| Lance Corpral.
Normand J. Utke
Black Watch, Royal Highland Regiment
I I enlisted in the Army
in October 15th. 1943, and was off to the Regina EnlistmentDepot
where I was issued Army dress and equipment. I was put through medicaltests,
received a number of inoculations and a military hair cut. I was
then issued a 4-day enlistment leave. Then I went back to camp and
was immediately posted to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia for basic training.
Upon arrival I was immediately promoted to acting Lance Corporal,
which was just another word for hutt orderly. My duties included
seeing that all men were up and out of the barracks at they'reappointed
times and did roll call at 10 pm. My report was turned in to the
Orderly Office, and after that my time to be in was anything within
reason. Many nightswere spent at the bowling alley or the small
cafe in the town with other huttorderlies until midnight. There
was not much glory to the position, just a small increase in pay
and being excused from all other extra duties and details. Christmas
was spent there too, as it was too far to travel home.
In January 1944 I was posted
to advanced training at Kentville, Nova Scotia, withthree months
of intensive training where I specialized in machine gun and brenngun
duties. In May 1944 I passed all tests for using the guns and was
posted to CampBordon, Ontario, as I was too young for the overseas
draft. I took a specialcourse in Range Finding and military driving.
This took all of 2 hours, as I haddriving experience before joining.
It consisted of driving a right-handed Jeeparound camp with an instructor
for half an hour, then out to the battlefield to drivea brenn gun
carrier. We went back to the Orderlies Office. I was issued a pieceof
paper, which were standing orders good for any place in the world
that the Canadian Army served. I was unable to get a long enough
leave to go home as we were on standby for overseas draft I did
get 2 weekend passes (72 hours).
One was spent Detroit and
one in Toronto. Numerous other times I went as adriver mostly to
the officers' pub in Toronto and spent most of the evenings at the
social club at the vehicle compound. There were no pubs while on
duty. Myreward was that I was excused from duties for the next 24
hours. I went on overseas draft at the end of June 1944 by train
to Halifax. Weembarked to overseas on the Empress of Norway, which
was a troop ship. The voyage took 9 days, where we encountered much
rough weather and high waves. Along with the poor food, it made
for a lot of sick passengers. I was lucky enough not to get sick
as I had enough money with me to buy cookies, chocolate bars,and
other goodies from the canteen.
We off loaded at Gatwick,
Scotland (Edinborough). We then went by train to aCanadian Army
holding base in Yorkshire. We were there for only 12 days. Wewere
then paid in French Francs, which only meant that we were on the
move tothe continent. We went by train to a port in the South. We
were only there 2 daysand spent most of the time driving vehicle
onto the boat for the trip. We sailedover at night. We spent 4 days
sitting in the English Channel before landing atthe Mulberry dock
that was built in England and towed over to France to beinstalled.
There was not much action for the first couple of days, mostly nightpatrols
and a lot of guard duty. We had originally been sent over asreinforcements
with the Toronto Scottish Regiment (machine guns and carriers)Infantry
On July 25th, 1944 the
Black Watch suffered heavy casualties, so the powers tobe disbanded
the Toronto Scottish Regiment and we were all transferred to theBlack
Watch. We did not have a choice, but were just issued new cap badgesand
shoulder patches and had to be ready to move out. The transport
truck wasto be there in 2 hours. The next day we were in action
with the Black Watch near the villages of St. Martin, St. Andre
and May-sur-Ome. We went on to conquer the airport and theindustrial
port of Caen. The rest of the city had all ready been liberated.
We passed through the heart of the city and across the River Oder
on a Bailey Bridge, then North to the Falaise Gap to the town of
Falaise and St. Lambert.
