"And I said to him, where did you get the stretcher? He said, well, the guy on it doesn’t need it anymore."
We got right to the outskirts of Caen. By this time, we were on about our second, I guess, third officer. I think there would be myself and two other NCOs [non-commissioned officers]. I was a sergeant and they were bombardiers [non-commissioned artillery unit officers] and lance bombardiers [non-commissioned artillery unit officers]. And the troop was full of replacements. And so Jerry was up; we were on the outskirts of Caen, and we were on our third officer and I had known him, he’d been a gunner with us when we were in Lindsay [Ontario]. And so he came up and I, at that time, had put the guns in and he said he was going to go on a reconnaissance. I don’t know why, but he did; and I never saw him until about three years later. I wanted to see what was going on and so one of the lance bombardiers and myself, we went up this hill and we were on the outskirts of Caen and we went up for a scout; and Jerry saw us and whacked in a big mortar and I got hit in the left leg and went down. Freddy, his name was Freddy Gitarmsan and he came from Saskatchewan, he just grabbed me by the shoulder straps, I had my web equipment [military load-carrying equipment] on, and he ran down the hill dragging me down and I was holding onto my leg. Now, we were what they called a “bastard outfit” [pieced together from other units]. We didn’t any stretcher bearers or anything like that, which is a pitiful thing when you think about it.
But, anyhow, we got behind this building and the funny part about it was there were slit trenches [narrow, shallow trenches] there and while we were there, there was a little boy looked out the window. And everybody said, my God, there’s a kid there. But, anyhow, Freddy went around the back of the building and he come back and he had a stretcher. And I said to him, where did you get the stretcher? He said, well, the guy on it doesn’t need it anymore. So they put me on the stretcher and they put me on a Bren Gun Carrier [light armoured tracked vehicle] because we had no first aid guys or anything. So they put me on the stretcher and Freddy climbed in with Jack the driver, and away we went. And we stopped at a first aid point on the highway, roadway I should say, and there was an officer there and he come out and dinged a few needles into me and they took me off the Bren Gun Carrier and they put me in the back of a 1,500 weight truck.
I had a German automatic [pistol] inside my tunic and I had meant to give it to Freddy, but I forgot. And so going down the road and the truck stopped and I thought, well, I’ll get rid of this automatic. I didn’t want to shoot myself or something, you know, you never know what, with an automatic, so. I was just taking it out when the driver come around and he said, give me that automatic. And I said, yeah and you give me a receipt for it and he said, imagine asking for a receipt after being … I thought I was going to take it home, I guess. But, anyhow, then I, I don’t know, I passed out there and the next thing I knew, I was outside a tent, an army tent, just a small, I don’t know if you know one or not, but they’re just a pointed-top tent. And I was laying on the ground and a padre [military chaplain] was kneeling beside me. And I said to him, am I dying, Father? He said, no, I’m just washing your face. And then, I guess, I passed out again.
Then we were on an airfield. Well, it wasn’t an airfield, it was a farmer’s field with a strip on it and the airplane come in and they loaded us on it and there was a nurse there and she asked everybody how they were and I said to her, she was a nursing sister [a member of the Canadian Army Medical Corps], and I said, sister, I’m just dying of thirst, I’ve been laying out in the sun. Well, she said, I’m sorry, you can’t have any water. And I said, well, why not? And she said, well, we don’t give … Well, I said, I’ve got to have some water. So stupid me, she said, well, here you are. And they had tubes running down with water in them and you pressed the clamp and the water come out. So I got a mouthful of water and I started to swallow it and I got sick and I spit it out all over the nurse.
Well, everybody gave me hell all the way back to England and there were English guys in there. We landed somewhere around Oxford; it was close to Oxford anyhow, and when we landed, it must have been raining because the spray come up and the guy come out and said, well, there you are fellows, wasn’t that a good landing and everybody told him it wasn’t. Then I guess I passed out and when I came to, I was on a stretcher and the stretcher was on kind of like a table by a set of cabinets, waist high like you know. All the attendants were wearing green uniforms but, of course, I didn’t realize where I was. And they weren’t green like army uniforms, they were green nurses uniforms and green orderly uniforms. Of course, I thought, hell, I’ve been captured. And started to fight and knock the bottles down and everything else, and then they gave me a shot in the arm and that took care of that.
And then when I woke up, I was in bed, oh, I don’t know, they took my dog tags off me and my pay book and all that jazz and asked me a lot of questions, and then they shot me in the arm again and off I went to sleep. And then the next thing I knew, I was coming out of the operating room and while I was waiting, I don’t know if I mentioned this, but while I was waiting for them to find a stretcher, I got hit again ̶ an air burst come over and shrapnel landed on my chest and burnt right through my tunic and that burned into my chest. I got two round patches there to this day.
But, anyhow, I was in [John] Radcliffe [Hospital] and that was where penicillin was first invented. And being the only Canadian there, I got treated very, very well. I was the only Canadian there and the rest were English troops and Scottish troops and, of course, because I was the only Canadian there, that’s the only reason I think I got a little extra attention from the nurse and maybe because I was wounded in two places, I don’t know. But the guy next to me, he called me Jammie. He’d lost a leg too and his name was George, and we became real good friends.