Veteran Stories:
Jack Clifford McFarland

Army

  • Jack McFarland of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry in 1967.

    Jack McFarland
  • Jack McFarland's service medals.

    Jack McFarland
  • Jack McFarland in England, 1940.

    Jack McFarland
  • The menu from the M.S. Gripsholm, the hospital ship that brought Mr McFarland home after the war.

    Jack McFarland
  • The telegram that Jack McFarland's mother received advising her of her son's location as a POW.

    Jack McFarland
Enlarge Image
Listen to this story

"And the Germans come down, come from nowhere. Where they all come from, I don’t know. But all of a sudden, the beach was just loaded with them and they took us prisoner."

Transcript

We were so confident that our intelligence was correct. Intelligence told us that we, the only defenders were a bunch of old German soldiers that, almost like home guard. We had no idea we were facing people that had just come back from Russia.

We had a good trip across the [English] Channel. We had good escorts and minesweepers, so we had no problem crossing the Channel. We had no trouble getting off the mother ship into the assault crafts. We climbed down the rope ladders into the assault craft and took off. And it was a nice bright morning. I imagine we were about 10 miles offshore, to save the noise from the mother ships and this, keep them off the radar.

So as we approached the coast, it was pretty light. We could see aircraft over the city of, the town of Dieppe. So it was pretty light when we touched down. And we were under heavy fire; I would say anti-tank guns that were knocking out the landing craft. One boat about two boats over from where I was got hit head-on before we touched down. I don’t think anybody survived that. Landing craft will sit low in the water and the centre part is open from the motor right to the bow where the door is that goes down. I was in the centre aisle, there was three aisles, I was in the centre one. When I got off the boat, I jumped over two guys that were already hit. Now, I don’t know whether they were dead or what but they were down on the ground anyhow.

And I had taken, because one of the fellows in the platoon asked me to take the Bangalore torpedo to help blow the wire, because he was a little smaller than I was. So I took it and I had to go down, I had to go to ground because the corporal had the other half of the Bangalore and I had to wait until he was in the position and called me. And he set the Bangalore off, we put it together, he set it off to make a hole in the wire. The bunch I was with, we were told to head for the casino and try to get over the wall before you get to the casino. The casino wasn’t our objective, so we looked out and it was a gun post, the Germans had a gun post to the, I guess the west of the casino. And it was knocked out and we took over that. Every time you tried to get over the wall, you had a casualty. And this was mounting terribly.

We were to the left of the casino going in and we never got past there. Well, we just tried to pick off the Germans we could see. From our vantage point, we couldn’t see many. Just kept our heads down more or less and wait it out. And then they said that everybody, the evacuation had started, it was about 2:00 I guess, 1:30 or 2:00, around that time. And we headed for the beach. I saw one of our officers had been wounded and my buddy and I, he got a stretcher and I got a smoke bomb and we put that between, the smoke bomb between us and the Germans and put him on a stretcher and took him down to the beach. Some of the fellows were risking their lives putting these wounded people on the assault craft to take them back. So we handed them over to them because they had it organized. And he got back fortunately, but he was a paraplegic the rest of his life.

And then I went down the beach further where the Tank Landing Craft was beached. It was on fire. And I got onto an assault craft there and got back, started back and sitting on the motor part, there was four of us sitting there, three of us got hit, one dead and the other wounded. And I thought that it had blown my arm off so I left the craft and went back onshore. Well, I didn’t think I should head back to England. Then another guy and I set up a Bren gun and tried to keep the Germans off the beach while the other guys were taking, going out on the assault craft. He loaded it and I fired it left-handed. Eventually, an officer or somebody grabbed a, it seemed to me it was a German airman that had parachuted down and was in our midst and got them to raise a white undershirt. And the Germans come down, come from nowhere. Where they all come from, I don’t know. But all of a sudden, the beach was just loaded with them and they took us prisoner.

We were taken to a first field dressing and I think the ladies that were there, I think they were German air force medics, nobody introduced them naturally but, and they gave us a tetanus shot. I thought they were doing bayonet practice, they put a long needle right through our clothing into our stomach and gave us a shot of tetanus, anti-tetanus I guess. I hadn’t been bandaged or anything yet. I didn’t get that until I got to Rouen. I was a month in Rouen and then, believe it or not, by a hospital train, to Landsdorf. I was then taken to Lazarett, which is the hospital in the prison camp and I was there for several weeks. They treated me there. I had no complaints. A British doctor once told me, he said, you must have had a darned good German doctor, he said, or I would have taken that arm off the minute I saw it.

Follow us