Veteran Stories:
Earl Edmund White

Army

  • Example of the damaged caused by a German 88mm anti-tank gun to a Canadian vehicle (shrapnel holes in the radiator) in Normandy, France, 16 June 1944.

    Faces of War, Library and Archives Canada
  • Drivers and ambulances of No.3 Section, Motor Ambulance Convoy, Royal Canadian Army Service Corps (RCASC), Farnborough, England, 12 January 1945. This image illustrates the type of truck the RCASC drove in Europe.

    Faces of War, Library and Archives Canada
  • Personnel of No. 2 Motor Ambulance Convoy (MAC) Detachment, Royal Canadian Army Service Corps (RCASC), displaying toys which will be presented to Dutch children during a Christmas party, Nijmegen, Netherlands, 20 December 1944. Mr. White served with No. 1 MAC in Italy and arrived in Northwest Europe in early 1945.

    Faces of War, Library and Archives Canada
Enlarge Image
Listen to this story

"I mean, one of our ambulances when I was there, an 88[mm German gun] shell hit it, peeled the top of it back just like a sardine can, it was all charred inside, people were killed in the back, and our driver was wounded. Never saw him again."

Transcript

So as we’re going to bed - now we had blackouts on the windows so the light wouldn’t show out for [German] bombers coming over [England] - I heard the siren, the air raid sirens, at some place at quite a distance. And being kind of a smart alec, I said, “here comes a buzz bomb!” [German V-1 flying bomb] We were just going to sleep at the time. And then a closer siren picked it up and as it came over these towns and villages, the sirens would go, and it was getting pretty loud. And finally, it was so loud, that I thought it was coming through the roof. Everything was rattling, just the roar of those things. And when I was sure we were done for, I realized it wasn’t getting any louder and it went over a little bit farther before it exploded. But it was quite a thing, first night there.

And of course, some guy said to me quite arrogantly when I was over in the Netherlands after the war for one of the reunions, you know, he was bragging about how he was in the infantry and all the things they did and the other guys that worked back [in rear areas], a few guys like me, of course, they didn’t see any of the war at all. But actually, we lost some of our men, too. It wasn’t just driving. I mean, one of our ambulances when I was there, an 88[mm German gun] shell hit it, peeled the top of it back just like a sardine can, it was all charred inside, people were killed in the back, and our driver was wounded. Never saw him again.

And then up in the Netherlands, a friend of mine was at a crossroads, that’s where they liked to shell, the crossroads. And an 88[mm] shell just went over the top of his roof and hit the edge of it and exploded and it caved the whole side of the ambulance in and there were holes in there from as big as a teapot right down to little fine holes, like you drive a nail in. And he happened to be in the box when the shell hit. He was in bed but he was on the opposite side. And he had a pile of blankets on the side that the shell exploded and he got a little piece of shrapnel in his bed and he threw it out and burned his thumb on it and that was all, he was laughing like anything when he drove it in the next day on - they had two tanks, one gas tank was destroyed and the other one on the other side was okay, so he could drive it in. And I just couldn’t believe it when I saw it, it was just unbelievable, that anyone would live through that. But he thought it was funny.

Of course, the Brits and the Yanks didn’t get along too well because the Brits had all of their way until the Yanks come in and they were, had the girlfriends and so on. And then the Yanks come in with all their money and everything and pretty soon the Yanks had the girlfriends and that didn’t go over too well. So one night, the fellow I was with, it was his ambulance, actually, I was just his co-driver, his name was Ben Charsky. And Benny and I were, I guess we were in bed or going to bed and suddenly there’s a big commotion outside and we hear all this cursing and swearing and bricks and bottles hitting the fence. And it was the Yanks and the Brits were having a big fight. So I said to Benny, "I’m not going out there and see what’s going on, I’ll just listen to it.” But I heard one of the British saying the next day, “I guess we showed those goddamn Yanks last night.” And I guess they thought they won anyway.

But they didn’t like us. The Americans were friendly enough but the British didn’t take to us too well. There were only a few of us, there were eight or nine of us that were eating there [at a British Eighth Army camp in Marseilles, France], and this one day they had chicken. It was at noon and they had hot lemonade at noon, which I didn’t - it was hot weather, they had this hot lemonade. But they had the chicken anyway and I hear the guys, the cooks that were giving it out behind the table, and “hello there, lofty, you have a nice piece of breast meat. Hey there, nobby, have a drumstick,” you know. And he looked up and saw us and I saw him forking this stuff over, we all got necks and things like that, you know.

The war was coming to a close and there were Germans out at night on patrols, trying to pick up some food on the farms. And it was my job to be on guard duty one night and another guy and myself, we decided we’d go through the night together on there, instead of each taking four hours. So he decided there was a haystack there and he was going to have a sleep, so he went to the haystack and I was doing all the guard duty myself, which was a little bit nerve wracking because we knew these patrols, the Germans were coming around and every time I heard a rustling of the bushes, I figured it was one of their patrols coming. But the night passed eventually, anyway.

Follow us