Veteran Stories:
Vincent Cavanaugh

Army

  • Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (RCEME) shoulder flash.

    Vincent Cavanaugh
  • Sadie statue, unit "mascot" of the 8th Hussars.

    Vincent Cavanaugh
  • Vincent Cavanaugh and his parents, St. Stephen, New Brunswick, 1941.

    Vincent Cavanaugh
  • One of Vincent Cavanaugh's 8th Hussars comrades geting a haircut in Italy, circa 1943-44.

    Vincent Cavanaugh
  • The ruins of Monte Cassino, Italy, 1945.

    Vincent Cavanaugh
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"We could actually read a newspaper at night in the flashes from the guns, it was so massive."

Transcript

Well, we landed in Sicily, as I said, Augusta. I don’t remember that much about it except I remember the bombing of the railroad tracks was sticking right up in the air. And local peasants were there, we gave them cigarettes and whatever for oranges and eggs and stuff like that. We done a great trading thing there.

And then I went to Messina and crossed over to Augusta [actually Reggio di Calabria] in the mainland of Italy. And then the next thing I can remember well is we didn’t have any meat or bread of any kind. We had some meat that come over from New Zealand on a ship. And it wasn’t fit to eat. And we took a tour up into Mount Vesuvius, the volcano. The year or so after that [March 18, 1944], it erupted. And we were around Naples in that area for quite a while and then I went up into the battlefields of this one line I remember in the Gothic Line and the Hitler Line and [the] Campobasso. And then we went from the Adriatic coast around to the other coast. I was with the British Eighth Army at the time and we turned around and joined up with the American Fifth Army. And we went up different areas; I remember Ortona, Rimini, Liri Valley.

Well, I remember the tremendous amount of artillery pieces there, firing on Cassino and Monastery Hill and that general area. And I was in among those people quite a bit and we could actually read a newspaper at night in the flashes from the guns, it was so massive. Because there’s a British Eighth Army and the American Fifth Army were at that time within that area.

Yeah, well, everybody was so supportive of one another because without each other, we didn’t have a chance in hell. And we had to deal with the population because we were an invading force. Where in Europe, they were liberators, sort of thing. But we were the invading force but the Italians themselves were quite decent towards us. I never had any problems.

The statue was picked up in some kind of a monastery or something. I’m not exactly sure, just that the unit that had it, they was in under cover of a wooded area and they had this Sadie [statue] with a rifle on her shoulders standing at the entrance to that opening we had there for the, for that unit. When the war had ended, she went back to Canada and it was established in Kingston, Ontario, one of the military places there [at RCEME school in Barriefield], and she was there for many many years. And the unit I was with, the RCEME [Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers], they, they, their headquarters went to Camp Borden, Ontario. And she’s up there now.

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