Discharge certificate, dated 18 october 1945, with mention of reception of the canadian voluntary service medal as well as service in Europe.Réal Boulet
Réal Boulet in St-Jean-Port-Joli, Quebec, April 2010.Historica Canada
"I collapsed from fatigue and fell asleep. They left me for dead. I was on the other side of the road when I woke up and they were gone."
I was the eldest of a family of 15 children, so I said to myself, well, I guess if they lose just one son in the family... When my mother was young, she worked at the Victoria hospital in Quebec City. That was during the other war. She knew all of the anti-German songs, so we learned them too. I met up with a friend from Saint-Paul [-de-Montmagny, Quebec] and he said, so, should we enlist? We had seen a sign at the post office inviting men to enlist in the regiment. My salary at the time was 40 dollars a month. We didn’t make a lot of money in those lean years, in 1939-1940.
It was June 6th that I arrived in Normandy, the D-Day invasion.. There was a five-foot-high cement wall that had three inches of barbed wire on top. The engineers of the regiment had tubes full of dynamite. They blew those up so we were able to get through. We passed beside the church and up a big hill. That was our objective for the day. We had to get there. We climbed the hill, fighting all the way. We went five or six miles. We rounded up some Germans, about 45 of them. By night time, they placed us, the companies, on each side of the road with shovels to shovel gravel. We had started to dig a small trench when the German tanks launched a counter-attack. There was one guy from the regiment named Roy. He was driving a Jeep mounted with a small gun. He managed to shoot down about fifteen oncoming German tanks. He got those and was still trying to take out others. He killed the German general at the head of the attack.
We couldn’t see everything that was going on. They took a few prisoners from the Régiment de la Chaudière. When the Germans saw that against very little, they had already lost about fifteen tanks, they turned back and hid in the hedgerows. The next day, Canadian and British fighter planes arrived and they took care of them.
We were supposed to attack the big city of Caen. General Rommel [German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel] who was in charge of that German army, he had his work cut out for him. We went in about seven or eight miles and came back to the rear of Caen. We took the airport. We managed to take the airport but the city of Caen - it was decided that there was no choice but to kill the Germans who were holding the city. It was night, and all of a sudden, seven or eight [hundred] bomber planes dropped their load over the city of Caen. There was a big dust cloud. The city was [almost] completely wiped out. Only a church remained standing. A week later we went through Caen and it smelled bad. There had been about 60 000 French people there [before the battle of Normandy]. They had been occupied by the SS [Schutzstaffel]. That’s war.
As for rest, well I will tell you honestly that two or three days before Carpiquet, I collapsed from fatigue and fell asleep. They left me for dead. I was on the other side of the road when I woke up and they were gone. I caught up with them in time for the battle of Carpiquet. It had already been three weeks [since the D-Day landing]. When we took Carpiquet, it was in the papers about how hard a fight it had been and how the Germans had been ready to take us on.
The French people were happy. In Normandy, we were about 50 miles away from the land of my Norman ancestors, the Boulets. The water falls were unchanged. We sang the song “J’irai revoir ma Normandie!” We didn’t always have time to stop and talk with [the locals]. We were drilled; we had to march from place to place. We would stop on the side of the road and throw ourselves down and go to sleep. There were still a lot of German soldiers but they knew that the war was over. We still had to be armed though, to stay in control of the situation. The regiment remained in northern Germany for the occupation. As for me, since I had spent five years in the army, they sent me back to Canada to see my parents.
When I arrived, I hardly recognized my sisters. They had grown so much in five years. There were 15 of us in our family. They came to get me at the train station in Quebec City. It was strange seeing my parents again. My parents weren’t rich, they had some wood lots but they weren’t rich. Because they had 15 kids, I sent them half of my salary, my 40 dollars. I had to help them. I was the eldest. That break was so peaceful. Hot tears rolled down my face; it was my nerves, I guess they were just shot. Afterwards, I resumed my job as a lumberjack. Peace, peace; pray for it to happen. We go to the rosary each day to pray so that it never happens again.