Veteran Stories:
Murray Quattrocchi

Army

  • "Machine-gunners of The Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa (M.G.) in action near Carpiquet, France, 4 July 1944."Mr. Quattrochi was also part of The Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa during the war.

    Credit: Library and Archives Canada / Grant, Donald I., Photographer / Mikan Number: 3199871

    Credit: Library and Archives Canada / Grant, Donald I., Photographer / Mikan Number: 3199871
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"And whatever it was that day, the Germans immediately started firing the smoke of the day towards our side and that didn’t help any. It was a rough day."

Transcript

I was born in Sicily in 1914, April the 2nd, 1914 in Sicily, Termini [Imerese], is the name of the town. It’s near Palermo, about 20 miles from Palermo. At that time, my father had came to Canada and when the First World War started, he joined the army, he joined the Italian army in Canada. The idea at that time was that any of the allied countries could join their own nationals. And after the war, if they were still alive, bring they and their family back to Canada.

Yeah, I knew quite a bit about World War One because he used to come home on leave now and then. And right across from our house, there was a park. And at one side of our house was an old monastery with a great big high wall. And it was used as a German prisoner of war camp. And the German prisoners of war were brought over to the park for exercise, so I had quite a bit to do with them. They used to play with me.

What we talked about, I don’t know, what any three, four year old would talk about. With that house, I guess that would be it. What, I don’t know what we were talking about. But I know that they played with me and gave me money and I can remember that.

I didn’t consider myself as being Italian. I considered myself of Italian descent, but I considered myself as a Canadian because I’d been brought up from when I was about six years old as a Canadian. We were at Falaise [the battle of the Falaise Gap] and I’ve just been thinking lately when they talk about this earthquake over in Haiti, the smell of dead bodies. Well, at Falaise pocket, as you know, the Germans were caught in a trap and thousands of them were killed. So there was thousands of dead Germans around as well as dead horses. And to make way for the rest of the army to proceed, they made bulldozers out of tanks and they cleared a road one way and we had to go through that and I can remember, it was quite a smell. We had to put handkerchiefs over our mouths.

You know that the Canadian Army was bombed by the Canadian Air Force. You know that. Well, that day, we did a shoot, I was a machine gunner and we did more shooting that day than at the Falaise, at Quesnay Woods, was the target that day. And the bombers came in, the first wave hit the target right on. We were just in across a field from Quesnay Woods. And then all of a sudden, a flight of bombers, second flight came in and they dropped their bombs in the wrong place. There was no way that anybody could get them to stop because it was radio silence. And they came down and strafed us from very low. There was a squadron of Polish tanks in this field and they all got out of their tanks and ran. The safest place was the target. So everybody ran towards the target. Well, we ran with them. There wasn’t much we could do except sit there and take it.

The Germans, when they realized what was going on, that we were bombing our own people, they took advantage of it and they used to be what you called the smoke of the day. That was shells with a certain colour of smoke, which would be a signal. And whatever it was that day, the Germans immediately started firing the smoke of the day towards our side and that didn’t help any. It was a rough day.

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