"They found 11 soldiers, and they gave the order not to take any prisoners. It lasted about 10 seconds. We killed the German prisoners. They stopped right away since it wasn’t normal to kill prisoners. They did it, but we didn’t have to. But when you took prisoners, you were so tired that… you were nervous."
We always advanced, always. Three or four days later, we were able to change our clothes. Our clothing was always soaked. So, then we continued through towns. After that, the largest town was Caen (Normandy). Caen was… Then, after that, at Caen, we separated. One group went to the airfield in Carpiquet. I went to Falaise. We were there for five days and five nights. After that was over, we went to Carpiquet. That lasted for two weeks and then we went to Carpiquet. It wasn’t Carpiquet anymore though; we called it “the hell of Carpiquet.”
Carpiquet was… it was like Falaise. The Germans wanted to keep Falaise because it was a direct route to Germany. The route went through Belgium and across Holland. In Carpiquet, there was a small airfield. That’s where the Germans carried out their communications with small planes and paid the soldiers. So they wanted to keep Carpiquet. It took two weeks before Carpiquet… there were a lot of men wounded and killed. All of my friends as I was saying… that’s where they were killed. It was terrible, terrible. Carpiquet was terrible. We went back in 2004 with the Canadian Army in France. We went to Carpiquet. There was a big party. The city hardly looked the same after 60 years…
After Carpiquet, we continued on. Just past Caen, there were three towns. There were Saint-André (Saint-André-sur-Orne), May (May-sur-Orne), and Sainte-Monique, I believe. The Germans, the first ones didn’t say that the Germans had dug a tunnel from the towns of May to Saint-André. We arrived there at 4:00 a.m. one morning. They were all… The soldiers that were there before… There were no soldiers. They didn’t know that there was a tunnel. After they came out, maybe a half-hour before we arrived, the Germans had the time to put everything away… They took their machine guns… We couldn’t… The minute… I think that there were about 15 bullets in my things in the back, the mess kits we had to eat… One of the bullets flew by me. It grazed my eyebrow but didn’t penetrate my iron helmet. My helmet was almost choking me because of the elastic strap. We were in a wheat field. After that, things calmed down. A lot of men were killed. Then we were able to retreat, we went back. They took a lot of prisoners.
They said, “We’ll try again tomorrow morning.” But we said, “No, we need to do it now. There are prisoners and we need to get them before they go back to Germany.” So that’s what we did. And then we continued on again. After that, we went to Carpiquet. In Carpiquet, we continued on. We got them all in a town where there was a seaport, Calais. They were all there but it had been about three weeks. They were all pale and undernourished and some of them were wounded.
When we saw the German prisoners, the first ones we saw in Normandy were terrible. There were Hitler Youth and SS (Schutzstaffel, paramilitary organization under the Nazi regime). Once they killed four soldiers. They brought them out and told them that they would be visiting a garden, but instead they shot them in the back of the head. Outside of Caen, the ground was torn up a bit. When the tank went over it, and turned around, we saw that there was a soldier attached. They found 11 soldiers, and they gave the order not to take any prisoners. It lasted about 10 seconds. We killed the German prisoners. They stopped right away since it wasn’t normal to kill prisoners. They did it, but we didn’t have to. But when you took prisoners, you were so tired that… you were nervous. In Falaise, we had taken about 25,000 prisoners, I believe. We were nervous… So we sent them to the back. In Falaise, there was a young prisoner. We had searched them all, but there was a young one, about 16 years old, who had a small grenade in his hand. He walked by a tank whose door was open and threw the grenade into the tank. Two men were killed. He ran off and we told him to stop, but he didn’t want to. So the officer named three men and said, “Give him a burst.” I had a Sten Gun (Sten British machine gun pistol) and I was one of the three. I don’t know which of the three of us killed him, but…
During the month of October (1944), we had advanced to Holland. The first battle was near Nijmegen at the German lines, the famous Nijmegen bridge. The Rhine River passed beneath it. The bridge wasn’t built square. It followed three quarters or half of the river. The bridge was long. It had been damaged but when the engineers tried to fix it during the day, there were German things, tanks or cannons in the field. So they couldn’t.
In Holland, we were forced to fight through the night, since during the day it was too easy to see us, nothing was hidden and the Germans saw us. So we fought during the night. A mine detector went out ahead of us and we followed, crawling on our stomachs. We were there in October, November and December, too… German things. Then, nine days after, they started rebuilding the bridge and after, the tanks could cross over. We didn’t have any help. On Christmas day… We didn’t know that it was Christmas day. The officer said to us, “It’s Christmas day!” We had no idea. We were on our stomachs and he said, “Flip over onto your backs and pick a star.”
The North Shore (Regiment) had decreased, but there were new men as well. Some of them were killed in Holland. In the cemeteries there, you can see a lot of North Shore (tombs). We saw some North Shore tombs when we went to Holten (Netherlands) in 2005. There was a woman in Holten… My wife was with me. Many of us were seated in the cemetery. A helicopter passed by overhead and dropped poppies down upon us to salute us. My wife said to me, “There’s a woman over there that keeps looking at us.” But I was in the cemetery with a group from New Brunswick and then, I said, “That man, I’ve seen his name: Doucet.” He was with me in my regiment in New Brunswick when I was in Canada. His wife was pregnant. He hadn’t gone over at the same time. I motioned for the woman to come over. I asked her, “Was he an acquaintance of yours? Was he your brother?” – “No, he was my father.” She told me that she never knew her father because when he went over, she was only three or four months old. So he was her father. He was from Caraquet, New Brunswick.
One morning, we went to bury the dead as well. It was in Holland when the Red Cross couldn’t meet the demand. So one day they asked us to help. There were four of us, a man from Saint John, New Brunswick. There were four of us and one of them said, “You’re going to go and help them.” They gave us each a knife with a wooden handle. I asked, “Why do we need this?” and he replied, “It’s in case you need it but you won’t need it.” Ok, but… We got there and the Red Cross told us what to do. There were so many bulldozers, working to dig and bury the dead. They were buried in grey blankets which were tied shut at the head and feet. They gave them to us. They said, “No, you need to find and take off any watches or rings.” But sometimes a ring would be stuck because the finger was swollen. It took us time… we couldn’t cut off a man’s arm, even if he was dead. We weren’t doctors or anything.
There was one man, a sergeant, he had sent… We had gone three or four days without being able to eat. We had been like that four times. We had to cut off the finger to get the ring, to take everything. We had to look, when the head was missing or something, we had to look for the head to make sure that it was the right person, to see if the body was black or white. We had a necklace (dog tags) with our name and identification number inscribed on it. It would be sent back to the man’s wife if he was married, or to his parents, or his mother. It was sent back and given to them. It wasn’t human.