"Going in, we had to go over this bridge where there was a lot of shellfire and a lot of mortar. My bike was literally shot out from under me…"
My name is Ewart Tucker and I was a Gunner or a Private, whichever you want to call it, in the World War II.
In 1942 they came and asked for certain ones to go and try out for a hockey team that was going to tour England and Scotland and play exhibition hockey. It was for entertainment for the troops and the civilians alike. I was very fortunate in that I was selected to play on this hockey team. October the 16th, I think it was, we left on the tour. There were sixteen of us soldiers that were playing hockey, and then there was the trainer and the coach and also an officer that was in charge. That's all we did until March the 26th 1943, and we toured all over England and Scotland playing exhibition hockey.
As soon as it was over I went on a three-week commando course. It was very good because I was in good shape from playing hockey all winter. In Italy, it was in Cassino, when that was virtually totally destroyed. It was blasted by the Allies for days and there was really nothing left of Cassino at all. I recall one incident. I had to go back to Brigade Headquarters, as I was a dispatch rider. And as I was going along - this was early in the morning - I saw two soldiers and I asked them where their brigade headquarters was. They told me and they said if you come back in an hour's time, they said we'll be having a cup of tea, and when I came back the medics were just taking them away because they had been housecleaning - and by that I mean they were trying to find if there was any Germans hiding in the houses - and they had lit a fire in one of these houses that had been partially destroyed, in a fireplace there, and it had been booby-trapped and it was blown up. So I don't know whether they survived or not.
I was asked to lead a medical Sergeant and the Padre in. They had a jeep and I was asked to lead them in to where the boys were under extreme fire. Going in, we had to go over this bridge where there was a lot of shellfire and a lot of mortar. My bike was literally shot out from under me. Gas tank was punctured, the tires were punctured, the fenders and everything. Every day was a close call, let's put it that way. You never knew from day to day what was coming next.
We were in Holland, there was maybe fifteen or twenty of us having breakfast one morning, and there was five or six young children were standing around and we could see that they were hungry. So every one of us gave our breakfast to these kids. Around noon hour, the same thing happened - they were back again. And this little girl, for some reason, she wanted me to follow her and I went with her across the field to a... I think the building was maybe a chicken coop, and in it there was four or five families. They had absolutely nothing. No food, nothing. I came back and spoke to the Mess Sergeant there, and he got a bunch of food and took it over to 'em. And then we left, either the next day or the day after - I'm not sure - but before we did, this little girl gave me this. And she could speak a bit of English. And she gave me this picture, and on the back it said, "All my love, Ollie". I would love to be able to talk to her, just to see how she made out.