Portrait of Mr. Rawluk in Canadian Active Service in Aldershot, England, 1943.Bill Rawluk
Letter about lost documents taken by a German soldier when Mr. Rawluk was wounded, 1944.Bill Rawluk
Dog tags of Bill Rawluk, 1942-1946.Bill Rawluk
Calgary Highlanders Badge worn on Bill Rwaluk's beret during service, 1943-1945.Bill Rawluk
Bill Rawluk in Edmonton, Alberta, Decmber 11, 2009.Historica Canada
"And we got onto the beachhead at Normandy and right off the bat, they says, “Comrades, you’re on the front lines.”"
My job in the services, in the army, first off, was an infantry soldier, as a private in the battalion of the Calgary Highlanders. But before I got with the Calgary Highlanders, I did my training here at Prince of Wales Armouries, my basic training, took my basic training in Edmonton, advanced training in Calgary, and as soon as I finished the advanced training, we got shipped to Aldershot, England. And this all happened in 1943.
Yeah, we landed in France on July the 4th. We were held back until the 3rd Division established a beachhead. And of course, the Calgary Highlanders and all the rest of it, we were 2nd Division and we were held back in England. So we had, exactly after 30 days after the D-Day, we landed in France and, of course, we had to, some of us had to jump off the boat, get into the water and get up to shore because they couldn’t come any closer. And we got onto the beachhead at Normandy and right off the bat, they says, “Comrades, you’re on the front lines.” So we had, you know, it was a little different story, you have to be more careful and this and that.
And we were there just on the beachhead, you know, just a day, I think, in fact, about maybe a week when we were on at beaches, stayed there for a little while. Then we finally got to go get, get our first action, we moved up both of the days to a city called Caen [France]. And from there, we had our first casualty before we got into battle, because the Germans had long-range artillery, hit our jeep, I know four or five boys, and they were gone.
So actually, in the middle of July, we had some terrific actions in Normandy out in the, around the Caen area. And when I got wounded, we were going, working our way towards Dunkirk. We got held up because we were being shelled. So we decided, well, instead of going into town, capture the town, we thought we’d take a break, stay there for a couple hours and then move on. Apparently from what I gather, they stayed there all day, and then the next day they moved, because when I got hit, it was just only in the afternoon. And it got two of us, so we went back.
And then from there, they said, oh, some of the boys that I saw later, they kept on going and got into the, into the town. But like I said, Jerries shot, sprayed the darn roads and got two of us, shrapnel, just wounded, that’s all. Went back to, slowly to the hospital and first aid post and stuff like that and got better.
Well, we made an attack 5:00 in the morning, and because they were pestering us, forever shelling. And we got a whole bunch of prisoners. Personally, I had to take, oh, probably close to 20. They were in the German Army, but they were conscripts. They didn’t want to do any fighting. They were glad to give up, because that’s what happened, nobody wanted to take them back, I volunteered. I left my weapons on the ground, I got talked to about that. So left on the ground, I’m leading all these Germans, 15 or 20 of them, back to the prison of war cage because there was a POW camp that wasn’t very far.
So that’s where I took them to, I left them with the other prisoners, and I was waiting to get back to the regiment. So there was a jeep going by and with Ross Monroe, if you know, if you ever heard of Ross Monroe, he was a big wartime photographer and newsman. And he was going to view the battle. So he had got in the jeep and I got back to the regiment and we just kept on going and going, going, until we hit Dieppe [France]. Well, I was in hospital in Ghent [Belgium] on May the 8th, that’s when the war ended, I was in hospital. Yeah, we were hooting and hollering at the, you know, we’re done there. Thank goodness it’s all over.
Well, when I got out of hospital, got discharged, I got switched to the New [Royal] Westminster Regiment. I lost track of the Calgary Highlanders. Went to New Westminster regiment, they were doing occupation duty in Holland, northern Holland, you know, getting the people onto their feet and all that stuff. So I was with them for about six months. Finally got a chance to go back, come back to Canada in 1946. Got discharged February 13th, 1946, back to Canada.