Veteran Stories:
Donald Richard “Don” Oerton

Army

  • Photo taken for my mother's birhday. July, 1943

    Donald Oerton
  • December, 1944. "The last record of some of the men I served with."

    Donald Oerton
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"All we could do then was to take cover and dig down, to keep our heads down."

Transcript

The Bren Gun Carrier [light armoured tracked vehicle] was one of the most popular vehicles in the Canadian army. They were used for different jobs. And yes, they did bog down fairly easily on soft ground, so you did your best to avoid that. It was a very dangerous vehicle on an icy road. You had very little control over it on an icy road so, once again, you picked your spots as best you could. About two, three weeks after D-Day, I was sent into France and I joined the 7th Canadian Reconnaissance Regiment [17th Duke of Yorks Royal Canadian Hussars]. And I served with them through France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. Reconnaissance regiment, the job is to gather information about the enemy and plot their positions; and we would often be traveling ahead of everybody until we ran into something and if we couldn’t handle it, we’d either sit and hold or move back and wait for the armour or the tanks, or infantry to come up. But it kept us fairly mobile and if there was a call for some mobile fire power, we were always available. We could move fairly quickly as opposed to infantry. The one date that stands out in my mind is 14 August 1944. We were near the town of Falaise in France and there was a fair size battle going on. It was mainly armour versus armour and then we were kind of caught in between and all of a sudden, we could hear a great roar and the bombers came in. I think there was well over 200 bombers come in and they were bombing the enemy fairly good, and then the bombs started to fall in our area. All we could do then was to take cover and dig down, to keep our heads down. There were always lots of old slit trenches around that the Germans had dug previously or some of their dugouts, or you got under your vehicle. I can’t recall really what I did or where I went but I know I scrounged around for cover anyway. I can remember that day fairly well and I can still see those bombers now. I’d been into the internet since and looked up the [RCAF] 6 Bomber Group website and they have a very thorough description of every raid they did and that particular day, there were 224 bombers. The bombing lasted for about an hour. But we carried a little canister of, about the size of a shoe polish can, with a striker on it; and when you opened it and struck the igniter, there was a dense yellow smoke. And we used these when our friendly aircraft were in the area to warn them. Well, it turned out that that was also the colour they used for target indicators that day. So the more smoke we threw, the more bombs came. It was quite a day.
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