Veteran Stories:
Bob Phair

Army

  • Bob Phar, November 2009.

    Historica Canada
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"The shell landed in the hole on top of the five guys. And then I was only halfway down when I was hit. From then on, it was just trying to get better."

Transcript

My duty was in the [Royal Canadian Army] Service Corps, we delivered ammunition to the front, mostly we picked it up at a dump behind and then brought it up to the front. I went into an invasion in Sicily and I was wounded on the, the 28th of May, that year was 1944 actually, yeah. And I went in the hospital and I was in the hospital all summer until September. I have a shrapnel in my liver. It is still there.

But I was in a section of ten and I was the corporal. And then when we went, I used to take my section and we go. Our trucks was usually loaded all the time and there was a lot of 25 pounder ammunition used there in the guns of field artillery. And it was loaded. We used to sleep on that. But we were in range of the guns, but our guns kept them down pretty good.

There was no such a thing really as a shift. You went when they called you. One night, about 10:00 at night, the sky was red from shells and I wondered what was going on and I just got in, crawled in under the blankets and the sergeant tapped on the side of the truck and he said, “Corporal, wake up.” I said, “What do you want?” He said, “The 5th Division went in a little too far and they’re going to shell the Germans long enough that they can get out. They’ve got to put their lights on to get back out in the dark. So they want 75 loads of 25 pounder.” So I said, “Well alright, we haven’t got 75 trucks here.” I said, “We’ll get the others from B Section.” So I just went onto the road and told them, “Pick up a load of ammunition, come back where they were and then park and I’d be back in to distribute them.”

So we sent it out, there was a dispatcher for every place they wanted. They wanted so many loads at each spot. When I got down to the end, there was ten loads and I said, “I’ll go with that one.” So, that’s right, it was the last and I think it was 2:30 in the morning, we’re all home in bed after we had delivered our 75 loads and we’ll be back in bed at 2:30.

And in our unit, we had one man there, a young French fellow, very short fellow and he had been shell shocked. So they sent him to our unit and our major told him that he could come to him any time he wanted. That he, if he figured he wasn’t used right. So he was quite a little guy. He was a nice guy. We, we got along fine. The last night I was there before I was wounded, we were getting an awful shelling. The sky was covered and Bill Clark and I was under the truck to get away from the flak. And we could hear Frenchie going, swearing, , “Maudite, maudite!” And Bill asked Frenchie “What’s wrong with you?” He says, “I go to someplace where I do not catch the bomb.” So Bill says, “Well, get in here.” So the three of us in a slit trench, under the truck. So that’s where we stayed for the night.

But the next day on our trip, they told us where we were going. They said, “We’re not going to stop, there’ll be guns on the mountains shooting or the hills, but we’re going to go straight through to Rome.” That was the 28th of May and 4:00 in the afternoon. I got hungry. I had eaten an old piece of bread that was on the floor for the week and some kippered herring. I just got settled when the shelling started. There was a guy went by from the 5th Division, he went past the crossroads at Soprano [Italy] and then stopped to read the map. I was right on the crossroad. I dove out of the truck, to a big hole in the side of the road from shelling before, it was five guys in it, and were full. So I just started to go straight down. The shell landed in the hole on top of the five guys. And then I was only halfway down when I was hit. From then on, it was just trying to get better.

I was in the hospital from the 28th of May to the September. And they didn’t want me to get out then, but I wanted to. Couldn’t even fasten my pants at the bottom, I had a punctured lung. So anyway, when they called me on the parade square, I drug all my equipment and the sergeant had me arrested. I went to a doctor. The doctor didn’t have my papers yet from the hospital, so he got me released until 10:00 the next morning. He had my papers after 10:00. He gave me a letter I’m not supposed to walk fast or anything, so I spent a great summer. But eventually, they interviewed a bunch of P4 Category [class of military transport vehicles] to come home. And I landed in Halifax Christmas Day of 1944. Went on then, discharged in Winnipeg at February the 6th.

But what I hated most is being in a landing barge, way up in the front and heading for the shore. That was quite a thing. Another funny story. We landed in Sicily. There was a little tag in the bottom of your steering wheel and there was a moose in mine. So when I drove onto the shore, there was a guy there, he said, “What’s on that bottom of your steering wheel?” I said, “Moose. That’s your area, you go there, follow that road.” And you sat in your area until the, you got, they knew were you were. And got kind of tiresome the second day and my pal there, Jerry, decided well, “Let’s see if we can get a drink of wine.” There was on building behind us. Why don’t we trade for wine? And we didn’t want to trade no food because we didn’t know if we were going to eat anymore. There was an army mule stayed right with us in the yard. He must have been loaded off a ship because it had the stamp on it. So he said, “Let’s trade that mule.” We couldn’t catch the mule, so we herded the mule back in this guy’s yard and asked for the vino.[He said,] “No, no.” Then we pointed at the mule and I had the pail and chased him off to him. [He said,] “Oh, oh, oh.” He first of all took a long chunk of rope, him and his boy, he went in front of the mule, caught the mule, tied him up and then they filled the pale with wine. So away we went. I don’t know how long he kept the mule but it was a dandy big mule.

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