Veteran Stories:
Sam Meltzer

Army

  • Sam Meltzer of the 7th Armoured Division at the Dunkirk Memorial.

  • Sam Meltzer in Brussels, 1945

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"I would like to say thanks to the Belgium Embassy. They've been very good to us, to the Dunkirk veterans"

Transcript

My name is Sam Meltzer. My army number: 99128. I was ordered to the army when war broke out on September the 3rd, and we went promptly with the British Expeditionary Force. We landed in France - which was the first time I'd heard the expression "the cold war" - where we spent several months wining and dining in the little esthemenés in Flanders and, as we thought, safely secure behind the Maginot line. Which, we were told, was impenetrable - "On ne passe pas. They shall not pass." - in the Dreux, Rouen area. Suddenly, after nine months, the German Field Marshal General von Rundstedt, figured the whole thing out, he simply by-passed the Maginot Line and... and came through Brussels, in Belgium, with the biggest tanks and the most disciplined soldiers and long-range artillery and Hedgehocken Stuka's which clogged the roads with refugees causing us to, painfully, withdraw over two or three encounters with him and landed in Margate and... for a short period in England. Churchill said he didn't recognize defeat and shipped the whole lot to Burma or, in my case, to the Middle East, where, once again, I languished for awhile in Ismailia, which is on the border of Egypt... Cairo and Alexandria. There I learned brotherhood from the Gurkas, the Sikhs, the Maori's and the African Rifles. And, in our travels back and forth and manoeuvring around the desert we... finally America entered the war and were sending us some very modern equipment. And it coincided, fortunately, with the same time as General Rommel was arriving in the Afrika corps. We retreated to El Alamein and then opened fire with all this new-found artillery that we had. And it was the first major victory that I'd encountered. And It was right at the gates of Alexandria. And the turning point in the war was the Germans started retreating for the first time all the way back to Tunis, Algeria, Libya and we... did the invasion of Sicily. And I'd got off the landing barge quite smoothly near Catania, then served in the Paloma, Mount Etna region and was wounded and laid delirious for quite a while. And I had yellow jaundice and malaria, so it turned out, apart from all these severe burns. And three Italian soldiers picked me up and I thought I was either going to be shot or go to prison camp and they took me to a British field hospital and they surrendered. And I spoke up for them and they got jobs as orderlies around the camp. And I was returned to Algiers and via Gibraltar, we finally arrived in England. And, once again, joined up with the 51st Highland Division and I caught up with the group at Caen. A lot of resistance at Caen from Rommel's last stand, I guess. Going through Belgium, a rest stop, I borrowed a bike from a villager then went to Malle to see an old girlfriend, Anna, from 1940. And when I came back in the morning, the unit had moved on. I thought that was very inconsiderate of them. But, I was punished. I got far less than I deserved. I was transferred to a more dangerous position. I would like to say thanks to the Belgium Embassy. They've been very good to us, to the Dunkirk veterans. Thank you very much.
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