Veteran Stories:
Jacques Nadeau

Army

  • Jacques Nadeau, Regiment of Fusiliers Mont-Royal, in England, June 8, 1941.

    Jacques Nadeau
  • German Film still taken after Jacques Nadeau was taken prisoner at Dieppe, France, August 19, 1942.

    Jacques Nadeau
  • Jacqueline Nadeau (nee Senay), wife of Jacques Nadeau, 1944.

    Jacques Nadeau
  • Shoreham-by-Sea's Harbour, where Jacques Nadeau boarded to Dieppe, France, 1942.

    Jacques Nadeau
  • Letter from Jacques Nadeau's Sister, when he was a prisoner of war in Dieppe, France, 1942.

    Jacques Nadeau
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"So he said to me, “Komme komme mein liebe” which means, “Come, come my dear!” He said to me, “The war is over for you”."

Transcript

We were in East Lansing which was the name of the base. The commander, [Lieutenant-Colonel] Dollard Ménard, got us together and said, “Boys, tomorrow morning we’ll be in Dieppe!” We starting whooping; we were happy since we were tired of training.

We left the port of Shoreham in a line, and when we set off, we went north-east and eventually met up with the other units. Some were arriving from Newhaven and others from Portsmouth and then all of a sudden the convoy was formed. We had 13 groups in total and there were 252 crafts. Us, the Canadians, we numbered about 4963 if I remember correctly. Then the crafts had to go where they were supposed to be, and we departed east across the channel. It was a spectacular day, like the 19 that we had this year here [September 19, 2009]. It was a hot day. There was hardly any wind and the sea seemed more or less like oil, it was still. We were told not to talk or to smoke and to rest as much as possible since the next day was going to be busy. We, Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal, we had to get off last since we had to protect the retreat of all of the other units who, after having finished their work in the various locations they had to go, were coming back via Dieppe. We would return to our ranks to board again. And we would have waited for the very last people to board before boarding ourselves. But that’s not exactly what happened.

I was the last to board since the bikes were in the rear on a little ramp that measured approximately 18 to 24 inches wide. I spent the night there, but fortunately the sea was calm. The ship landed on the shore and remained stuck there in the shoreline. Then all of the guys got off. It took more time for me because of the ramp that was there and I had to go around to the front to jump off. Towards the front of the ship there was less water. Where I was, there was over 20 feet of water and I would have certainly disappeared in an instant what with my size and all. Then the commander of the ship pushed me with the tip of his machine gun trained on my back and I thought to myself, if he pulls the trigger, I’m gone. So I threw the bike into the ocean and I jumped out after it. I leaned over to try to find the infamous bike but I couldn’t see it anywhere and I thought to hell with it, I’ll find another one in Dieppe.

While I was in the water, the Germans were firing at us. Bullets were hitting the water; I could see them go by. One of them hit my steel helmet, but fortunately the double layer decreased the speed and I was able to get out of the water and hit the ground. Eventually, towards 2 o’clock in the afternoon, we surrendered and everything stopped and we couldn’t hear anything except for the wounded crying out. Then the Germans came down to the beach. There was a great big guy, I can still see the way he acted- he would approach a body on the ground and using his foot, he would turn the body over to see if the person was dead. If so, he would move on to the next body. I was playing dead, and I had my left hand, no my right hand, under my chin. So when he got to me, he put his foot under my right armpit, and since I am very ticklish, I jerked. So he said to me, “Komme komme mein liebe” which means, “Come, come my dear!” He said to me, “The war is over for you”. So I got up and took off my gear and went to meet up with my friends who were waiting under the escarpment. Many were wounded and thirsty. So I asked one of the German guards, I gestured to him, showing him the water bottles belonging to those that were dead. He gestured back indicating that I could go and retrieve the bottles, so I did in order to give them to those that needed water. Then we walked up the escarpment, they made us climb up to a place called the “circus”. Once we got to the top, they made us line up in rows of five and then they counted us. One German would start counting from the left, and another from the right, because when they were done counting the 200-300 of us, they had to report to an officer with the same number. But when the German walked by me and touched my shoulder to count me, I called him a pig. He stiffened and stopped right in front of me and we spent several seconds that felt like minutes just staring at each other. Then we heard a shout from in front and he had to continue on his way but his eyes were like daggers when he looked at me. Even today, I don’t like talking about it.

The first September we arrived in Poland in a stalag [abbreviation of the German word stammlager, which means a POW camp], number VIII-B. We spent a lot of time there. I tried to escape three times; the first two were unsuccessful and the last was in January 1945. The Russians came by the place where we were being kept. We had changed stalags: we were in Pomerania, at first I was in Upper Silesia, Poland, but then we were transferred to Germany, to Pomerania. Today, it’s Polish territory again. We hid, and when the Russians arrived, we got out of there.

I returned to England on April 1 after crossing Poland, then Germany and also Russia, until the Black Sea. Above there is where a Canadian Pacific steam liner came to get us. We arrived in England via the Black Sea, the Aegean Sea and in Malta, we changed ships. That ship stopped in Algiers and then went from Algiers to Gibraltar and then we waited a couple of days in Gibraltar for the convoy to come together since the war wasn’t over yet and there were still a few submarines. Eventually, I arrived in England on May 1. From there, we eventually made our way back to Canada aboard the Britannia, which was a liner that was built just before the war. I arrived in Halifax on May 23 and the next day I arrived in Montreal, where my family was waiting for me!

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