Veteran Stories:
Orville Franklin Marshall

Army

  • Private Orville Franklin Marshall of The Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment.

    Orville F. Marshall
  • Orville Marshall and his mother Annie. 1941.

    Orville F. Marshall
  • Orville Marshall's Discharge Certificate dated November 30th, 1945.

    Orville F. Marshall
  • Orville Marshall's Statement of Service dated June 7th, 1962.

    Orville F. Marshall
  • Orville Marshall's medals, from left to right: Canadian Volunteer Service Medal; 1939-1945 Star; Italy Star; War Medal 1939-1945.

    Orville F. Marshall
  • Mr. Orville Franklin Marshall. October, 2012.

    Orville F. Marshall
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"He was walked across there by the two military police. He was tied to the post, which he told them it wasn’t necessary. He could take his punishment. But they insisted on tying him. And they dropped a black bag over his head with a target mapped out on the bag. And the serge"

Transcript

When I first joined up with The Hastings and Prince Edward [Regiment] it was in November [1940].  And just prior to going into Ortona [battle, December 20-28, 1943].  And it was at the worst time of the year in Italy, raining and muddy.  The mud was awful there.  Walking through it, it was above your ankles.

But we put up with it.  We didn’t sleep very much in it.  But we did put up with it.

And the Germans had decided that they were not going to let us have Ortona because beyond Ortona was the road across to Rome.  And God forbid would they ever let us enter Rome.

So they put up a very, very strong fight at Ortona and a little bit north of Ortona once we got through Ortona.  But then it became just kind of stabilized for the rest of the winter.  Well, no, I shouldn’t say the rest of winter.  As soon as the weather got decent in mid-January [1944] then we started to attack again.  And that was when I got hit.

And like I say I was in and out of the hospital from January until May and then I was assigned to this first echelon unit.

I was hit twice the same day.  We were putting in an attack across an open field.  My company was Baker, B Company, with the Hastings and Prince Edward, and there was two companies, B Company and C Company.

If I can recall correctly, we went in with about 116 men in the company.  And I heard after that there was only 34 that survived and came out without any wounds.

We attacked two days, the 30th of January and the 31st.  We were driven back on the first attack and stepped into a dry creek bed and stayed in the ditch, a little creek in back of the front line.  And we stayed there overnight, being shelled all night with mortars and heavy artillery and whatnot.  It was a tough night.

Then the next afternoon we tried to attack across the open field again.  And we were driven back again.  That was when I got hit.

I got hit first in the left eye with a small piece of shrapnel.  It cut right across my left eye and stopped in the side of my nose.  They got that out with a piece of magnet.  But I was blind with all the blood.  I couldn't see anything.

And then I was holding onto my rifle, I recall.  I was down on my knee holding onto my rifle.  And there was a terrific explosion again.  And my hands went numb.  My back hurt.  And my rifle, I don’t know what happened to it.  It just knocked out of my hands.

The first aid guy finally got to me.  I guess I laid there a couple of hours before he got to me because it was starting to get dark.  And he finally got to me and cleaned up my face.  And I could see out of my right eye.  I saw my rifle laying there.  It had been hit with a huge chunk of shrapnel or stone or something and the rifle barrel was bent double, just bent right around.

And that’s how close I come to getting killed.  But anyhow I remember seeing my rifle.

I would have liked to have brought that rifle home.  But at that time I didn’t feel like anything but getting out of there.  So I went back and stayed in the ditch behind where we had stayed the night before.  Stayed there.  And there was a heck of a bunch of us in there.

And then after dark the jeeps started to come up with stretchers and took us all out.  They took us to a first aid post out -- I guess a couple of miles back.  And dressed our wounds again.  And ambulances took us back to a place called Asto about 40 miles back.  It was an English hospital set up there.

We got treated there.  I was there for the biggest part of a week.  They tried to get the shrapnel out of my back and they couldn't get that out.  It's still there.

