Veteran Stories:
Maurice Guérin

Army

  • Picture of Mr. Guérin taken shortly after his landing in France, July 1944.

  • Mr. Guérin during an obstacle course at Sherbrooke (Quebec), 1942.

  • In front of a tramway while in Germany, 1945.

  • Mr. Guérin (right) posing with a fellow soldier in Brussels, July 1945.

  • Corporal Maurice Guérin, 8th Reconnaissance Regiment (14th Canadian Hussars).

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"When they came to visit us after, we were in the midst of eating chicken. They asked us where we got it from. We replied: at Steinberg’s!"

Transcript

At one point, they got us together at the army’s main square and they told us: “This morning, you’ll hear Mr. Churchill speak.” Then Mr. Churchill arrived (Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister): “Ladies and gentlemen and soldiers, this morning at 6:00 a.m. the Allied invasion has started.” People were applauding. It was extraordinary to hear Churchill speak on the radio. It was the month of June, June 8 (1944). The battle (the landing at Normandy) had just begun. He was expecting there to be an opening. There wasn’t for quite a period of time because we were having a darn hard time there. The Germans were strong. The only thing they didn’t have were planes, but they had everything else. Do you know where we landed? At the First Canadian Army Cage(refers to the various provisional detention camps administrated by personnel from the 1st Canadian Army on the front line); the first prisoners cage. We kept prisoners from August until October (1944). I guarded one hundred thousand prisoners. In the beginning, there were prisoners while we were fighting in Caen and Carpiquet. The air field was in Carpiquet. The Americans snuck up behind, from the side. There was a big pocket, we caught some men, Germans, it was crazy! (In the context of the battle of the Falaise Pocket.) The battle ended because the Germans were taken as prisoners. We were the First Army Cage. They kept coming and coming! We had to do get rid of them. We lined them up, about five hundred at a time, in rows of three. We counted them. After having counted them, five or six of us escorted them with guns. I had a Sten gun (British sub-machine-gun). We marched them to the ship, maybe for two-three or four miles. We handed them over to the British MP (Military Police). Then they loaded them onto the ships. I don’t know where they took them. I don’t know if they went to England first and then Canada afterwards. I don’t know. The first time I arrived, we lived in several houses. We had to report to headquarters. The sergeant told me that it was my turn to go get the food. He said to me: “Go get some food and bring back some peaches, eh!” When I got there, there were about four-five troupes (soldiers), so there were four-five guys waiting for food, including one guy who had taken some rabbit skins and sewn them together to make clothing for the soldiers. We also had rabbit skins so we all looked the same. Was he a sergeant? Was he a corporal? Was he a solider? The titles weren’t indicated on the clothing. At one point, a fight broke out between another guy and me. I told him: “The lieutenant told me to bring back some peaches,” I said, “So I am bringing back peaches.” He said: “I want some, too.” I told him: “Next time it will be your turn, but this time, it’s mine.” I made my point. Afterward he said: “It’s getting hot out, I am going to take this off.” It was a corporal! (Laughs) I had argued with a corporal. I said to him: “It’s alright corporal, there’s a lance-corporal ahead of me.” Finally, we went back. At one point, we learned that the guy next door had a hen house. So, we set out one night and stole some chickens from his hen house! (Laughs) When they came to visit us after, we were in the midst of eating chicken. They asked us where we got it from. We replied: at Steinberg’s! We had arrived in the Reichswald forest and the Second Division (Second Division of the Canadian Infantry) was in the trenches and they said: “Don’t go down the hill. The Germans are in the house, the first house there. We are going to attack shortly.” Just before leaving, the lieutenant said to us: “That’s too bad, but we won’t go.” The infantry is small and we weren’t about to go ahead of the infantry when they knew where the Germans were. Then we saw a soldier from the Toronto Scottish (The Toronto Scottish Regiment) who went out to check if there were any mines on the road. Fifteen minutes later when he got back, he was on a stretcher and he was missing a leg. That struck me. Behind a town or something similar, we always had to advance quickly. So we advanced and they started shooting at us. That’s when we knew they were there. We called the infantry and they hurried to come meet us. On July 14, 1944, I was in Normandy. On that day, they held a parade. There were French soldiers, British soldiers, Canadian soldiers, American soldiers. They held a parade and I was on the side watching with an older gentleman who had a boy on his shoulders. He said: “Grandfather, why are you crying?” He said: “I am crying because France has been liberated.” That struck me.
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