Maurice White in England at the end of the Second World War.Maurice White
Maurice with his brother Alec (left) in 1942.Maurice White
Maurice is pictured here after he transferred to the Canadian Provost Corps in 1945.Maurice White
A Christmas card that Maurice sent to his family while serving with the First Special Service Force in 1944.Maurice White
"As soon as I’d start to move they were shooting up flares and of course when a flare goes up, you got to take cover and lay still until the flare goes out. And that was very traumatizing. I actually said to my mother out loud, “Please mother, help me!”"
The First Special Service Force came around asking for volunteers, which I volunteered, mainly because it was a paratroop outfit. And the next day they come in with some vehicles to pick up to take us down to Montana. When they called my name I proceeded to get on the truck and they said, “No sir, you better step back until you’re old enough.” So that was the end of that at that time. But eventually going overseas with reinforcements for the Loyal Edmonton Regiment, I went to Sicily and Italy, all the way through past Ortona. And then May 1944 we went out for R & R [Rest and Relaxation] where I contracted – I ended up with malaria and ended in the hospital for approximately a week I think. And while waiting to go back to my regiment, the First Special Service Force came around asking for volunteers again, which I re-volunteered with the knowledge that we may have to jump without training if necessary. And they paid us paratroop jump pay and I spent six months the First Special Service Force and then when they broke up I went back to the Loyal Edmonton Regiment in Northern Italy.
We were going through the town of Leonforte [Sicily]. Of course it was night, everything was dark, you can’t see very far and we actually ended up by a railway station. And our objective was to take the hill on the right-hand side of the town. And we come up against this wall that was part of the railway station property and I believe it was Lieutenant Swan and I, went up this wall to try and find a hole in the wall where the rest of the company could go up to our objective. We got down to the end of it and the officer asked me, he said, “You stay here and I’ll go back and see if I can find another spot and I’ll come back and get you.” Well he didn’t come back and get me. By the time the Germans, I could hear them whispering, they were that close. They were getting prepared to counter-attack. So I thought I better move out of there. And as soon as I’d start to move they were shooting up flares and of course when a flare goes up, you got to take cover and lay still until the flare goes out. And that was very traumatizing. I actually said to my mother out loud, “Please mother, help me!” Well you do these things. I’m sure every solider has probably done the same thing or almost similar type of things.
Well Ortona – and I know you know the history of it. We went through the town by blowing holes through from one room to the next. The streets were all filled with rubble almost as high as the houses. So that was our means of getting through and I believe that a lot of our soldiers with the Loyal Edmonton Regiment were farmers, farm boys. And a farm boy never gets hung up on anything and they always find a way out. This was our way of going about capturing Ortona, was to go through from room to room. You’d blow a hole into a room. Generally that would kill or knock out most of the enemy that was in that room, but there would be the next room. There was always the next room.
[The Germans] were excellent soldiers. There’s no two ways about it. They’re very well trained and the younger ones, like the teenagers, and there were a lot of them, they were kind of fanatics. As a matter of fact in Ortona a German machine gun, on this pile of rubble in the middle of the street was shooting his machine gun – and his eyeballs. He’d got hit in the face and his eyeballs were hanging on his cheeks and one of our guys, Squires, he could speak German and he hollered at him. He says, “Why don’t you give up?” He says, “Come and get me, you sons of…” and he couldn’t see what he was doing. But that’s what they were like.
Our training actually was to do amphibious landings. And all of our training was in Southern Italy and always at night, so we were climbing steep mountains and it was so dark we couldn’t really tell how steep they were. Anyhow when the time come, my company went on the Isle of Port-Cros, we captured the Isle of Port-Cros. And we rode in – well to me it seemed like it was all night. When the destroyer cut us loose we rode into the Isle of Port-Cros and as we were approaching the island, I thought it was part of the island but actually it turned out to be a German destroyer. But when you just see the outline, because it was dark at night, but it didn’t interfere with our landing or anything. We walked – well it was not a very big island but you know we were creeping along very slowly all night and when daylight broke we were right at the foot of a big fort and that’s where we spent most of our next two or three days. I don’t recall how many days it was before we – before the Germans surrendered but from there we onto the mainland in Southern France.