Veteran Stories:
Robert Wigmore

Army

  • Infantrymen of The Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment in a Universal Carrier advancing on Nissoria, Italy, July 1943.

    Lieut. Jack H. Smith / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-114511 Restrictions on use: Nil Copyright: Expired
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"I was leading a two-man patrol and we were going through this little village and we came to a T in the road. Just as I went around the corner, a German came around the corner at the same time. And he recovered faster than I did and he ran at me with his bayonet and caught me."

Transcript

I was leading a two-man patrol and we were going through this little village and we came to a T in the road. Just as I went around the corner, a German came around the corner at the same time.  And he recovered faster than I did and he ran at me with his bayonet and caught me.  Being very well trained, I automatically went up and over him, you know, when I saw that bayonet coming at me.  And at the same time reached and grabbed his rifle and, but he managed to jab it in my leg as I went over him.  And so I rolled over and took the rifle out of his hands and he turn and ran.  There was another man with him and they both ran. I still had a hold of the rifle, pull the bayonet out of my leg, put a field dressing on, a shell dressing over it, wrapped my puttee around that to tighten it up good, and then we hobble back to our lines.

My buddy Andy Campbell later on, when I went back to regiment, they - he came over and he said, “Hey Bob, I got that bayonet that got you.”  And he reaches in his pack and he pulled this bayonet off a Mauser rifle out and showed it to me.  And so I still have it here.

The Indian Army was very good soldiers.  Well trained, they all had British officers and British senior NCOs,* sergeants. They were very close to their Indian troops, looked after each other very well.

We liked the Indians beside us because they weren't allowed to have any alcoholic beverages, but the British Army, they had an issue of beer – the Canadian Army was one bottle a month per man.  So, whenever we saw the Indians, we would go over and trade our tea for their beer.  So we were good friends with them that way.

When we started to get ready to move back to the Cassino [Italy] area, the Indian division was relieving us.  And that was their first time back into battle since they had been beaten up badly in North Africa.  So now they're back to full strength and they moved in to take over our positions. While they were moving their people in, our people were moving out –the way they do it we would move one platoon out and they would move one in. So we sort of leap frog each other, till they get all their people in place.

And to protect them, my officer and I had to take a 30-man patrol out in front to make sure the Germans didn't throw a surprise attack in.  And while we're out there, we – my officer was, he was an American, had joined the Canadian Army for experience, and quit drinking.  He got a little better experience, but I don't think he ever quit drinking.

Anyway, we were supposed to come in at 4 o'clock in the morning.  At 2 o'clock he wanted to come in and I was a sergeant then, and I kept telling him, we can't go in because on the route back in, we would be skylined, because of the ridge we had to go over.  And I said we can't go in until the time we were told to go in because our own people might think we were Germans, then fire on us.  So he kept insisting, and then finally 4 o'clock when we're supposed to go, about twenty to, I finally gave up and said, “Okay, we'll go in.”  And just as we came over the ridge, the Indians opened fire on us.  And killed one man of mine, he'd only been with us for three days. And he was killed.  His name was George Christie.  The burst hit him in the stomach and all I could hear him say is, “My stomach hurts. My stomach hurts.”  Then, a few minutes later, he was saying – called his mother, and then he died there.

*Non-commissioned officers

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