Veteran Stories:
Philip Labelle


  • The Memory Project, Historica Canada
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"Neither one of us was wounded, but we came awfully close to being wounded."


We got to a certain place where we had run into the enemy and my company put in an attack against a position from a ravine.  There was a small hill up to an area which had been occupied by Germans and my platoon was a reserve platoon.  The other two platoons of my company attacked ahead of me.  And I moved up as they progressed.  And all of the sudden, while we were in our approach behind the two forward platoons, my platoon was fired on.  And I guess the people who were firing the machine gun realized that I was the leader because I was waving my hands to tell people to move to the right and to the left, what have you, and they opened up fire on me.  And they were fairly accurate because they put a round through my water bottle which was slung underneath my small pack on my back and I thought I had been wounded because my water bottle drenched my back and the soldier who was beside me on my right was also hit in his pouch, which he wore around his belt.  And he thought that he had been wounded as well, but the bullet that hit him wound up in a small water sterilization kit which was in a tin in his pouch.  So neither one of us was wounded, but we came awfully close to being wounded.

In the event, while we were recovering from having been surprised this way, one of the tanks supporting us spotted the fire coming towards us and opened up with their machine guns and silenced the machine gun.  At which point, I took the machine gun crew prisoner.  There were three of them and the NCO in charge spoke English beautifully.  And I asked him why he had opened fire at us when he realized that he was being overrun and he suggested to me that he was doing it for the same reason that I was attacking him.  It was his job.  There was nothing that I could say about that.  Quite clearly he was right.  In discussion with him, I found out that he had been a schoolteacher in English.  And this was why he spoke English so well.  So, as soon as we passed through the position, I had the three of them escorted back and handed over to people behind us who took them to a prisoner of war cage.


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