Veteran Stories:
Derek Pite

Army

  • Portrait of Derek G. Pite, taken in early 1940 in Brantford, Ontario. This was Derek's first full uniform after six months in the army.
    This copy was presented to Derek's parents to display in their home while he was away.

    Derek G. Pite
  • Photo taken by the Paris Star of The Dufferin and Haldimand Rifles parading down the main street of Paris, Ontario, May 30, 1941.
    Having been just transfered from the infantry to the Intelligence Section, Derek was in the small group at the head of the parade.

    Derek G. Pite
  • Pages from the booklet "Battledress Ballads", written by members of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division.
    The booklet was presented to Derek G. Pite by Edna Raycraft, wife of Jack Raycraft. Edna was a veteran of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

    Derek G. Pite
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"For several days, we concentrated on prisoners, to make sure that who they belonged to, separate them, separate the SS which was the very strong; they were pretty rough characters, from ordinary soldiers."

Transcript

I had been since 1941 in the intelligence section. Each unit, particularly infantry battalion, had an intelligence section. And I had applied to go in the intelligence section and for that job, I had to learn how to ride a motorcycle and read maps and draw maps and this sort of thing. So that when the opportunity came along for me to join, to go to the intelligence corps which was the Army Intelligence Corps, I took the opportunity and that’s where I went. At Royal Military College in Kingston, we had British officers that trained us and also Canadian officers that trained us in the intelligence corps at Royal Military College. In fact, we had one man that had been in the German army and I’m not too sure how he got over to our side but he was an instructor to us in Kingston, at Royal Military College. And I proceeded overseas the first week of December 1942. There was an officer, one of those officers, a French Canadian, who his last name was Corbeil, Maurice Corbeil I think, his father owned the North Bay Nugget paper and he was one of our instructors and on the weekends - I’m not sure about every weekend - but the weekends, he would fly to France and what they were doing was testing the soil and bringing back to Britain soil samples and things like that so that the mistakes that happened in Dieppe where the tanks couldn’t climb up the beach because of the rocks, that would not happen in Normandy. They’d come on hard sand which actually was the fact. For several days, we concentrated on prisoners, to make sure that who they belonged to, separate them, separate the SS [Schutzstaffel] which was the very strong; they were pretty rough characters, from ordinary soldiers. And they’d load them up and ship them, some of them they shipped to Britain and some of them they shipped all the way to North America. You did not really deal much with the German soldier. It was generally always the officers. It was generally the officers that you dealt with. The soldiers frankly, I would say that a good percentage of German soldiers really, you could not deal with them. They didn’t, most of them didn’t understand and we had interpreters who spoke German and that sort of thing and they still couldn’t make the ordinary soldier understand. So most of the ordinary soldiers, after they were captured, in a short period of time, they were released to go home. On the night of the 4th of May, 1945, I was sleeping on the south side of the Oldenburg Canal [Germany] when the order come through that 8:00 the next morning, everyone would cease fire and the war would come to an end. Now, we knew that that was coming; we were told the night before that we’d be told to cease fire, which meant that if we were going to do any firing, it was not what was wanted. And at 8:00 on the morning of the 5th of May, the war was over [Germany formally surrendered on May 7, 1945]. A certain class of Germans were Nazi. And those people, when we found them, we put them in prison. We arrested them and we put them in prison. But really, a large percentage of the German people never ever belonged to the Nazi party. But having said that, the Germans, because they are Germans and the war was going on and of course, they wanted to win the war, but they were never Nazis. And that was a part of our job the several months after the 5th of May, was to kind of start them out again, learning how to live without having those Nazis wandering around their village or something of that nature. No, we rounded up people and interrogated them and we set people up as counselors that were like town counselors, school teachers and things like that, we got them to take over the schools and open up the schools again and that type of thing, we did that for several months. I think my background and my background of training that I had in the military and the background that I had in my life, my father being a veteran, and that sort of thing, I really didn’t have a great deal of problem to readjust. No, I went back and I never said anything about the country owing me anything at all. And I adjusted very quickly.
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