Veteran Stories:
Paul Martin

Army

  • Paul Martin on his graduation to lieutenant at Royal Military College in England,1944.

  • Message that was handed out to all soldiers, sailors and airmen as they prepared for the invasion of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Mr. Martin received his copy as he boarded a ship at 3 a.m.

  • At 3 a.m. on June 6, 1944, Mr. Martin also received a package containing twenty 5-Francs notes. These were accepted by French merchants.

  • This field service postcard was the only message Paul Martin was allowed to send to his fiancée to let her know that he was okay after the landings in Normandy. July 4, 1944.

  • Paul Martin on a motorcycle, Freshwater Bay on the Isle of Wight in 1942.

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"As we got closer, they lowered the landing crafts and dropped us in the water"

Transcript

My name is Paul Martin, born in Transcona, Manitoba, 1920. When I joined the services, first of all everybody wanted to be in the Air Force for some reason, because it was more glorified than any of the other services, it seemed. There was such a demand that we couldn't get in, so we decided, "Well, let's join something," so we joined the Army. I joined the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, known as the 'Little Black Devils'. We started our training. Went to Shilo, Manitoba. We trained as infantry – marching and exercises, rifle firing and weapons proficiency. Then we went to Nova Scotia and continued our training there. Then we boarded a ship, the SS Orbita, it was called, and we crossed the Atlantic. We landed in Liverpool. Then from Liverpool by train we went to Aldershot. From there, we camped at different places in England, and we knew that one day would come, the liberation of Europe, would be one of our objectives. So we started training, and a lot of it were drives of training necessary for beach landing – how to get off a ship, how to climb the rope ladders and all that sort of thing. Everything was geared for an invasion. That's really what our training was in England. Unfortunately, we arrived just in time to experience the Battle of Britain. The enemy was pounding Britain every night, daily, trying to get London or the major ports. Then the day came that we got prepared for a landing. We were all gathered into a large area, confined to security of course, because the day and the place of our landing was very secret, so we never knew exactly where we were landing. One day we boarded trucks. They gave us some French… what they called 'Occupation Money', and we boarded a ship. The ship, of course, was heading towards the coast of France. It was probably the greatest spectacle of the Navy the world had ever seen and will ever see again. You could barely see water for the number of ships. As we got closer, they lowered the landing crafts and dropped us in the water. We thought we were closer, and we were looking over the side to see what we could see. It was the morning, pretty early, so it was dark. All of a sudden, we heard rifle fire hitting our landing crafts. We became turtles, and down we went – it was the first time we had experienced enemy fire. It was Courseulles-sur-Mer; that's where we landed – Juno Beach. We had to crawl up the banks and start heading inland, but we lost very heavy on the beach. They were waiting for us with machine guns and mortar fire – you name it. We had an objective of six miles the first day. We reached our objective – it was a railway track. So many cut down in the prime of life, which was unbelievable, but it was a fact.
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