This was the part of the
war that I saw the most carnage that war brings. TheGermans hastily
pulled back to the Seine River to re-organize and were harassedby
our armored units from the rear and to the North by the American
Army pounding the convoys when they moved during the day and we
bombed theirpositions at night. Our part in their push was to follow
the armored vehicles in a sort of mop up,clearing isolated pockets
of Germans rear guards, left to harass us, thus givingthe enemy
time to retreat. Prisoners were taken by the hundreds. This took
a lotof time and manpower until we could turn them over to the rear
authorities. Wewent on to Rouen, then to Abbeville, back to Dieppe
and St. Vallery. Dieppe city. It's port was taken without a shot
fired. Again a lot of prisoners were taken. Theyhid until found,
By September 2, 1944 we
had taken over 2 adjoining farmyards. We were allotted a 4-day rest
period The service core caught up to us complete with portable showers
and a complete change of clothing, the first since leaving England.
Along with a haystack with lots of straw for bedding, what a treat
that was after sleeping on the ground, sitting in the back of a
truck or trying to sleep onthe back of a tank or armored carrier
as you moved up to the next hot spot. While in Dieppe our Regiment
took part in a ceremonial march through the townto mark the return
of the Allies to Dieppe. I missed the march as I was considered
Company Headquarters Staff as the C.O. runner, so was left as part
of the guard, to man the wireless set. I was given the afternoon
off after the parade and went to town to look around. I saw the
ill-fated beach where so many lost their lives. The harbor with
all the docks was intact. Jerry must have been in a hurry, not to
have blown them up. Only a few booby traps were left.
Good things always come
to an end. We were on the road again along the North coast of France
with heavy fighting again at Abberville before crossing the riverSomme.
We bypassed Boulogne along the cost to Calls and Dunkirk where we
again received heavy action. We were unable to take the city, but
were able tosilence a number of German V2 rocket sites. That should
have been a big relieffor the people of Southern England and London
as the V2's were still active .Dunkirk proved to be too well defended
to capture. But was left to a holding forceand we moved on across
the Belgian border to Oostende, Zeebrugge and Brugge.
The British Army had reached
Gent on September 8th but did not enter the town. Black Watch pulled
back to relieve them. Our first day we were able to drive awedge
into the center of town and hold it for 2 days. The units on both
the Northand South of us had heavy fighting so we had to wait for
the tanks to come tohelp clear the streets after 2 days of slugging.
We went north again to help mop up along the coast into Holland,
then on East to Antwerp, which had been liberated by the British.
Once again we had a 4-dayrest complete with showers and clean clothes.
We were also given an afternoonoff to go into Antwerp. The next
day I accompanied our company commander byjeep to tour some of the
underground storage areas near Antwerp that theGermans used for
supplies. They sure must have left in a hurry, as there weretons
and tons of stuff left behind. There was dry food, frozen food,
clothing, spareparts for vehicles, water, and one whole cavern full
of flour, sugar, oatmeal andcereal. They possibly did not have transportation,
so it was just left behind.
We then went on to the
Leopold Canal and the coastal village of Zeebrugge. There was lots
of opposition, so we had to fight for every mile and had to fend
off repeated counter attacks. We then went back to Antwerp to regroup
and wait for an armored corps to join us for the push to Hoogerheide.
Most of this part of Holland was flooded, some by the Germans, to
slow the advance and some byour side to push the enemy out. We were
transported back to the front line near Woensdrecht, which is situated
at the East end of the Schelde Estuary. This land was slightly higher
than the rest and well fortified, as it was the only way to the
Estuary by land.
We were given our orders
to attack at 5:15 P.M., Friday, October 13. I only got about 400
yards when we were fired on with heavy guns and machine gun fire.The
first shell that exploded was near me and I took a piece of shrapnel
in the arm, breaking it. That was the end of soldiering for me.
I had 3 grenades in my belt, so I pulled the pins with my teeth
and tossed them over the dyke, then opened my tunic, tucked the
useless arm in steadying it with my good arm and got off the edge
of the dyke into a field, where I made a run for our starting pointand
shelter. I only got about half way and took a machine gun bullet
to the footand down I went. I must have passed out for a while,
the next thing I remember it was getting dark, the bullets were
still flying. I got a good look where they were coming from as they
were using tracers.
