Veteran Stories:
Paul Thomas Sterling

Army

  • Paul Sterling (left) with a friend in Belgium, 1944.

    Paul Sterling
  • Paul Stirling's platoon finally gets a rest in Holland in 1944.

    Paul Sterling
  • A uniform patch that Paul Sterling took from a German POW at the end of the war in 1945.

    Paul Sterling
  • A postcard issued by the German propaganda ministry during the war. Paul Sterling found this in a home in Germany in 1945.

    Paul Sterling
  • A German postcard with a Stuka dive bomber that Paul Sterling took from a home in Germany, 1945.

    Paul Sterling
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"And as we proceeded to the shore, some of the shorter guys started to float because they no longer could feel the depth of the water."

Transcript

Being in the [Royal Canadian] Engineers, which I originally joined, we had various training in relation to booby traps, mines, navy bridges, etc. However, as time approached the impending D-Day, suddenly we were brought together and stated that the infantry was short on men. So, therefore, we are going to transfer the engineers, which they said were surplus, to infantry, [to] the various infantry battalions. And you are going to be in the infantry and you do have a choice of what regiment you would like to belong. So therefore, suddenly, I was now in the Queen’s Own Rifles [of Canada] in preparation for D-Day. As we approached the June date, we were transported down to the shoreline of England in preparation for the D-Day landings. So we were put onboard a, I believe that it was an Egyptian vessel and the bread-making was absolutely delicious. We didn’t mind that in the least. But we did sit on the vessel for two days and then we finally took off. And when we approached the shores of Normandy, we were taken off the vessel by rope ladder into LSTs [Landing Ship Tanks]. You could practically walk from ship to ship, there were that many at that particular time, including various warships as well, the battleships. Naturally, the shelling took place from the various vessels and we were brought into a circular design after we got onboard the LSTs. Then we proceeded to the shore. Now, our particular LST hit a sandbar and naturally, we were delayed in getting onshore. Now, as much as the navy men tried to release the LST, they were unable to do so, so, therefore, we were at least two to three hours late. Now, we had no alternative other than to offload from the LST into water that was waist deep. And as we proceeded to the shore, some of the shorter guys started to float because they no longer could feel the depth of the water. And they were no longer on stable ground, they started to float away. Naturally, we had packs on and these substituted for floating vessels, you might say. So anyway, we did get onshore and proceeded into the area of Bény-sur-Mer. So say the least, I was most apprehensive about it, but, to be perfectly honest with you, I was completely scared shitless. Everybody, you were there, you were told that you had to advance and regardless of the amount of firepower that they had, you kept on going and eventually, luckily, you made it. But it was a very harrowing experience.
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