Mr. Vince Reed, May 2012.The Memory Project
"At one time, early after the war, it was hard to get people to talk about it. But in more recent years we realize that what we have to say might be worth listening to."
[With the 1st Hussars during the Northwest Europe Campaign.]
So after Normandy I was assigned to the 1st Hussars [6th Armoured Regiment (1st Hussars)] and I was with them at the Liberation of Belgium and I watched the Liberation parade in Belgium. I’ll never forget it. This is where they lined up the girls who had been collaborating with the enemy and cut their hair off; a very unpleasant thing.
From there we sat in Holland most of the winter [1944-1945], not doing much of anything; frontline armour, but nothing happening. One of the problems was that the armies had made so much progress we went quickly through Belgium, Holland to the border of Germany. And supply was a problem so we were held up.
But in February the attacks started again [the Rhineland Campaign, the final Allied push towards Germany]. And on February 26th, 1945 we were assigned to support the Queen’s Own Rifles [of Canada] in the attack on a village in Germany, Keppeln, which is up on the high ground overlooking a highway where the Allies, Canadians and British, were bringing up fresh troops and supplies. And the Germans were having a great time shelling them from that ground. So we were ordered to take that high ground.
On the way in we were hit three times. The first one was a high explosive, took off the sprocket and track so we were sitting there. Next was an armour-piercing that set us on fire. We bailed out and we were three of us. A fourth member of our crew escaped without injury, we bailed out the wrong side. But that’s the way it went in war time. Three of us bailed out and we thought it was the safest side. We headed for a shell hole but before we got there they dropped a high explosive on us.
My two companions were killed and I was wounded. And I lay there until after dark. This was about 2:00 in the afternoon. And after dark two soldiers from the 1st Hussars came across no-man’s land, which was still under fire, and they found me and they carried me out. And if it weren’t for them I would not be here.
After I was wounded I was in the hospital in Germany for about 10 days and then flown back to England. So I was in England when the war in Europe ended, I was in hospital there. I had bad wounds. I was hit with shrapnel, I’ve got two pieces in me yet; it went through the kidney, liver, lung and I was in hospital for quite a while. That’s where I was when the war ended. I got back to Canada and I was discharged just before the war ended. I was in Shaughnessy Hospital in Vancouver as an outpatient for quite a while after that.
[Thoughts on war.]
But when you serve in the ranks you learn a lot about people. And it’s interesting, you make friends with people you never would have met before and you bond with them. In my crew, the last crew I was in, we had a highlead logger from British Columbia, Vancouver Island, me, a kid just out of high school in Winnipeg and a Cree Indian boy. And the Cree Indian boy was – he died standing beside me. One of the best companions; I’m sorry; it’s not easy to talk about.
At one time, early after the war, it was hard to get people to talk about it. But in more recent years we realize that what we have to say might be worth listening to. There’s never a day in my life that I haven’t thought about the war, but it did not bother me the way it might have. I find that hard to handle.
Right after the war I said to myself – first of all, I lost four of my best friends that day, and I said to myself “I will remember them every day”. And that was a mistake because it bothers me. But I never did escape the war. I can handle it now, but it had a massive impact on my life.