Private H. Hackett of the 18th Field Ambulance, Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps (RCAMC), offers a drink to Sapper K.J. Pratt. Bourgtheroulde, France, 26 August 1944.Credit: Lieut. Ken Bell / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-137293 Restrictions on use: Nil Copyright: Expired
"A German sentry stepped out the side of the road and said, “Halte.” So, needless to say I was shook up and I know he was. He stopped to put his hands up, but I didn’t. I was in the middle of the road and I just grabbed the handlebars of my bike and I lifted it around so it was facing this German sentry and let the clutch out and went at him and turned at the same time. He fired and missed. But his comrades across the road didn’t miss."
I worked in the lumber woods, which was on our farm, and in 1939, when my brother joined the armed services, I couldn’t wait long enough to get into the army. I was only sixteen at the time, so I cut some pulpwood on the family farm and got enough money to take me to Montreal where I joined the armed services. I thought I was going to get into the artillery, but after taking a driver’s test, and I had never driven before, on Craig Street in Montreal, I was ordered to stop in a hurry by the sergeant who was conducting the test. And I was advised a few days later that I had qualified as a driver and was assigned to the Army Service Corps to be attached to the 11th Field Ambulance from Guelph [Ontario].
So, anyway, after a few more weeks we were up close to the Falaise Gap* and the Americans were coming up on one side and we were coming in on the other. And the Germans started to retreat and were heading north. And we moved north. We were not too far from Forêt de la Londe when I was awakened one morning by my CO [commanding officer], Captain Martin. And he said, “Sergeant, we had a vehicle hit by mortar fire last night.” And one of my duties, of course, was to determine whether vehicles were recoverable or not. So, he said, “I want you to go out and look at it.” So, I got on my bike and headed north toward Forêt de la Londe and as I was going through our lines – it was, as I recall, the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry who were part of 4 [Canadian Infantry] Brigade – they were out waving their hands, signaling me to stop. But I didn’t pay any attention to them. I kept on going in the Forêt de la Londe.
Now the Forêt de la Londe had a nice little road through it. It was very narrow. And as I went on, oh a mile or so of the Forêt de la Londe, there was a French couple that came out and they were waving their arms for me to stop. And I thought, there was something wrong here. So I turned back. And as I came back about half a mile, I met the guy on the motorbike from the Toronto Scottish [Regiment]. And he said he thought his company was up that road. And I thought, “Well maybe I didn’t go far enough.” So I turned around with him and – we didn’t exchange names – and rode on. We crossed a railroad crossing and up a sharp incline and a sharp turn to the right. And as we got to the top of that incline, the lad from Toronto Scottish was just a few feet ahead of me. Maybe eight or ten feet. And a German sentry stepped out the side of the road and said, “Halte.” So, needless to say I was shook up and I know he was. He stopped to put his hands up, but I didn’t. I was in the middle of the road and I just grabbed the handlebars of my bike and I lifted it around so it was facing this German sentry and let the clutch out and went at him and turned at the same time. He fired and missed. But his comrades across the road didn’t miss. One of them got me under the arm. Just a scratch, actually. And the other one got me in my ankle. It was just like a hammer hitting my ankle. As I rode on and kept on going and went back through the forest and came into our lines, there was a half dozen soldiers that stepped out with their bayonets to stop me – bayonets on their guns.
So, I sat down on the sidewalk in this small village. There was a French farmer came along and he said, “Voulez-vous un petit peu de Calvados**?” And I said, “Oh, oui monsieur.” So, he had a bottle of Calvados and he gave me a glass full of Calvados and it’s pretty powerful stuff. It’s farm-made Calvados. I really didn’t need that morphine that the doctor gave me when he came to examine me.
*Battle of Falaise Gap (12-21 August 1944) which ended the Allied campaign in Normandy, France
**apple brandy made in Normandy
Interview with Colonel Clair Adams FCWM Oral History Project
George Metcalf Archival Collection
© Canadian War Museum