A German sentry stepped out the side of the road and said, “Halte.” So, needless to say I was shook up and I know he was. He stopped to put his hands up, but I didn’t. I was in the middle of the road and I just grabbed the handlebars of my bike and I lifted it around so it was facing this German sentry and let the clutch out and went at him and turned at the same time. He fired and missed. But his comrades across the road didn’t miss.
Clair Adams enlisted in Montreal, Quebec at age 16; he told the recruiting officer he was 18. Although he had never driven before, he was assigned to the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps as a driver and attached to the 11th Field Ambulance. He inadvertently strayed behind enemy lines in the Foret de la Londe and was wounded while evading capture.
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So, anyway, after a few more weeks we were up close to the Falaise Gap [Battle of Falaise Gap, 12 to 21 August 1944, decisive battle in Battle of Normandy, encirclement of German Fifth and Seventh Panzer Armies by Allies, Second Canadian Infantry Division played a key role in closing the gap] and the Americans were coming up on one side and we were coming in on the other. And the Germans started to retreat and were heading north. And we moved north. We were not too far from Foret de la Londe when I was awakened one morning by my CO [commanding officer], Captain Martin. And he said, “Sergeant, we had a vehicle hit by mortar fire last night.” And one of my duties, of course, was to determine whether vehicles were recoverable or not. So, he said, “I want you to go out and look at it.” So, I got on my bike and headed north toward Foret de la Londe and as I was going through our lines-- it was, as I recall, the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry who were part of Four [Canadian Infantry] Brigade--they were out waving their hands, signaling me to stop. But I didn’t pay any attention to them. I kept on going in the Foret de la Londe.
Now the Foret de la Londe had a nice little road through it. It was very narrow. And as I went on, oh a mile or so of the Foret de la Londe, there was a French couple that came out and they were waving their arms for me to stop. And I thought, there was something wrong here. So I turned back. And as I came back about ½ mile, I met the guy on the motorbike from the Toronto Scottish [Regiment]. And he said he thought his company was up that road. And I thought, “Well maybe I didn’t go far enough.” So I turned around with him and --we didn’t exchange names-- and rode on. We crossed a railroad crossing and up a sharp incline and a sharp turn to the right. And as we got to the top of that incline, the lad from Toronto Scottish was just a few feet ahead of me. Maybe eight or ten feet. And a German sentry stepped out the side of the road and said, “Halte.” So, needless to say I was shook up and I know he was. He stopped to put his hands up, but I didn’t. I was in the middle of the road and I just grabbed the handlebars of my bike and I lifted it around so it was facing this German sentry and let the clutch out and went at him and turned at the same time. He fired and missed. But his comrades across the road didn’t miss. One of them got me under the arm. Just a scratch actually. And the other one got me in my ankle. It was just like a hammer hitting my ankle.
As I rode on and kept on going and went back through the forest and came into our lines, there was a ½ dozen soldiers that stepped out with their bayonets to stop me – bayonets on their guns. So, I sat down on the sidewalk in this small village. There was a French farmer came along and he said, “Voulez-vous un petit peu de calvados [apple brandy made in Normandy]?” And I said, “Oh, oui Monsieur.” So, he had a bottle of calvados and he gave me a glass full of calvados and it’s pretty powerful stuff. It’s farm-made calvados. I really didn’t need that morphine that the doctor gave me when he came to examine me.
Interview with Colonel Clair Adams FCWM Oral History Project
George Metcalf Archival Collection
© Canadian War Museum