A portrait of Robert McGhie "Somewhere in England."Robert McGhie
Robert McGhie in the Netherlands.Robert McGhie
Robert McGhie's Glengarry Bonnet with cap badge of The Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa (Duke of Edinburgh's Own) regiment.Robert McGhie
Cap badge of The Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa (Duke of Edinburgh's Own) regiment.Robert McGhie
Robert McGhie's service medals (left to right): 1939-1945 Star, France and Germany Star, Defence Medal, Canadian Volunteer Service Medal, War Medal (1939-45).Robert McGhie
Robert McGhie's dog tags.Robert McGhie
The Dutch government awards the 1945-2010 Thank You Canada and Allied Forces Medal to veterans who helped liberate the Netherlands during the Second World War.Robert McGhie
Robert McGhie's Operation Overlord Medal (French 50th Anniversary). This medal commemorates the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Normandy during the Second World War.Robert McGhie
A Nazi armband that Robert McGhie found on a dead German soldier.Robert McGhie
A Luftwaffe officer cap badge. Robert McGhie found this badge on a dead German soldier.Robert McGhie
Cross of Honour of the World War, Combatant (Ehrenkreuz des Weltkrieges, Frontkämpfer), 1914-1918. The "Hindenburg Cross" commemorated the sacrifices of German servicemen during the First World War. Robert McGhie found this medal on a dead German soldier.Robert McGhie
Ribbon, German Iron Cross. Robert McGhie found this ribbon on a dead German soldier.Robert McGhie
Wooden plaque copy of Robert McGhie's commemorative brick at the Juno Beach Centre in Courseulles-sur-Mer, Normandy, France.Robert McGhie
Robert McGhie and his daughter, Donna McGhie-Richmond.Donna McGhie-Richmond
"It’s really a pity, you know. I mean, I remember, I just hollered up in the air once, “God, don’t you have a heart?” The senseless killing, it goes on and on and on, you know. Yeah. It’s just senseless, really, you know. I hope it never happens – nobody ever has to go into another war like that."
Of course, we were going to go to, somebody was going to go to over, to France, because we knew that. We didn’t know where we were going, really. But anyway, we went all over the country. We were in northern Scotland, we were in Wales, we were on the Isle of Wight, doing different things – jumping into the North Sea and all this sort of stuff. Getting on boats, had to get off big boats, and all this other stuff, with rope ladders, and all this sort of stuff. We done all that, you know, and then, they said, around June - we were supposed to go there, Normandy, on June the 4th , but the weather was too bad. The storms were really bad.
So they put – but we’re sitting on these little boats, and you know, they were really getting rocked and they wouldn’t let you off, we had to stay on the boats, and that. So therefore, on the 6th of June, [General Dwight D.] Eisenhower [Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force for the invasion of Europe] was the big boss, he says, “You gotta go, you can’t stay on these boats any longer.” He said, “The weather’s not very good,” and it wasn’t very good, it was pretty rough. And so, we were seasick all the way over. Left about two o'clock in the morning, to go to France – it was 18 miles across.
So, we finally got over there, and everything was flying back and forth, both sides, both sides, the big battleships behind, they were shelling all over, and they had all these, all these [shells], oh God, things going every way. So… the little boat I was on, it was just one of these flat-bottomed things and your front goes down, then you get out. And I was in a vehicle – in a Bren Gun Carrier [also known as a universal carrier, light armoured tracked vehicle you know, one with tracks. And we were stuck on the sandbar a way out. So anyway, we sat there for a little while and then we wondered, “Why are we knocked out here?” Finally, the guy from England says, “Well, I got to drop the front,” he says, “the sea is going out.” It was going in, but he said he was alarmed because he wanted to get the hell out of there.
So, anyways, down goes the front and we got into this water. Well, we had auxiliary sides on the front and you could drive the thing [gun carrier] on the water. But we made it all into shore and then we got into shore, of course you knocked these auxiliary sides off and you just keep going. And of course we got off the beach and… it was hell of a mess. Bodies everywhere, alive ones – you never know what was going on, it was such a confusion that was just going. But they had a hole in through the wire, the razor wire they had there, we went through there, and kept on going.
I got wounded at Caen [France], little before Caen, at Carpiquet Airport [Operation WINDSOR (4-5 July 1944) in which the Canadian objective was to capture the town of Carpiquet and adjacent airfield] there, had to go back to the first aid station. I got knocked out from an ambush, like, you know, an airburst? Yeah, just those bursts in the air, and it come down there – there were two of us in this trench, one guy got a big chunk of steel in his back. I never saw him again.
Anyway, I got knocked out completely. It took the back of my shirt off completely - a tailor couldn’t have made a better job. I never saw the back of my shirt again. So I just left the front and the sleeves. I was knocked out down there and my left shoulder was bleeding to beat heck. This blast knocked the skin off my shoulder. So anyway, I heard the guys like whisper, they got kind of quiet for a while, and I heard some of the guys say, “It looks like McGhie’s had it.” I could hear all this going on, but I was knocked out, but I could still hear. So, now one of the other guys said, “I thought I saw him move.” So I’m just laying there for a while and I finally came to. So, I got up, and they said, “You’ve got to go to the first aid station.” I said, “Where’s the first aid station?” He says, “About a thousand yards up in the airport there.” They had a place underneath, in the airport, like a cellar. So, anyway, “Oh my God,” I said, “I’m never going to make it.”
So I gave them my – I had the watch on, the watch on from the ship that I had – […]. It was a watch, like a government watch. So, I took the watch, it was completely, it died. It was stopped. It was no good. So, anyway, I thought, “Here it goes.” So I went up in the first hole. The place had been bombed there so much, it was just, I’m jumping from one hole to the other, to get up there. So anyway, I went up there and the Germans, they could see me. You know what they were doing? They were firing on the holes to the left of me. They weren’t trying to hit me. They figured I was finished anyway. I was getting out of there because I was wounded, they could see me.
So anyway, as I was jumping in the one hole, they would fire on another hole right beside me. It didn’t bother me at all. So then I thought, “By the time I get up here [to first aid], they’re going to wait until I’m going into the damn place and then they’re going to kill me.” So anyway, I figure I’ll go up there – and this went on all the way until I got up to, right up to the place. And I thought to myself, “What am I going to do now? Am I going to stay here or am I going to go in there?” So I jumped up and run into the basement, fell down the stairs, had to go to the basement. I went in there and made a left-hand turn and rolled down the stairs.
Oh, you’ve never seen such a place in your life. A morgue. People had died, people with their legs off, people with their arms off, all over the place, you know. I looked over there and I could see the guys that were doing all this work, they were working on these people. They were just covered with blood everywhere you know, and the guy come up, he says – looks at me, says, “Oh, well, you just come over here,” he said, “we can fix you up in a hurry, you can go back.” I said, “Oh, God. Okay.”
It’s really awful. It’s really a pity, you know. I mean, I remember, I just hollered up in the air once, “God, don’t you have a heart?” The senseless killing, it goes on and on and on, you know. Yeah. It’s just senseless, really, you know. I hope it never happens – nobody ever has to go into another war like that.
Interview date: 17 July 2013