Veteran Stories:
Leslie Nicholas Burrell

Army

  • Leslie Burrell during his time as a Field Ambulance driver mechanic in the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps

    Leslie Burrell
  • Les and his London War Bride Jean Bourne, whom he married in 1945.

    Leslie Burrell
  • Les in Nijmegen during the winter of 1944.

    Leslie Burrell
  • Medals (Left to Right), 1939-1945 Star, France and Germany Star, Defence Medal, Canadian Volunteer Service Medal, War Medal (1939-1945)

    Leslie Burrell
  • Taken in 2009 at the West Sussex Legion (UK) when a special presentation was made to Leslie Burrell by Sir Brian Bartelotte, British Deputy Military Lord Lieutenant

    Leslie Burrell
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"So one Hitler Youth, he was only 15, he had a knife hidden in his boot and he knifed one or two of the patients in the ambulance. You can guess what happened to him. He didn’t knife nobody else."

Transcript

Well, I liked driving and that’s what I signed up for, to be a driver [with the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps]. You went and picked up your patients at CCS [Casualties Clearing Station]. You took them on stretchers to hospital. Some were what they called walking wounded. Well, you put your stretcher cases in on the stretcher racks in the back of the ambulance and the walking wounded used to go in and sit in the alleyway of the ambulance.

Caen [in Normandy] was a place that was supposed to have been taken in a matter of days and it was weeks before it was taken and there was very heavy casualties around Caen [in July 1944]. And they called in the bombers several times to try to break through the German lines. Instead of that, they bombed our lines. Seeing them bomb bay doors come open right just above you, it wasn’t very good.

The Germans sometimes used to, we had special colours for a certain day and they got to know our colours and they used to fire the coloured shells back into our lines. And of course, the air force thought it was the German lines. And that’s mostly why we got bombed so much, we got about, I think it was about three times we got bombed by our own planes.

We went through to Falaise, known as the Falaise Gap [the Battle of Falaise Pocket, 12-21 August 1944]. The German army was cornered there and on the roads and wherever. And they were bombed to smithereens really. The roads were so cluttered up with debris, they had to push them off the roads with bulldozers in places. At times, you could hear the Germans talking to them but we wasn’t near as, being an ambulance driver, we weren’t nearly as close as what the infantry was obviously. They had a much rougher time.

Our lot used to shell forward positions and the Germans, a lot of the civilians didn’t get away and they had to take it as well as the Germans. They had a very hard time of it. Because a shell has no recognition of who you are.

Some of the German regiments called SS [Schutzstaffel, an elite corps of the Nazi Party] , you didn’t trust them no way. They’d shoot you onsite if they got the chance. They were a diabolical crowd, they was. And then you had the Hitler Youth [Nazi paramilitary youth organization] as well to deal with. So one Hitler Youth, he was only 15, he had a knife hidden in his boot and he knifed one or two of the patients in the ambulance. You can guess what happened to him. He didn’t knife nobody else.

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