Veteran Stories:
Frederick Woodcock

Army

  • The Memory Project, Historica Canada
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"We had been hit, it’s the old story, you never hear the one that gets you, there was absolutely no indication and to those who did not survive, it was instantaneous death, no suffering. And I can only now go on to describe my feelings and after that the story as pieced together by others."

Transcript

We had been hit, it’s the old story, you never hear the one that gets you, there was absolutely no indication and to those who did not survive, it was instantaneous death, no suffering. And I can only now go on to describe my feelings and after that the story as be pieced together by others who observed the landing craft. I came to with just my face above water because my head was jammed up in the angle of that half inch rod that held the portside decking, it was that that kept my face above water, I don’t think I had been unconscious for very long, but who knows.

There was absolutely no feeling in any part of my body, conscious is perhaps the wrong description perhaps partially conscious or semi-conscious, there was a god awful noise started in my ears both of which turned out later to be burst by the explosion, I wanted my hand to reach out and do something like touch my face because I couldn’t see, but nothing happened. And it seemed like and undeterminable time later that you realise that something was touching your face, and that something gradually dawned into your consciousness that it was your own hand, still no feeling in your fingers or face. However, there must have been a slight sense of feeling otherwise you wouldn’t have realised that that peculiar feeling was your hand touching your face. And as the feeling gradually returned, I naturally wanted to see, the world was blacked out, most of the noise was gone, it was just a sound that was way away in the distance somewhere like a long distance phone call that is a poor connection. But my groping fingers became more accustomed to touch and I reached up to my eyes and discovered that my right eye was hanging out on my cheek.

That brought me pretty sharply out of a questionable period in my mind, we’ve got to get out of here, self-preservation takes over, again I was splashing water in my face trying to see.  And I have never told this before but it was during that early part when I had no feeling no feeling whatsoever, in my hands or my body, only the realisation that my face was above water, I realised it was water lapping at my chin. There was movement on my lap, that’s why I feel there was not so great a lapse of time between the projectile hitting us and the return of my partial consciousness. I hate to say it now, but I thought about it and it bothered me and bothered me and bothered me later in the prison camp to think, that had I been conscious I might have pulled whoever that was across my lap, moving , up above water. But it’s stupid to even think of it, or suggest it at this juncture.

Having realised that I have to get out of here, the craft was resting on bottom by that stage, so I started to get out of my web equipment, and discovered that my right arm wouldn’t work at all, it turned out later that my right shoulder had been completely smashed, the bone all smashed to pieces. So with one hand I got out of my web equipment, I got out of my battle tunic, because there were grenades and things in the pockets of it, and I started to blow up the Mae West, which was just that, a car tube around your waist with a mouth piece, a tube and a mouthpiece that you blew on. And I was blowing on that, and blowing on that, only partially conscious until I realised that the water had receded from my head thrown back up in that right angled brace, to lapping at my lap, that would be a distance of at least two feet, we had gone in at high tide, so the tide had receded and left landing craft fairly shallow in the water. I wasn’t getting anywhere with the Mae West, because I think it must have been as full of holes as I was. Because I am to this day filled with all kinds of shrapnel. But after it had receded down past my lap and was down, someone came into the landing craft, and it’s at about this stage of that game that I think I must have passed out.

To this day I haven’t been able to find out who it was, but the battle was still going on, it wasn’t the Padre and it wasn’t Al Comfort, whoever it was bandaged my head and bandaged my shoulder, so it must have been one of our first aide gang, Jones or someone. Then they turned to leave me and I’ve never said this before, I suddenly realised I was so thankful that someone other than myself was alive, I suppose, still partially conscious when he started to go, I yelled “don’t leave me Jimmy” and I remember he replied “I have to, there are a lot of others who need my attention” so I clamped my mouth shut.

 

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