'd been fighting there well over a year before D-Day and they call us the D-Day Dodgers. Lady Astor said, you know, we, fighting Italy, we were consorting with the signorinas and drinking the vino and basking in the sun, which was far, far, far away from the truth. We take umbrage at the fact that they look down on us because we weren't doing the work that they claimed they did at D-Day. We lost an awful lot of men in Italy and we were fighting the best. The elite troops of the German Army under Kesselring. But anyway, in 1944, I was doing the job as an OP up at an observation post and this was quite a big building and we were under fire for several days and several times I was knocked down from the roof of the building. And I was a little bit afraid, I must admit it, that... and anybody tells me they're never afraid in wartime, well they've never seen any action. But I was afraid that maybe we'd be buried alive with the rubble. You know, with the house being bombed and shelled and so on, but fortunately got out of that. I did a job there and for that they awarded me the Military Medal. Anyway and in 1945 we left Italy and came over to northwest Europe. We landed at Marseilles and we went all the way up through France, Belgium, Holland where we fought and that's where we ended up in the war. Then we came home and, the funny part about a war is that, anybody with the longest service was supposed to be the first to go home, but it didn't turn out that way. And that was another thing that we didn't like very much. Many vets could tell many stories about the war, but as time goes by, we tend to look at the funniest side of war. We came to one spot in Italy and a stream had gone through it at one time. It's about four or five feet deep and we put our kits in there because we thought well if we were ever shelled it would be a little bit safer there and, after a while it started to rain. Well when it rained in Italy it poured down and, not very long afterwards, our equipment started to float away from it. We had to get in there and grab it out because it filled up very, very quickly. At the time, about an hour or so there was a good four feet of water in this ditch and it was getting pretty miserable. And there was two or three of us there standing around and we just happened to look at each other and said, "Well, if Jerry started to shell us now, what would we do? Would we stay here and stand pat or would we jump into this water?" And we all said, "No. No way." Well shortly after that, Jerry did start to shell us and, to cut a long story short, in a few moments there were three or four very, very crestfallen soldiers up to their necks in water in this ditch, which, at the time wasn't very funny, but later on as we looked at it, it was funny. You never know what you can do until it happens, that's the unfortunate part about wars.
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