Douglas Power in Aldershot, England, September 1943.Doug Power
Douglas Power standing in front of a windmill in The Netherlands, 1944.Doug Power
Douglas Power`s tent, set up in an orchard in Bayeux, France, June 1944.Doug Power
"I was the stretcher bearer; taking guys from the tent into the operating tent and bringing them back again on stretchers."
We arrived in England and I was sent to a camp anyway. Of course, first you have to have a medical, so I heard the same thing from the doctor, "what are you doing in the army with feet like that?" Well, I said, "discharge me and send me home." "No, no, we can’t do that, you’re in the army now." So they sent me [as a reinforcement] to this unit called No. 8 Canadian General Hospital [Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps], which was a hospital that was formed here in Dundurn [Saskatchewan]. But they were overseas then in England, so I went and I was joined there. They didn’t know what to do with me because I wasn’t an orderly.
So anyway, they put me on general duties, what they called general duties, waxing the floors, sweeping the floor. So when it came time for, over the next year when we went down to Didcot [England], that’s where I met Sylvia [Mr. Power’s future wife], and before we went down, we had a medical again. I told him, "we can’t go through this whole thing again;" and the doctor said, "we can’t take you with us." I said, "well, you’re not leaving me here." So he said, "well, just a minute;" so he went and asked the colonel. He said, "Power says he doesn’t want to leave the group." So he said, "if he wants to go, let him go, just make sure that it’s noted on his medical report that he has bad feet."
And that was two weeks after D-Day [the Allied Normandy landings of June 6, 1944] and we, you know, that was what they called the beachhead, that’s where it was established, so all the supplies were coming in there. They couldn’t find our supplies, so we had to sleep on the beach. So finally they located our supplies and loaded them on a truck, along with the staff. The dispatch driver that was taking us to where we were setting up a hospital, he got lost and we ended up in an artillery barrage. That wasn’t very nice. However, he got turned around and then we went to, it was a little place called Bayeux, B-A-Y-E-U-X, I think it was spelled. That’s where we set up the first hospital, in canvas tents.
Well, I was everything. I was the stretcher bearer; taking guys from the tent into the operating tent and bringing them back again on stretchers. Well, we were in the field. The ambulances would bring them in from the front and we would unload them, and take them into the hospital tent. And then those that required surgery, they would be the first ones that would be treated.
You were only two men carrying the stretcher and very muddy, because all the ambulances used to come in by the hospital and it just churned up the mud. And then when we were in Antwerp [Belgium], that’s when the first V-2 [Vergeltungswaffe-2: German ballistic missile] fell on Allied soil at noon time. It exploded right in the heart of the city. And every 15 minutes, it was either a V-1 [Vergeltungswaffe-1: German flying bomb] or a V-2 landed. The Germans were trying to discourage the Belgians and the [Royal] Canadian Engineers from trying to clear the harbour because they sank all kinds of boats and barges in the harbor, so you couldn’t land supplies in there. The army was trying to clear that, so instead of landing down in Bayeux, they could come across the [English] Channel to Antwerp and unload the supplies there.
We were right in Antwerp at that time too. So we were in a building in Antwerp. So the hospital was right there, but I think there were 500 people the first day that were killed. It just landed, the V-2 landed right down the centre of the city.
One of the memories that has always stayed with me, and this may sound strange, but we buried a German soldier. That really stayed with me because I was thinking that day, that probably he can either be a son, a brother, maybe a young husband; and here people in Germany will be thinking, well, he’s all right, we’ll get another letter from him and here we are burying him. That has really stuck with me.