Veteran Stories:
Robert Benjamin

Army

  • Mr. Robert Benjamin in September 2011.

  • Personnel of 2nd Canadian Infantry Division Signals with Personnel of the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals (R.C.C.S.), 2nd Canadian Infantry Division, examining a Ford three-ton truck which sank into a ditch on the Beveland Causeway, Netherlands, 27 October 1944.

    Mr. Benjamin was attached to the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division while serving with the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals.

    Credit: Lieut. Ken Bell / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-142071
    Restrictions on use: Nil
    Copyright: Expired

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"The fighter bombers at that time were pretty deadly against the German armored units. And there was German tanks scattered on both sides of the road, everywhere you looked."

Transcript

We landed in Normandy [France] about a month after D-Day [on June 6th, 1944]. So, I had a chance when I got there to meet with the [North Nova Scotia Highlanders] who had been there right on D-Day. And an awful lot of them had been killed by that time. In fact, I looked at one of their booklets from the reunions afterwards; there was one day in June, when over 50 were killed in one day. And in July, there was a day that was over 50 killed one day and another day there was 150 killed […] in one unit, this is pretty heavy casualties. So had I stayed with them, there was a pretty good chance I might not have been here [Mr. Benjamin was transferred from the North Nova Scotia Highlanders to the Royal Canadian Corps of Signal shortly before D-Day].

When we landed, the beachhead [in the Canadian sector of Juno Beach] at that time was 10 or 12 miles deep and about 40 or 50 miles long. So a lot of it was still within artillery fire from the Germans. And as we traveled up to the front line, we passed through a lot of open fields, almost every field had a huge pile of stores. And every so often, you’d see one burning. […] the same time but there were really hundreds of these fields filled with storage of all kinds. And when we got with our unit in an operating position, it was just outside Carpiquet airport, not very far from, I can’t, I’m trying to think of the name of the town that was heavily bombed right in the beachhead area. But I forget it [the city of Caen]. And it was a long, sloping hill down to the river where the infantry were and a long, sloping hill up the other side where the German artillery was. So we could see them and they could see us, maybe six or eight miles away.

And I know the German artillery were firing at all the road junctions. And at any time there was any activity, they would fire at them, the same as we were doing. Of course, […]. We weren’t close enough that you could get much feel for what the infantry were doing down in the valley. But as they broke out of the ridge out a bit more, the job of the Canadian units [in the context of the Battle of the Falaise Pocket in August 1944] was to try to encircle some of the German units. The British units were encircling on the other side to try to cut them off. The Americans were farther south than we were and they were trying to do another […]. And I know the infantry of the second division [2nd Canadian Infantry Division], which we were supporting, they took pretty heavy casualties in this trying to close off the Germans. In fact, they eventually did get the Germans […] up, it was perhaps a quarter of a million of them in one area. Now, a lot of them got out but no equipment.

And as we advanced on the bridgehead when they broke out, you can see the actions of our air force. The fighter bombers at that time were pretty deadly against the German armored units. And there was German tanks scattered on both sides of the road, everywhere you looked. And the advance as we went out was pretty […] because once they had determined the […], most of their fighting ability then was, couldn’t do anything to hurt us that much. So the advance up through France was fairly rapid.

Well, there was a lot of the ports that were German occupied, they didn’t even bother trying to clean them out at the time, they just surrounded the, they couldn’t do much harm. And when we reached the area where the Canadian Second Division had landed during the attack there in 1942 [during the Raid of Dieppe, August 19th, 1942], they wanted to go in and have a ceremony there because they lost most of their people there [Dieppe was liberated on September 1st, 1944].

But we continued on up into Holland, Belgium. There was some pretty heavy fighting going and these port cities [along the English Channel] that they blocked off, they gradually cleaned them out after they went. But we ended up in Antwerp [Belgium] and there was a canal, which runs along one side of the city, the Germans were on one side of that but the Allies had […] the city itself. We were in the city for some time and there wasn’t a lot of activity with the artillery units. I know we made friends with a family in Antwerp and we had quite a bit of time to ourselves. The only thing they warned us about, if we go out at night, go as a group, some would be armed. Because there was a lot of people in the city who were in favor of the Germans. And during that period of time, I understand there was a lot of men murdered at night in those areas. So we were relatively careful of this.

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