Veteran Stories:
Frederick Joseph “Fred” Bourgeois

Army

  • Frederick Bourgeois, November 2009.

    Historica Canada
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"We walked from Normandy to Germany. We were on foot. We walked 10 miles per day."

Transcript

It was the only place we could go to earn a few bucks. So we decided to enlist in the army. When I joined up, I was 17 years old. One of my brothers was also in the war. He joined after me. We met up in Holland. One night… I spoke to the sergeant. I asked him if he knew anybody named Bourgeois who had come back. He said he did, and that he came from Ottawa. I told him that that was my brother. That was overseas, in the spring of 1942. I was in the North Shore [New Brunswick Regiment] at the time, the North Shore regiment. The Fusiliers Mont-Royal had lost so many men after the Dieppe raid that they took all of the French-speaking soldiers from the North Shore regiment and transferred them into the Fusiliers Mont-Royal, to replenish their ranks. That’s why I had to go there. I didn’t like it.

I took first aid training. I was chosen to be a SB, a stretcher bearer. It wasn’t too bad, but there were some tough times as well. You had to get used to the blood. Some of them were bleeding to death. We had to do everything we could to stop them from bleeding. We left them there and then we came back afterwards to finish our job. We couldn’t finish the whole job right away. We stopped the bleeding first. We made tourniquets for the legs. Today, they don’t do that anymore, they use compresses. It’s completely different. First Aid has completely changed. It’s easier now. Some of them were even able to take care of their legs themselves, they were strong. We would find them and they often had gangrene. After an hour or two, you have to loosen the tourniquet to let the blood flow out, to prevent gangrene.

It wasn’t always the best job, but you got used to it. We didn’t go to the hospital. We sent the wounded to the Medical Corps. The guys behind us took them to the hospital but we stayed on the battlefield. We walked from Normandy to Germany. We were on foot. We walked 10 miles per day.

We stayed in Holland all winter, waiting for the Russians to get closer to Berlin so that the Americans and Russians could enter Berlin together. We could have entered Germany but they didn’t want us to. They held us back. We had to wait until the spring. We could have finished in the fall, we could have gone to Oldenburg in Germany. But Berlin was kept for the English, the Americans and the Russians. They had to go in together, that was the plan. [The Russian Army won the Battle of Berlin in May, 1945].

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