Fear

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Medium: Video
Owner: Veterans Affairs Canada and Testaments of Honour
Duration: 7:50
Copyright / Permission to Reproduce

Subjects – in order of appearance:

  • Jacques Raymond
  • Alfred Monnin
  • William Kane
  • Rufin Gionet
  • Jeanne Caron-D’Orsonnens
  • Nicholas Dimitroff
  • Adolphe Williams
  • Jean Charles Bertrand (J.C.B.) Forbes
  • Edgar Doiron
  • Arsenault
  • Jean-Paul Savary
  • Joseph Duval

Transcript

We were always afraid, but we reached the point where we got accustomed to it.

We were afraid every day, I think, we were afraid.

I was afraid lots of times, lots of times, but it wasn't so much fear but worrying as much as anything else.

I don't think the word "afraid" is the right word, because you're really caught up in all the action, by everything that's happening, you don't have time to say "I'm scared."

We were always afraid of being shot at, afraid of being bombed from above, afraid of these traps, and afraid of meeting collaborators who might alert the Germans to our position and what we were doing.

It's like they say, in war even though you're were well armed and everything, when there are snipers hidden in villages, they terrorize the men. Because five or six snipers at the entrance to any village or on a road can keep you pinned down. The snipers were the greatest danger. And snipers were the Germans' specialty.

What frightened us the most were the SS troops who parachuted in behind our lines. That really scared us. I don't know anyone who's in a war and isn't scared. We laughed about it, but you always tell yourself… We were afraid to go from one hut to another, because when there were [inaudible] obviously, the Allies flew over us on their way to attack, but the others did too. The airplanes really, really scared us, and we were even scared moving about the hospital, in our huts, we didn't like that either. It wasn't easy to move around. And it was always dark, eh? No lights--we were in total blackout all the time. That was not easy.

We never knew when the last moment would come and we saw our friends, our comrades falling or getting injured, and we had to transport them to hospital behind the lines and there were the ones who died there.

Interviewer - How did you get used to this kind of event?

You don't. You don't get used to it. You endure it and you tell yourself, "Let's hope it's not my turn." That's all.

First of all, there's the fear of dying: I had a wife, I had a child. There's the fear of coming home handicapped. Fortunately, I was not wounded.

From July 18 to August 8, even if I could tell you how afraid I was, I couldn't explain it to you… It's unexplainable. After I was injured and went back, something told me I would never get killed. I never thought I would get killed after that… Never. I wasn't afraid of anything…

I was never really afraid of dying. As a soldier I had a phobia: I was afraid of being made prisoner. I would never… I think I would’ve died…

Soldiers who'd been on the battlefield were not afraid. The more intense the fighting got, the less you were scared because you didn't have time for that. But if the fighting calmed down a bit, then you had time to think about it, and you didn't know what was gonna happen.

When the bomb fell… it happened quickly. It’s not the worst fear there is. There’s no… it happens and it’s over. But it’s the fear of being afraid…

Then, someone would break down next to you. Their nerves couldn't take it anymore. It takes strong nerves. I saw one of our company commanders crack. His name was François de Salle Robert, a big ox of a man. All of sudden, he just couldn't take any more. You see, it was guys like that, not wounded, not nothing, their nerves were worn thin, they couldn't take it any more.

I remember one morning, there was an officer from Edmundston, and his runner was a guy from Edmundston, too, a big man, about his size, and the man was wailing like a baby that he didn't want to be in the attack, but you couldn't refuse, eh? So I said, “I'll go… I'll go as runner, in his place…” There was no need to do that, the officer knew the guy and he was a good guy and all that, but he was scared to death. So I was runner for him that day…

The ones who got on the planes, they knew: “Tonight, I’ve got a good chance of not making it back . . .” But they do it anyway! That takes guts! They don’t go hide. They know, but they go anyway… that’s scary.

When I was in Holland, there were times when I would have welcomed an injury. I don't think of it these days; I'm lucky to be like I am, to be walking… But I would have liked to have been injured to get out of that hell. My nerves were shot…

Someone who's not scared, … he’s lying… well, he's just not all right in the head. Because in life, fear, when there's explosions going off all around you and things are falling, and well, sometimes you just react, you could say your heart stops beating. But we never think it could happen to us. But, y'know, it's not easy, not easy at all.

And even after the eighth of May, we were nervous in Germany because we wondered during a solid week, a solid ten days in Germany, we wondered how the German on farms, on the roads were going to take it. Were they going to be nice or were they going to shoot us in the back or were they going to set booby traps for when we …or mines in the road? After about ten days, we saw that, no, they had accepted their defeat, their total capitulation.

In those last few months when we knew that the Germans were retreating, the fear was that we wouldn't get through it. In those last few months, the stress was worse than when we arrived, because we had buddies that we had lost and new buddies that had taken their places. Since I had been there, I had seen them go and I … I said to myself-when will I-am I going to get through to the end of this?

Let anyone tell me he wasn't afraid. I don't know anyone. Even the braggarts, the ones who said they were the bravest, everyone was afraid. No one wants to die, apart from the ones who were very, very sick …no, no, you want to live.

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