Veteran Stories:
Alfred Le Reverend

Army

  • A photograph of Alfred Le Reverend in uniform.

    Alfred Le Reverend
  • The front cover of a book published by Alfred Le Reverend.

    Alfred Le Reverend
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"They counterattacked, we were crawling in a ditch, trying to get away and we found ourselves surrounded. And the lieutenant said, "I’m sorry, boys, we’re now going to have to surrender.""

Transcript

Joined up in London, Ontario, at Military District Number One, in 17th of March, 1943. I was 16. I took my basic training in Chatham and my advanced training at Ipperwash at A10 [training facility]. Finally when the second front opened up [in France after the June 6, 1944 Allied invasion], I managed to get on a draft in September. And I went to a holding unit in France and a couple of days later, I was drafted to the Lincoln and Welland Regiment as a reinforcement.

It was October the 24th [1944] and we were north of Amsterdam and we had come under the command of [Field Marshall Bernard] Montgomery. And his job was to clear the whole area north of Amsterdam so they could use Amsterdam harbour and supply the army. Our supply line was too long. And so our job was to clear the whole, the whole of the area. And we were heading towards Bergen-op-Zoom in Holland. And it was, as he said in his directive, that it takes top priority and we can expect heavy casualties.

We were up against, new armour that just came in the day before. In fact, the morning we attacked, we had five tanks with us and we formed up just outside of Essen [Netherlands] and our objective was a woods across a huge turnip field, about a mile long, open field. And we went out in extended order, across this field and our five tanks got bogged down in the field, so we had no support. And we didn’t have artillery support. And they just plastered us on the way through and out of the 30 in our wave, I think it was 14 of us reached the objective, just a copse [a small group of trees] of woods, that’s all.

And they were dug in in trenches and we captured them. And 14 of us and then when we got there, we lost three more from artillery fire. One of the chaps just blew up about six feet away from me. And we found ourselves right in the middle of the headquarters of an armoured group, they were quite a famous group, and we were right in the middle of them. You know, consequently, we tried to get out but we couldn’t, they counterattacked, we only had 12 people left. And we didn’t even have an automatic weapon by this stage. And they counterattacked, we were crawling in a ditch, trying to get away and we found ourselves surrounded. And the lieutenant said, "I’m sorry, boys, we’re now going to have to surrender."

In the big Stalag, the Stalag 11B at Fallingbostel [a Prisoner of War camp], there was probably, oh, I would say, six, seven thousand American, British and Canadians. And you’d get a slice of bread and generally two boiled potatoes with the jackets on and that was it for the day. And that’s all you got. And in the morning, they would bring around, they called it coffee. It was burnt acorns is what they were using. Or barley, burnt barley I guess it was. And if you’d get that early in the morning, a cup of that, and then you waited for only about 5:00 for your soup. And that’s all you got. And if it wasn’t for the Red Cross parcels, we would have had people starving to death. As it was, we were skin and bone. So you can imagine the condition of us when we got away. That was the most difficult part of escaping, is that we tired so early and so easily and we had to rest. But we made it.

I can remember one day when, it was one evening during our escape and we were walking along the side of a woods. There was a field, a green field, beautiful, with a wire fence across it, a page wire fence. And I couldn’t hear them coming but all of a sudden, there was probably about 20 little deer. They were small but my God, they covered about 20 feet in one leap. And they went over that fence without even blinking an eye. And we watched them come and go, only a couple of seconds but you know, that was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. And that stands out in memory as one of the nicest things that happened to me during the war. Yeah.

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