Clifford Chadderton, 1943.Clifford Chadderton
Clifford Chadderton in England while in the service.Clifford Chadderton
Clifford Chadderton, Perley Rideau Veterans Health Centre, Ottawa, Ontario, May 2010.Clifford Chadderton
A plaque Clifford Chadderton received when he was inducted into the Terry Fox Hall of Fame, November 1999.Clifford Chadderton
"I was in the trench and a German came and was above me and holding onto a hand grenade. And he dropped it. And I grabbed it and as we sit here talking, the hand grenade went off in my hand."
My most horrible day in action was I jumped in the [Universal]Carrier* and was ordered to go out in the battlefield and pick up the wounded or dead. Boy, you talk about dreams, 70 years afterwards. I still dream that dream. Hell, the first time, I ran across soldiers lying in the sand who’d been killed. I realized that this was for keeps. And I think it was particularly hard on me because I had been an original whereas by that time, the battalion had been in uniform three and a half years. So I knew practically every senior and non-commissioned officer and many of the, what’s it called, other ranks, I knew them personally.
I wrote a description of a guy by the name of Kyle, who was serving with me and actually, he was my runner or batman or whatever you want to call it. And he was dead, lying in the sand, face up. And I started to swear. And that was unusual for me because I was brought up in a home where you didn’t swear. I just said, you know, “This is a tragedy and blank, blank, blank, blank, blank.” And I got it out of my system and I made peace with myself. It’s corny to say so, but I made peace with myself. Otherwise, I would find it difficult to command men and send them to their death. That’s a terrible thing to inflict on a 19 year-old kid.
I was involved in an investigation of German Hitler youth** who were murdering [Royal] Winnipeg Rifles. They murdered 54 of them. And because I was in the carrier platoon, I was sent on forays to learn the truth. And I ran into some soldiers’ bodies and they had been shot in the back of the neck.
I had gone on a reconnaissance,*** so I said, “Colonel, is that an order?” And the colonel laughed in my face and he said, “Pick your troops.” So I picked a sergeant-major and a French-speaking guy came with us. And we attempted to go up this hill and were allowed into the German position and this SS major came out with a death head insignia and whatnot and I said to Jimmy Sharpe, who’s my sergeant-major who was with us, I said, “Jimmy, we’re goddamn lucky if we get out of this alive.”
I guess the next hours were the luckiest in my life because I was in the trench and a German came and was above me and holding onto a hand grenade. And he dropped it. And I grabbed it and as we sit here talking, the hand grenade went off in my hand. But I was in the act of throwing it, so I ended up with a paralyzed hand.
We were severely shelled by the German 88 [mm] gun^ and that ended my war. My troops dug me out and my, God bless them, and they dug me out and we got a punt that you’d use in the marshes, we got a punt and they put me in the road with the rifles for paddles. They rode me across the canal to our side and then I was picked up by the stretcher bearers and that, the, the next four or five days, I knew nothing.
Wonderful, wonderful guys, privates in the army, and to do what they did, 60, 70 years afterwards, I can wake up at night and still dream about it. And that’s a long time.
*A lightly armoured tracked vehicle – also known as a Bren Gun Carrier
**12th SS Panzer Division – German Army armoured division
***At the Leopold Canal, Belgium, a major German defensive line
^Anti-aircraft and anti-tank artillery gun