Veteran Stories:
Fred Thompson

Army

  • Contemporary Photograph of Mr. Fred Thompson.

    Fred Thompson
  • Mr. Fred Thompson in Chilliwack, British Columbia, October 19, 2010.

    Historica Canada
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"It was war and we were following the infantry groups all the time. We were right behind them in the artillery, and so there was a lot of devastation."

Transcript

You know, all that type of thing that goes with army training. But mostly just physical training, going on route marches day after day with a heavy, full load of pack on your back. We did that for many, many months and then, until there was a need for recruits, they asked for volunteers and I said I’d volunteer for Sicily right away. And so I left my old unit of 12th Field Ambulance [No. 12 Light Field Ambulance, Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps]. It was war and we were following the infantry groups all the time. We were right behind them in the artillery, and so there was a lot of devastation. The country was being really knocked to pieces. As a matter of fact, before we went over to Italy, before we entered Italy, we were over here based in Sicily at the end and the night before, they just, the city of Reggio [di Calabria], which is right in there, and they just bombed it all night long, from the air and from artillery over in Sicily. And it was just, it was just flattened when we got there. The Italian troops were standing there with their hands in the air. So I mean, we had no trouble with the Italians at all. I mean, they were, that was before they surrendered, but individually, they were surrendering. And so then, it was a slow march because they had to go through village by village, by village and make sure that there were no Germans left behind. So we were pushing the German troops back all the way up the way we went. As the Italian Campaign was winding up, then the Canadian troops were all sent back. We went by, I’ll never forget it because we were on benches in the back of a truck; and we travelled all the way here from Northern Italy all the way up through Marseilles [France], I remember. And all that distance right, as we travelled right through France and right to Belgium and Holland, we traveled there in what they called lorry trucks and on wooden benches, and that’s the way we travelled. It was the most uncomfortable trip. And you couldn’t see anything because the sides were all covered in with canvas; you just sat there huddled in there. But, you know, you didn’t complain about it in those days, it was just part of the job. Not too long after we got into Italy, I was up about that far and I contracted hepatitis, so they sent me to a hospital in Taranto, Italy. And then they sent me to a convalescent hospital in Tunis [Tunisia], in Africa, and you went by air . I’ll never forget it because we boarded the plane somewhere about here in Sicily and then as we were flying over the Mediterranean [Sea], I remember the pilot saying to me, "would you like to hear the radio?" We hadn’t heard a radio for years. And the first song I heard was, well, the first voice I heard singing was Vera Lynn, the famous vocalist from Great Britain. And I was so thrilled. I’ll never forget that moment.
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