Veteran Stories:
Stewart Bray

  • Stewart Bray's Statement of Service in the Canadian Armed Forces. 4 May 1990.

    Stewart Bray
  • Oshawa newspaper article on the wedding of Stewart and June Bray, which occurred at Toronto East General Hospital, while Stewart recovered from war injuries.

    Stewart Bray
  • Stewart Bray and another wounded comrade, walking down the street in Toronto.

    Stewart Bray
  • Telegram from the Department of National Defence that informed Stewart Bray's mother of his injury overseas. 28 September 1944.

    Stewart Bray
  • Department of National Defence memorandum informing Stewart Bray's mother of his return to Canada. 27 December 1944.

    Stewart Bray
  • Stewart Bray on a return visit to Europe.

    Stewart Bray
  • Stewart Bray at a plaque commemorating the Canadian involvement at the July 1944 Battle for Verrières Ridge in France.

    Stewart Bray
  • Stewart Bray in wartime.

    Stewart Bray
  • Stewart Bray in wartime uniform.

    Stewart Bray
Enlarge Image
Listen to this story

"And about three days later, one landed three feet in front of our trench and blew the Bren gun 30 feet right over top of my head."

Transcript

I went to the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry Regiment at Horsham, England. We went to Normandy on July the 4th [1944], and we landed on the Mulberry, yeah, the Mulberry Harbour. We moved up to the front, different places.

Yeah, I know I dug a lot of slit trenches. We just get dug in and they’d say, “OK, boys, we’re moving.” We never get in real big battles, there, until July the 25th – we’re in the big Battle of Verrières Ridge. We had 53 killed there, and a hundred wounded. We lost our officers and I was in D Company – my major was killed, my lieutenant was killed. We started out about 3 o’clock in the morning and we were landing Verrières around 6 or 7 o’clock in the morning, we took some prisoners. So we dug in. We were the only one that held our position on that big battle for the Verrières Ridge.

We were probably there a week – I know they shelled the hell out of us. I had a shell land five feet in front of my trench, and dug quite a big hole, we’d sleep in there the daytime – we said a shell will never hit the same place twice. And about three days later, one landed three feet in front of our trench and blew the Bren [light machine] gun 30 feet right over top of my head.

So we come out of there, and we all lined up, the 4th [Canadian Infantry] Brigade, we were in the spearhead for the breakthrough at the Falaise Gap; they called it [Operation] TOTALIZE [in August 1944].

I think we went about six kilometres that night, right through the German lines. My sergeant got killed in that battle. We captured a German, there – he had a peg leg, I figured he was 50 or 55 years old. And they were scraping the bottom of the barrel to get reinforcements too, the same as we were.

After we left Falaise, we went right on up the [French] coast – Elbeuf –. [Forêt de] la Londe was actually, we got pinned down in a house there.

We were in there for probably 20 hours or something, and there was a big rock behind – mountain-like or, a big cliff – a little bush in behind, so we found a ladder, we climbed up and back out through the bush. So the next morning we come back through the bush and attacked the Germans. One of our other sergeants got killed there, there was a sniper up in the tree. He come down and go “thump,” somebody seen him, so…

So, we crossed the Seine River, at Elbeuf on the pontoon bridge, and then we went right on up into - I guess we went to Dieppe. See, my regiment was in the [1942] Dieppe Raid. So then we got word to come back to France. And there’s a place named Bray Dunes, right near there; I almost got killed in my namesake town.

3 o’clock in the morning and we’re heading up across this field, and there was 14 guys ahead of me, and all at once everybody stopped. And, about a few seconds, “bang!” – I was standing on a landmine. Lifted me off the ground, knocked a guy down behind me. Stretcher bearer came back, and put a bandage on my heel and they all went off. So I crawled back out to the road, and I heard a couple of guys walking up the road – you had to be pretty careful, because everybody had a pretty itchy trigger finger, by then. And, I could hear a couple guys snoring, way off to the right – I said, “Holy Jesus” – you know how things echo at 4 o’clock in the morning, dew on the ground. So they went over and woke them up, and, come over, one on each side of me, and we hobbled down the road – it must have been over half a mile. So we get into a farmhouse, and, of course I sat in a chair and put my foot up over back of another chair and, a bloody officer come in drunk and fell over top of me.

So, we couldn’t get an ambulance, so they got a jeep. So I sat in the front of the jeep, my foot out over the hood, down where the MO [medical officer] was, the doctor and the guy with the bikes, showing the driver where to go. Went the wrong way, down into a ditch, straight down in a ditch. So I finally got a shot of morphine there and got an ambulance. Went through a Field Dressing Station on the way back.

That was the happiest day of my life. Up until then – was in bed, first time I was in bed for six months. Canadian nurses, Canadian hospital. It was a tent hospital, but it was manned. I didn’t need anesthetic, we were tired enough we could, because we never get no sleep

Follow us