Sergeant Leo Pikulski, 1945.Leo Pikulski
Extract - entitled "Belgium" - from "War Memories of Sergeant Leo Pikulski", by Leo Pikulski, 2009.Leo Pikulski
Extract - entitled "Liberation of Holland" - from "War Memories of Sergeant Leo Pikulski", by Leo Pikulski, 2009.Leo Pikulski
"Then, battlefield. Those things you’re never going to forget when you look at picture, what is scenery, dead soldiers, Germans, Polish, horses, tanks, trucks, everything mess up altogether."
Then in 1942, the beginning, something like that, suddenly, I hear they’re calling me to school, policeman came to the house and he says, you’re going to join the Red Army. I just looked at him and hear another man talks Polish to me. He says, “No, we are organizing Polish army, but Russians, they would like you all Polish people to join, boys to join their army. You have choice.” Naturally, everybody join Polish army.
They load us on a boat and we went right through to Iraq, Iran, Palestine. As soon as we get to other side, we have plenty of food. We came to Scotland and in Scotland, again, we organized. For two years, I was training to be a scout in scout platoon. Then on D-Day, a few days later or something like that, we were in Normandy Beach together with. Took our division, there was up to 16,000 soldiers, was part of the First Canadian Corps and the Canadian Officer General Lieutenant Simonds. Together with Canadian army, I went to the Battle of Normandy Beach and Battle of Falaise [Gap].
After two months, our division got order from Canadian General Simonds to get ammunition and food supplies. There was two main roads that were coming to and that the defence line of Germany. But Germans were preparing and there were really defending that part of delivering ammunition and food. So there was lots of tank Tigers [heavy German tanks] and other machine guns and so on. Anyway, that was not so easy to do anything. But suddenly, I see the start bombing for about two days, I see American planes and British planes are dropping so many bombs. I said, “Well, what’s going to happen?” Mind you, at that time, I didn’t know that’s going to be close Falaise gap, right, closing.
When we got order our division to move forward, we start moving, in about two hours later, suddenly, American, two planes are coming and start bombing our division. And so that stop. So anyway, we got as far as main highway, but there was two of them. There’s that Mont Ormel field [Hill 262, ‘the Mace’], that’s where we had a huge battle. By the time we got both highways and we cross Falaise Gap, I called that, corked the bottle , and the Germans didn’t have any more food and three days later, they surrender. But we still had big, our division had big fight on a city of Chambois, something like that.
But the Germans start coming to us, so naturally we open fire with machine guns and whatever we had equipment, to stop them. They started running away, other way. Then we see other fighters open field, but three quarters bush around us and other side, between Canadian army and ours, there is about a kilometre or half a kilometre, something like that, open field and another bush. Suddenly, we’re getting fire from that bush and Germans already that were trying to escape. So in one hour, we didn’t had any ammunition. We didn’t have ammunition. But once the staff sergeant suddenly yells, “Grab!” We had so many prisoners, so we had their machine guns and ammunition. [He said,] “Grab German machine guns!” And we were fighting with them for a day and next, all day. And we stopped Germans to come into us. Yeah, we were shooting with German ammunition and Germans’ machine guns.
In front way, man was bringing Germans war prisoners and suddenly, one comes to me, he says, “There is about maybe half a kilometre from here in bush,” shows me exactly where. He said, “There is two Polish soldiers and four Germans, laying and all day trouble, they got wounded on the legs.” And he says, “I noted that one Polish fellow had both legs cut off. You think you can get somebody to bring them here.” So lieutenant said, “If you would volunteer, you can go.” So I grab our sergeant in arms of course and that’s what I order three tanks and my men, I say, “Come on, let’s go and we can help him.”
We went about maybe quarter of kilometre or something like that. Then, battlefield. Those things you’re never going to forget when you look at picture, what is scenery, dead soldiers, Germans, Polish, horses, tanks, trucks, everything mess up altogether. And I had to leave my tanks because I couldn’t go through it. And we went another quarter of a kilometer, I found that was, somebody yelled there, say, “Oh, here they are.” I come there and they’re sitting. Mind you, that was heat around 80 degree and flies all the way around. And they’re sitting, everyone took shirt off and cover their feet from flies and so on. So we grab those people, wounded, and I notice the first time how those two Polish soldiers and the good thing those two Polish soldiers could talk German. And they start talking and hug each other. He was telling, he says, “Those poor Germans, farmers too, they were just waiting to surrender.”