I tried to crawl, but the
pain got to me,so I made myself as comfortable as I could with my
pack as a pillow, put my firstaid pack in my armpit to try and stop
the blood from seeping. I used my thumb and fingers to act as a
tourniquet, and then waited for the medics. I must have fallen asleep,
because the next thing I remember is someone saying, "here's
one over here". I vaguely remember being in a field dressing
station (tent), then beingput on a Jeep to be evacuated to an Army
hospital in Antwerp, later in the day. There was not much repair
work done there other than to clean the wounds and remove a piece
of shrapnel from my arm, then put it in a splint and gave me blood,
then let me rest up for the transfer to England.
I was wounded on October
13. Three days later I was put on a plane, flown to England (London
Airport) and by ambulance to #13 Canadian Army Hospital inSouth
England "M" ward. It took 4 or 5 days of assessment and
numerous x-rays but was put on penicillin right away to ward off
infection by needle every 4 hours for ninety days. I received the
needles in the hip and was only able to roll over inone direction
so my right side looked like a pincushion. Being unable to remember
much of what happened at the hospital in Antwerp, I kept pestering
the nurse until she finally let me read what was in my medical record.
Apparently one doctor recommended amputation of my arm, another
doctor disagreed, saying with the new doctors coming over to England,
fresh out of med school, they would be able to assess the possibilities
of saving the arm, which they did. I underwent an operation to remove
bone splinters and repairblood vessels, and then was put in an airplane
cast, which remained on until I got back to Canada in March 1945.
Two days later I had an
operation on my foot andcame out with a cast on, with wires through
the toes, tied to a bar to hold the toesstraight until the bones
healed. Some weeks later the 4th toe turned black, so itwas removed,
because of a lack of circulation. The cast was removed shortlybefore
Christmas when they put on a walking cast. I was really happy becausethen
I could get out of bed to walk around with the aid of one crutch
at first. Eventhe toilet looked good.
In March 1945 I was homebound,
walking unaided by then. I went by ambulanceto the dock where I
was met by 2 orderlies and because I was listed as a stretchercase,
was made to lie on a stretcher to be carried aboard, right to my
bed. Theship was the Lady Nelson, a converted cruise ship. I thought
for sure I was on acruise ship except for the number of beds in
the ward. Everything was 1st class, including the dinner, which
were served right away. I got ham and eggs, toast (with real butter)
and jam and coffee (that tasted like coffee). I was treated 1st
class all the way and was given the run of the ship as long as I
used one crutch.
We landed in Halifax, then
right on to a hospital train to Regina where I wasadmitted to the
Veterans wing of the Regina General Hospital. I underwentanother
set of x-rays and medical assessments. They made the decision then
to remove the airplane cast and replace it with a short one from
the elbow to theshoulder I was then granted leave to go home. I
was home for only 2 weeks when I was going around the front of a
car andslipped, I instinctively put out my right arm to break the
fall and broke the armagain. The military hospital was still in
operation so I was taken there. They cut off the cast to put the
arm in a splint and packed it in ice to relieve the swelling. Then
I was back to the hospital in Regina where it was set and put back
into anairplane cast. I was then transferred to the Army hospital
at the Exhibition grounds for 2 months, then off to the hospital
in Dundurn, which has facilities forphysiotherapy during which the
break in the bone separated, which wasconfirmed by ex-rays. Off
came that cast, on went another. This time they did notput me under,
just a needle for the pain and sat me on a stool to do the job.
I remained there until
September, when the cast was removed I returned toRegina, was processed
for discharge, evaluated for pension and sent home as anoutpatient.
Next April I was recalled to Regina for a final medical, given my
civilian clothing allowance and they cut me loose. Any further problems
were to be the responsibility of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
I was discharged on September 22nd 1945. Back to civilian life.
Norman J. Utke
The Black Watch Royal Highlanders Regimental Patch.