Veteran Stories:
Fred Bragnalo

  • Fred Bragnalo in his Canadian Army Uniform, October 24, 1944. Mr. Bragnalo served with the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, the "Little Black Devils."

  • Newspaper clipping reporting that Fred Bragnalo was injured overseas. It ran in the local paper on October 24, 1944.

  • Revisiting Fort Nieulay, Calais, France, in 1994.

  • Weapon [Mauser C96] confiscated by Fred Bragnalo from the German commander of Fort Nieulay on September 7, 1944, when it was taken by the Royal Winnipeg Rifles. The capture of this Fort opened the way towards the capture of Calais.

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"I’ll try to snag one of these pears. So I crawled up, and I reached up for the pear; and I got it coming out and the sniper, bingo, he missed me."

Transcript

We [the Royal Winnipeg Rifles] were at the Leopold Canal. [The] Canadian Scottish [Regiment (Princess Mary’s)] and the [Royal] Regina Rifles were across, ahead of us. We were in reserve and remained on the bank while the Canadian Scottish and Regina Rifles were on the opposite side and in the battle. During this period, we had to do some patrols on the bank to the bridge. I happened to be on one of them, at one time, during the night, keeping in touch with the Regina Rifles that were at the bridge. On the other side of the bridge, Jerry [the Germans] had the machine guns set up at the crossroads; and they were playing havoc on us all the time. I was detailed, they wanted to get them out of there and they asked me to take two volunteers and run across the road into the orchard, and get into that house if we could.

They gave the proper coverage. Only one person volunteered incidentally. And he was in the scout platoon before and they were disbanding the scout platoon is the reason why he was there. We got the coverage; they covered us real well with smoke and mortar fire. At the crossroads, we ran across and I don’t, I still don’t know the guy’s name really. I think it was Kozak, but I’m not sure.

Anyway, we ran across. He beat me across; he could run like a deer. He beat me across. There was a fence to go across to see and he went in through the doorway that was open. I went in through the living room window that was smashed out at the same time. As he went in there, he got a Jerry dead cold. The Jerry was as surprised as he was. Anyway, the Jerry threw his hands up and they got him.

By this time, I’m up to him and there was a group down in the basement causing quite a commotion. We’re telling them to come up and nobody wants to come up. We dropped the grenade in and finally, they started to come up. [We] finally got them out of there and sent them out, and some were hurt too. Some had shrapnel in them. And there as another guy in the field, in the orchard part of it. We were there for about three days, can’t move out of that place. The rest of my company dug in outside around the building for protection.

And this one morning, I forget what morning it was, it was kind of quiet and I knew those MGs [machine guns] were still on the crossroads; and I don’t know how many, but not many guys were there, I’m not sure. But I figured there was one of the Jerrys that were wounded and they wouldn’t pick up this guy; and one of our stretchers finally picked him up and brought him in. So this particular morning, I felt kind of hungry. There was a pear tree about 15 feet from the building. I figured, I’ll try to snag one of these pears. So I crawled up, and I reached up for the pear; and I got it coming out and the sniper, bingo, he missed me. So I laid down there for a while. I wasn’t moving, hoping for even five seconds to see where he really is, but I couldn’t see nothing. So I figured, well, [I’ll try for] another one, but it was a little higher, I couldn’t get at it. So I thought I’d try it. So I tried it, oh, bingo, he nailed me. He didn’t hit me, but he fired. Three occasions. I says, oh, I better not push this anymore, so I got that one pear and I went back into the house. But, in the end, after that, the 8th [Canadian Infantry] Brigade were given the job of coming through Walcheren waterway system and as soon as they come in, then Jerry started to pull out. They figured they were going to get trapped in there between us and the 8th Brigade. And that’s what relieved our particular position at the Leopold Canal.

[A second interview with Mr. Bragnalo is also available on this archive. Please conduct a search using his name to consult this additional interview.]

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