"And we arrived in Normandy and Hill 195, was probably a very important objective because it was one of the higher features of Normandy."
I think I’m a pretty good Maritimer or Atlantic Canadian, because I was born in Newfoundland, in Herring Neck. I grew up in Kentville and my civilian work took me to PEI. And from PEI, I was transferred with my company to Moncton. And I’ve been there 55 years since. So I’m a true Maritimer.
Well, went and paraded and said, we want to go overseas and that was in August and in November, we were in Debert [Nova Scotia], doing some training and then from there, we went to England. That was all in 1943.
We went over on the [SS] Mauritania and it had been built in the early 1930s. And there were probably 8,000 aboard and we were escorted out for a day and then we went on our own, with no escort. And the interesting thing about this is that during the day, we were allowed out on the deck and the boat was zigzagging all the way across. But at night, they closed down and nobody out on the decks. And they opened up the engines and the boat would just shake and they’d go straight. So they could really make time.
We went over in five days, you know. As we were loaded off of the ship, the train was waiting and we were heading for Aldershot, England, down south. I was allocated to Aldershot, I was at Crookham Crossroads. And this was the Maritime holding unit. And I had indicated that I would probably be going with the North Nova Scotia Highlanders. And Crookham Crossroads was a, a camp that was a holding unit and from there, they dispersed you to the various units in … It wasn’t that good a camp and it was a transient camp so therefore, it wasn’t structured. The minute that you got on orders, you saw your name, you were on draft. And you appeared on parade and if they didn’t call your name, you were still on draft. If they called your name, it was that you didn’t have some of the administrative work done, like you might need a vaccination or a needle or something, you haven’t got your will completed and so on. So, if they didn’t call your name, you were still on draft.
And on Sunday, now, my name wasn’t called and they loaded us on a truck, about 100 [of us] from there, and took us into Aldershot about five miles away, unloaded us, stood us up. From here to the right, Argyll and Sutherland [Highlanders]. From here to the right, Lincoln and Welland [Regiment] and I stood there and I became an Algonquin and that’s how I chose my regiment.
Now, the same trucks that brought us into Aldershot took a hundred Ontario guys out to the Maritime holding unit. And what was happening was that their experience after Dieppe was that the regiments were all county regiments, the infantry and any time a regiment got into action, all the casualties were for one little segment of the country. So they wanted to mix these units up and so that, to spread all this bad news over the country.
We went to Normandy and we were the 4th [Canadian] Armoured Division and we were a little late getting, it was July before we got to Normandy but we were waiting for the breakthrough. Because we were an armoured regiment with tanks and so on and right at that time, the bridgehead wasn’t, didn’t have that much room to take all this hardware. So we had to wait. And we arrived in Normandy and Hill 195 was probably a very important objective because it was one of the higher features of Normandy and you could almost tell where the [English] Channel was, you could almost see it from there. And I got wounded about 8:30 at night and from thereon in, I was evacuated back to England.
The 6th General Hospital, which was Canadian, was full. So I ended up at the 101st British in Bayeux. And I must say, I became the star boarder because I was in with a bunch of German prisoners. And all of a sudden they - and it was a Northern Ireland Hospital - realized that they had a Canadian there, and I became the star boarder, really. Couldn’t do enough for me. And they were apologizing that I, they thought I was a prisoner or a German.
We knew it was going to happen and all of a sudden, it did happen and the CO [Commanding Officer] of the camp we were at - Leatherhead, just outside of London - they put everybody on parade and said, you’ve got a 48-hour pass. But they didn’t pay us. So anyway, a friend of mine by the name of McPhail, we searched through our kit bag to see what we had and we had razorblades and little stuffs and so on, so we went to the Pub on the Rising Sun at Leatherhead and set the stuff up on the table. And of course, all the natives were coming in and they were happy that the war was over and so on. And we sold razorblades and whatever, you know. We got enough money to go to London.