Veteran Stories:
Adam Levchter

Army

  • Photo of signalmen in France. Adam is pictured in the middle of the top row, August 1944.

    Adam Levchter
  • Photo of signalmen. Adam is pictured on the top left side in August 1944.

    Adam Levchter
  • Photo of bagpipe band in Scotland, 1943.

    Adam Levchter
  • Photo of cadet officers on parade. Adam is pictured third from the left, 1945.

    Adam Levchter
  • Photo of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery inspecting Polish Troops, August 1944.

    Adam Levchter
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"We moved from Caen inside to what became that famous bottleneck around Falaise and Chambois, where three German SS Divisions became embottled between the Americans and Canadians and we were part of the Canadian Army. That was a bloody massacre."

Transcript

And in Tehran [Persia - now Iran, in late 1941], there was already a unit of Polish Army which I joined and we were put on trucks and we were transported from Tehran through Iran to Palestine and from Palestine, after a couple of months, we went to Suez [Egypt], where we boarded the ship called [RMS] Mauretania, it was a large passenger ship. There were several thousands of us on that, and the idea was to travel to Scotland via Cape of Good Hope.

Unfortunately, Japan was already in the war and the Japanese submarines attacked the convoy, and our ship, Mauretania, had to put in Durban, which is a large harbour in South Africa. So we unloaded from the ship and about two or three thousand of us Poles spent three or four, five months in a camp outside, Pietermaritzburg. And after several months, a new convoy was assembled in Cape Town and we went by train to Cape Town, we loaded on this small merchant ship, which was also armoured with guns going back to the Boer War [1899-1902]. They were old, old guns and so on.

There were 2,000 Poles on it. There were about 3,000 Italians who were prisoners and there were about 60 British seamen. And we Poles became an impromptu sea crew. And that was a lot of fun, and so on, because we were sick most of the time. The British were absolutely disgusted. But we managed. We got back to Scotland in November 1942, where I was assigned to the 1st Polish Armoured Division.

In July 1944, we marched until, you know in our tanks, we were shipped to Aldershot [England], where the invasion troops were being assembled. We sailed to Normandy to a place called Arromanches, as part of the First Canadian Army. We became part of the Canadian Army. We sailed there, it was end of, some time in July. The D-Day was what, June the 6th I think? And our first action was I think in the middle of August against the city of Caen [France] and then we moved from Caen inside to what became that famous bottleneck around Falaise and Chambois [France], where three German SS Divisions became embottled between the Americans and Canadians and we were part of the Canadian Army. That was a bloody massacre.

I was in the signals battalion. I was a radio operator and I was assigned to the commanding officer’s battle tank. The battle tank was used by our commanding officer whenever there was a big battle going on. He would sit in the tank, on top of the tank with his adjutant and so on. There were three radio operators inside the tank. There was no gun, the gun was just a wooden piece of tube attached to the tank to make it look like a gun because the inside had to be, it where all the equipment, radio equipment. So that was fun because we would drive right into the action and we had periscopes and we could see the other tanks and the planes and, of course, the tank shook because it had its own machine guns which it used. So that was fun. I was never wounded.

[Soviet Premier Josef] Stalin troops marched into Poland and Poland became a communist country. And many of us who have lived through communist labour camps and so on, said no bloody way we’re going back, we’re staying in Britain. So Britain organized what was called the Polish Resettlement Corps into which we were grouped. And that Polish Resettlement Corps was kind of administered jointly by the Polish government in exile, which lost more and more power, and by the British. And a lot of members of that Polish Resettlement Corps went to work in Britain, in coal mines, textile [mills], you know, wherever there were jobs, a lot of them began to emigrate to Australia, Canada. Most of them emigrated to United States. A few went back to Poland, but not many.

We fought among Canadians. Funny part was in one attack [Operation Totalize], we were sitting in the forest with our tanks ready to attack in two or three hours while our bombers, British and American bombers, went over, wave after wave, to soften the Germans in front of us. Except that somehow they got the readings wrong and they started to bomb us. We had our yellow markers and so on, but nevertheless, they did. So we all jumped under the tanks and most of us survived, but we cursed it, yeah.

Well, I came to Victoria [British Columbia] 15 years ago. I live on the street in Ten Mile Point. I was walking my dog and I met another Canadian walking his dog. We started to chat, we found soon enough that we were both in the army and in the same part, he was in the [II] Canadian Corps and so on. And he said, “What do you remember best from that, our first attack?” I said, “Hiding under the tank!” And he said, “You’re bloody well right, I was under the tank, in my tank also hoping I would come out alive.” So here we were, 60 years later, thousands of mile from where we were during the war.

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