An undated photo of Bruce Melanson taken during the war and a brief bio of his service.Bruce Melanson
Bruce Melanson, present day.Bruce Melanson
Bruce Melanson on Parliament Hill meeting Stephen Harper.Bruce Melanson
"German bodies, Canadian bodies, British bodies, everything was right there to look at, amongst the pigs and the horses and the cows and everything else. That’s war. That’s war. That’s what Caen was like."
The most talking we did was when we landed in France, on the landing at Courseulles-sur-Mer [France], which is Juno Beach. My buddy and I, his name was Bobby McEwan and I looked at Bobby and I said, “Bob, this is not the pubs in England, is it? This is war.” And at the same time, I was always making my remarks to Bobby, a thousand bombers were already coming in the air overhead. Parachutes were dropping out like flies, dropping from their planes after being hit or shot or something. Artillery, the navy, the shelling, the deafness, everything was really what war is all about. In plain English, war is hell.
There was a slight bit of nervousness then because of the fact that we were being strafed a little bit by Messerschmitts [various models of German fighter aircrafts] and everything else, there was a war on, a war was in full force. And they were coming in all directions. You had shells, you had the navy, you had army, you had everything moving at the same time, all at once. Just one great big noisy, noisy, one hell of a noisy war. And you had to do the best you could as a soldier to maneuver the job that you were supposed to be doing and had to do. And you didn’t have time to think about anything else.
Foothold in Normandy
One of the toughest battles in France was the battle of Caen. I’ll never forget it. Montgomery [Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, commanded all Allied ground forces for Operation Overlord (the Battle of Normandy)] and Churchill and then our own generals at that particular time, they informed us that we were to take Caen in two weeks. It took us almost two months. But all the way, all the way in that battle, was nothing but seeing dead bodies, dead horses, dead cows. And as we were moving along with our trucks and our Bofor gun [widely-used anti-aircraft cannon] to try to get through, we would have to stop sometimes and move the bodies over so we could get through. And then dead bodies would be picked up by the medical people afterwards. And the smell, the stench, that was the battle of Caen. That’s what you experienced, that’s what you seen, that’s what you looked at, German bodies, Canadian bodies, British bodies, everything was right there to look at, amongst the pigs and the horses and the cows and everything else. That’s war. That’s war. That’s what Caen was like.
One day, it was foggy and our planes were coming from Britain, coming over, and the Germans apparently dropped enough bombs and shells here in front here, making it look like it was enemy lines to try to put the aircraft off, which they did. They put them off because they thought they reached their target but they didn’t. They were still on top of us. And they bombed us, unfortunately. And the biggest loss in that whole bombing raid was the Polish regiment [1st Armored Regiment]. They took the worst beating. Some Britains were killed, some Canadians were killed and it was quite a bad mistake. But it was a mistake of war, they didn’t do it purposely, that’s for sure. When I seen the bomb doors opening in the air in front of me, man, thank God I had a little hole dug in the ground and I got in that hole right mighty quick. Because I guess that’s how I saved my life that day.
We got orders, as we may not be encountering too many more airplanes, that to get as close to the infantry, up behind the North Nova Scotia Highlanders and Quebec Fusiliers as possible. Try to get your guns as close as possible up there, which we did. And then we would get orders by telephones and stuff like that indicating that the Germans had a good way of trying to hide their troops, camouflaging with haystacks. The houses, like behind them would be houses and haystacks would be planted all in front of them. And therefore, who the hell’s going to fire at a haystack, what for? You don’t want to kill the hay.
We would fire at those haystacks which was really hit it going right through the haystack into the house. And after a couple of those Bofor shells were fired into there, let me tell you, a few hands would come up. Quite a few. And then we would use it for houses, apartments, anything, churches, wherever the Germans were, wherever we thought they were. We started meeting the German people and we were mostly in countries, in the country with our guns and everything at this time. And all farmlands and everything like that. Those kind of people, those kind of Germans hardly knew there was a war on and certainly had no problem at all trying to be friendly with us but we weren’t allowed. We weren’t allowed to fraternize with the Germans, even the German people, not the soldiers. We weren’t supposed to fraternize. But we did. I think if I can put it straight, well, right from my heart, they were hungry, just like we were