Mr. Léonard Leblanc.Léonard Leblanc
Troops returning home to Canada aboard the RMS Queen Elizabeth, 1945.Leonard Leblanc
The telegram received by M. Leblanc's parents, indicating that he was no longer a prisoner of war, November 9, 1944.Leonard Leblanc
Notification sent to M. Leblanc parents, indicating that he had been declared missing in action, October 31, 1944.Leonard Leblanc
The cover of the regimental history of Le Régiment de la Chaudière, which contains an account of the failed attack of October 24, 1944, in which M. Leblanc was captured. M. Leblanc is very attached to this particular excerpt, as it describes a very important and traumatic moment of his war experience.Leonard Leblanc
"The shock of being taken prisoner was the worst part."
We didn’t have any work, we had nothing to do. It was like an adventure [army service] for us, in those days. By October , we were in Holland – or in August, thereabout. It was in August that I met up with Le Régiment de la Chaudière in Boulogne [France]. We continued to fight. The worst was at night. If we attacked in the afternoon, we would take position and dig a shelter. The Germans also made their rounds at night, patrolling, so we had to do sentry duty. You’d be fixating so intently that you would start to see all kinds of things. You would see a gate post and think it was a German.
We ended up in Holland and in Holland, my God. October 24 [1944 - the attack on Oostburg, The Netherlands, part of the Scheldt Campaign] is a special date for me because that’s the day I was taken prisoner by the Germans in broad daylight. It was a sunny day. I don’t remember much of being taken prisoner, until twilight. At twilight they gathered us together and we started to walk. There were about 60 of us. We walked all night. We returned to Belgium and we stayed in a house. In a big, empty basement with a blanket and some hay. We stayed there for six days. After the ninth day, we were liberated by the Ninth US Army. After we were freed, they gave us a week of leave. We returned to the front lines after that. It was in October. By December, we were in Nijmegen. Spending Christmas in the trenches was terrible.
We spent Christmas in the trenches and after that we continued on. We fought in Holland, and we participated in the battle for the Scheldt. That was very difficult, the battle of the Scheldt. We were soaked, because the Germans had blown the dykes. The fields were flooded, and it was cold.
We were in the north of Germany. We were set to attack the port of Emden. We were supposed to set out at six o’clock but were made to wait. At eight o’clock we heard a message on the radio. All of the German armies had surrendered unconditionally [on May 8, 1945]. It was the greatest feeling of joy you could have.
The shock of being taken prisoner was the worst part; when you are being shot at and you have to hide. I didn’t even know where to hide. I spotted a long hole that had been hollowed out. I was with my cousin. We were both carrying a Bren Gun. Don’t ask me how we managed to get into the hole as quick as we did with our equipment. Maybe we walked backwards, I don’t know. We didn’t utter a word. When a German soldier arrived with a machine gun at the hip, we didn’t have any choice but to come out and remove our equipment.
We were close to the North Sea. The circle was closing. They had to surrender, they had no choice. We were with them so we were freed. If they had taken us a day earlier, they could have reached Germany. But that day, there was no option. They kept us with them. It could have been longer.
We got off in New York and we took the train for Quebec. We arrived here on the 29th [of December 1945], and we marched to the armoury. Then I went to Lévis right away to take the train. When I arrived home on December 31st, it was one of the most wonderful days of my life. Everyone was at the station. I have a hard time talking about it. As I mentioned, I went to a psychologist for a long time. I’m better now.