"We fought our way through to Normandy, and we were mostly mine-lifting and -laying as engineers…"
My name is Norm Purcell. I was a member of the Royal Canadian Engineers for many years. I joined the NPAM prior to 1939, as a boy at fourteen as a boy soldier, and my career started in 1939 when they called us up. In 1939, that made me fifteen years old. Of course, to be fifteen years old, I couldn't go overseas. They said they needed bodies, so they changed my age to eighteen, born in 1921 instead of 1924.
I was with the Royal Canadian Engineers for most of my career. When I went to England, we trained for many years, and I ended up with 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, the Engineers' Section in the 7th Brigade. We took part and were selected for the invasion of Normandy.
As an engineering unit, we weren't in a bridging factor in those days. We were mostly assault with infantry, and we carried all prepared charges and things like that. A platoon mixed with engineers, and I was in "A" Company, a Platoon of the Regina Rifle Regiment, and we had very heavy casualties – about eighty percent, mostly engineers.
We fought our way through to Normandy, and we were mostly mine-lifting and -laying as engineers, with a support company of infantry. Engineers, mostly you think of bridging, but I didn't do any bridging. I was always with the infantry.
We had a rest at (?) after the famous town of Caen, and we had heavy casualties in the first couple of days in the assault, and then we got on to things. The battalion went through, and I went back to 6 Field Company Engineers, and that's where my career ended.
After the war, I stayed in well after I started my education. I was the Sergeant Major with an engineer regiment here in Halifax, in the Reserve section of (?) staff. I had quite a few years of engineer experience, and it was a benefit to me and my trade and things like that. At the end, I was transferred to Ottawa, and I was still with Engineers on a reserve status. I started my commission in 1951, but it was only for an eighteen month period. That was my Army career. So I ended up in Ottawa. That was it – I can't give you any other information than to say I was a survivor and not a hero.