Veteran Stories:
William James “Bill” Miller

Army

  • Bill Miller, November 9, 2009.

    Historica Canada
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"Some of the Germans were trying to turn themselves in and we just kept saying, “Go back, go back, go back farther, you’ll meet somebody back there.” Because they were just walking and they had their arms and everything"

Transcript

From basic training, went to Kingston [Ontario] as I was in the Signal Corps. I hadn’t really decided on what I wanted to do, but ended up being a truck driver because that was what they needed at the time. And because I had no background in signals that was where they placed me. I was there until, joined up in March of 1943 and I was in Kingston until October of 1943, it was time I went over to Europe. In June, at the time of the invasion, [1944] I was driving a three ton truck with a water trailer on the back of it and we had to take them down to the East India docks, where we loaded onto an LST [Tank Landing Ship]. The LST went from there out the Thames [river], where we hit a big storm in the North Sea and around back to Portsmouth [England] and we stayed there and I think it took us about seven days actually to get over to France. We landed on the 16th of June, ten days after D-Day. With our trucks being waterproofed, we were supposed to land in the water, but fortunately, the tide was out and we managed to land on dry land. But this meant that we had to pull our trucks off and de-waterproof them because they wouldn’t run very far if you didn’t. But unfortunately, the rest of the unit got off at the same time and they took off and left us there. We didn’t know where we were going. So I asked the Provo at that time, “Where the heck is our unit?” So he said, “Where is it?” In the end, I had to tell him who we were, which you weren’t supposed to do, but he looked up his list, he said, “Yeah, but you’re not supposed to be here for three months!” He said, “There’s only one road,” so he says, “take it.” So I took the road and went up that road and I drove for quite some time. We got outside of Bayeux [France] when a Provo [Provost or military police] stopped me again, he says, “Where are you going?” I said, “I’m looking for my unit.” He says, “Is it German?” I said, “No.” He said, “Well, it’s not there.” He said, “You’d better turn around and go back.” (laughing) So I had to turn around and go back and eventually I seen one of our vehicles and we stopped them and we were only about a mile from the beach, but we’d driven about 15 miles to start with. So, but we were there, then we camped there at a little place called Amblie. We camped there until after the [battle of] Falaise Gap. We stayed there for quite some time actually. We shouldn’t have been there for three months because it was another three months before we moved again. But at that time, we moved through France and then we were moving so fast, I don’t even recall much of France. Then we went to Antwerp [Belgium] and at Antwerp, we started getting the V-2 bombs come over. So they, and my chore at that time, besides taking men around, I used to take the men back and forth to work because everything was done by remote control. So I had to take them into where they worked and the wireless vehicles were somewhere else. But at that time, when the V-2s started coming down, we had to pick up anything that was left of the V-2 bomb. And one landed just shortly across the road from us. It didn’t do very much damage fortunately, but it did land over there and broke all the windows out of our house. But other than that, it was, nobody was ever injured or anything. I used to drive them back and forth to work because with the Sigs [Signal Corps], with our unit that we were with, we were meeting wireless again and with that unit, the trucks where our camp was, the wireless vehicles with their wireless section were there but the men worked at a distant sight, farther away. Because Army Headquarters didn’t want them sitting there with the radio sets, which can be followed in, they can follow a beam in on the aircraft with. So they were at a remote site. So every day, they had three ships and I used to have to drive the ships. I’d pick them up in the morning and drive them to work and then pick them up at 4:00 in the afternoon, drive them to work and drive them home sort of thing. So that’s the way it went all the time. And that was basically the job I had. Plus, supplying water to everybody around. I had a big water trailer on the back of my truck and I used to have to drive to the various units that we had around the area and supply them with water. I went over on the [RMS] Aquitania. We left from Halifax, we landed in Greenock in Scotland. It was pretty uneventful. We went down to Bermuda, then back up to Greenland and then across to Greenock. So we sweated one day and froze the next sort of thing. But it was seven days, we were on the boat for seven days. It was an old ship. That ship still had the, the carvings on the railings from the First World War, the people went over during the First World War had carved their initials in the railings and they were still there. During the wartime, it was a job that had to be done and this, basically, I was the driver. We were far enough behind that, other than the V-bombs that came over, the V-1s and V-2s, we really didn’t see very much of it. We didn’t, going through, I can remember going through France, that we went so fast that some of the Germans were trying to turn themselves in and we just kept saying, “Go back, go back, go back farther, you’ll meet somebody back there.” Because they were just walking and they had their arms and everything, but nobody worried about them.
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