Veteran Stories:
Gordon MacDonald

Army

  • Gordon MacDonald, while attached to the 23rd Field Regiment RCA, in October 1945.

    Gordon MacDonald
  • Gordon MacDonald sits on a bomb in Oldenburgh, Germany, May 8th, 1945.

    Gordon MacDonald
  • Gordon MacDonald in Oldenburgh, Germany, 1945.

    Gordon MacDonald
  • Gordon MacDonald in Oldenburgh, Germany, 1945.

    Gordon MacDonald
  • Gordon MacDonald while attached to the British 62nd Anti-Tank Regiment in Roosendaal, Holland, 1944.

    Gordon MacDonald
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"The nuns were running around wondering what to do with the girls in their arms. Girls were crying for their mothers. This was the saddest tragedy I had seen. To this day, I still see that scene in my mind’s eye."

Transcript

This outfit was called First Canadian Air Support Control Signals, later changed to First Canadian Air Support Signals Unit. My army life with them was not a barracks life. We were a small outfit of about 120 men and by the war’s end about 140, broken up into three sections, what they called Field Section, Headquarters Section and Air Section. I was in the Field Section. We had what we called detachments, a corporal, a driver and two operators. I was one of the operators. We had a wireless radio truck. The purpose of our job was to travel with forward troops and, when requested, to send a message back to army and from there relay it to the air force. The request was for aircraft, usually a [Hawker] Typhoon or sometimes a [de Havilland] Mosquito. They had the rockets mounted under their wings. And the target was usually a hold-down tank, machine gun nest, an artillery battery or anything else that might be impeding the progress of our troops. We did not on a day to basis come under orders or disciplines of the units that we were attached to, except of course, for normal army rules and regulations. We were given no other assignments such as KP [kitchen patrol] or guard duty. Our job with the field unit was to travel with the fighting troops.

We were located near the outskirts of Antwerp [Belgium]. We were in a huge chateau-like building. The worst that I ever saw was a school for girls in the north part of Antwerp, was located at about the distance of a football field from our building. It had eight rooms, four down and four up, with a big central hallway. Early one morning, I heard a very loud blast. Glass and debris came flying into my room, onto my bed. Fortunately for me, I was on the can at the time. Jerry [nick-name for the Germans], showing his usual concern for children, had dropped a V-2 [rocket] at the front door of the school. Some of us rushed over. We saw a terrible sight. There was a huge crater about 30 feet across, doors and windows smashed, glass and plaster, debris everywhere. Girls were lying all over the place. Some were dead, others with broken limbs and lacerations. The nuns were running around wondering what to do with the girls in their arms. Girls were crying for their mothers. Others were screaming or were just moaning. We helped a bit until more competent help arrived. We were then told to return to our billets. This was the saddest tragedy I had seen. To this day, I still see that scene in my mind’s eye.

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