Veteran Stories:
Jim Parks

Army

  • Jim Parks (back row 4th from right) on the occasion of his promotion to sergent in the Reichwald Forest in March 1945.

  • Jim Parks at Camp Dilbert, Nova Scotia in 1941

  • Jim Parks' brother Godfrey in Winnipeg just after returning home in late 1945 after their Mother's death

  • Jim Parks (far left) at age 20 at the Wearschoot Belgium 3rd Division NCO School, November 1944

  • Jim Parks (far left), and other Royal Winnipeg Rifles 'horsing around' in Stroud Park, Sussex in 1943

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"They moved us to a camp, what they call a staging camp, the nickname of that was a sausage machine"

Transcript

My name is Jim Parks. I served in the Canadian Active Service Force in World War II. I enlisted with the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders.

June '41 I was one of a group of 60 that were switched over to the Winnipeg Rifles and then once we got in the Rifles, we left in August '41 for overseas. We took all the necessary training there. I was in and out of different companies. In the mortar platoon for awhile. A year before D-Day that's who I was with.

We took our assault training in boats and small craft. Sometimes we had our mortar carriers [also referred to as Bren Gun Carrier] and other times we lugged it. I was number one so I carried a base plate, the sight and six rounds of ammunition, ten-pound bombs and that meant 60 and your rifle is another ten, so you're carrying close to 90 pounds with you. And we tried landings like that and we tried landings with the mortars where you come in with the mortar carrier.

In Scotland we did a lot of live exercises, live ammo and that meant Bangalore Torpedos which are used to blow holes in the barbed wire. Everybody there, the cooks, paymaster, the whole works, we all had to take identical training. They moved us to a camp, what they call a staging camp, the nickname of that was a "sausage machine". In other words, you started at one end, people moved in and as you moved in towards the end you end up going on the ship and going over. But the camp we were in was called C-7. It was ringed with barbed wire. It had Americans patrolling with orders to shoot anybody who tried to get out. Nobody did. That was after we were confined. The first while we were allowed to go out, then they stopped us from going out, period, for about two weeks. And, the beauty of that was we had American rations. The fed us things we never even seen before. Pork chops and roast beef and ice cream and apple pie. Fattening them up for the kill.

Then we started to get new vehicles. You had to waterproof the mortar carrier to go through four feet of water. That's okay if the water was calm. Our mortar section was attached to the assault engineers. That's the 6th Field Company of the Royal Canadian Engineers. And they had armoured bulldozers and we were supposed to land at H minus 2. "H Hour" is the hour that the assault landing craft would be landing and we were supposed to land two minutes ahead of time because the armoured bulldozers had long ropes with grappling hooks and some sappers. We'd hook these onto these underwater obstacles and they would drag them in offshore and consequently the assault craft coming in wouldn't be hitting them. But, we got fouled up because we got hit a couple of times and we could hear the pinging on the boat which we figured must have been the MG [Machine Gun] fire from the shore. We could see what happened, they dropped the bulldozers off and the boat drifted backwards. They ordered us off and the sergeant questioned ordering us off because it looked like it was kind of deep. But they ordered us off anyway and the first carrier went out and it sunk. Then our carrier followed and it sunk and everybody was swimming for their lives, more or less. And I got side-swiped by one of the LCAs [Landing Craft, Assault] coming in with B Company. As I got shoved underwater I swallowed a lot of water and I thought, this is it, you know, the hell with it. The water I can't remember whether it was hot or cold. I know there was a lot of noise. There's a lot of waves because the force of the gale in that particular area was 4-6. That means that on a scale of 1 to 10, this is how rough the waves were. And when I got in closer a couple of guys were floating, they'd been hit. So I grabbed them and sort of dragged them in as I was going in towards shore. And I pulled a few more in and I ran towards another guy lying on the beach and it turned out to be Corporal Scape, but he'd been shot. But I didn't have any equipment with me 'cause the mortars and all, and our rifles, were all on the mortar carrier. So I just took his Sten gun and I took whatever else I could that he had and then we wondered where the other two guys were and we saw them hanging on to these obstacles in the water and the waves were washing over them. While this is going on there's mortar fire coming in and there was sniper fire. We dashed down during this time and got a few more guys out of the water. And one guy, he was... you know what I mean, when you get hit around the stomach and that and then the lungs there's a lot of froth around the mouth and he was able to talk a bit. And he said, "Hold me. I'm cold." And then he died within about 30 seconds.

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