Sheldon Nattrass in summer uniform, 1941.Sheldon Nattrass
Sheldon Nattrass in battledress, 1942.Sheldon Nattrass
Sheldon Nattrass's medals (L-R): Legion Medals; 1939-45 Star; France and Germany Star; Defence Medal; Canadian Volunteer Service Medal; War Medal (1939-45).Sheldon Nattrass
Sheldon Nattrass and Member of Parliament John Cummins, British Columbia, November 11, 2009.Sheldon Nattrass
"Being a dispatch rider for the commander, well you hear the things that are going on, and the war means something different to me than it would the average guy."
The early part of 1944, I managed to get in the same unit as my brother was in, it was the artillery and I went to the 44th Battery in 13th Canadian Field Regiment. And there I was, with the unit, when it come out along for June the 6th on D-Day. So that meant I had been in the army roughly three years, I joined when I was 17, I was 20 on D-Day, landed in Normandy with the rest of our 7th Brigade, well, the whole 3rd Div [3rd Canadian Infantry Division], I guess, was going to be part of the OP [Operation] crew and I went ashore with the Regina Rifles, I think it was ‘Charlie’ Company. And I managed to get it. But the memories are real good at the first part of the landing and then a few minutes later, it was terrible and well, I was stunned through the rest of it I guess. But later in the day, I recovered a bit, I recovered enough to see a couple German planes coming in straight from the beach, but I had already passed that.
But I was looking back, but I don’t remember too much of it except that there was a couple of the guys with me that just looked like I felt – like an old rag doll. It was one hell of a day anyway, but later on in the day, the rest of the guns and the regiment came ashore and I got hooked up with my own bunch. For that first month or so, more than a month, we were on the bridgehead and we were in a hell of a time.
I rode the MC-1 or the first motorcycle because that was the major’s, eh, the OC [Officer Commanding] of our battery. So once we got out of the bridgehead anyway, more than in the bridgehead, on Recce [reconnaissance] parties and everything like this, I, I was always there. Sometime around Bretteville [sur-Laize, France] or something, five enemy planes came over, hedge-hopping. Their purpose was to strafe I guess. They were fighter planes and they’d come and fly in so low that when they came to the hedge, they actually had to rise to go over and then they’d settle down again. And they, the bottom of the plane is just a matter of a few feet off the ground. They were good pilots, I guess, but I have a feeling the reason they flew so low is to avoid radar.
But that day, there’s a story in there that I told that I could have brought him down by tossing my Sten [gun] into his prop [propeller]. He was so low, and he was looking right at me, people may find it hard to believe, but I could see his baby blue eyes. And that’s a term I’ll use once again in my history. But I didn’t, something held me back from tossing it into it anyway. However, it was an event that was kind of a scary, but a personal one, between the enemy and myself. He gave up and tried to lower his guns because too low, he couldn’t, that’s why I knew that, too, and I was right in between the machine gun mounts and his right wing. So, I don’t know, must have been a cocky young guy because I remember that very distinctly.
Being a dispatch rider for the commander, well you hear the things that are going on, and the war means something different to me than it would the average guy.