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He’s the first guy I saw dead on the beach

Heroes Remember - D-Day

He’s the first guy I saw dead on the beach

We knew we, well we knew there was gonna be a D-Day and that was well advertised. We knew it would be France, but we didn't know where or when. And the where or when wasn't decided until the last moment. We were boarded on ships and on our way and then we knew that this was gonna be D-Day. The ocean was covered with boats and ships and everything you can imagine, even tanks on floats doing their own thing on the water, that's unimaginable, but they did that. They had floats made that tanks could go on, and then propel themselves right through and up the shore and away they went. I was with D Company, or Dog Company, and practically all our boats got blown up or had to go back because there was so much mines. But I remember on our boat that one of the guys got right up on the front of it and put his foot on one of those mines and pushed it back, or else we'd have been blown up, too. I might, I'll tell you a little story about getting on ship. We were stationed at, on the Isle of Wight just before going over and we . . . Come time to load on, to get on ship, Southampton. I had a friend that always, we always, when we parted, said "Well, we'll see ya" or something like that. He always said he would never say goodbye to anyone, 'cause if he did, they never saw each other again. So, we never did. We always said "hi" or "so long" or "be seeing you." Anyway, we're getting on ship, and I was here, and he was way down farther. But I saw him and I waved at him, and he waved back and he said, "Goodbye, John." And he's the first guy I saw dead on the beach. Well, before I arrived on the beach, I saw a lot of gunfire and aircraft overboard, and hundreds of ships and boats and tanks, and all the rest of it out in the water. And a lot of mines 'cause the Germans had the water shoreline, under the water, mined. Also the beaches were all mined. And then there was a, a big gun emplacement, a bunker right in front of us that one of our officers finally took out. He got in behind it, somehow, and didn't get hurt and tossed a grenade in, and that was that. That's the first Germans that I saw dead were in that bunker. But it was very . . . it's like you see on the T.V. there, only, only worse, where we're all scurrying up the beach and trying to get up over the rise there and get into the town. We finally did, of course. You couldn't hear each other, it was just terrible. All the guns and stuff going. Not just our guns, but the German guns, too, were right there. They were right in front of us. Lots of dead. Lots of your own friends right there, you know, who didn't make the grade, either wounded or dead. You didn't have time to think about anything, nothing. You just did your thing best you could. I, mine was to get communication out to, out to battalion headquarters, or wherever my company commander wanted communication. I was the guy that did that. And, so you don't have time to think about anything, you just go and do. I might say that once we got a foothold and got in France, I don't know how far away, maybe a kilometre or less, we had our what they call self-propelled guns, and these were big guns mounted on self-propel-like, Bren gun carriers, or something like that. And I knew my kid brother was with that artillery outfit, they were direct support to us. Anyway, we got in there a little ways and I'm down on my wireless set, and I saw one of these things coming, and I hollered up. I said, "Does anybody know Cecil Hall?" And this black charcoaled face, face stuck over the machine there, and he said, "Sure do, John. How are you doing?" And that was my brother.

Mr. Hall describes the chaos of D-Day and a chance meeting with his brother.

John Hall

Mr. Hall was born in Whitewood, Saskatchewan, in 1921. He worked on the family's farm until he enlisted in the Royal Regina Rifles. He was shipped overseas on a converted sugar freighter. Once in England, Mr. Hall experienced the Battle of Britain from the perspective of the local citizenry. He spent more land duty in a mail sorting depot until his Regiment joined the D-Day invasion at Juno Beach. He was a radio operator. Mr. Hall took part in numerous actions, most notably Caen, Calais and the Leopold Canal and the Liberation of Holland. After leaving the Army, Mr. Hall worked in the Canadian North with the Department of Natural Resources.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
John Hall
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
436 Squadron

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