Veteran Stories:
Andrew “Andy” Westie

Army

  • Andrew Westie in Italy on December 1, 1943. Mr. Westie enlisted in the Army in January of 1941 and served with the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals until March 1946.

    Andrew Westie
  • This was standard bathing procedure for most soldiers in the field, weather permitting. Still in his boots, this soldier heated water in a bucket to do his washing. Occasionally, a mobile shower would visit the unit, but only once a month or less. 1943.

    Andrew Westie
  • Higher ranks had these "bath tubs" that were made from waterproof canvas on a folding wooden frame, like a camp cot. Nevertheless, hot water was not always easy to come by. 1944

    Andrew Westie
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"The thing I missed most, when we left Great Britain and went down, was that I didn’t sleep a single night in a bed from that time on until the end…"

Transcript

Westie is my name. I was in the Army for five years and a month or two. Number K74612. I served in the RCCS, and by being in the RCCS, I was attached to quite a number of units. I arrived in England, if I correctly recall, in November. There was an air raid on. It was a beautiful picture – lots of lights and shrapnel. I stayed in England until the big movement of 1943, November. The biggest convoy of its kind, I think. We took the rest of our corps and went from there down to Sicily. We went down in the Argentina, which was a luxury liner in the States before that. The sleeping beds were made on canvas on metal frames, and they were stacked about six high with about twenty inches between, for a person to slip in and out. Most of the troops naturally slept downstairs. I had the good luck to be up in a cabin somewhere, because I had to attend to sections administration along the way. So I had a beautiful view of all those things, including the trip through the Mediterranean, and the last night we were out we lost two ships. We watched them through the porthole window of the cabin I was in. We took the blackout off and had a look. Since I was with the artillery, we were relatively well treated. We never did have to do the things the infantry did, but there were plenty of shells and bombs and whatever they had handy flying around. Our regiment was lucky, in a way, because all our guns were 4.5 inch big guns, and big tractors to haul them, and they were all sunk in a boat in Bari Harbour. So the regiment I was with was out of action for seven weeks, until they managed to get replacement weapons. From there on it was good. We fought in every battle in which the 1st Canadian Corps took part. The thing I missed most, when we left Great Britain and went down, was that I didn't sleep a single night in a bed from that time on until the end… until we got back up to Europe. In fact, until the war ended and we got back into bunks for a week or two. That's the thing I missed most – nothing to sit on and nowhere to lie down. Always subject to the weather and being at the front lines. We had to scrape our little hollow in the ground every night, so we'd be lying below the grade level. That was the safety spot. The only thing that might hurt us then would be a direct hit by something, and that would be unusual. I stayed with the same unit, No. 2 Canadian Medium Regiment until the end of the war. I left before they all came home, because I think they came home as a group, whereas I, being merely an attached personnel, was sent to another unit to fast-track me home, but it didn't work very well.
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