James Dewitt in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, October 2012.The Memory Project
"There was an attack coming and they blew the theater all to hell there and there was 27 Canadians killed in the theater. We spent all the night and next day looking after all of our crews. Didn't matter where you were, you all were helping, you know."
In 1939 in the spring, we were threshing and it was raining and I went into town and a friend of mine, we were standing on our heads beside the sidewalk fooling around. He wore glasses, he took them off and put them there and I reached out to grab them and I broke his glasses. So we had a fight and he said I had to pay for them. Just imagine, 2.75, because I broke the one. Anyway, still the weather was bad. He says to hell with it, let's go and join the army. Join up. So we did. So he had an uncle who was a colonel in Winnipeg [Manitoba], so he got us in right quick.
I was in England and I was involved in Dieppe [19 August 1942] but I didn't get there, but one of my buddies still is. I was an ambulance driver and we were hauling stuff to the coast for them. Then after that I drove ambulance with the No. 1 Motor Ambulance Convoy and I'd drive it in the dark all the time in England. Then afterwards I became a mechanic so then I was looking after, then I wound up looking after the other ones. Right at the end of the war, I was still with the [Royal Canadian] Army Service Corps but we went into the [Royal Canadian] Engineers right at the end.
That's when they had the V-1 [flying] bombs, they were starting to come. You didn't hear them till they – if you heard it, you were still alive. Stuff like that. In the middle of the night and stuff, you know. It's called East Grinstead [West Sussex, England], that was one of our headquarters. Anyway, this is another story. Where we were taken to our headquarters was right there. Lots of times we'd go to the shows and just then there was an attack coming and they blew the theater all to hell there and there was 27 Canadians killed in the theater. We spent all the night and next day looking after all of our crews. Didn't matter where you were, you all were helping, you know.
And we went to England and of course then you drive on the other side of the road. That was alright, we got away with that. But anyway, there's a laugh coming. So we wound up in Sicily [Italy] and I was hauling some ammunition this time and I come up to this corner and I was on the right side there, where I should be, and this big truck, American truck, come around and he was loaded with ammunition and he'd come from England, too, and of course he went to the wrong side of the road. I can still see him, he was a big dark guy. Golly, how lucky he was because I was on the right side and he was on, you know, and he just about hit me. I can still hear him. I wasn't alone in there and I won't tell you what all was said. But these are things you never forget.
It was quite a – I don't know how to explain it – but it was quite frightening going ashore there but then of course, they had already landed there some. Then we got there and then they put us on a – well, we walked about five miles and then they took us and put us on a train. We went and went and went and we wound up in a place called Palermo [Italy]. We had nothing so we had to wait there.
So it was about two weeks later when we got a couple of trucks. I was a driver then and we drove all the way back to Palermo and a whole bunch of our other equipment, that's where it come in so that's why we hauled a bunch up, everybody was bringing stuff back down and stuff like that.
Lots of times you would have had to pick them up, say at a field ambulance [mobile medical unit close to combat zone], and take them down to maybe not to a hospital, it'd be to a casualty clearing station [medical unit behind lines, out of enemy artillery range and close to transportation] or else to hospitals from there. There was field ambulances and lots of times we were just on the side of the road somewhere. You're going be picking up, but here you were. Something has happened and you were going to be going someplace else but there you wound up.