Map - Battle of the Scheldt.Stanley Anderson
Photo of Stanley Anderson, age 26.Stanley Anderson
Letter home written by Stanley Anderson in 1944 from England.Stanley Anderson
Telegram from July 27, 1944.Stanley Anderson
Stanley Anderson, 2009.Historica Canada
"And we could hear the bullets go zip, zip, as they went by."
I was 25 when I joined the army, it was in 1943. I thought when they needed me they’d say so and they did. I was working in a logging camp up in British Columbia when I got a letter requesting me to join the army. When we went into action, it was through a wheat field where we couldn’t see the enemy at all, and probably they could see us because we were walking upright with our bayonets on our guns and they were shooting at us because our job was to take out a machine gun nest. That’s our, eight of us in a section. And of course, they didn’t miss everybody.
I heard something, looked around and there was a young guy that had joined us just before we started in there. He was laying face down and big grin on his face and a little puddle of blood under his arm. I told him he’d better try and get that blood stopped. And I picked up his rifle and stuck the bayonet in the ground so the butt of the rifle stuck up above the wheat, so other people could find him. But I couldn’t help him because I had to catch up to the other guys. And then another fellow, I could, he said, I’ve got it too Stan, or Andy, he called me Andy, short for Anderson I guess. And I told him they’d better get together and see if they could help patch each other up. And then I had to run a little to catch up to the others.
And we could hear the bullets go zip, zip, as they went by. And they all had wheat head falling on the ground. That’s the way it went until we got up to this place where the machine gun nest was supposed to be. It looked to me like the rest of them were going to go right on by. And of course, we were supposed to take it out and it wasn’t much good to go by because we might get shot in the back. So I tippy-toed over with my rifle cocked and aiming at the place, I thought the first thing I’d see was a helmet. And the closer I got, the further I could see down in the hole and finally, I could see the bottom but nobody was in it! And then I could see where they’d gone off into the wheat to the left, they trampled down the wheat. I couldn’t see very far because it wound around so I went around to see further up and it just went the other way. And I thought, we can’t go too far that way or we leave a gap between us and the next, rest of the regiment. So we went on from there.
And we crossed the road and somebody looked down the road and saw a guy coming up the road. So the Corporal, he said, “Get down.” So I just dropped, I didn’t look to see what was, anything. And the Corporal and another fellow crawled over to the edge of the wheat because the road was here. They crawled over so they could see out, and waited until they got up there and then they stood up with a gun pointing at him and took him prisoner.
The Corporal had somebody take him back to headquarters I guess. That would be our battalion headquarters I think. I wouldn’t swear to it, I don’t know. Anyway, they took him someplace. But in the meantime, our section was getting less and a little fellow got two fingers, got shot through two fingers. I think one was his trigger finger. He didn’t want to quit because he thought that was too little. He stayed I think overnight one night maybe. But anyway, the Corporal finally sent him back because he was no use to anybody, he couldn’t even dig his own slit trench, and he sent him back.
And about the next day or so, we had to dig in of course, and we dug into the ground. There was about this much dirt and then it was kind of a stone, but like limestone, but not very, maybe heavy chalk or something. You could chip up a little with your pick. You’d pick enough and then you could scrape up a little and throw it out. It took a long time to get down. Overnight, you could get down far enough so if you laid down, they wouldn’t be able to see you. So when this other guy came up, he had been shot in the leg and he didn’t want to quit I guess. He came up, and the Corporal had him dig in next to me. I helped him dig in because he couldn’t manage very good, and he got thirsty and I gave him my water bottle and he drank that. And he was hungry, so I gave him my can of some kind of spam [pre-cooked meat product] or something I had in my billet pouch. And he ate that. And then about the next day I guess, we heard somebody ask for help and we looked out and there was a first aid man, he was patching somebody up out there, but a shell had come over and exploded and hit the first aid man too in the back. He had his shirt up, was trying to put a bandage on his own back and wasn’t able to do it I guess. So this here guy, his name was Green, the guy that moved up, he had been shot in the leg. He crawled out to help and he got hit with another one. I suppose the first aid man too maybe, I don’t know.
And I tried to pull Green back into his slit trench, but he wouldn’t let me, he said it hurt too much. And so I was going to crawl out and see if I could help him, he said, “No, stay down. There’s no use you getting hit too.” So I did, I thought it made sense. You know, I wondered how these guys would ever get out, but when I was in England, I went to several hospitals before I ended up at the convalescent hospital. And there was Green. He said he was going back in, he had a score to settle with them guys.