But they sent me back to the Canadian hospital, which was in a place called Caserta.  And I was there off and on.  I was back and forth between the hospital and the rehabilitation programs.  I was back and forth there until May.  Then doctors felt I was well enough to go and drive truck and that’s what I did.

The end of the war, about three months prior to the end of the war, we had a brigadier come to our group.  We don’t know why he came or anything.  And then after May 7th [1945], the day the war ended, half our group, on May 17th, left for England.  I thought I was going to go to England.  They had other plans for me.

There were 17 other ranks left, and five or six officers including this brigadier.  So I was assigned to drive the brigadier.  The guy that he had driving, he went back to England.  And I was assigned to drive the brigadier.  I had no idea what was going on at that point.  That was May 17th, until July 4th.

The brigadier and I -- he wanted to go to Rome every weekend.  So I would drive him up to Rome.  He'd say, “Okay, Marshall, pick me up Tuesday morning.”  That'll be probably Friday afternoon.  I'd pick him up at the Grand Hotel in Rome.  And there was a place set aside there for other troops like English and -- just kind of a place where people like myself drove in there, would stay overnight or stay for whatever time we had to stay.

On July 4th, brigadier said, “Okay, Marshall, I won't need you for a while.  Report to the sergeant.”  I reported to the sergeant and he said we'll go over to the guardhouse here.

We got over to the guardhouse and there was five or six other guys standing around there.  There were clerks.  There was a cook there and myself.  And the brigadier's batman and we were standing around there.  And the sergeant says, “You'll be here for the night.”

So just a few minutes after that this English van drove in with four military police -- no, three military police and the driver.  And they had a guy, a Canadian guy, which I recognized.  He was from The Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment.

Got out of the van and he was handcuffed and shackled.  And they took him into the guardhouse.  And two of us -- well, I wasn’t assigned at that point, but two people were assigned to stay at the door, guard that man.  Don’t talk to him.  Don’t have anything to do with him.

So then my turn on guard was from two to four in the morning.  And I did my shift.  The sergeant says to me at about five o'clock, “You better go over and pick the brigadier up and bring him.”  That place was about a mile away.

So I drove over.  He was standing at the door.  He got in the car.  And drove him back over.  I went in at about 10 to six.  He went in the orderly room and sit down.

And then the two military police that were with us, they went in the guardhouse, brought the guy out.  His name was Harold [Joseph] Pringle.  And they marched him into the brigadier's orderly room.  And I stood there at the door, one side of the door.  The brigadier's batman stood on the other side.

The two MPs [military policemen] were handcuffed to him.  And the brigadier read out his sentence. He'll be executed at eight a.m. this morning by firing squad [July 5, 1945].

So he just rocked back on his heels and says, “Why didn’t you tell me this last night?  I'd have had time to write my mother.”  Just as brave as could be.

It ended up he had deserted the Hastings and Prince Edward [shortly after the battle for the Hitler Line, May 1944].  He had got mixed up with the black market gang in Rome [known as the “Sailor Gang”].  And one of the black market gang that he belonged to got shot in a gunfight with the police.  And he was wounded pretty bad.

Of course they couldn’t take him to a hospital, give the gang away, so they just took him out along the road south of Rome and Harold Pringle was supposed to have shot him, killed him.

The Deputy Assistant Provost Marshal training these eight people to shoot this guy took them out to Montecarvo every afternoon because there was a big hill behind the town and it was fully treed.  And he would take them out there for target practice.

But as far as the execution was concerned it was done in Avellino [Campania region of southern Italy].  That was about, I would say, 150 yards from the guardhouse where he was sentenced.  He was walked across there by the two military police.  He was tied to the post, which he told them it wasn’t necessary.  He could take his punishment.

But they insisted on tying him.  And they dropped a black bag over his head with a target mapped out on the bag.  And the sergeant major gave the order to fire.

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