Veteran Stories:
John Albert “Johnny” Galipeau

Army

  • Mr. Galipeau took this picture of Sgt. Besson with his platoon. Photo taken in Dundern military camp, Saskatchewan, 1940

    John Galipeau
  • South Alberta Regiment, B Company, platoons 10 and 11.
    Training excercise in 1940. Uniforms included Pith helmets, used for sun protection.

    John Galipeau
  • Army issued gaiters that were fastened above the ankle part of the boots. Gaters were meant to provide further protection and prevent mud from getting inside, as the pant legs had to be tucked inside the boots.

    John Galipeau
  • Worn when the soldiers were on leave, these bands helped the uniform pants blouse over the army-issued gaiters. Gaiters were strapped over the pants, just above the ankle. These bands - fashioned by stuffing machine gun bullets into shoe laces- were then worn inside the pants, to provide added weight, and the pants hung better.

    John Galipeau
  • Army issued toiletry pouch, refered to as a "housewife."

    John Galipeau
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"The infantry in the early days, they’d always scream and charge the enemy, that didn’t go on in the Second World War"

Transcript

It was some time a week after the D-Day Landing, [June 6, 1944] we went over. Then of course, we land ashore and then that’s when we get our first time of being bombed on French soil by the Germans. And I think we were there for just two or three days, getting organised, some of the people that had already landed that was with our unit that come over and they come back and harassed us a little, what we doing in Egypt there. We could hear, then we could hear the guns and we knew we were getting close. And then we got moved into action and that’s where our first casualty came into being. We were in harbour, it’s a harbour the tanks fit in, we were being shelled by overhead explosives. And we were packing up and we had blankets, we used to load our stuff in the back of the tank where the turret is, there was a box called a blanket box. So we were loading this up with our stuff and whatever gear we have in there, blankets, whatever there is, they go in their packs, whatever. And one of these overhead shells landed and hit one of our men, who was up on the tank working. And it went through his flesh, of his chest. Now, most of us were suddenly, this is the first wound, first one we’ve seen, somebody’s been hit. So we were all sort of halfway stunned. Now, there was a little English fellow there, I call him English, that was his nation, the way he spoke, and a little older than the rest of us. He was up about 20, 30 years old, something like that, possibly. He climbed up on the deck of the tank and started to take care of the fellow that got hit. That woke us all up, so then we all got into help and the fellow was taken off on a stretcher, on a jeep stretchers we have, all the stretchers were built on jeeps, you had a jeep and then a rack up top. Anyway, he was taken away and then of course we settled down and that night, we had an action we went to. There was a village of Tilly[-sur-Seulles] and that was our first action. We went to Tilly[-sur-Seulles]. The infantry went in and they’d been in two or three times and they couldn’t make it. That was a real hard place to get through. There was, Germans were well-fortified. So that was our first action in there and of course, mostly with us, we were busy supporting the infantry, bring back out. That’s the first action we went into what would really now, we’re in there now. The French used to come out with buckets of apple juice. So this one time they came out and they had a can or a bucket, whatever the heck they had, and the boys, we had our mugs, I still have my mug on there, and so you take out this apple juice and oh, that’s good, because it was hot, this is June, July we should say, dry. And I’m watching these infantry boys, there’s two of them on across the way and they’d been in this, then we find out that it wasn’t apple juice this time, it was Calvados [a French apple brandy]. So these fellows had been up on the side of the hill there and there was a little setting down the hill a ways, there was a group of some markers at German ditch or a German trench or something down in behind this shrubbery. And these two are sitting there yakking and talking away and someone says, I’m going to get some Germans. And sure, okay, let’s go get some Germans. I’m watching this and of course, we had the tank and we had everything all trained out across there and these two fellows got up and off they went, down the hill, just a hopping along and a running along. So I watched and we had a, what was supposed to be a decent gun but it was a submachine gun of a type that was cheaply made and the whole thing. So they’re heading down the hill and one guy’s got his rifle, his bayonet, the other fellow’s got this, I don’t know whether he had anything really but the other fellow had this Sten gun they called them, made them 50 cents a piece, I don’t know why we had to use them. Anyway, his bullet holder had fallen off. The, the, whatever you call it, the cartridge holder, that part. So that had fallen off and the two of them headed down the ditch on the run, God, they come back with three Germans. And so I thought, they’re both drunker than...[laughs] But the infantry in the early days, they’d always scream and charge the enemy, that didn’t go on in the Second World War but the First World War, that’s the … So these two guys had a brigade of their own, they went down over the hill with this thing and the next thing you know, they come out from behind the shrubbery and got these two Germans. So that’s a little tip. It’s a blanket we were issued. We were always issued with two blankets. One you used, you kept that with you. And that was your blanket you used. You used them to sleep in, both of them. But one is kept, it’s with you at all the time, you have one, and that’s the one they bury you in. You keep that. And that’s the blanket I have.
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