What value can be placed on veteran's stories ?

Discussion in 'Veteran Accounts' started by Ron Goldstein, Apr 10, 2012.

  1. 17thDYRCH

    17thDYRCH Senior Member Patron

    Canuck
    My wife's second cousin served with the Perth Regiment, 5th Canadian Armoured Division. A scout platoon lieutenant during the Italian Campaign he never talked about his wartime experiences until 1975. As he told me on several occasions he was originally reluctant to talk about the war but then decided it was the biggest thing in his life and he felt compelled to talk about it. During an informal reunion last year, he talked about sneaking up on two German officers, somewhere in Holland, one tending to the other's wound. And with a simple burst of his Thompson machine gun, sent them to their maker. Remorse he asked? None was his reply. He reminded me of losing his brother, a lieutenant with the Queen's Own Rifles, on June 11, 1944. And, of the 33 men in his original platoon, only 7 came back to Canada.
    During our luncheon he told me of standing on a dyke in Holland...a dispatch rider came up and said ' The war is over- The Germans have surrendered'. With that tears came streaming down his face. No more bullets, no more Germans.
    From the ultimate generation.
     
  2. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    Canuck
    My wife's second cousin served with the Perth Regiment, 5th Canadian Armoured Division. A scout platoon lieutenant during the Italian Campaign he never talked about his wartime experiences until 1975. As he told me on several occasions he was originally reluctant to talk about the war but then decided it was the biggest thing in his life and he felt compelled to talk about it. During an informal reunion last year, he talked about sneaking up on two German officers, somewhere in Holland, one tending to the other's wound. And with a simple burst of his Thompson machine gun, sent them to their maker. Remorse he asked? None was his reply. He reminded me of losing his brother, a lieutenant with the Queen's Own Rifles, on June 11, 1944. And, of the 33 men in his original platoon, only 7 came back to Canada.
    During our luncheon he told me of standing on a dyke in Holland...a dispatch rider came up and said ' The war is over- The Germans have surrendered'. With that tears came streaming down his face. No more bullets, no more Germans.
    From the ultimate generation.

    Randy,
    The Queen's Own Rifles suffered 55 killed, 33 wounded and 11 taken prisoner during the attack on Le Mesnil-Patry on June 11th.
    Lieutenant Robert Fleming?
     
  3. DanielG

    DanielG Senior Member

    Back when I was about eightish a friend of my father related how sometimes prisoners were shot. The reasoning being that if you were detailed to escort them back once and found out that you could be shuffled off further and further back until someone would accept them, thereby being out of the line for an extended period, you took steps to ensure that did not happen again. He said that you couldn't leave your mates alone for maybe half a day or better especialy if things were a bit hot. So, as soon as you were out of sight, BANG, shot while trying to escape, end of story. He did not say how many times this happened but I am assuming more than once. The wellfare of his mates meant more than anything else. You can imagine the impact this info had on an eight year old, I have never forgotten it and consequently have had no trouble in believing that war brings out the worst in people.
    Another fellow, in the RCN remembered sailing past men in the water, there was no stopping to pick them up.
    It is no wonder that most vets try to remember and relate the comradship and zany things that happened and not the stuff that opens up mental scars.
     
    Owen likes this.
  4. DanielG

    DanielG Senior Member

    On a lighter note, another friend told me that he had seen guys with their scalp ringed by a bullet going through the helmet and circling around the insde. I didn't say anything but thought 'Yeah, sure Adam, right!'. I have since read of the same thing happening and saw the interview with an Argentine soldier who had that very thing happen to him! So who knew?

    Another story, 'we made our way across suspected mine fields by stripping down and taking turns grabbing a tape and running as fast as we could across the field'. I am not sure that I believe that one yet!

    Adam's first fire-fight: Germans attack them across a field, they all pile into the ditch and start firing and beat the attack off. He remembered firing and knocking a couple of Germans down. After the action while fumbling to light a cigarette, he noticed that the saftey of his rifle was still on. 'Christ, Corp, I forgot to flip off the safety, I never fired a shot.' he whispered. 'That's OK young fella', the corporal whispered back, 'the same thing happened to me the first time but I wouldn't tell anyone else about it.'
     
