Major Irwin, Officer Commanding C Squadron, The Ontario Regiment, conferring with personnel of the squadron on the right flank of the Paterno front, Italy, 3 August 1943.Credit: Lieut. Dwight E. Dolan / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-136669 Restrictions on use: Nil Copyright: Expired
An unidentified crew commander of the 8th Princess Louise’s (New Brunswick) Hussars in the hatch of his Sherman tank giving firing orders to his gunner during a predicted mass tank firing exercise. Italy, 2 March 1944.Credit: Lieut. Alex M. Stirton / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-213561 Restrictions on use: Nil Copyright: Expired
"All in all, war is no fun but I don’t regret one bit of it. How else could I afford to tour the different countries and see different people and their language and their habits, their way of living."
When we were going back to our under canvass experience in Red Hill [near Northampton, England] it was just a big chunk of trees when we had our bell tents all scattered through the bush. And naturally, the Army had to have guards on at night. So they had three guards that walked the perimeter of the bush and we were right in line with the planes going over to bomb London during the blitz. So we heard all kinds of aircraft going over and anti-aircraft guns going. And it gets guards kind of nervous.
So we heard the guard yell, halt, because a plane had been downed a short distance from our camp, so we figured, well, maybe the pilot’s sneaking around. So anyway, the guard yelled “halt, halt or I fire.” Boom, the gun went off. Nobody said anything, nobody did anything until morning. And then they found a dead cow in the pasture field.
I can recall one night that I got the scaredest I guess. We were under attack from the German artillery and they were pumping lots of shells in and we were camouflaged underneath all of the orchard. And the shells started to land in the orchard and we heard this one come screaming over and a thud and no explosion. And after a little while, quieten down and we heard this weak voice saying, “help, help.” And it was coming from the next truck away from us and he was the driver, had dug a slit trench and drove his truck over the top of the trench so he was laying down in it. The shell came down and went in first to the slit trench, heaved the ground up and pushed him up against the bottom of the truck so he couldn’t move. He didn’t get hurt but he got scared worse than I did. It took a while to get him out. But things like that, they stick in your memory.
The tanks were up ahead of us and short of fuel and the supply boats, tankers were coming in to the harbour along the east coast and we filled up much the same as they do here, only smaller vehicles. And delivering gas and ammunition to the tanks at night. I guess sometimes we were in full view of the Germans and they had full view of us. Stayed close to the tanks whenever you could. I guess, infantry guys used to say, “We wouldn’t be in them damn tin cans when we get in action.” And we used to say, “Well, those tin cans are going to save our lives," because they would sneak in behind the tank when we were advancing. And they figured that was the safer place to be.
Yeah. All in all, war is no fun but I don’t regret one bit of it. How else could I afford to tour the different countries and see different people and their language and their habits, their way of living. And it was quite an eye opener to see how poor some of these countries were, like Sicily and southern Italy. They had nothing at that time.