Veteran Stories:
Norman Harold Kirby

Army

  • This picture shows Private Jagoe, Corporal Cook and Sergeant Norm Kirby, all of the North Shore Regiment in Groeningen, Holland, Spring 1945.

    Norm Kirby
  • This picture was taken at the end of February 1945. It shows soldiers of C Coy, North Shore Regiment. Mr. Kirby is seatted on the left to the soldier who is holding a magazine. A few minutes after this picture was taken, this infantry section was ordered to advance towards Keppeln, were most of these soldiers were killed or wounded, Mr. Kirby recalls.

    Norm Kirby
  • Sergeant Norm Kirby, then a platoon commander, celebrating with children in the area of Groeningen (Holland) in 1945.

    Norm Kirby
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"I’m never sorry that I went, I’m never sorry what I did and I would have, I don’t know, I just can’t think of being any other way. And I think most of the guys that I know are like that. No regrets."

Transcript

And there was one fellow that worked in the same factory as me after the war, a guy named George Wilson, Gabby Wilson, who was with me in an attack on La Trésorerie [Normandy, summer 1944]. Gabby Wilson was a lance corporal and I was a Bren gunner [British light machine gun]. He was made a lance corporal during training. [They both served in the North Shore Regiment.]

Him and I were trapped in the shell hole next to these huge fortresses that were firing across the Channel, these big guns that were firing across the Channel into England. And our job was to take them. Well, Major Moore got notice that we were getting so many casualties that the company should pull back for the night. And the company pulled back and left us in this big bomb crater, only about 50, 70 yards from the entrance to this huge, huge gun emplacement. And there was three of us.

I was the Bren gunner and I had a helper, another guy packing ammunition and Gabby and we set up the Bren gun on the lip of this thing. And as the Germans came out of their trenches, out of this big fortress and tried to get to their anti-aircraft guns, I was able to pick them off, one after the other as they ran along there and I picked them off and they go tumbling down and the next group would come along and I’d get those. And then finally, two or three of them got to the anti-aircraft gun and turned that on, right on us and shot the legs and Bren gun all to pieces. And then by that time it was getting dark, the loader for the Bren gun, my loader, he was killed. Gabby and I got back to the company headquarters. Gabby was a basketcase. He went all to pieces. He was never the same after that. He was from North Vancouver [British Columbia] too, George Wilson.

I got back and Major Moore said: ‘Where were you?’ And I said: ‘Out there.’ He says: ‘You left your position, you get back there.’ I says: ‘I won’t go unless you send some people with me. I said, I’m not going to go there all by myself. I says, look at Gabby there, he’s crying and balling his eyes out’ and Gabby never picked up a rifle or anything, he deserted a couple of times and was finally sentenced to field punishment and whatnot. But Major Moore give me hell but anyway, he let me, you know, he didn’t make me go back there but the next day, when he saw what had happened, he promoted me to corporal. By the way, that next day, Sergeant George Hunt came to me and said: ‘Norm, he says, I need you and your Bren gun and a PIAT [Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank, a British anti-tank weapon] and he says: ‘I’m going to go in there and bring those buggers out of there.’ So he got me, we went right up to almost where we were shooting from before and he got me to fire the Bren gun, he said: ‘You keep shooting right over my head.’ He was a tall guy, he says: ‘I’ll crouch down and go in that doorway and just before I get there, I’ll stay by the side of the door, you take the PIAT and you fire two rounds in that entranceway, it was a dog leg entranceway. I fired the PIAT in there, I put two rounds in there, they ricocheted around, hit the door, blew the door off. George Hunt went in there and came out with about 200 Germans marching. He won the Military Medal [a military decoration awarded to personnel of the British and Commonwealth armies below commissioned rank for bravery in combat].

Getting back to Gabby again, he worked in the same plant, we worked in the sawmill right after the war and I saw him and I went up to him and said, hi. And he looked at me and he wouldn’t talk to me and although we worked in the same, he would never even look at me again. So I don’t know. I often wondered what happened.

I don’t know if there was a report on the headquarters or not but Sergeant Hunt, he was a corporal then when he was awarded George Mervin Hunt, he was awarded the Military Medal and looking in the, in the awards section, won the Military Medal for that episode, December 1st, 1945:

Dears Sirs, on this 26th of February, 1945, the North Shore [NB] Regiment was ordered to attack and capture the German town of Keppeln. After two companies were pinned down, No. 2 Platoon, A Company, North Shore, were ordered to attack mounted on armor. In this attack, the Germans threw in 10 tanks, causing our armor to deploy and engage in a tank battle with a No. 2 Platoon riding on top. These maneuvers caused heavy casualties and split the platoon up very badly.

Lance Corporal Kirby gathered six men together and attacked the enemy strongpoint. His casualties were very heavy and after losing four men, including his Bren gunner, he seized the enemy machine gun and took out the position and taking several POWs, including the town’s garrison commander. In our opinion, Lance Corporal Kirby did a job over and above his line of duty and as a lance corporal showing no regard for his personal safety, was a great inspiration to his men. We therefore recommend the above mentioned NCO for the Military Medal. Signed by Major Goreman, Captain Nutter, Company Sergeant Major Hunt, Military Medal.’

And just an addendum to that, Sergeant John Alexander Tree won the Military Medal at the same time he was with me. So that’s what I was talking about because I couldn’t show up for the, I was shipped over back to go to the Pacific [Mr. Kirby volunteered in 1945 for the Pacific Campaign], I missed the ceremony at Buckingham Palace and didn’t award my medal.

Oh, I think it does and the ones I’ve talked to, we all are psychological accepted it and most of the ones I’ve talked too wouldn’t change things if they could. I’m never sorry that I went, I’m never sorry what I did and I would have, I don’t know, I just can’t think of being any other way. And I think most of the guys that I know are like that. No regrets.

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