My mother seen the priest coming, and the only thing she said, “Which one?” The three of us were over there.
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When I got to be 18, I volunteered in Fredericton [New Brunswick]. Oh, the mosquitoes were so bad there, oh my God. We were glad to get going. We landed in France and we all went into a huddle there with the tanks. We were there for a couple of days. And then they come around with, with cotton batten to put in your ears because there’s going to be a big bombing raid go on. So the night we started out, and I still remember, went up this road. And it came daylight and as it says there, I think I, the first thing I seen in daylight was infantry crawling along the dykes, so I knew that I was at the front.
But then the flying fortress [Boeing B-17 bomber] were coming over to bomb the Germans. But they didn’t bomb them. They came over and there was a, a whole lot of Polish trucks behind us there. And I was looking out through the, watching them coming, you could see the, the bomb doors open and everything. And I said, “Lord God, they’re going to bomb us.” But they didn’t. They bombed, they bombed the Poles. They were working with us too, I mean, there was Polish troops. And I can still see them, big trucks going straight in the air.
But there was a little spotter plane there, and they flew up and flew amongst the big flying fortress and warned them off. I was on wireless at that time, and I could hear a girl screaming from England, “You’re bombing the wrong troops.” But anyway, the North Shore Regiment there, that was our regiment from, from the Miramichi [New Brunswick], they were bombed that day too.
But anyway, we kept on going and, and we pulled off the road and we were going to have a little talk, and the first thing I knew, the tanks started blowing up. We were being hit and we didn’t know it. And I jumped in the tanks and went down over this hill and lined up on a, on a Tiger tank. But he hit me first. I felt the awful jolt in the tank, and I said to myself, “I don’t think we’re hit too hard, I’m going to try and get that guy.” But before I could swing around, we were hit again. So I looked around, and everybody had got out the first time. So I stand on the side of the tank and I had my hand on the turret, and there was a camouflage that’s not tied up there. And there was little puffs of smoke coming out of it. And I said to myself, I guess was stunned or something, “What’s this?” Anyway, someone grabbed me by the legs and hauled me off of there. But it was machine gun bullets that was hitting us.
But anyway, we got away from the tanks as far as we could because they were shooting at it. We went up to a little clump of woods, and we stayed there the day. I think there was nine of us maybe that went in there and, but there was only three or four of us able to walk out that night or crawl out. There was wheat that high. We crawled through it there.
And I could feel the oats or wheat, whatever it was, raining right down on top of me because the Poles were up ahead and they thought we were the Germans coming at them. So they were trying to kill us. (laughs) We got ahead and we got behind a tank, this one knocked out the day before. And one of the fellows with me took off his undershirt and he hung it out like that over the tanks, so the Poles stopped shooting then. We kept on past them, then we headed towards the searchlights at Kanne [Belgium]. Because they had searchlights there.
But anyway, we walked all night. The next morning, there was a Sergeant come into the hut where we were, the tent where we were, and he said, “Boys,” he said, “I know you’s have a hard time,” he said, “there’s three gunners here.” He said, “I need a gunner.” He said, “I’ve got two short straws and a long one here. And whoever pulls the long straw goes back to the front.” So I pull the long straw and went right back again. (laughs)
Well, from then on, things got pretty hazy. A few days later, we lined up on this big hill, I think there was 400 tanks there. We got the word go. Well, there was no stopping us then. I mean, we’re down over this hill here, and I was shooting all the Germans in the field there as low as I could get the gun because it wouldn’t go down any lower. And the crew come out and was standing out on top, with his pistol. And him swearing and going on there and shooting. But we were getting pretty close to the, the Battle of Falaise [Gap] then. And three or four days, we crossed the Dives River there, I remember that, and I don’t know where, where we went after that. There’s about three or four days I don’t remember anything. I got a complete blank.
But then the fighting in Normandy was all over then. We started up along the coast. My mother seen the priest coming, and the only thing she said, “Which one?” The three of us were over there. I didn’t, never expected to come back alive. Because I couldn’t see how I could. But I did, I guess. I always say it was my mother’s prayers, because I was burned and blasted and everything else there. The tank I was in was hit with a bazooka across the Leopold Canal [in northern Belgium]. And I still remember very well, we were rolling along there and the Crew Commander said to the driver, he says, “Slow down, we’re not running from trouble, we’re looking for trouble.” And just then we were hit and everything went up in flames. I made a dive to get out the top of the hatch, and I jammed with the Crew Commander and I had to back down. And then I dived out over the side and run as hard as I could before the tank blew up because all the ammunition and everything in there she blew the turret about 20 feet in the air, and them turrets weigh six ton. But there was no such a thing as a, as getting time off or anything like that. They had another tank right ready for me the same day.
To keep you from thinking too much and getting scared, they keep you right on through there. But anyway, you don’t mind because we had the rest of the fellows with us and here was your friends. That’s all you wanted to be.