Veteran Stories:
William Cockburn

Army

  • Gunner E.G Westover, 4th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery (R.C.A.), Ossendrecht, Netherlands, 23 October 1944.

    Credit: Lieut. Ken Bell / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-143926 Restrictions on use: Nil Copyright: Expired
  • Gunners with a Priest M-7 105mm. self-propelled howitzer of 34 Battery, 14th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery (R.C.A.), France, 20 June 1944

    Credit: Lieut. Donald I. Grant / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-132886 Restrictions on use: Nil Copyright: Expired
  • Bombardier B.W. Bailey in a Priest self-propelled gun of the 19th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery (R.C.A.), France, July 1944

    Credit: Lieut. Frank L. Dubervill / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-114578 Restrictions on use: Nil Copyright: Expired
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"He was well entrenched, we weren’t, we were getting pounding really good. They had it all pinpointed and we didn’t know where they were or anything else. We had to find that out by them firing on us."

Transcript

Well, my brother was overseas and it was just the thing to do at that time, if you were old enough. As soon as we became 19, we enlisted. My brother was in, and I heard they mobilized 36 [Field] Battery and then I’m going that’s it, I want to be part of it. Quite a few boys all went through public school and high school together and we all, all of us had been, 20 of us I guess, to begin with. And there was more after that, they came from Grafton, Colborne, Port Hope, all over. And I liked England. I think it was great. People treated us wonderfully while we were liberators, really. Not to them but we were there for a reason. They, they enjoyed it just wonderfully. It was hell to start with but it was fine after the first week [landing in Normandy]. It was bad because Jerry [nickname for Germans] was hitting the shit out of us. He was well entrenched, we weren’t, we were getting pounding really good. They had it all pinpointed and we didn’t know where they were or anything else. We had to find that out by them firing on us. It was the only way we could fight it. Carpiquet Airport was one [battle] I can remember. We took over the Carpiquet Airport, that’s outside of Caen. Well, I was driving a tank at that time, SP [Self-Propelled]. I was still with the guns. They were pretty good really. Normally, there’s German soldier was a hell of a good guy. It was just their bloody leaders were nuts. The regular soldiers were pretty good fellows. And they had a job to do too. [Biggest achievement] Caen really, we took Caen. That was a very big step in our life. And it was the first big major city we had taken in Normandy and on the beachhead. That was a big thing. We were there for about two months I guess, yeah, a good two months, maybe three months. It was a good three months, yeah. [Ferocious fighting around Caen] Oh, it sure was, yeah, I remember it. We had our work cut out for us there. We worked hard for a month there, it was a bit of a month. We were, being artillery and being armoured, we were on the advance spearhead, like. We drove ahead as fast as we could. We’d go as fast as we, fired you could every time. I remember the good time we had as a fellow I joined up, we had a good time together. We worked hard like hell, we worked like hell and we played like hell too. Because every day was a gift and might be gone, so enjoy yourself. You lived from day to day, you didn’t plan a week ahead or anything. It sounds stupid now but that was it, it could be your turn tomorrow, you never know. [Liberation of Holland] Well, they starved with, they didn’t have much to eat, we shared our rations with them. Like we were digging in our own boxes from home, we’d get cans of spam, my wife would send me. We’d share it with them. They thought that as a real treat, you know. Because they were going hungry. They had four years of hard occupation. You had respect for the Dutch people.
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