"... we were pushing the cattle out and I just pushed one out the door and a shell come over and the cow I was pushing out had took one right in the gut. It was just mooing because it got mortally wounded. So it saved me."
I was going back to where the border was and apparently, we got heavily shelled there and they were using the moaning minnies, which were the Nebelwerfer their mortar weapon [a German rocket artillery piece], that the Germans used. They fired about five shells all at once by pulling a rod and flicking a button and five shells would all land in a pattern around you and I just made it back to where the hole was when a chunk landed on the back of me and as a result of that, I was running through a plowed field and I twisted my ankle. And anyway, I laid there for a while and then eventually, they took me back and they said I either badly sprained my ankle or what. But I didn’t get hurt at that time but I looked after the shells were landing and all I could smell was the black cordite smell around in the air.
We were in a place called, I couldn’t tell you because the times that I didn’t have a map to see where I was and I was only told where we were going and I went where the officer told us to go and I remember, we were in an Italian casa and apparently, at this particular place, we called it the hot corner. And we were being heavily shelled and apparently, we took refuge in this Italian casa, we were in the front portion of the house and apparently the shells were hitting the roof. And you could hear the shells hitting the roof and we were just waiting for one to come through the roof when apparently one of the fellows in our platoon, he was a little older than me and anyway, he finally broke down and started to cry. And anyway, so the sergeant came through and he says: ‘Get those bloody cattle out the back of the barn’, the barn was apparently attached to the house, it was all one area. Whereas if you go through one area, you’d be into the barn. So we were pushing the cattle out and I just pushed one out the door and a shell come over and the cow I was pushing out had took one right in the gut. And it was just mooing because it got mortally wounded. So it saved me. Other than that, I wouldn’t be standing here today. Other than that, that’s another one, I’ve never forgotten that one.
And then there was another incident where my sergeant, David Lawrie, we moved into an area and then the first thing we did is we moved in about 2:00 in the morning and we had to dig in and I thought I was digging in a coal field because the ground was so hard because we had to get the mortars down into this hole and set up if we needed them and apparently, so during the night, it started to rain and anyway, so we put on our gas capes, we used them as raincoats, never mind gas. So it was around about 6:00 in the morning, the sergeant said, he said: ‘I’ll go and make on a brew of tea’, and it was like an old jam can that he had and we scrounged the Benghazi [improvised stove made from a jam can filled with gas and perforated with holes on the top] with some gas and he lit it to boil the water. And anyway, as he was coming around the haystack, the smoke, there wasn’t any wind or anything at all but the smoke from the Benghazi just angled up into the air, went straight up. And apparently, the Germans must have saw it and they started to shell us and apparently, as a result of that, he was just coming around the corner of the haystack and he got it. And apparently, he got a chunk of shrapnel in the head and on the top of his forehead. And we had to drag him into a pigsty just alongside the Italian casa.
And I’ll tell you, there was about five of us in this pigsty and we had him in there and apparently, he was there for a while because the shelling hadn’t lifted and apparently the Universal Carrier [the Universal Carrier, also known as the Bren Gun Carrier, a light armored tracked vehicle] which is the machine that was improvised into an ambulance you might say at the time. And apparently, it couldn’t get up to get him out so they had put a battle dressing across his forehead temporarily and apparently after the shelling lifted, they finally got him out and took him back, but he later ended up in the hospital, Caserta field general hospital. And from what I later learned, he had a brother in the regiment [The Irish Regiment of Canada], Jack Lawrie and Jack went down got leave of absence after the front had moved up, went back and he paid a visit and his brother apparently wasn’t that well then and they decided that they’d ship him back to England, to the hospital in England. But apparently as a result of that, he died at sea and he was buried in the Mediterranean.