Veteran Stories:
John Cathie

Army

  • John Cathie's Certificate of Service, November 14, 1945.

    John Alexander Cathie
  • Permanent Force of Canda - Discharge Certificate of John Cathie, May 19, 1945.

    John Alexander Cathie
  • Sandhurst Graduation Class, Camberry, England, 1942. John Cathie is the first at left of second row.

    John Alexander Cathie
  • Photo of John Cathie at Sandhurst R.M.C, Camberry, England, 1942, used for his 85th birthday.

    John Alexander Cathie
  • John Cathie's Miniature Medals (L-R): 1939-45 Star; Italy Star; Defence Medal; Canadian Volunteer Service Medal; War Medal (1939-45); Queen's Medal.

    John Alexander Cathie
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"I was very lucky and I’m very glad, you know, it could have been a curtain call for me if I had been in a regular battle."

Transcript

After joining the PPCLI [Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry] in 1936, I was sent on the first troop ship to England during World War II, but we stayed in England for four years. I was training officers at the officers training unit. I was made regimental sergeant major headquarters of the Armoured Brigade in 1941. And then I was sent to the Royal Military College and became an officer cadet and joined the [King’s Own] Calgary Tank Regiment for overseas service. During 1943, I shipped out for Italy, landed in Sicily and with the 1st Canadian Division as a supervisory officer working out of brigade headquarters. I was doing reconnaissance or I’d do, take over a guard of an area, did whatever they gave me to do. Spent most of the time hanging about, trying to keep out of trouble. We went up the Catania coast during the time in Sicily, I faced only members of the Italian Army. And they were mostly just giving in and dropping their arms right as we approached, only too proud to be out of the war and go home. We crossed over to the mainland, we didn’t do an awful lot of contact work because the Germans was returning so fast that we spent most of the time just going up side roads to make sure they were out of there, and the Italian people were very happy that we had arrived because they weren’t too happy with the Germans.♠ We landed unopposed at the town of Reggio [di Calabria, Italy] in early September 1943. So I was given a scout car and told to get along the coast road as far as I could get and radio backup if I saw anything I thought was worthy of an air force bombing. I was about one day, I guess I was about one day behind them all the time. Between January and April of 1944, we were largely occupying with the business of holding our salient on the eastern coast of Italy near the town of Ortona. The Americans cleared Rome in the spring. We were facing the Gustav and Hitler line. And it was here that my war came to an end, west of Casino, near the Liri River. I was standing outside my tank one day and a random mortar bomb exploded not too far away and severely wounded my left leg. So I had my wound dressed and subsequently evacuated out of the fight and returned to Canada. I had been in combat almost continuously for just over ten months. I never fought in a major set piece battle, which was where you had forces facing each other in large numbers. Spent most of my time operating independently. I was very lucky and I’m very glad, you know, it could have been a curtain call for me if I had been in a regular battle. So you can imagine I’m glad that I’m still alive.
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