  5. 17thDYRCH

    17thDYRCH Senior Member Patron

    Randy,
    The Queen's Own Rifles suffered 55 killed, 33 wounded and 11 taken prisoner during the attack on Le Mesnil-Patry on June 11th.
    Lieutenant Robert Fleming?

    Tim,

    Aye...Robert Fleming, age 22, KIA, Normandy.
     
  6. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Back when I was about eightish a friend of my father related how sometimes prisoners were shot. The reasoning being that if you were detailed to escort them back once and found out that you could be shuffled off further and further back until someone would accept them, thereby being out of the line for an extended period, you took steps to ensure that did not happen again. He said that you couldn't leave your mates alone for maybe half a day or better especialy if things were a bit hot. So, as soon as you were out of sight, BANG, shot while trying to escape, end of story. He did not say how many times this happened but I am assuming more than once.

    Thanks for posting that as when the shooting of prisoners has been mentioned before it has caused quite a row with people denying it happened.
     
  7. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    Owen
    I've heard variations on that story from a great many Canadian vets so no question that it happened. The debate always seemed to be around the random acts vs the systemic policy.
    The officer pictured in my avatar was rumoured to have never reached a POW cage!
     
  8. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  9. DanielG

    DanielG Senior Member

    I don't believe it was official policy to shoot prisoners, for one thing it is counter productive, you are less likely to surrender if you think you are going to be killed anyway. I think I read somewhere of a general order from a US command to that very end, they obviously felt the need to issue it.
    My personal view is it does not matter; you die fighting, you are shot afterwards or you slip and fall and drown in a ditch, you are still a casualty of war and you are still just as dead. It has been the same for every war going back to when Caine slew Able (a fratricidal war, the worst kind).
     
  10. wowtank

    wowtank Very Senior Member

    Caine slew Able and what did Lilith do?
     
  11. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA

    My uncle told me that he was told to take a German prisoner 'back to the rear' (my paraphrase) in Normandy, which he did. When he got back to his unit he got yelled at for being gone for so long. Apparently he was expected to take him around the first bend in the road and shoot him. I don't have any more information on this practice or if any shootings ever occurred but I trust my uncle's description of what happened to him in this instance.

    Dave
     
  12. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    It did happen occasionally, as some of the veterans I heard in interviews admitted. Some of this was heat-of-battle overreaction, men who couldn't switch the killing mechanism off because they were fighting mad. Sometimes such men were clearly gone in the head. At other times, troops were unusually bitter at the enemy for some particular reason--often because the Germans/Japs/Italians had been killing pw's themselves. And it was also a symptom of a unit in trouble. When frustration was high, morale low, and leadership and discipline shaky the men were more likely to go too far.
     
    Za Rodinu likes this.
  13. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

  14. chick42-46

    chick42-46 Senior Member

    Ron

    Thanks for starting this thread.

    My interest in WW2 is a personal one. I'm trying to find out as much as possible about what my grandfather and his brother got up to. My grandfather almost never spoke about what he did. He died in 1985 and I doubt he ever said more than a few sentences to me about his war. He told my father a couple more stories. And, when he was in hospital dying of cancer, he told my sister (who worked there) a few more when she sat with him. But we still knew bugger all really.

    His brother died in 1943. My parents weren't even born.

    So one of the main reasons for coming to this site, and for coming back, is the fact that veterans like you, Tom, sapper, DoctorD and all the others participate and post your recollections and answer stupid questions from people like me!

    I can find out a lot from war diaries and the like. But that's all at the "strategic" level. It's the personal, ground-level experience that really interests me.

    So - to you and all the veterans here - thanks, you're contributions are valuable and valued!

    Cheers

    Ian
     
  15. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Ian

    It's a funny old world.........

    It looks as if people of my age group who, strictly by chance, found themselves in strange circumstances, either clammed up in later years or, taking me as an example, wanted to get everything into print.

    I remember saying somewhere that when my own father passed away we found a small notebook describing his life. You could have got the lot into a single A4 sheet !

