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Christmas at Ravenna

Heroes Remember

Christmas at Ravenna

We were working at Ravenna and it came Christmas time and they had quite a good sized harbour and a marsh at Ravenna. And the Germans occupied the harbour pretty much and I remember that there was concern because of... We had been putting in attacks and that meant going across the marsh. And it was mined and we were getting casualties from loss of legs and so on pretty much. And unfortunately when a tank went in on the day before Christmas and so the chaps were brought back and a lot of them had lost limbs, legs particularly from the mines. And the thing was Christmas morning they liked to do something special and I remember one of the medical officers was a big fella and he went around with his pack and handing out stuff, mostly bottles of beer. But socks, what he'd do when a chap has lost his leg, give him one sock or two? Give him a pair first. But things like that I recall very vividly. We lost a lot of men that.... It was a morning that we shouldn't have went in.

Mr. Meiklejohn recalls action at Ravenna during Christmas, describing how attacks took place by advancing through minefields, resulting in numerous amputations. He then describes the cruel irony of men fresh from having their legs amputated, receiving socks as Christmas presents.

Dr. Robert Meiklejohn

Dr. Robert Meiklejohn was born in 1907, in Harriston, Ontario, and remained there throughout his youth, participating in cadets and the local militia. While attending medical school in England during the 1930s, Mr. Meiklejohn visited Germany. He returned from his visit certain war was imminent. Dr. Meiklejohn re-joined the militia upon his return to Canada, leading to quick enlistment upon Canada's declaration of war. Frustrated after almost a year of performing medical exams on troops, Dr. Meiklejohn transferred to the 16th Field Ambulance (whom he had been a militia member of) when it was activated, and was posted overseas. After arriving in England, Dr. Meiklejohn was posted to a newly created field surgical unit, a section of an advance surgical unit stationed within a few miles of the front lines, and posted to Italy. After losing their equipment when the ship was sunk during the journey, the unit was posted with British Forces for a few months before reuniting with Canadians. Following the Italian Campaign, Dr. Meiklejohn's unit was transferred to France to join Canadian troops heading into Holland. Dr. Meiklejohn finished his service in Holland bringing relief to the starving population. He returned to Canada soon after VE Day.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Dr. Robert Meiklejohn
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Royal Canadian Army Medical Corp / 4th Armoured Division

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