Raymond Heard in uniform
Shoulder patch for troops attached to the 1st Canadian Corps.http://www.rcasc.com/
"We landed in Ostend, Belgium, and we were transferred from there to Nijmegen, Holland. And from there, we took another lorry close to Arnhem. And this was after the paratroops had been shot out of the sky by the Germans there [...]"
We landed in Ostend, Belgium, and we were transferred from there to Nijmegen, Holland. And from there, we took another lorry close to Arnhem. And this was after the paratroops had been shot out of the sky by the Germans there [in the context of Operation Market Garden, an unsuccessful Allied airborne operation in September of 1944] and they weren’t far behind, they were pretty close to us at that time. We saw mostly dead animals all over the fields and there was another guy named Lefty Heard, same name as me, same spelling, when we got on the lorry at Nijmegen, they called out Heard and of course, I heard, gee, and I stepped up and this other guy stepped up too. I think he was from Ontario.
Anyway, this Lefty Heard, I got to know him a little bit then and we were on this lorry truck and heading towards Arnhem and the next thing I know, this Lefty Heard, he’s flying off the back of the truck. The Germans were famous for putting wires across the road at different heights and when we stopped quickly and picked up Lefty, his throat was pretty bad, he could hardly talk. And that again was the last time, when we landed, they took him to the base hospital and that was the last I saw of him too.
Then the next couple episodes close to Arnhem, I was on sentry duty with a guy that could hardly speak English, his name Finnegan. I guess his father I guess was probably Irish or English and I guess his mother was French but he didn’t speak much English. And the first night, him and I were on guard duty and we could hear, clump, clump, clump, coming down the road. Well, I knew the Germans, if they were making a raid, they wouldn’t make that kind of noise. They’d have boots on but they’d probably have socks on over them to, you know, sneak up. But anyway, this clump, clump, clump and Finnegan, halt, who went there, bang. And he shot and I could hear this moaning and I was pretty sure it was a cow. In the morning, in daylight, they found it but anyway, the shot got everybody out of their tents and the major give us hell for that.
And the next night, I was on duty again with him and we had some Ghurkas with us at the time [soldiers from an ethnic community in Nepal]. And they were playful guys and they tried to, when on guard duty, tried to tie my shoelaces together and I kicked him. So he went around behind Finnegan and I saw him tie Finnegan shoelaces together. And I should have known better but I was pretty young in those days and I said, hey Finnegan, come here. And bang, and I ended up with a bullet hole through my left side on my tunic. And fortunately, it didn’t touch me, I might have been not here to talk about it.
Anyway, at that point, the major said to the captain, don’t put those two together again, he says, they’re going to kill each other. And I had thought it was funny at the time but you know, it was pretty close to making a hole in me too.
And then we ended up in Soesterberg, Holland, and that was between Amersfoort and Utrecht. And I got to know this family named Mantel, Jacob and Greet and their, I think Anika was probably about seven and Greejay, she was I think about 12 or 13. And I used to go to the cooks and say, what can you spare that I can take to this family and I took as much food as I could to them because they were pretty bad off in those days. And they invited me for supper and they said, oh, […], that was supposed to be, good for me. They couldn’t speak English and of course, I didn’t at the time speak any Dutch but I picked quite a bit off from over the time we were there.
And what they had, they looked a bit like sausages but they’re eels out of the canal. And they pretty well lived on them. And they say I was able to help them out with sugar and butter and different vegetables. And I went back I think it was 1985 or 1986 and Jacob, the husband, he had passed on but Greet wasn’t in the house, they had lived at 46 Amersfoorts Weg in Holland, that’s the name of the street. And I went and knocked on the door and the people there, I said, Greet Mantel. Oh, and they said she was in, as best they could, that she was in a home for the aged right in Soesterberg. So I went down and found the place, she wasn’t there, I left my name on the door and we went back about an hour later and she was, oh, Raymond, Raymond, she remembered me.
We had a visit with her and she phoned her oldest daughter, Greejay, like her name was Greet and I don’t know where Greejay, I guess that’s the daughter, they put a JE or JI or something on the end of it, and I talked as best I could. I can speak a little German, so she can understand some German but she couldn’t speak English either, as well as her mother. But we had tea and cookies with her and visited and I sent a couple letters after that and I never heard back. And when we left, like I volunteered to go to the South Pacific at the end of the war and it wasn’t long I was gone. I kind of wished I hadn’t have volunteered and stayed in that area.