"He was just a little fellow. I think he was 17 years old. And a big shell landed close to him and he went up in the air and I could see daylight underneath him."
I was in the infantry, but I was an infantry signaler. We did communications within the regiment, in a battalion. We fooled around in England for about three years, almost three years, and then we, yes, it was over three years and then we went to Sicily. We landed in Sicily in 1943.
I went ashore on a duck [or DUKW standing for the model naming terminology used by GMC, an amphibious vehicle]. (laughs) I wasn’t very like gung-ho, you know. My buddy and I, we had a back-up set, in case the main set from brigade to battalion got knocked out, we were the back-up for that. And we had this set on a two-wheel cart with handles, the two of us. And we couldn’t get on the landing ship with that, so they took us out there in a duck. Well, it was a vehicle, it was an American Army vehicle. It could go on land or on water.
As far as we got rid of the, our back-up role, that was all done. That was just for the landing, in case something happened to the other one. And we had our big packs and all that stuff, and we piled them on the beach and got down to battle order, with just your skeleton web and rifle and your wireless sets. And then we took off over land.
Yes, it was about, oh, maybe a week or so before we run into the Germans. They were the ones that had been fighting in North Africa. And they were a different ball game. The first one wasn’t all that bad. There was a young fellow I know from Moncton [New Brunswick] here, I’ll always remember him, George Burke. There was a grenade landed close to him and he lost an eye. And I can remember when we were coming back, we backed off of there a bit and George was there with a big bandage on his face. I didn’t realize then that he had lost an eye then.
I remember one at [the battle of] Ortona [Italy], we had tried to take this Point 59 [by Torre Mucchia, Italy]. It was an old lookout of some kind on the top of this little knoll, north of Ortona a ways. And one company had tried it, C Company and they got pushed back. And then C and D had tried, and they didn’t get nice headway. And they decided, I was with B Company then, like there was three signalers, supposed to be, with each company. And I was supposed to be with B Company. And they fooled around all day with a barrage, different artillery. They’d fire for five minutes and then stop for 15. And then they’d fire for five minutes and then stop for a minute and start and do another five minutes. They kept doing that all day, making different things. And we made the big rush up there.
And I was carrying this 18 set, about that square and about that high, and they weighed 56 pounds. And there was these grapevines there, and all the wires holding the vines up. And they were just about four feet off the ground. And I went up that hill as fast as I could go, carrying that set, and I had to duck walk, you know, to get underneath the … And I think I hurt my heart doing that.
One time I stopped, there was a big tree like there, and I stopped right about here and there was a young fellow from Petitcodiac [New Brunswick], Blakeley. He was just a little fellow. I think he was 17 years old. And a big shell landed close to him and he went up in the air and I could see daylight underneath him, the blast on the other side of the tree had raised him up in the air that far. He landed. He come back, he was, after I come down here, I finally found him and he was had come back to Petitcodiac.