Veteran Stories:
John Widdowfield

Army

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The 21st Field Artillery had Sherman tanks to fire on the Germans. They had one tank up at the front to direct the artillery fire. The tank would go up to the front for three days and then another tank would go up to set up a relief. One morning when I was asleep, in my trench, this fellow removed the top and said, hey, the wireless setup at the front isn’t working. That’s no problem, says I, take the other tank up and bring the broken one back. No way, the OC says you’ve got to go up to the front. Is he crazy, I wanted to know. I climbed into the Bren gun carrier with my toolbox and sten gun and we had started up to the front.

 

We were riding on top of the canal and came upon a big sign that said, you are now in sight of the enemy. As the Germans fired mortars at us, the driver kindly said, don’t forget, keep your head down, we are ??? my head was so low, I didn’t think I would have ever straighten up. We finally arrived safely up at the front, I jumped in to the broken tank to check the wireless set, only to find that the problem was because the operator had turned the switch to the wrong position. I can’t repeat what I was thinking.

 

We started back along the canal and a jeep was coming towards us. We later found out that the driver was English. Anyway, he was driving on the wrong side of the road. We tried to avoid him, by going on the other side, but he also went on the wrong side. We kept going from side to side until we finally hit. I said, I guess if this was peace time, we would call a cop. And with that, we released the tangled bumpers and took off away from the front, fast.

 

Back in Nijmegen, sometime during the spring of 1945, we were told that a thousand bombers would be coming over from England and that our artillery guns would also open up and fire on the Germans. I will never forget the memory of those planes flying overhead. It was such an eerie feeling. The sky was dark with planes and the noise was deafening. I am still saddened when I think of that today. I was wounded in France, I was standing there looking up at this German bomber and imagine my surprise when it dropped a bomb that landed about 250 feet from me. I got shrapnel in my leg and it caused damage to my hearing. I was sent from France to a hospital in North London where I stayed for about three weeks before being sent back to France. The veterans look after their own today. I have hearing aids and a pension from this little episode.

 

We went into Germany during the final days of the war and ended up in the northern part of the country. One of the places we stopped at was a German compound. We took over one of the buildings but the Germans still occupied several others. There was a ceasefire for three days and then just like that, the war was over. I remember us Canadian soldiers going through the German barracks, picking up souvenirs to show the folks back home. I’ll never forget the German soldiers just standing there, not doing anything to stop us as we helped ourselves. It seemed okay at the time but now it is not such a good memory.

 

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