Guy Robitaille (left) at Ski School #13 in Valcartier, Quebec with Major-General Thomas-LouisTremblay, Lieutenant-Colonel Georges Vanier (right), who later became the Governor General of Canada.Guy Robitaille
Guy Robitaille demonstrating ski troop training at Valcartier, Quebec in 1941.Guy Robitaille
A citation for the Military Cross, awarded to Guy Robitaille for his actions in Sicily in 1943.Guy Robitaille
Guy Robitaille's medals, most prominently his Military Cross (left) which is granted for "an act or acts of exemplary gallantry during active operations against the enemy."Historica Canada
Guy Robitaille attending the Memory Project event at the Perley Rideau Veteran Health Centre in Ottawa on June 9th, 2011.Historica Canada
"I thought of buzzing out from where I was wounded first at and go right back to my point of departure. But I said, no, no, I’ll get a bullet in the back. So if you get the bullet in the back, your pride is gone. You have not performed your duty. You’ve got to lead and lead to the end."
First of all, in school, we used to have a member of the Royal 22nd Regiment doing gymnastic at the school in the spring. And I remember a fellow by the name Gravel, Sergeant Gravel, of the permanent force of the Van Doos [the nickname of the Royal 22e Régiment], making us do gymnastic lessons of a pyramid. I was very impressed with this, I had never seen this. The guy really looked to me like a professional soldier and I said, gee whiz, I think I should be a soldier. And that was when I took the decision that I was going to orient my life towards the military.
So I went to see the commanding officer of the Regiment de Levis [a local reserve regiment] who was a merchant five minutes from home. He went to school with my father, he knew me, he knew the family, he knew everybody there. So I told him, I said, I’d like to join the Regiment de Levis. Oh, he said, you’re 18, I said, very close, sir, very close. I was sixteen and a half. And well, he said, I’m not too sure, he said, I’ll try to get you a job there. So he said, report to the regiment on the 9th or 19th of April 1937.
And the spring of 1938, I had to start NCO [Non-Commissioned Officer] training at Valcartier [Quebec], the NCO training. Again, I was subjected to instructor officer level from the Van Doos as well as the warrant officer level. And I think I did well, I was interested, the motivation was there, no question about that. Well anyway, we were going up the front [in Italy after being sent from his regiment to serve with the Royal 22e Régiment], we landed on the tenth of July, 1942 .
Somebody came from the commanding officer and said, the boss wants to see you. So I went to the regiment, I went to find the regimental headquarters and the adjutant was there, said the Colonel [Paul-Émile] Bernatchez wants to see you, so there he was with his specs [reading glasses], looking at his maps and [inaudible]. And he’s talking to me, don’t even face me. And he’s telling me, I’m going to take my platoon as a patrol to go to the enemy over there about two, three miles away and see whether they occupy a hill. Anyway, I was selected to go down and because I knew the ground, where to go, so they put me the leading platoon again. So I was busting off. We saw the enemy, on top of the hill, running with mortar on their arm, mortar bomb [mortars are weapons that fire low velocity explosive shells in a high arc]. And I was quite conscious of mortar bombs in those days and so this was a hill and we had to find which place to stop and get ready to begin. So we went and then the riverbank gradually shrank and when they came almost parallel with the bed of the river, I stopped the platoon there, so we were let’s say on this way instead of this way. And so I waited there. Anyway, since I was already on the right, he [another platoon commander] said, you go first on the right and the other one will have a nice protected, I provide the firebase. But firebase is not dormant, it’s active, to try to keep the enemy shooting at you rather than the other guy, who makes a movement. So I was a natural for the job I got and we start crossing the river to, had to cross a fence, we had to cross a railway track and then got to the bottom of the hill, where the Germans were. And obviously they picked me up from quite a distance away. And I got wounded, a bullet in my left leg, didn’t break the bone. And then I got wounded in my arm and in my chest, you know. And so that was the end.
So another factor that came into being was that you don’t necessarily lose conscious but you start being self-monitored, watch yourself. Anyway, I knew that if I stayed where I was wounded, I won’t last very long and then the mortar to two inch mortar smoke is phosphor [a chemical element that is highly reactive to air] and wheat field about that high, so it burns the field. The wind was in my direction so if I had stayed where I was, I would have been, unbeknownst to me, I would have been under smoke and fire because of that wheat. See? So I had to move to another area which was already burned out. So I moved from a potential area next to me burned by the smoke and the mortar and go to one. So one of the problem there is that if the fire has already killed all the wheat in that area, the rock at the bottom on the ground is warm up by the heat. So I got a few burn spot in the back. So then the, there was no question of getting medical treatment. I thought of buzzing out from where I was wounded first at and go right back to my point of departure. But I said, no, no, I’ll get a bullet in the back. So if you get the bullet in the back, your pride is gone. You have not performed your duty. You’ve got to lead and lead to the end. So they came around me and we tried to give me some shell Dressing [a type of emergency bandage] on my chest and my leg and when I realized, the guys was around me, I sent them back to the fighting area. And then I stayed in the field until about 9:00 the next morning with four guys holding a stretcher for me. We then moved me to a bit further away and they are the one that brought me to the RAP [Regimental Aid Post].