Veteran Stories:
Percy Howard

Army

  • Percy Howard, 2010.

  • This photo of Percy Howard was taken in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, in 1939.

    Percy Howard
  • Percy Howard, 2005.

    Percy Howard
  • A poem that Percy Howard received from a young student in 2004.

    Percy Howard
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"I felt fear, yes. Anybody who says they weren't afraid, I don't believe, because the commotion and the noise and the shells landing, and mines being set off, you had to be afraid, but you wanted to get on to shore."

Transcript

I'd seen the coast, yes. I'd seen the planes. I'd seen the shells starting and then everything was just so noisy and so crowded that you wondered how anything would… Even in the air, and the noise was horrific. That moment is when you really realized then, when shells started landing and things were blowing up, you realized then it was for real. I've always said you either grew up that day or you didn't grow up at all.

I felt fear, yes. Anybody who says they weren't afraid, I don't believe, because the commotion and the noise and the shells landing, and mines being set off, you had to be afraid, but you wanted to get on to shore.

There was no eating time, no sleeping time. Day ran into night, and night into day. You just kept going. When we got to Bretteville, we'd taken Bretteville, the town of Bretteville, but that day they had bombarded us all day, with shelling steady all day long and all night. That can get to you after a while ̶ the steady shelling. Then that night the tanks broke through in Bretteville. They got right through the town. I was in a trench and dug a hole over here. Our headquarters were just across the road, and there was like a street. When I came out in the morning there was a German tank sitting there that had got hit. The driver, as I said before, was lying half out of the tank, burning. You wouldn't get me in a tank. But they had got in that far. My wife's brother-in-law was killed that night too. I thought I'd go across and check on them, so I got out of my hole, went over; and it was a mess. There was a hand laying there, an arm laying there. It was a real bad night.

They told us all, you know when this happens, you're going to see things that aren't nice. But, I guess we were like anybody today when we say to most people well, you know this happened; and it kind of goes in one ear and out the other. It really doesn't sink in until you're there. Then it sinks in. Yes, you do see a lot of things. I still see things.

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