Veteran Stories:
Alfred Mountenay

Army

  • Corporal E.H. Pruner of The Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment, who carries both a PIAT anti-tank weapon and a Thompson sub-machine gun. Motta, Italy, 2 October 1943.

    Capt. Jack H. Smith / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-167299 Restrictions on use: Nil Copyright: Expired
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"We were going by feel. Because it was, it was in the night-black. You couldn't see nothing, so all you had to do was feel your way up. And I still don't know how we done it, but we did."

Transcript

I belonged to The Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment of the 1st Canadian [Infantry] Division.

Our colonel was dead and, the 2IC [second-in-command] was badly wounded,* but he managed to get back to brigade headquarters. Then our, our 2IC, he took over, he was just a young man named Lord Tweedsmuir,  John Tweedsmuir.** And he was a captain and then a major.*** He [Brigadier Howard Graham] said, “John,” he said, “for God's sake, don't go up to the front. Go up the mountain and down the road.” He says, “It's suicide.” So John makes a reconnaissance. He decided that, well, to advance to town, we would make a flanking movement to the right. And, he [Major Alex Campbell] asked for volunteers and about 60 or 80 of us volunteered to go.^

And he decided that we'd make a flank movement to the right and go around the town like them in the mountain like this, so we started out and we traveled all night, through there. And, we got right down to the back of the mountain, and there was, there was a great big ravine there at the bottom of the mountain.

So we had to go down and cross that and then the cliff was there and he said, “Ok, boys, up you go.” So we started climbing, climbing the cliff. And we managed to get to the top of it, just as dawn was breaking. And everything had to be real quiet, so the Germans wouldn't know we were there, because if they'd find out we were there, we'd never got out of there.

One of the officers that was with us on that forage, he had trained, it was in artillery before, so going up they carried this big radio up there. How they did it, I don't know, but they did it. And, the on top of the mountain, there was this big fancy telescope that the Germans had up there, because from the top of the mountain, you could see the whole countryside. The regular bird's eye view.

So he received with the radio, or telescope, he spotted where the German artillery was, he radioed back to our artillery and they opened up and it wasn't too long, they wiped the German artillery out. And then the fighting stopped. And then, the Germans decided to retreat.

To this day, I still don't know how we did it. And everybody, the people that were with us on the tour, they stood there, shook their head and said, “How the hell did you guys do that?” We were going by feel. Because it was, it was in the night-black. You couldn't see nothing, so all you had to do was feel your way up. And I still don't know how we done it, but we did.

I was lucky, I guess. All I got knocked out was by a mosquito.

We were all farmers and, and city guys, town guys. All our, all our  guys come from the farms around there and in Ontario - Hastings County, and Northumberland County and all that, that was all farm country. Everybody, everybody had a farm, farm there.

*Reference to the intelligence officer was the one wounded

**John Buchan, 2nd Baron Tweedsmuir

***Likely reference to Major Alex Campbell who led the attack on the cliffs at Assoro

^To scale the cliffs and occupy the hill where Assoro was situated

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