Veteran Stories:
Val Rimer

Army

  • A young Val Rimer at a horse race meeting in England, shortly before being shipped to Italy.

  • A photo of Rimer's training tank. The Sherman tank was more maneuverable than the German Tiger, but the German's had superior firepower.

  • Val Rimer enlisted in 1942 at the age of 19, and served on the Continent with Lord Strathcona's Horse. The majority of his overseas service was seen in the Allied Italian campaign.

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"I wound up in the hospital with a slight wound and, at the same time, found out my brother was wounded in Europe."

Transcript

My name is Val Rimer. I was born and raised in Toronto. Moved at an early age to Winnipeg, where I joined the Army. I was 19 years of age, 1942. This was part of World War II.

After a month of basic training, I went to Camp Borden. After two months, I was posted overseas as a reinforcement. I trained as a gunner operator. I joined the Lord Strathcona Horse, a western tank regiment, in England. After a short stay in England, I was on the advance party, that is about 12 members of the regiment, to go to Italy. At that time Naples Harbour was full of sunken ships that had been sunk deliberately to block the harbour and we zigzagged back and forth to get in to unload.

We were in Italy with a large multi-national contingent. There were Canadians, Americans, British, Poles, Gurkhas, Palestinians, Sikhs, Indians and other Allied nations. There are many, many battles that we were involved in. We had a very, very fierce time. We were part of the battles at Monte Cassino, the Hitler Line, the Gothic Line.

On May 24, 1944 at a place called the Melfa River, we were in a very, very decisive action. As a matter of fact, crossing this river we were allied with the New Westminster Infantry Regiment, and Major Mahoney of that regiment won the Victoria Cross. Our own Captain Perkins won the DSM. However, it was quite costly to us. There were two officers killed, six wounded, 19 ranks were killed and 28 wounded and we lost 17 Sherman tanks. On May the 25th, the next day, we grouped together after the battle to assess the damages and regrouping was a mistake. A German spotter nearby with wireless directed fire on us. The troop I was in of three tanks, were destroyed. I am the only one alive.

We kept moving back and forth continually. We fought at Ortona, which was a very, very rough battle. I wound up in the hospital with a slight wound and, at the same time, found out my brother was wounded in Europe. Our parents received two telegrams. You can imagine how they felt. However, I returned back to my regiment and continued on participating with them in the war.

One event that stands out very much in my mind was that, as we were travelling in one battle, my crew commander, who was standing up, ducked down as we were being shelled - and I, as a gunner operator, was sitting in front of him with my back - and the first thing I know, he had held onto the hatch with one hand and all his fingers were cut off and he put his hand down in front of my face without any fingers. Struck in my mind very, very much so. And we had to go back to the regimental aid post where a doctor treated him and we were out of action because we didn't have a crew commander. There were many, many actions of that sort.

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