James WinnThe Winn Family
""There would be a couple of Germans in the truck for loading and one guard looking at them at the back of it. After a few trips I used to get in the front with them. They were just the same as ourselves. They were more or less fighting for their country. That’s the way that worked.""
I left, I think it was in the night, on the evening on June 5th. We arrived and landed on the beach on D-Day at around about 6:00 in the morning or just shortly thereafter. And then we got into the scrap there it wasn’t very pleasant, but being so scared that you didn’t know what you were doing, you put up with it.
And we thought we were supposed to be at a place just outside of Caen [France] on that evening and it took us a month, pretty near a month and two days and we landed inside an airport in Carpiquet. We arrived there and we were to clean out that airport. And it started and oh it was heavy fighting. We drove back and the next thing we were into it again. I got hit in the leg with a rifle bullet and shortly after I could feel it all right, but I guess my leg was numb. And shortly after that an air burst got me in the left shoulder and took a chunk out of the back of my shoulder. The next thing I knew I woke up in a French hospital in England again. And they found out I couldn’t speak French or understand it so they shipped me down to the 18th Canadian [in] Colchester in England, an all-English hospital.
The reason they made a mistake in the first place, when coming from a draft over there I went with a French regiment and of course they assumed that I was French when they got me in the field, which was the reason for the hospital mix-up. I was in the hospital there for, oh I really don’t know the length of time, it was over a month or a month and a half. They gave us another week’s vacation and I headed back to Edinburgh [Scotland] again. I went back from there, had a few days training and the next thing we were flying back into action. I volunteered to go back, but of course it wouldn’t have made any difference anyhow if they had sent me.
And we landed in Belgium, a port there in Belgium. And, well, the outfit that was there, my regiment, and they were kind of on a leave, back to get a rest and a change of clothes and all that kind of stuff. And one evening we were going to a canteen down the street and we met a couple of priests walking in their habit and everything and one fellow that was with us said, “Them fellows had German army boots on.” We reported it to the MPs [military police] and they found them after a while and got them: it two German soldiers dressed in priest’s robes and stuff.
And from that we weren’t very long after and got sent back into action again. I can’t remember the names of towns too well because of the different moves. We were stopped there. Every now and then we would get a little break out of it. Half of the time we were our rivals, we were too scared to really take too much notice of the name of a town. We kept on going to town after town until we got to a place just across, there was a small river with a big high bridge onto it, just across from Emden in Germany. We could see the tops of German battleships over the top of buildings and stuff of the war. Everything quietened right down. That’s where they agreed to sign this treaty that the German admiral off of the ship, one of the big war ships, he came across from England and all these, I don’t know the names. I know the first admiral from the ship was Rear Admiral Durnam. So I don’t know how that really is pronounced, but that’s the way that I got it. They signed there at some place where they got organized at a table and signed the surrender. Then we had to start gathering up the German surrendered troops. And we had to build a big compound and everything. I spent about a month and half or two months there.
And we used to go down to a place in Holland and pick up food for them. There would be a couple of Germans in the truck for loading and one guard looking at them at the back of it. After a few trips I used to get in the front with them. They were just the same as ourselves. They were more or less fighting for their country. That’s the way that worked.
Then I volunteered to go the Pacific in order to get home.