An unidentified sergeant of The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry wearing his 1937 Pattern webbing, Infantry Battle Order. Sussex, England, 25 March 1942.
Credit: Capt. Laurie A. Audrain / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-211474
"Oh boy. Jesus, I thought, my God, Hail Mary, full of grace, save me from this guy. What the heck am I going to do?"
I remember, [in Falkenberg, Germany] we got up in the ditch and I had the only gun worth working. They had nothing so I’m firing over my shoulder and they’re running ahead of me, pulling away from me. The next thing you know, this thing is empty, the machine gun, so I threw the damn thing away. By this time, they were quite a bit ahead of me, so somebody on the right, an enemy soldier, opened up with a heavy machine gun in front of me, shooting up the road. Well he wasn’t shooting up the road, they wanted to separate me from the others. So I wasn’t going to walk into that, so I dived into a ditch. And I looked up and the last thing I could see was their heels as they were running away. So I’m in the ditch, soaking wet, I think it was in April , and I’m going up the ditch and I come to a culvert. I thought, oh great, I’ll go through the culvert but I couldn’t go through the culvert because it was too small. It was only about eight inches.
Just then, I hear something go whistling past my ear and hit the earth beside me. And I looked way back on the other one and there’s a German soldier leaning over the parapet, firing at me. Oh boy. Jesus, I thought, my God, Hail Mary, full of grace, save me from this guy. What the heck am I going to do? I lean over to the right and there’s a little indentation in the ground. So I got in there and he fired a couple of times and then they stopped. And everything was quiet. And I thought, good. I heard them walking on the road; I got down low, I could hear them walking just above me and laughing and talking and something, talking about “kanadische Soldaten” - that means Canadian soldiers [in German]. And they walked right past me and kept going. I thought, oh Jesus, I made it. These guys are going to go back and then I’m going to carry on. They turned around and came back, right to where I was and hollered, “Raus!”- get out. They knew where I was all the time. They knew exactly where I was.
So they ordered me out and I come out and I still remember saying in German, Please don’t shoot. God, I still remember that. They said, No, I’m not going to shoot, and he helped me out. They helped me to sit down and I was a hell of a mess. I needed a shave, I needed a bath, I needed a rest. And then he said to me in German, Have you been hit? I thought he said, Do you have a shirt on, because I’m saying, Yes, yes. Oh, he was so upset, he called the guy with the first aid kit, Come over here, this guy’s been hit. And hell, I said No, I’m alright, I haven’t been hit, no, I’m okay. Oh, thank you very much. So I pulled out a package of wet cigarettes, soaking wet, and I threw them away and he said, save them, you might need them where you’re going. The guy that come up after, a German officer, a young fellow, maybe 20 years old, spoke good English, asked me if I was alright and I said yes. He said, I thought you might like to know your two comrades got away. They put me in a house with a couple of other German soldiers. No prisoners, I was the only one there. They didn’t know what to do with me.
And one day, the German soldier said to me in German, you want to shave? I said, yes. So he lent me his razor and we went outside, cold water, I had a shave and one day I’m sitting there, looking out the window and a truck pulled up and he said, Your comrades are here. And I looked and about a dozen Canadian soldiers, prisoners of war, got out. And they brought them in the house and the first guy I looked at was a friend of mine that I knew in Hamilton. He lived a block away. So they wouldn’t let me talk to them until they interrogated them and then after that, they took us to a prisoner-of-war camp, well, it was a makeshift camp, it was just some barbed wire.
One day we got up, it was Tuesday morning, I still remember this, just like it was yesterday. And everything was quiet. And one guy said, sure, the guns have stopped. You know, the guns are something but it’s in your psyche, you know what I mean? There’s thunder - in the distance of course but always rumble, rumble, rumble. And here this morning, we woke up, nothing, quiet. Dead quiet. So we knew it was over.