Veteran Stories:
Theodore Jack Bennett

Army

  • Theodore Bennett in uniform. Kingston, Ontario, 1940.

    Theodore Bennett
  • Green Beach, Pourville, France. Theodore Bennett landed at this beach on 19 August 1942.

    Theodore Bennett
  • Green Beach, Pourville, France. Theodore Bennett landed at this beach on 19 August 1942.

    Theodore Bennett
  • Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery, Hautot-sur-Mer, France

    Theodore Bennett
  • Photo from Stalag 8B. Theodore Bennett is top row, third from the left.

    Theodore Bennett
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"Whack! And he shot my antenna off right here, above my ear. "

Transcript

We were supposed to come into Pourville beach, Green Beach. There was a river down there, a bridge across the river, the River Scie. And they landed us, the navy landed us all on the wrong side of the river and it was supposed to be a 50-50 split. And that's where the thing was, that we couldn't get across the river, we couldn't get across the bridge.

It's the unknown. It's the unknown. Sure, you're scared. But you know it's got to be done, discipline, that kind of stuff. But inside you're scared.

And we got in and we landed and ran right up the beach. And that's slogging in those doggone stones, we got to the far wall. And fire was opened up against us and over the far wall, and we were told to get up into the town. And we got up and there was a spot that was vacant. I'd say it was used to be a garden, but there was just grass and that, and they set up headquarters there.

It's just gleaming light and I ran up that beach, right up to the wall, before the first shots were fired. Then they started being fired. But we got up and we got inside, and we were at regimental headquarters. And we're squatted down and I'm trying to get headquarters to get sent, but couldn't get anything. And suddenly, wham! And the next thing I know I'm laying on my back, I got dirt all over me, and there's cries, and just cries and groans and moans and everything else.

And I looked at Henderson. He was there and he's down on his face with a pool of blood under his face about darn near as big as a dinner plate. I said, "Where are you hit?" He said, "In the face, in the eye." And I looked over at Keith Marsh and he was lying back on the [radio] set and he coughed once and coughed up blood, so I knew he was in trouble. So I went to him [Henderson] first because Henderson was able to talk and – he [Marsh] was dead. Four feet away. And Henderson and I got out my dressing, which I wasn't supposed to do, but he's lying down on his on his face, so I got out my first field dressing and I gave it to him, and he said, "Are you in communication?" And I said, "No." He said, "I'll put this on myself, you get into communication."

Well, there's an officer behind me, what is he called? Anyway, the different regiments had an officer that they worked together, type of thing, they had to do. And, anyway, I turned there and I said, "Where are you hit, sir?" He said, "In the back." I said, "I'll turn you over, I'll see what I can do." And he said, "Don't touch me, I can't feel my legs and my back’s broken, I think. Call for a stretcher bearer." So I start yelling, "Stretcher bearer! Stretcher bearer!”

And looked around and I found the piece of my antenna that had been sheared off. It was this, it was right in front here and it was sheared off there. And I pulled the old piece out and I took the thing off and I had a couple of spares, and I got it working again. But still nothing from headquarters at all.

Henderson, bleeding, he put the thing on and the thing was - I said, "Jeez, you don't seem to be bleeding much." And he said, "Oh, just leave it, just leave it." He said, "Do you want to go?" And I said, thinking to myself, “Well, how do I work two wireless sets?” Because there's no other man.

And anyway, just then Colonel Merritt came along and looked around and he said, "We've got to separate you guys." And he said to Henderson, "Can you still work a set?" and Henderson said, "Yes, sir. I can work the set." And he said, "You, Sigs,* you come with me." That's when I started to follow him around.

And we got to one place, there, and he said, "We've got to get across that bridge. You stay here." Thank God. I think I'm here today because he told me to stay there. He went out and he went on that bridge and tried to get guys across, and by God the boys were trying and just a slaughter. Just a slaughter.

And he came back and we got the news that The [Queen’s Own] Cameron Highlanders [of Canada] couldn't complete their thing because there were no tanks, and they were coming back to us. So Colonel Merritt gave orders, "We'll hold the perimetre of the town until they get back." And that's what we did, and we were going along from place to place. And then the Camerons came through us and then Merritt started to yell, "Every man for himself! Pass it on – every many for himself! Get back to the beach! Not you Sigs, stay with me."

So Henderson and I stayed with him and he had two guys, body guards, and we worked our way slowly back to the beach. We crossed the beach. It was funny thing, there were some houses. There were about six of them, but they were all joined together and in-between their front lawns were stone walls. And we got in there and then there was the road, and then there was the seawall down to the beach.

And there was a sniper up the east way from us. You could hear the guys calling, "Can you see him? Where is he?” And they couldn't see him and that, and Colonel Merritt said to me, "Are you in communication?" I said, "I can't get a thing, sir." He said, "Get out in the open and try." Now, the only open was the road. And it's funny how your mind goes. I figured sure I was going to get shot and I thought I'm not going to get shot in the back. I turned and faced the direction where the sniper was, and I had time to press the button and say, "Hello Southam, hello." Whack! And he shot my antenna off right here, above my ear. And I flopped, grabbed the broken thing and went and said to, I guess I looked stupid, but I said to Merritt, "I couldn't get through." He gave me a big smile and says, "Nice try Sigs, close it down." So we closed it down.

So he said, "We'll wait until everybody's over and then we'll go." And he wouldn't go back to the beach until they were no more guys running across that road. He wouldn't desert his men. And then he said, "Okay, this is it. Spread out, run like hell, get over the fire, the seawall." So away we went.

Well, I got this brand new wireless set and so I ran right down into the Channel and I was in about my waist and then I took the thing apart. Like it had, it was easy to get apart, threw the radio part over here, threw the battery pack in another direction, threw the microphone another way, and threw the earphones another way.

And just then a couple of landing craft came in and they weren't making it to the beach, but they were picking guys up. So I went swimming out and that was bad. You'd see a head beside you and it would go down, and a patch of red would come up. There's not a thing you could do. And anyway, I got about 15 feet from the blessed boat and I'm waving and yelling and they turned away. I had to come back. And I swam back and I was just about, I was beat. And I can remember staggering up the beach and there was water running out of a pipe. It must have been about two inches deep.

And the next thing I knew I went down. I know that. And the next thing I knew, I hear a voice say, "Don't try and give him any water, he's water-logged!" And I came around and I'm laying huddled right up beside a guy from the SSR. And I said, "Jeez, how did I get here?" He said, "I pulled you in," he said, "you were out like a light." So I thanked him very much. We were behind that rock. That dang rock had more bullets bounced off it than you could shake a stick at.

*”Sigs” is short form for Signals and referred to Bennett’s role

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