I had time to push the sound button and say, hello, Southam, hello; and crack, and he shot my antenna off. If it had been another two and a half inches, I would have been shot right through the eye.
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I was a wireless operator class 1 and I was attached to L Section of the 2nd [Canadian Infantry] Division and we were at 6th [Infantry] Brigade. And I was attached to the South Saskatchewan Regiment for communications back to brigade and that’s when I landed with them to go on the Dieppe raid, with a portable wireless set.
We landed, ran up the beach and got in; and we got across our main road in behind some houses and there was an open garden-type thing there. And they set up regimental headquarters. So we’d only been there I’d say about 15 minutes, and Marsh was crouched down to the right of me and there was a liaison officer right behind me. How he was going to work my set with a throat microphone, it was going to be kind of clumsy; it’d be alright with the other set. In front of me was Henderson, he was the spare operator. Well, suddenly there was a blam. The next thing I know, got all dirt all over me and I hear somebody screaming, oh my legs, my God, my legs, my legs. And I looked over at Marsh and he coughed once, he coughed up blood, so I jumped up and went to him. And he was dead. He had a hole in the right temple that you could put your thumb in.
And then the liaison officer [in charge of communications] called me, so I ran to him; and I said, where are you hit, sir? And he said, in the back. I said, well, can you turn over, I’ll try and see. He said, no, don’t touch me, don’t touch me, I can’t feel my legs, I’m sure my back’s broken, just call for a stretcher bearer. So I started hollering for a stretcher bearer; and turned around and looked at Henderson. Henderson’s lying flat on his face with a pool of blood underneath his face. And I know I thought, how am I going to work two wireless sets, that was the first thing. So I said, where are you hit, Hank? And he said, in the eye. So I said, oh, I said, I’ll get you my field dressing [kit for treating wounds]. So I took my field dressing out, which was a no-no, but he was lying down on top of his so I gave it to him and he said, are you in communication? I said, no, my antenna’s been blown off; I’ve got to go and see where I can find it. Well, he said, I’ll bandage myself, you get into communication [secure an open communication line].
So I looked around and I found the remnants of my antenna and I had a couple of spare pieces, so I dug it out from where it was stuck in the set and got into communication. [Lieutenant-] Colonel [Cecil] Merritt came around. He said that we’ve got to separate you two guys. He said, come with me, Sigs [Signalman], so I said, yes; and he said, Henderson, you stay here. So away we went, we were hurrying around. Well, then it came the bridge and he said to me, you stay here. I’m glad he did because, geez, when he got over there, mortars were landing on that bridge like you couldn’t believe. How he wasn’t killed, I’ll never understand it, but he was trying to get the guys, even took his helmet off and waved, trying to get the guys across and they were trying and, geez, they were falling right and left, right and left, right and left. And finally, he came back; and he said, we’re not going to make it. So he said, well, we’ll hold the town. [The Queen’s Own] Camerons [Highlanders] came through and they went in. Now, they were told there was no reinforcements within 25 kilometres. They didn’t get in there five kilometres before they ran into a full artillery regiment which turned them back in a hurry.
So then Colonel Merritt says, we’ll hold the town and let them come back. So they came back and they went through us and they were back down to the beach; and then Merritt said, we’ll draw slowly. Henderson and I stayed with him and he had two bodyguards and we went back to the beach behind there. Well, there was a machine gun up west of us which was strafing the road and the guys were getting really hit by it. And Colonel Merritt said, we’ve got to take that out. You fellows give me a couple of grenades and give me covering fire; Sigs, you stay here. So we said, yes sir, and away he went. And he put it out of commission. And the next thing we’re hearing, everybody saying, where is he and there’s some fancy language because there was a sniper east of us and boy, he, he must have hit about six fellows, must have been at least that and they’re all yelling, where is he, where is here. Merritt could hear this and he said to me, you and I are in communication, Sigs? I said, no sir. I said, I can’t get a thing, I think it’s because of the cliff. He said, well, get out in the open and try. Well, the only open was the road that the sniper was hitting guys.
So I figured I was going to get it and I thought, well, I’m not going to get shot in the back. I know this sounds silly, I’m not going to get shot in the back, so I faced up in the direction of where the sniper was and it was the smartest thing I ever did I think because I had time to push the sound button and say, hello, Southam, hello; and crack, and he shot my antenna off. If it had been another two and a half inches, I would have been shot right through the eye. The set on my chest and the antenna went up the edge of my shrapnel helmet. So down I went and rolled in; and I said, I couldn’t get through, sir and Merritt gave a kind of a grin and a bit of a chuckle and he said, nice try, Sigs, shut it down.
So we shut it down and we waited; and finally, he said, well, I think we’re the last because nobody was going across the road. So he said, spread out and when I say go, you know, there was five of us, still his two bodyguards, he said, when I say go, spread out and go run; and get over that sea wall. So this is what we did. A couple of landing craft started in and they started picking up fellows. But they weren’t coming right into the beach because there was fun and games going on there. So I started to swim out and that was murder out there. There’d be a head beside you and it would go down, a patch of red would come up and there’s not a darn thing you could do. It was really something. Well, when the Germans’ artillery couldn’t hit us on the beach, the [German] boats, they could [hit us]; and suddenly, it’s the queerest sensation, I’m swimming and I’m flailing my arms, but I’m up in the air, blown up into the air out of the water, down to my knees. That happened twice; and anyway, one of the boats turned away and I got about, oh, 15 to 20 feet from the other one and I’m yelling and waving; and I turned the other way and away it went, I had to swim all the way back and back through.
I swam back and I was bushed. I know I was tottering up the beach and there was water coming out of a big sewage pipe that was about two inches deep and it was flowing pretty fast and when I hit it, it knocked my feet right out from under me; and the next thing I remember, I hear a voice say, don’t give him any water, he’s waterlogged. And I looked and I’m, there’s a guy huddled beside me, we were behind a rock. So I said to him, did you pull me in? He said, yeah. I said, thanks a lot. He said, you were out like a light. [laughs] I know.
But anyway, we stayed there until finally, we couldn’t do anything, we had no ammunition and anyway. There was a German air force chap they had as a prisoner and then they had him stand up; and then he stood up and waves a white handkerchief and surrendered us.