And I spoke to one of the fellows and asked him what he was doing, and he says, “We’ve got a barge coming back from France with a bunch of dead soldiers on it,” he says, “and we’re going to put them in this trench.”
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I went overseas in the spring of 1942, to Aldershot [England] and joined the 65th Tank Transport Company. So we used to haul tanks to various regiments, mainly the British army. We were stationed in North London there, a place called Enfield West, and used to take the Piccadilly line to the underground to get up there, and it was the second stop after you got onto the ground.
And we used to haul the tanks from King George up to a place by the name of Jack Olding [& Company, of Hatfield, England] that had a union tractor dealership, and he serviced the tanks and got them all ready, and then we picked them up and hauled them away to various organizations.
When they decided to have D-Day and stuff and invasion, we were stationed at a place called Woking [England]. I don’t know how I got involved, but anyway, I was sent to the south coast with a message, I guess, for somebody. And when I was up in there, it was all CB’d [Confined to Barracks] and I wasn’t allowed to come back out again, and I had my tractor and stuff sitting there on the side of the road for three days. And all I did was walk up and down and talked to people who were in them compounds, waiting to get loaded on for the ship I guess.
So then the third day I was there and I woke up and got up, there was nothing around, everything was all gone and I didn’t really figure what was going on. But anyway, I was having a bite of lunch, and I could hear this diesel motor working in this field back from where I was, and out of curiosity, I got out and walked over to the gate. There was a great big hedge and I walked in and there was this front end loader and a fellow there and they were digging a trench 60 feet long, about eight feet deep. And I spoke to one of the fellows and asked him what he was doing, and he says, “We’ve got a barge coming back from France with a bunch of dead soldiers on it,” he says, “and we’re going to put them in this trench.”
And I was parked about 200 yards I guess from the coast. So I walked down to the coast, and just when I got down there, this barge was backing in and blood was running out from underneath the tailgate. And when they lowered the tailgate, here they are, all piled in there and they had a truck there and hauled them out one by one. And there was 49 Canadians in the North Shore Regiment and one German soldier. And I walked around there watching them do this, and then when the German soldier was ready to go in the ground, he was about six foot three, so he was too long to get in there, so they broke his legs so he would lay flat.
And then after that, I got into my tractor and went back to my unit where we were stationed in Woking. And then D-Day was all over, I’ll always remember that. But anyway, we went over into Normandy then and we worked out under Bordeaux [France] is where we had our maintenance depot where we used to pick up the tanks and stuff and deliver them to the different units. So we were in there for a couple months or more, where we moved up to Ghent [Belgium]. And we went into Germany across the Rhine River. And when we were up in there, and things were starting to fall apart because everybody was advanced so far that it seems things were changing.
So anyway, I got a call one day to take my tractor and trailer and go up to Dusseldorf [Germany]. So I drove up there and the British intelligence was there and they had a line-up on V-2 rockets that the Jerries [nickname for the Germans] had been using on England. I think that was one reason why the D-Day was when it was, when the water was so damn rough and stuff was they used to fire these rockets over and just interrupt everything and the morale of the people in England was as low as you’d ever expected it to be because there was no way to trace these rockets when they come down. So this rocket, they’re on a train and the Allied force had shot out the engine. And the rockets are 40 feet long, like the charge of almost like a spitfire.
So they put it onto a trailer for me and I hauled it back to Antwerp [Belgium], to the docks there and loaded it onto a freighter and they took it to the UK, and it’s now in the museum in England, in the [Imperial] War Museum [in London]. It’s the only one in captivity.
Now, when we were in England, they used the buzz bombs [V rockets] to start with. And you could hear them and see them coming. If they shut the motor off, they knew it was coming down. And then they got so they’d change that so the motor would be going full speed and they’d still come down. So you never knew what was happening. And they can control them pretty good with the Spitfires. But anyway, with the V-2 rockets, they could do a thing with them. I can remember one time I went to London on a trades course, a welder, and I was stationed at Russell Square for about two months there. And Jerry used to come over it all the time and, you know, give us a good workout at night with their bombs and all that kind of stuff. We were on the second floor so you had to run downstairs to go out there and around to the back, and then it was damn dark, you used to have to light your lighter to find the door to get into the, the shelter. And you can’t stand up in them anyway, you just bend over and sit down. So we did that quite often.
But anyway, this particular day when the truck come in the morning to take us to school where we were learning to be welders, the driver said to us, he says that Holborn underground station was just on the next block from where we were at, and he says there was 179 people died there because somebody started to go down the stairs, and I guess they fell and just pile themselves in there. So 179 people died.