Veteran Stories:
William Ross

Army

  • Rifleman William Ross, The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada, 1944.

    William Ross
  • Mr. William Ross wearing his service medals, Normandy, 2006.

    William Ross
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"Unfortunately, the two tanks that got hit, the men were wounded and they were screaming and moaning; they were burning to death. And it’s a memory I will never forget."

Transcript

They told us [The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada] that the [Normandy] invasion was on. So there was, imagine there was over, ships all the way from the east coast of England to the west coast of England, all the way up and going across the ocean. Now, this is a major development with supplies, men and so on. They had the two divisions of paratroopers that were going to be going in. So it was quite a planning. It was unreal to know that all this was done in secrecy.

And as the order had been given for us to sail, we were a faster ship. And a lot of the Landing Craft or Landing Tank Ships were slower and so on, and they left early. We left at about 8:00 at night, 9:00 at night [on June 5, 1944], and we sailed out past a lot of the ships. I stood out on the deck there at night and assimilate [took in] all these ships; and imagine there’s 6,400 ships going across and now coming into a narrow 50 mile area where the minesweepers had cleared the German minefields so that they could go through and then swing back out to the wider area where they were going to be landing. And, by the time we ["C" Company] hit the beach ["Nan" Beach, at Bernières-sur-Mer, as part of the second wave] all we had to contend with was snipers and the mind.

Now, I was the last man off our Landing Craft. Going running up the beach and there was a man in front, my lance corporal of the Bren [light machine gun] group stopped me in time. Had I gone further, I would have stepped on a mine and I wouldn’t be speaking to you now. We managed to get up to the [sea] wall and take a breather, and then their corporal said, we go to the right. That’s what we were trained and learned at the lands, to go to the right, get up and go over the wall and go through the centre of town, which we did. So we got through the town and in the south end of the town, we put positions along the roadside in the verge there, kneeling and so on, looking through the high grass.

In the meantime, we were waiting for the Chaudières [Le Régiment de la Chaudière] to come and they eventually came in the tanks. Three of them come in to the right of the big chateau wall. And they just got into position and about 1,500 yards up in front of us, on the left of the road we were on, a German 88 mm [anti-tank] gun was there. It opened up fire and it hit two of these tanks and the third one got hit, but they managed to get away. Unfortunately, the two tanks that got hit, the men were wounded and they were screaming and moaning; they were burning to death. And it’s a memory I will never forget.

And we got into Anguerny and the first farm we got into, we took four prisoners. And I had them up against the wall and the sergeant was going to send somebody down to take prisoners back. In the meantime, the lady come out of the house there [saying] "mon fils, mon fils, mon fils," - my son, my son, my son. And she pointed to the man that was there; he had German boots on, but he was in civilian clothes, from the farmer’s boy. So I said, "il a les bottes de les Allemand." She says, "oh, mon fils, mon fils, mon fils." I says, "well look, … rentre dans la maison et reste là." I said, "take him and take him in the house and at least stay there. Don’t wear those boots." And so anyway, the fellow… come down and took the prisoner down to the internment cages. And in the meantime, we carried on advancing into the town.

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