Veteran Stories:
Joseph Cornelius Sullivan

Army

  • Joseph Sullivan, England, 1942.

    Joseph Sullivan
  • Signal platoon at V-E Day in Emden, Germany, May 5, 1945. Joseph Sullivan is in rear row, first on right.

    Joseph Sullivan
  • The Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry Highlanders, in Leesten, The Netherlands, May 2005.

    Joseph Sullivan
  • Joseph Sullivan (in middle) with B. Willshaw and A. Mason at the Peterborough cenotaph, Ontario, November 11, 2005.

    Joseph Sullivan
  • Joseph Sullivan's cap badge with tartan swatch, and medals (L-R): 1939-45 Star; France and Germany Star; Defence Medal; Canadian Volunteer Service Medal; War Medal (1939-45).

    Joseph Sullivan
Enlarge Image
Listen to this story

"I may differ from a lot of people. A lot of people, they don’t want to talk about it or they think it’s lost time."

Transcript

In 1943, we received word that the 3rd Division, which I was part of, would be the assault troops for the D-Day landing; when and where it was supposed to come, we didn’t know. And then in June the 6th, 1944 of course, was D-Day and we were part of the assault troops. 3rd Division was made up of three brigades, the 7th, 8th and 9th. We were in the 9th Brigade. The 7th and 8th Brigades were the two assault brigades for D-Day. They went in first. We were reserves and we went in about 11 o’clock in the morning. On D-Day, we didn’t have too much to do, except dig in and stay in this one position about two miles inland overnight. The next morning of course, we were front line troops and from then on for the next 54 days, we were in the front line, which means we never come out of, we never took our clothes off, we never even changed our shoes or socks.

The first 54 days we were in there, 56 days, we were under constant shelling, almost all the time. And it was touch and go to even get a meal because the shells were coming in that fast. So you debated whether you should go and eat or stay in the trench. Now, the trenches that we had, just in World War II, were different to World War I. These trenches that we used in World War II were only big enough for either one man or two men. And each one had their separate trench. So that if a shell come in, it would, if it hit anything, it would only get a couple men, not a whole bunch.

You just sat in your trench and did nothing, uninterrupted. Unless you had duties to do, which in our case was of course to watch for the communications, if we were on a radio set. Or the same if you were on the telephone, to take messages and pass them on to the proper people. The day we went in, it was raining and it was cold. The actual craft that I was on and the way the landing went and we were in water up to our, well, about four feet of water. And that’s saltwater and we never had any place to dry off. The clothes just dried on our bodies. And that was cold and it’s cold and it’s June. But the weather wasn’t too hot. We didn’t get into hot weather in July and especially down in the Falaise Gap where the roads were covered with dead animals and dead bodies and the stench was unbearable in them places.

I may differ from a lot of people. A lot of people, they don’t want to talk about it or they think it’s lost time. And I look at it as the other way, it’s a, I certainly gained a lot by it, the five years I was in. You learn discipline, you learn how to live with other people, and I think it was valuable. I think it’s time that’s well spent. So I have no regrets over the time I spent there. And of course, the whole thing, it wasn’t all shelling and that, we had our, our fun times too.

Follow us