Veteran Stories:
Harold Hall

Army

  • Harold Hall is pictured here (on left) with his friend Jack Birmingham just after their enlistment in 1940.

    Harold Hall
  • Pictured here is a demonstration excercise of a 3" mortar, England, 1941.

    Harold Hall
  • Mr. Hall standing among the rubble in Naples, Italy, 1943.

    Harold Hall
  • Harold Hall is pictured here training with 3" mortar in Southampton, England in 1940.

    Harold Hall
  • Newspaper clipping showing training of 3" mortar in England, February 1943.

    Harold Hall
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"Suddenly, I heard a sssss, coming down, it was a, sounded like the sound of a bomb, coming right at us. It landed right beside me."

Transcript

My friend and I had decided after threshing for 28 days, pitching bundles, 6:00 in the morning until 6:00 at night, to join the army. So we skated up the Vermilion River, about 10 miles in December, caught the bus to Edmonton, arrived up there to find out that we weren’t able to get into the army, the 49th [Battalion, The Loyal Edmonton] Regiment was full and they weren’t taking any recruits at that time. So we had to wait until January, about the 10th, when we finally got in.

When we did get in, they told us to come back the next day and we’d be going to Currie Barracks for basic training. So we had our last meal on civvie street and I didn’t have money, so I was able to sell a sweater for 25 cents and my friend, Jack Birmingham, he had 25 cents, we had a full-course meal. I had soup, pie and coffee, and liver and onions, for 25 cents.

Anyway, this young lady sat down and talked to us, we’d got to know her a little bit and we told we got in the army and she says, “Oh, that’s nice,” and she says – she looked at my friend, Jack Birmingham and says, “You’ll come back,” and she looked at me and says, “You won’t come back.” And I thought, oh my God.

Anyway, Jack and I joined the army and we had quite an experience when we were training down in Currie Barracks. We were on exercise this day and we were coming to noon and we were riding in the back of a truck, eight or ten of us and the truck behind us caught a shoulder or deep ditches and as we looked back, the back wheels got into the edge of the road and started tipping over. And it tipped right over with a cloud of dust with nine guys in the back. After the dust cleared, all run back and found out who was hurt or everything. And nobody was killed but there was five people that were hurt really bad. And all their names started with the letter M – McCann, MacMicken, Moran, Moise, and Merl. And the guy that got hurt the worst had two Ms in his first name. I was always superstitious about 13 but the letter M is the 13th letter in the alphabet. So this was kind of a strange happening.

When we finally got into the 49th [Battalion], Edmonton Regiment, spent two years pretty well ending and getting ready to go into battle, after that, at Inverary in Scotland, we embarked on a big boat about 3,000 of us and sailed out into the ocean and we had no idea where we were. We were out on the ocean for 31 days. I never saw land or anything, I had no idea where we were and what we were going to do or where we were going to be. And we ended up in the, the middle of the Mediterranean, close to the Sicilian border and then they told us that we were going to be invading Sicily.

So we both invaded Sicily, Jack and I, we were together again. And at that time, we were dressed in shorts and small packs, army rifle and helmet, that’s all we had for about seven or eight days. After eight days, we ran into the enemy and we decided it was time to set our mortar up to get ready to fire in a gulley. We just got ready to fire and my friend, Jack Birmingham had the earphones on from the OP [observation post], waiting for orders to fire. Suddenly, I heard a sssss, coming down, it was a, sounded like the sound of a bomb, coming right at us. It landed right beside me. I went sideways when I heard it come in and I got a piece of shrapnel in my leg. Jack, my friend, got a cut across his forehead, right into the bone and my friend beside me, he got the blast. I got the concussion from the explosion and I was pretty well dazed but all I could remember is the chap who got hit the worst, he wanted a cigarette. I got a cigarette for him, lit it for him and then I said, “You’re going to be alright.” And he said, “No, I’ve had it.”

Then, after that, everything was vague. I can’t remember what happened until I was wandering down the road, I didn’t know where I was, everybody had gone. I was all by myself. And I thought, well, where am I, what am I doing – I think I had a concussion and it dazed me.

So anyway, I got through that. Some of my crew had been killed and Jack Birmingham, he headed through there, he got the Military Medal there at the Hitler Line. But we came through that and by this time we were both sergeants, Jack and I. So that was kind of a consistently being together, all this time and I was waiting for the shell or the bullet or the bomb with my name on it.

We managed to come through that and we ended up in Belgium and then in Apeldoorn [Netherlands] and the war was over. We both come back to Canada, Jack and I. I can remember landing in Halifax, when I stepped foot on the soil, I says, “Oh, can you imagine that girl was wrong.”

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