"When I got back to my gun, I took my backpack off and there was a hole in it, and there was a hunk of shrapnel in the backpack…"
My name is Harvey Willis. I was in the 25th Battery, which was of the 7th Artillery Regiment from Toronto, and we became the 2nd Canadian Regiment, RCA. I joined up in 1941 at Toronto, and trained at Niagra-on-the-Lake and England, and then we went to the Italian Campaign.
It was the period of September 4th to 17th , 1944, we were at a position at (Messiano ?), of which we were under a barrage from the German 88s, and the "C" Troop command post got hit, and I was No. 2 Gun of "D" Troop, but I was the nearest gun to it, and over the Tannoy system, from which we got our commands from our command post, I was told to go over to "C" Troop command post and give them a hand. With that, I put on my backpack and ran towards the gun, and sure enough, I just got out of my gun pit when there was another barrage. So I hit the ground. After the barrage was over, I got up and went over and helped with mainly Signalers that got hurt. One had a leg injury, and another had a head injury… I can't remember all the injuries they had, but I did what I could. When I got back to my gun, I took my backpack off and there was a hole in it, and there was a hunk of shrapnel in the backpack and I said, "My gosh!" The Lord was on my side that time.
Of course, we had no killings then at that time. A while later, a buddy of mine from the battery headquarters, he had a piece of shrapnel hit him right in the temple, and then we had a cook killed on that same site.
Another experience I had was up at the Senio River. We got dug in and sandbagged up our guns and everything else. Our Sergeant Major, Barney Hooks, wanted to learn how to play bridge, so we had a lull there for a period, so he came over. Another Sergeant and a few of my gun crew knew how to play bridge, so we were teaching Barney how to play bridge. We were down on a hillside, and up on the highway or the road that was coming out, there was the bagpipes of the 48th Highlanders piping the platoon out of the trenches, being relieved by the PPCLIs. I can remember that, and it was just a great, sunny day, and it was a lovely day.
So those are the two experiences that I can remember very vividly.