    Whatever happens, I like to think that in years to come people will stumble upon my and my fellow veterans offerings and accept them simply as comments on life as it was in WW2,
    warts and all.

    Glad you like the thread :)

    Ron
     
  16. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    Ron

    Thanks for starting this thread.

    My interest in WW2 is a personal one. I'm trying to find out as much as possible about what my grandfather and his brother got up to. My grandfather almost never spoke about what he did. He died in 1985 and I doubt he ever said more than a few sentences to me about his war. He told my father a couple more stories. And, when he was in hospital dying of cancer, he told my sister (who worked there) a few more when she sat with him. But we still knew bugger all really.

    His brother died in 1943. My parents weren't even born.

    So one of the main reasons for coming to this site, and for coming back, is the fact that veterans like you, Tom, sapper, DoctorD and all the others participate and post your recollections and answer stupid questions from people like me!

    I can find out a lot from war diaries and the like. But that's all at the "strategic" level. It's the personal, ground-level experience that really interests me.

    So - to you and all the veterans here - thanks, you're contributions are valuable and valued!

    Cheers

    Ian

    Well said, Ian!

    RIP. WO James Carmichael. :poppy:

    Best,

    Steve.
     
  17. PeterG

    PeterG Senior Member

    I agree with Ron and Ian but to fully understand the Second World War one should not forget that it was sui generis and it is extremely unlikely that such a colossal conflict will ever occur again. At a low estimate, over 50 million people died. Of these over 33,800,000 were civilians. World War 2 Statistics In those terrible years from 1939 to 1945 on average 20,000 people died every single day.

    From my own experience, under Nazi occupation, the difference between the military and civilians was often blurred. By all means listen to veterans' accounts, in the next decade they will be lost forever, but listen also to the voices of those who weren't in the services but who nevertheless lived through it and survived the entire nightmare. It truly was a Peoples' War.

    As for the question 'What value can be placed on veterans' stories?', it seems to me that it really embraces two diverse questions: a) what value can be placed on human memory and b) what value can be placed on the memories of octogenarians. Obviously, the fresher the memory, the more reliable it is. Ron's, for example, is entirely reliable because his memories are based on his contemporaneous diary. Tom Canning's and Sapper's are reliable because, both having been wounded in action, events are indelibly seared on their minds; not to believe them is, quite frankly, offensive. Similarly an ex-POW is hardly likely to forget what he has been through.

    At the other end of the scale you will get those who embellish their tales and frequently end up believing them. We had one veteran on the BBC's People's War who was severely wounded at Dunkirk, a machine gun wound to the stomach, was taken to his home in a horse and cart and was stitched up by his mother on the kitchen table. Another recalled picking up depth charges and throwing them over the side at U-boats. The full range of humanity served in WW2. There are veterans and 'veterans'.
     
  18. Lofty1

    Lofty1 Senior Member

    Not to long ago I was party to a friend, who was recording the words of a glider pilot, for an audio library based at our university. The GP did D day, was home in three days, then Arnhem, easy done it before, not so, landed up POW, got to talking about the camp then about the food, he had been happy to talk, adding a few funny quips, until he spoke about the food in the camp, "supposed to be Red Cross parcels" he said, "I never saw one", he then got up a walked away.
    The hunger he had known, he did not want to think about, still to real, what he did in walking away, spoke louder than all his the words.
    Just wanted to mention that. There lies a real story.
    lofty
     
  19. worthatron

    worthatron Member

    On a thread here a question on the colours of the field service cap of the Lancashire Fusiliers. The official documents and other evidence point to Scarlet over Yellow, Yet an old hand would have none of it, blue and gold/yellow and his mind was set. More digging and back to the year 1893 the dress regulations for the LF - blue with gold/yellow piping (officers and ORs) changed to scarlet over yellow later. He had indeed worn the earlier pattern and knew it!

    He did turn out to be correct though. have another look at the thread.
     
  20. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

    He did turn out to be correct though. have another look at the thread.


    Precisely- as I said -'he knew it'
     

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