Veteran Stories:
Elgar Wright

Navy

  • Canadian LCT offloading a Sherman Tank on the beach during the Allied invasion of Sicily in July 1943.
    Credit: http://wwii.ca/page25.html

    Mr. Wright served on Landing Craft, Tanks during the invasion of Sicily

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"Then we got finished with Sicily, we were into Anzio beachhead. Anzio was the worst of all."

Transcript

I can vaguely remember it was dark as hell and I remember going into the shores on the Italian place and there was great big, a place as big as this room here, vaults full of wine, great big, big things of wine, big. Oh, they were big, big drums of wine. After the army got in there, they poked big holes in them and you were walking around in half an inch of wine. I remember that as though it was yesterday. We run back to the ship and got every tin pot and can and thing, and brought it back full of wine. If they had poisoned the wine, they’d have killed the whole damn works of us.

After that, we were doing lots of mock invasions after we landed in Sicily. We’d do mock invasions. They got fighting here on this beach here, then we go ahead there past it, like a mock invasion. Then we got finished with Sicily, we were into Anzio beachhead. Anzio was the worst of all. Then I think one of the next ones that was just about as bad was Rome. It was like a harbour. We had to go inside this gate, practically, it wasn’t a gate, it was like a thing like a gate, to go in, to go through to get into the harbour, to land them.

Well, as it happened, we went up there, something like, oh hell, something like, we got there at 8:00 in the morning or something like that, broad daylight, and hell’s bells, the head of the honcho was supposed to be the one that said to land. Now, he wasn’t giving us orders to land until it was three or four hours later and the Germans had time to bring all the, everything down from Germany to bomb us. Eventually, I could hear my skipper right to this day hollering at them, that I shouldn’t tell you, but it was the U.S. Sixth Army, hollering at them, get the hell off this ship or I’ll turn the goddamn Oerlikons [20mm anti-aircraft guns] on you. And that’s the gospel truth, that’s exactly what they said, get off this ship or I’ll turn the Oerlikons on you. So eventually they got off and I don’t know how many people got hurt. Mind you, there’s a few I guess, quite a few.

And then from Rome, they decided they’d go ship us back for the Normandy invasion. So they sent us back to Naomi [HMS Nimrod] Barracks in Scotland, if I’m not mistaken. And as it happened, the skipper came out, the head honcho came out, and told us to stand to attention. I don’t know whether you know it or not, but you don’t thumb your nose at the officers. We did. And he came to ask us what that was all about. Well, we said, can you see what we’re dressed in? All we got is practically a navy hat and all the rest is army pants and maybe a navy jacket, and that’s about it. And so he went back in and we told him we never had a leave from the time we joined the navy until that time then. Never had a holiday, a leave. So he said he would go back in and he would talk to somebody.

He went into the barracks and came back out; and he says, first thing I’m going to do is nickname you gang, there were 13 of us, called us the ‘13 Naked Apostles’ because we had no clothes. He decided he’d send us to a rest camp in Northern Ireland and should I tell you, it was a Salvation Army rest camp. He sent us there and when they did, they forgot all about us, honest. And we were in that rest camp for, I bet you, a month and a half, damn near two months. As a matter of fact, at that same rest camp, my brother and I had joined the navy at the same time at the [HMCS] Griffon Barracks here in Port Arthur. They wouldn’t send two brothers in the same place. They sent my brother to the east coast and me to the west coast. We were standing in this rest camp in Northern Ireland and I looks out and I thought, Lord God, that can’t be it, there comes my brother. Honest. There was him. He had landed in Northern Ireland, I forget the name of the place, because he was sailing on one of these HMCS, it wasn’t a landing craft, it was like another type of a ship. And they stopped there, so they sent them in to a rest camp for a while too.

Then they finally decided they’d found us, but they’d already had all the landings in the beaches of Normandy invasion and everything else, so there was no use, so they sent us back to Halifax.

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