"It was no picnic, I’ll tell you. Anyone that says they weren’t afraid is a liar or he wasn’t there."
I enlisted in London [Ontario] on the 16 April 1940, and I was 16 years old. Well, I was six foot two, 217 pounds. I didn’t look 16; I looked 20. Well, my brother enlisted six months before that, so he, my dad and family knew that I was going to go anyhow, so my dad just said to me, “You make your bed you lie in it.”
We sat in England there from 1940 to 1944, training all the time. Well actually, we were in light ack-ack [anti-aircraft guns]. We were there during the Blitz,* we didn’t leave England till after the Blitz, so we were firing Bofors 40 mm anti-aircraft guns.** So we were, we could say we were in the war all the way through.
The last place I remember being in the light ack-ack was Walton-on-the-Naze [England]. That’s ‘Walton-on-the-Nose.’ We were on the gun sites there. We got two planes that searched there. We were there about a month, on the ‘wall-on-the-naze.’ And we moved all over England, I can tell you, moved all over England, training here and there, or any place that they needed ack-acks, and we there.
And we landed on D-Day, the second wave, which was what 10:30 in the morning, and we headed up from Bény-sur-Mer [Normandy, France], that’s where we landed at Bény-sur-Mer, and we went up to four or five miles to a field where we were dug in to the field. And that night we dug in, on the field across the road from us, the Maisonneuves [Le Régiment de Maisonneuve] were in there, and some stupid bugger lit a cigarette, and he got bombed. They wiped out the whole doggone company out there.
It was no picnic, I’ll tell you. Anyone that says they weren’t afraid is a liar or he wasn’t there. But… I come out, through alright. I was lucky, very lucky. And I can tell you right up to Caen [Normandy, France] and then, just before the Falaise Gap,*** we got bombed by the British and we got bombed by the Americans, and we got bombed by our own plane. We were running around in the field putting out the incendiary bombs and then they’d start dropping heavy bombs. And I can remember that the morning after the bombing, that was just before the Falaise Gap, I remember from the next morning I went out of the slit trench, and I seen this big bomb dug in the dirt down there, thinking, “Oh, it’s a dud.” So three or four of us, we all went over there, to see, to look at the bomb, it was a 500 pounder, and we were in eight feet of it when it blew, but none of us got hurt.
We were coming up to Antwerp [Belgium], and we were cutting through a field, cutting back, there was a road which was just like a, you went one way and caught it the other way. We got to this farmhouse and there was a funeral going on there. And the priest, he spoke English, so we asked what went on. He says they were burying a little 12-year- old girl because the Germans, she had seen us coming around the other bend way down, it was about four miles, she seen us coming around the bend, so she said to the Germans, “You’re afraid now,” she said, “The Tommies**** are coming.” She didn’t know it was Canadians because we were dressed the same. She said, “The Tommies are coming,” so he shot her.
Don’t think we weren’t scared either, we were, but, you understand, you overcome it. Actually you really weren’t scared during the battle. It was right afterwards, when you stopped to think, and, boy, you shake like a leaf. During the battle you didn’t think, you know, you just fought and that was it, and when you stopped, that’s when you start shaking because then you realize what could have happened.
* The Blitz was the sustained German bombing of targets across the United Kingdom, particularly major cities, from September 1940 until May 1941.
** The Bofors 40 mm gun was a highly functional light anti-aircraft weapon, and was especially impressive when used against low-flying aircraft.
*** The area around the town of Falaise was the point of meeting for British, Canada, Polish and American forces converging to cut off German troops in August 1944.
**** “Tommy” was centuries-old nickname for British soldiers.