Clarence Bell in Miramichi, New Brunswick, November 25, 2009.Historica Canada
"I don’t know, it’s just, to me now, at my age, it’s just like a dream. I was in and all through every bit of it, right up into Germany and back home, and I was still only 22 years old. Now it’s just like a dream."
We were working out at the base airport and we were getting $46 a month and our board, waiting on tables. Almost every young guy in the area was working out there. One of the local people had the contract for feeding the air force, etc.
Forty-six dollars a month when they first started with in the army was $1.30 a day for a private. So they’d increase it to $1.50, so we figured, oh well, we’re getting $46 a month, we’re getting our board out here, but we’ll get our clothing and we’ll get all the rest of the stuff in the army, we might as well be in the army. So five of us left the job and went out, and joined the army.
I was a driver. [Royal Canadian] Army Service Corps were all drivers with ammunition and petrol supply. I was in three different outfits. First outfit was a 6th Light Ack-Ack [Anti-Aircraft] Regiment Platoon, RCASC [Royal Canadian Army Service Corps]. Now, that was the platoon that supplied the artillery. There’d be three platoons for the company, which supplied those three different outfits. We would haul it in in bulk, they’d break it down and issue it out to all the different outfits. We even supplied the Polish Division.
So we would haul whatever A, B and C Platoon would haul to their same outfit all the time. You’d go to the British Supply Depot, BSD we’d call it, and that’s where we picked up the rations and stuff. We hauled everything, prisoners, Hitler Youth spit right in your face. And there was a lot of these Mongolians there. They were little fuzzes [unshaven]. Hitler took them all prisoner and then put them in the army [laughs]. They’re only little fellows, eh.
We first went to France, we had bully beef, which is [canned] corned beef, we called it bully beef, and sardines. You had bully beef in the morning, you got sardines for supper. The next day, they reversed it [laughs]. And that’s the way went for two weeks while we were in France. And we landed in France on 10 July .
Our two, the 63rd and 64th General Transport landed on 10 July. I had all the walkie-talkie radios and sniper rifles, and leather jerkins [sleeveless, collarless jackets] and uniforms, and boots. We loaded the trucks and then sat in the woods for about two weeks. Then they took the trucks and we went down to London; and they topped it off with this other stuff. As soon as we got there, they were waiting for us. So they came in and took them.
And the hedge there is a real thick, thick, thick stuff, and there was no way you can get through it. We had to untie the entire pole unit on one side and then go to the other side and then throw it up over the top. And when I went around the corner of the truck here, there was a dead German laying there with a hole in here and a whole lot of stuff coming out here. And this, he was about the colour of that red light there. I’d say he’d probably be about 15. In the sun, he was laying in the sun, sniper got him.
We had one smoker [vehicle with the ability to produce smokescreens] to the Falaise Gap, which was sort of wide open, provots [military police], jeeps, six trucks of red smoke ammunition [for marking targets and providing cover], supposed to be laid at noon. We were in there and there was no guns, there was no infantry, there was no engineers. And there was about 3,000 prisoners down the road past that. And we went into a little, they called it the [Operation] Totalize is the name of it. And we had a sergeant provost [non-commissioned officer in charge of regimental police]. They were shelling 88s [German anti-aircraft and anti-artillery mortars] across into the field and he was standing on the corner with his long gun [rifle]. After we delivered, we waited, supposed to lay the barrage of smoke at 12:00. It was quarter after 11 and there was not even the gun or nothing there. But each one of us unloaded or loaded, headed back out because when the tank came in with the flails on it, there was three or four Teller mines [German anti-tank landmines] laying along by the fence. If we had have started down there, we’d have had it. So we waited until they went down to the field and told us what to do and that’s what we did and then we come out. But we were going 60 miles an hour through those holes, all the way out and they stopped everything and let us go, checkered flag.
Well, I had a Ford. We had Fords and Chevs [Chevrolets], and Dodges. Previous to that, we had Macks [trucks], IMTs [Infantry Motorized Transports] and FWDs [Four Wheel Drives]. Well, then they took them from us and gave us, we’d haul bridging. Fast as they’d build it up, the Germans would blow it out. That would be in Elbeuf, a place called Elbeuf on the lower side of Rouen I believe, before you got to Rouen.
Every available truck was English and whatever they could get, was hauling bridging. You might have the big scow-like would be on in the back, then the other one would grid over the top of the cab. They would lay the planks across the things and away they’d go. One morning we woke up, we were sleeping underneath the truck on the ground, on a ground sheet. And there was nobody in that little town of Elbeuf, you couldn’t even see nobody. So we crawled under the truck and took our blanket and said we’ll see if we can get a little sleep anyway. Because we weren’t getting any sleep because we were going steady.
Out came these two old ladies which we thought were old, were probably 40. And one had this tray with two bowls like that on it. The other one had this pot on a tray with a quart of cognac. So in the bowls was the black thick coffee or something. And they poured the cognac in it. And that took the moisture out of us, I’ll tell you.
I don’t know, it’s just, to me now, at my age, it’s just like a dream. I was in and all through every bit of it, right up into Germany and back home, and I was still only 22 years old. Now it’s just like a dream.