Veteran Stories:
Lyle Alton Kocher

Army

  • A collage of items related to Lyle Kocher's service in the Second World War.

    Lyle Kocher
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"Shrapnel hit me in the neck, a little chunk of it and it went between two vertebrae and by the night, I was paralyzed."

Transcript

I arrived in England on July the 29th; that would be in 1943. Left England for Africa on September the 13th. When I left Africa, of course, I was with the Edmonton Regiment and I was one year in Italy. We landed in Taranto, Italy; that’s a big naval base. I got wounded in the first attack on Ortona. And we’d just come up to it and there was 37 of us on our ‘D’ company and there was four of us come out. Two of, the sergeant that brought us out, he was crying, he was shell-shocked and the runner took off to help the stretcher bearers. And the other guy and I, we’d been together in Africa, we didn’t know what to do. Neither one of us had ever been in action of any kind of before. And we got down into a gully and crawled along that for three or four hours, just crawling over dead Germans and the odd Canadian in there with them and it was next to the railroad track and a big ditch. And that gully officially wasn’t taken until February and this was about the 16th or 17th of December. Anyway, my rifle was hit at the piling swivel. After that happened, I think I was knocked out because I could hear them calling me. So we pulled back where we’d started and then we had to keep going because all of our men were going. Anyway, we got back, we found out we were the only ones left out of ‘D’ company, as far as we knew. ‘C’ company were just about wiped out too. And we had to join up with them, it was only about, oh it wouldn’t even be half a platoon or half a company left and the next day I was wounded. Shrapnel hit me in the neck, a little chunk of it and it went between two vertebrae and by the night, I was paralyzed. I got to a house where they were having first aid and they sent me downstairs, because they couldn’t handle all the people coming in and downstairs of course, that meant in the wine cellar. And they put me on two mattresses. Well, as soon as I lay down, I couldn’t get up. I stayed there all night and during the night, a shell had come through and hit one of the big vats and I could feel this wine coming up on me towards morning. And anyway, about 8:00 or 9:00, a guy opened the door to see if anything had happened downstairs and I hollered at him, and he waded through the wine and got me out. By the time we got to the last dressing station, everywhere we’d go, they’d yank that patch off my neck, so it was real sore and I asked them not to do that but I couldn’t feed myself. A little East Indian boy fed me. Anyway, I got to hospital finally and on the 23rd of December, they operated on me, took that out and on the 24th, they hauled me downstairs to see a Christmas party put on by the staff. And in my book I’d written [authored after the war], it was too vulgar for me. And everybody laughed when they read that. But anyway, I was there about three weeks I guess and when I went to the holding unit, that’s when we were sent by mistake to the 48th Highlanders. I’d been wounded twice and I went blind one time, my eyes went shut on a, while I was sent on an NCO’s [Non-Commissioned Officer’s] course and about the third day, I had to go to the hospital and of course, that was the end of that. Another time, I had an ingrown toenail. Actually, it got gangrene in it, and I went to hospital. I had quite a time in the army.
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