Veteran Stories:
Robert Gordon Haine

Army

  • Robert Haine near the village of Lunteren in The Netherlands, 1945.

    Robert Haine
  • Robert Gordon's paybook.

    Robert Haine
  • A ticket to a "Freedom Dance" that Mr Haine attended in Belgium in 1944.

    Robert Haine
  • A postcard featuring the Fort Williams Girls Military Band, 1945. The Fort Williams Band played for service men and women on passing troop trains during the war.

    Robert Haine
  • Robert Haine's Service Medals (L-R): 1939-45 Star; France and Germany Star; Defence Medal, Canadian Volunteer Service Medal; War Medal (1939-45).

    Robert Haine
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"We took up positions near Falaise, in what is known as the Falaise Gap. We could see the American guns firing from the other side of the valley. It was a terrible slaughter of men, horses and machines."

Transcript

Forty of us formed a troop known as “K” Troop in the 69th Battery Force Regiment of the 3rd [Canadian Infantry] Division. We had eight days of intensive training at Clacton on Sea, [England] on Colts [revolvers] and 20 mm machine guns. They fired at a rate of 450 rounds per minute, all with high explosive projectiles.

We missed the June 6, [1944] landing in France but the beaches were still under fire near Caen and the huge guns at Le Havre many miles away. Our troop ship [a cargo boat] the City of Vancouver anchored offshore and we went down scramble nets to barges. Our trucks and guns were lowered by cranes and then we headed to shore.

When we grounded we drove through water about five feet deep, the last few hundred feet. One sight that is still vivid to me is when the battleship [HMS] Rodney fired on the German tanks near Caen. Her guns of 16-inch sure were a sight to see and were accurate. Miles-Auster airplanes were used to spot enemy targets and direct the gunfire.

We only lasted in action for a few days. Our losses were very light but most of our equipment was damaged. Even our food tins were full of holes, caused by anti-personnel bombs dropped at night and gun and mortar fire day and night.

I was posted to 69th Battery [40mm] Bofors [guns] again. When Carpiquet and Caen were captured, we were told to move forward. A force of United States bombers bombed our troops at Colombelles, a suburb of Caen, by error. Shortly after, as we drove by, I recognised some of my comrades from Rosetown, [Saskatchewan] dead beside the road. This was the first of three bombings. On August 14th, a huge raid by Lancasters [bomber aircrafts] bombed our area, killing many. I helped bury sixteen Polish tank crew that were killed about 100 yards from our gun sight. The next day, a Spitfire [fighter aircraft] and three Thunderbolts [fighter aircrafts] bombed an ammunitions truck near us.

We took up positions near Falaise, in what is known as the Falaise Gap. We could see the American guns firing from the other side of the valley. It was a terrible slaughter of men, horses and machines.

While we were stationed near Groesbeek, [Netherlands] we had a small dugout there, that’s where we cooked our food. We slept in little slit trenches. I was in the dugout, probably writing a letter, and I heard a little bit of a commotion outside and I poked my head out and all of our gun crew were on the outside of the gun pit instead of being on the gun. And I called out to them, I said, what’s going on, then? And they said, oh, a live shell lit in there. How it missed everybody, and missed their gun, I will never know. But it had. And it had buried itself, about half its length (it was a small, high-explosive shell) it buried itself about half the length of the projectile but had not detonated. I don’t want to make it sound as though I was a great hero or anything, but I was the youngest of our gun crew and I was still single. And I went over and you could see the base of the shell sticking out right behind the gun where everybody had to move fast in the case of an air raid. And so it went through my mind, well, somebody has to move it and move it carefully. So, I was able to get a hold of it and gently I twisted to loosen it up. Because the ground was frozen, it was all sand there but it was frozen, wet sand. And I carried it some distance from the gun and threw it as far as I could throw it. And that was the end of the story.

And I am not trying to make myself out a hero. I did what I had to do.

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