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Monday, June 27, 2016

WWII Another Installment

Just adding another chapter or two of my dad's memoirs of WWII. This bit from July of 1944 gives a good impression of life under fire in the 18th anti tank battery. A few memorable days at Troteval Farm near the location of the battle of Verrieres Ridge

26. So again, it was for us to move up. I guess the
situation must have been pretty grim for we started out
late in the afternoon approximately the 20th of July,
maybe later. Our attempt at moving forward got
stalled on the road on account of heavy shell bursts on
the road directly ahead. We were a pretty worried
crew, seven in all. Jack Faibish, the Sergeant said the
ditches are supposed to be mined so keep out of them.
At the same time I’m thinking if the shelling gets
much closer I’m heading for the ditch. So we just sat
there and waited in open country. There we are hoping
it will hurry up and get dark. Our objective was a farm
yard about a mile ahead called Troteval Farm which
was located on Verrieres Ridge. By dusk there seemed
to be somewhat of a lull so we proceeded. We were to
put our gun in position on the west side of the farm
yard which seemed to be spread out over quite a large
area. Brick buildings and fence. We quickly unhitched
our gun , set it ready for action. However,
there was a knocked out Sherman close by . Thinking
it might give us a little more protection Jack decided
to move the gun over to the Sherman about a hundred
yards away. So we hooked the gun again and
proceeded toward the Sherman.. Harold Hammett, Bob
Hartley and myself walked ahead to the knocked out
Sherman where I noticed quite a large hole in the
ground alongside and partly under the track which
was broken. We stood there waiting for the gun to be
pulled up. Being almost dark Jack walked alongside
the truck and driver. When they were almost abreast
of us I saw a great flash. Next thing I knew the three
of us were on the ground. I guessed it must have been
the concussion, at first I thought it was a shell. It was
a mine, same thing that got the tank. Being
temporarily stunned it took a moment or two to take in
what had happened . I heard Hartley calling me to
help with Hammett who was temporarily blinded.
There didn’t seem to be anyone else around. I took a
quick look for Jack. He was laying beside a large hole
in the ground and partly under the front wheel which
was badly battered on the drivers side. I heard anti
freeze leaking out. Jack appears to be quite dead. The
rest of the crew are gone so Hartley and myself help
Hammett to the other side of the farm yard where our
officer was with a jeep. The three men who were all in
the tower at the time of hitting the mine all had
wounds so they were all evacuated. I can not
remember the details on how they went back or where
Hartley went. I never saw him again.
27. I sort of lost track as to what happened immediately
after except our officer said don’t go back to the gun
as that area is mined. I concluded there was not much
doubt about that. I met Bill Todd about this time . He
said join up with our crew which I gladly did. After
the shock of losing all the men off our gun I was at
loose ends. Bills trench which he was in the process of
digging was in between two buildings, all brick and
the dust was pretty thick. Kicked up by German
artillery and mortars. I guess what was drawing so
much fire was the presence of infantry who had set up
their three inch mortars and were really laying down a
barrage at times. One thing about them, they usually
drew fire. It didn’t take the Germans long to get their
28. We had just acquired a new officer due to Jim
Armstrong being wounded . The new officer’s name
was Heaps. I believe he was from Montreal. He
became quite popular with the troop. He arrived the
next morning quite early and informed us that Buster
Gross had got a bullet through his heel so we lost
another man. He hinted to me about taking over our
gun to replace Faibish but I declined the offer saying I
would rather remain number 3 gunner. Jim Erwin, also
a gunner was persuaded to take the job and the crew
was made up of new recruits all except Jim and
myself. One of these I remember quite well was
Michael Oliver from out of McGill University from
Montreal , Rosemont, the son of an Anglican priest.
Mike was a big likable character. Mike was good
natured and was quite amused by us westerners and
our gophers. I spent a few days in the same trench
with Mike He seemed to think I should learn some
French so to break the monotony and Jerry with a
Spandau and the odd 88 I did learn a bit of French
before we left Troteval Farm.

1 comment:

  1. That sort of thing would have to try on a fellow's mind.