A photograph from Edward Rollinson's visit to the Netherlands in May 2005.Edward Rollinson
Edward Rollinson, March 1941, with The Ontario Regiment badge mounted on his black beret.Edward Rollinson
Edward Rollinson's pay book dated July 1, 1942 from the 11th Army Tank Battalion.Edward Rollinson
A newspaper clipping dated March 24th, 1941 from the Evening Telegram about Edward Rollinson and his two brothers.Edward Rollinson
A photograph of Edward Rollinson taken in Long Branch, Ontario on January 19th, 1941.Edward Rollinson
"I got married just before leaving overseas. Yeah. I did have a friend and we got engaged in 1940 and the last minute, I asked for permission to marry before I went overseas. So we had I think four days together. And then I was away four years, five months."
We got to England and Salisbury Plains and Levington Downs in June 1941. The squadron major offered me a job as a batman [personal assistant], looking after him. And I was rather insulted because I can drive a truck, I can do this. Anyway, I started off as a batman, a manservant, for this major. He left a couple months later and another major was taking over, Vandel Charles O’Brien, a high school teacher from Windsor, and he carried on. I looked after him as a batman and I was given a 1941 Ford sedan as a reconnaissance vehicle. That’s when I got involved in intelligence.
I was responsible for all the maps and marking the maps which are then just driven past to the tank command or crew who was going to do the action. And working with the people, they’re going to work with the infantry and the artillery and what have you. Aerial photographs, I did the interpretations within the 12 hours after the photos were taken. You were on your hands and knees on a board. Oh, I also contributed to the official war diary, a daily account. At the end of the month, everything is passed to the CO [Commanding Officer] who wrote a coverage letter but everything was mine.
I got married just before leaving overseas. Yeah. I did have a friend and we got engaged in 1940 and the last minute, I asked for permission to marry before I went overseas. So we had I think four days together. And then I was away four years, five months.
So they said, head for Malta. So we got into Valleta at Malta right in the bay. And we stayed partly overnight there and then the next morning, we sailed right into Syracuse in Sicily [Italy]. Everything was quiet until the German planes come. We got unloaded without too much disturbance from the planes and our harbour was eight miles away and those that had to walk, it was a long eight miles on a dirt road to an orchard […] harbour. And the place was lousy with Italian soldiers and the hills would be German soldiers. We didn’t want to disturb either one.
But we worked with the British Eighth Army most of the time, Australians and New Zealanders and Gurkhas [Nepalese soldiers fighting for the British]. It was serious work, yes. Yeah, we did [Monte] Cassino with Gurkhas and the airport at Aquino. Which my fellows came back and raised their fist at me and said, why didn’t tell me what we were going into. If I told you what you were running into, you wouldn’t have gone.
And we didn’t see any of those Canadians who went to a place called Potenza, on our way to a town called Foggia, which is a large airstrip, the Germans were using it and controlling the Mediterranean from Foggia. And that was the object of the whole exercise was to get to Foggia, so that there were no more fighter aircraft over the Mediterranean Sea.
I’ve seen [Boeing B-17] Flying Fortresses and what have you quite high and trying to fly south to North Africa, some were damaged, you could see the way they were flying, they’ve done their job somewhere in Ploiești in Romania and now they’re trying to get back to somewhere in North Africa there’s land. It’s kind of sad, you know, hoping that they could get that far. Its that they were somewhere damaged in flight, yeah.