‘I observed enemy aircraft in the area’

From our November 2013 issue

By Robert Hislop – Shellbrook, Sask.

I joined the army, light infantry, in Saskatoon on Nov. 18, 1941. I was Private L3017. I took basic training in Saskatoon and Jolliette, Quebec. I celebrated my 21st birthday in Three Rivers, Quebec in Advanced Training.

In late fall, we were sent to Halifax to go overseas. We left Halifax on a Saturday morning and our ship was torpedoed very early Sunday morning. The front end was badly damaged and one of our escort ships, the American Destroyer, Ingram, was sunk immediately, losing her crew of 125.

The Iwatis ship was turned back to Halifax which took two days. We were then sent to Camp Auldershot, Nova Scotia to wait for the repairs. Eventually it was repaired and we sailed on the same ship.

We docked in Scotland and then travelled by train to Aldershot, England. This was early November 1942. Shortly after arriving, I was sent to London Transportation Company to take a ‘drivers mechanic’ training course. This is where I spent Christmas. I later returned to my unit in Aldershot, where I continued my training and also a course on Vicker’s machine guns.

Around May or June we were moved to Doon, Scotland, which was a holding camp. Soon after, some of us were moved to Swonsea Wales, loading vehicles. We left Wales and it seems I was on the boat forever. We were later informed we were going to an invasion of Sicily. This is where the fun began.

I recall coming off the barge at night in Sicily with a three-ton Chevy truck. I remember watching for limit signs, number 64. It was very dark and the truck started having problems.

I observed enemy aircraft in the area, so I abandoned the truck and hid in the ditch. Finally a dispatch rider came to my rescue and escorted me to my company.

In late August I was hurt in a motorcycle accident – a shell landed in front and I lost control. I hurt my arm, which later became infected.

They flew me back to Sicily where they operated. I was sent to a hospital in North Africa to recuperate for a month, then returned to my company in Italy. Christmas of 1943 was spent there. All of 1944 was in Italy.

I spent many months in a place called Ortona. My job was repairing vehicles, such as ones damaged by shrapnel and hauling fuel for trucks and bren gun carriers which were track vehicles.

In 1945 we sailed from Leghorn to Marsailles, France, working our way through France, Belgium, and Holland. We were in Holland when the war ended.

We returned to Saskatoon Oct. 3, 1945 and I received my discharge Nov. 5th.

First-aid personnel of the Three Rivers Regiment placing Sergeant Johnny Marchand on a stretcher, Ortona, Italy, 21 December 1943. Credit: Lieut. Terry F. Rowe / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-163927