Veteran Stories:
Arthur L. Pottle

Army

  • Photo taken in April 1944 by an Italian photographer. Mr. Pottle was returning to the Anzio Beachhead after recovering from jaundice.

    Art Pottle
  • Mr. Pottle pictured with a mule used to transport ammunition and food in Southern France, 1944.

    Art Pottle
  • A German mini stove found on Monte Majo, Italy in December of 1944. Small tablets were required to be placed in the centre and lit on fire to be used for cooking.

    Art Pottle
  • Mr. Pottle picked up this .50 mm Italian bullet on the Anzio Beachhead in 1944.

    Art Pottle
  • A piece of shrapnel from a German 88mm shell. Mr. Pottle found this on the West Bank of the Mussolini Canal on the Anzio Beachhead in 1944. He kept this artefact as a personal reminder of how fortunate he was never to have been hit by a piece of shrapnel.

    Art Pottle
Enlarge Image
Listen to this story

"We went back to base camp for just a short stay and then we, the 3rd Regiment, led the capture of [Monte] Majo which was on the right side of the entrance to the Liri Valley."

Transcript

I’m Arthur L. Pottle and I was born October 6th, 1920. I grew up in what is called, mostly the east end of Saint John [New Brunswick]. My dad said, “Get in the artillery because they don’t have to march too much, like the infantry”. So I got in the artillery; I thought I was getting into an anti-tank unit that was based in St. Stephen, New Brunswick, and they were just about ready to go overseas. My next door neighbor was serving in it. But when we got processed at our armouries, their contingent was full, so about 20 of us were shipped out to Partridge Island to serve with the 3rd (NB) Coast Regiment, 15th Heavy Battery, Royal Canadian Artillery. I served out there on the guns and then I became a range finder and I also had a short stay at Fort Dufferin on the mainland for a while. And that’s where I met my wife-to-be.

And North Africa had been captured by the time we [First Special Service Force] got there in October of 1943. We were in a camp outside of Casablanca [Morocco] for a while and then we were shipped by train the old fashioned way in what my father had been transported in [in the First World War], boxcars normally called 40 and eights. Forty and eights. Forty hommes or eight chevaux. In other words, 40 men or eight horses. They were pretty shaky old boxcars of the French design. Of course, France looked after Morocco at that time.

So I didn’t realize that things go in circles. And here my dad and my grandfather had known these 40 and eights and there we were using them in World War II. Anyway, we shipped from Casablanca to Oran [Algeria] and then we were shipped to Naples [Italy] by Liberty ship and then we were in our base camp at Santa Maria Capua, near the famous ancient university town called Capua, north of Naples about 50 miles or so.

And there we did some more training and the first week of December, we saw our first action [depicted] in the famous movie, The Devil’s Brigade [1968] that showed us capturing Monte la Difensa. Our unit was made up of three regiments, 600 men in each regiment with two battalions. Each battalion had three companies of 120-odd men. And our regiment, the 3rd Regiment, was in reserve on that first action. And we were put to work running supplies by pack; water, ammunition, food, etc., and up to the top of the mountain and bringing down our wounded.

We went back to base camp for just a short stay and then we, the 3rd Regiment, led the capture of [Monte] Majo which was on the right side of the entrance to the Liri Valley. And we were up there a little over a month and a lot of our men not only were lost by action but also with the trench feet. Couldn’t dig into the ground for a foxhole, you had to make foxholes by rocking a wall around you, to protect you from mortar and shell fire.

We were told the best way to keep our feet healthy was to keep three pair of socks on the go. One, close, next to your skin, under your, under your shirt and underwear, on your chest and two pair on. And you rotated them. The pair that was on the inside went to the outside, the outside went to your chest to get dried and warm, and the pair that were on your chest, they went to the inside of your feet. And whenever you could, every day or two, you tried to do that when there was a lull in the action and you massaged your feet if you could as well. Fortunately, I kept my feet fairly healthy and I didn’t have the problem.

After Majo occurred, we were shipped down south of Salerno, a little place called Santa Maria de Castellabate, which had a nice beach and that’s when we trained with our rubber boats to lead the invasion of southern France by capturing a couple of islands [Ile du Levant and Port-Cros] off the coast which were supposed to have coastal guns that might threaten the ships that were going to go to the mainland. That invasion occurred August the 15th, 1944. And then we went on the mainland and from there, we pushed the Germans off out of that part of the southern part of France to the French-Italian border. We bypassed Antibes, Nice. They couldn’t get enough Canadian replacements because they were very short of, of infantry. They were given to the Canadian units in northwest Europe. At that time, Belgium and Holland. And they wouldn’t send any new Canadian reserves to us. So they broke us [The First Special Service Force] up.

The Canadians had to leave and the Americans went to various units and one group formed the unit that went to Norway after Germany capitulated to preserve what was known as the heavy water plants up in Telemark province I think it is, of Norway, where the Germans were producing heavy water for their atomic experiments. That was the original idea for the unit, our Special Service Force, to drop into Norway by parachute and destroy the heavy water plants there.

The old hands that went overseas from the United States, from Fort Ethan Allen [Arlington, Vermont], were shipped to England to train all the men who were being taken away from their jobs as drivers, cooks, batmen [officers’ orderlies], office clerks, etc., to be infantry. Because they needed infantry in, as I said, Belgium and Holland. And we tried to train them to have enough infantry skills so that they wouldn’t get killed the first day or two they were in action on the continent. And we were in England when, at least the group that I was with, were in England when the war ceased.

Follow us