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Mouse Holing

Heroes Remember

Interviewer: The next major engagement was, of course, the taking of Ortona. Yeah, that's right, yeah. Interviewer: And that would have been started on December 21st, 1943. Yeah, right through Christmas. Interviewer: Yes. It's my understanding that, that the Royal Edmonton Regiment and the Seaforth Highlanders were the two regiments that split the town. Yeah. Interviewer: Can you tell me a little bit about how that developed. It was a, it was a terrible place. You know it, it was practically door to door, you know. For miles, they had, you know, everything's close together you, to get to the next place, the next room. We got, so we'd blow, blow holes through the wall, you know, so we go through that way. Cause if you walk out into the street they'd get ya. Interviewer: This was called mouse-holing, wasn't it? Mouse-holing, yeah. Interviewer: And it was the first time that anyone had ever done that? That's right. That was a good thing but for that ole PIAT (projector, infantry, anti-tank) gun to blow holes in the walls. Suppose the only thing I ever found it good for. I knocked out a few tanks with it but it wasn't much good for anything else. I think Chris Vokes, after Ortona was over, he says, "Well," what did he say, "everything was a nursery rhyme before this," he said. Interviewer: Commander, the Commander was Mr., was General Vokes. Is that who your referring to? Yeah, sure, Chris. I told him his mother should have called him ‘Crusty.' After I got the VC, I couldn't tell him that before.

Smokey talks about the procedure of "Mouse Holing" used in the Battle of Ortona.

Ernest “Smokey” Smith

Ernest “Smokey” Smith VC, CD, was born in New Westminster, British Columbia, on May 3, 1914, and was educated in elementary and technical schools there. He was the second of five children having an older sister, two younger brothers and a younger sister. Both brothers served in and survived the Second World War. Smokey left his work with a contracting firm to enlist with the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada in March of 1940 and began basic training with the Royal Canadian Regiment in Toronto. He went on to complete his training at Camp Borden before sailing out of Halifax in June of that same year on the Monarcher of Bermuda, heading for Europe and joining the regiment overseas a few months later. Smokey was injured while fighting in Sicily, but returned to battle a few months later in Italy. He was a private when he won the Victoria Cross, Canada's highest award for valour, at the Savio River in Italy on October 21-22, 1944. After the war, Smokey left the Army for a short time, but rejoined and served until August 1964, when he retired and was released with the rank of sergeant. After leaving the military Smokey and his wife established the Smith Travel Agency in Vancouver. In 1995, Smokey was appointed to the Order of Canada. At the time of his death on Aug. 5, 2005 Smokey Smith was the last surviving Canadian recipient of the Victoria Cross.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Ernest “Smokey” Smith
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Seaforth Highlanders

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