"The memories of the fellows that I actually served with during those days, it's a bond closer than brothers."
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My name is Gordon Bannerman. I served in the Canadian Army in World War II. My rank at the end of the war was a Battery Sergeant-Major.
Rome fell the 4th of June, 1944, and Canadians were out of ... there until almost the end of June. I was in Rome for the 1st of July, 1944, and I had my mind made that I was going to see the Vatican. As we went up the steps, I said I would to get a picture taken on the steps, and these very good-looking Italian girls came along. I sort of said, in my broken Italian and English, "Come and have your photo taken with me." I never saw them before, they never saw me before, and ten seconds later they were gone.
We went back into action in August for the Gothic Line. And here was a tremendous amount of shellfire in most of the areas a place called Montemaggiore. They just blanketed the valley with mortars coming in by the hundreds. But we survived that until a day or two later when the big railway gun started firing on Montemaggiore and one of our young fellows was badly wounded with it, and subsequently passed away. I've got very tender thoughts for Scott Coyle because when I bent down over him on the stretcher, I said, "Coyle, just lay still." And he said, "I know you, Gordie." And put his arms around my neck and, well, by the time they put him in the truck to go to an aid post he was gone.
On the night of 16th, 17th of April, the Germans were getting pushed out of Appeldorn by the 1st Division and then they came down a road directly on top of us on their way to escape into western Holland. This got very close quarters. They crawled up to the slit trenches and some of our fellows were shooting them at two-foot range. Sergeant Barkwell stood up and was knocking them down with his bare fists. The troop that I was the Sergeant-Major of, we lost... two killed and I think twelve or thirteen wounded. They killed one of our fellows in a house and one of our drivers and wounded most of the other drivers. When daylight came, in came the Churchill tank firing a big mortar, and machine-gunning over our heads. And out of this machine-gunning and mortaring came a German aid fellow with a little white flag and a red cross on it. Well, we were glad to see him because he was going to look after some of his wounded there, and we gave him a cigarette. General Hoffmeister came on his staghound and I jumped on his staghound to take him down to where we were. But he was talking to the Irish Regiment, "You did a tremendous job last night." And the Irish Regiment answered as one man, and said, "It was those damn-fool artillerymen there. They didn't know enough to run."
Orme Payne and I went to school together. We played hockey together. We played ball together. We joined the same day. We were both eighteen. And at Autoloo, that I talked about, in Holland, I wondered what happened to Orme. I started across the field and I looked up and there's a figure coming towards me, and here was Orme. And we met in the middle of this field and our words were, "By God, I'm glad to see you." And the other fellow said, "By God, I'm glad to see you." Because he'd heard that I'd been killed the night before. And I saw their house go up in fire so I thought that was the end of him too.
The memories of the fellows that I actually served with during those days, it's a bond closer than brothers.