Veteran Stories:
John Stewart MacDonald

Army

  • Group portrait of soldiers of The North Shore Regiment near Zutphen, Holland. January 1945.

    John S. MacDonald
  • John S. MacDonald enlisted in the summer of 1943 and did his training as an artilleryman before being transfered in the infantry. This picture was taken in Brandon (MB) in October 1943. First row, left to right: McDougall, Keeting, John S. MacDonald, McCurdy. Second row: Bob Rae and Bob Gates.

    John S. MacDonald
  • Portrait of John Stewart MacDonald taken in the summer of 1945 in Edinburg, Scotland. Mr. MacDonald volunteered for the Far East and this picture was taken shortly before leaving Europe for Canada.

    John S. MacDonald
  • John S. MacDonald's Discharge Certificate.

    John S. MacDonald
  • Soldiers of The North Shore Regiment crossing what's left of a bridge near Zutphen towards Germany. Spring 1945.

    John S. MacDonald
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Listen to this story

"[I] looked inside to the mess tin that I had and there’s three bullets in the small pack, whoa, man, that’s when you get, well, you’re scared everyday anyway and you know, but you go ahead with all the rest of them."

Transcript

Well, after D-Day [the Allied landing in Normandy, June 6th 1944], the infantry needed a lot of men and they asked artillery people if they wanted to go to the infantry. And I volunteered to go to infantry and I thought I was going to go to the North Novas [The North Nova Scotia Highlanders] but I ended up North Shore [The North Shore Regiment], which I was just as happy because we were, us and the Eight Brigade [8th Canadian Infantry Brigade] and North Novas, I think in the north, the Ninth Brigade [9th Canadian Infantry Brigade], were all in the Third Div [3rd Canadian Infantry Division]. And all the infantry regiments, all armies stuck together and you looked after one another and you more or less depended on whoever was beside you.

We had training in Aldershot [England] but we had good training in Brandon, Manitoba, real infantry training and marching every day for the first six months and then the last six months when I was in, it was mostly artillery training but we did in the morning, every morning, we always did parade square. And everything was on the double. It is difficult training for a lot of people. A lot of people couldn’t march because they had flat feet or something but for me, it didn’t bother me one bit.

We only had, like I was in Dog Company [D Company], and we only had two men, both boys from Northern New Brunswick, Savoy Brothers. And they were in since just after D-Day and so the rest of them, we had men coming in. I remember two days after we were in action, we lost three or four men, mines and from snipers. And every day you lost two, maybe one, two, three men of your squad.

There’s only once, going into a city in Holland [during the Northwest Campaign of 1944-1945], we were going up along the dike and I got four, excuse me, I got three bullets in my small pack. And we made it to a railroad crossing trestle and they started shelling us and we got underneath the steel girdles and we were there for about an hour or two before our own artillery start pounding them [the German soldiers].

When I took my small pack off and looked inside to the mess tin that I had and there’s three bullets in the small pack, whoa, man, that’s when you get, well, you’re scared everyday anyway and you know, but you go ahead with all the rest of them.

I don’t know. I guess I was young and foolish and I didn’t realize, I guess I realized but I, you did what you had to do. We were the first Canadian troops across the Rhine River and after we crossed the Rhine River, we went up along the other side, Emmerich, Millingen and that, and then we crossed back into Holland again and we were in there for a while and then we went back into Germany. And when the war ended, there was two of us sent out in the woods, at the edge of the woods to watch. And then this young fellow came through and we seen him coming and he went and when we yelled halt and he said, he put his arms up and he said, Vertig!, war is Vertig!. So we didn’t know whether to believe or not, if there was going to be a counterattack or anything. So we discussed […] Portay was the guy’s name and both of us young and who’s going to go back with him. And we didn’t know if it was going to be him or I.

So anyway, he decided he’d go back and I stayed there and I had the Bren gun [British light machine gun], because I had the Bren gun all the time I was in there. And I put my back to a tree and I just had the Bren gun and I could hear noise in the woods. I thought it was squirrels and other animals, I thought it was people going, for an hour before they came back to get me, to relieve me. And it was a horrible, horrible evening. About 1:00 in the morning, I says, it wasn’t evening.

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