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My First Time In Action

Heroes Remember

My First Time In Action

We formed on a road, went over a farmer’s fence and the name of the game we were supposed to get some buildings ahead of us, I didn’t know where we were. And then all of a sudden I was walking along and all of a sudden they said, “Fix bayonets!” And I said, “Holy smokes, this is really big!” You know, I am going to be jumping around in windows and John Wayne is going to be there, Kirk Douglas whom you may not have even heard of, I don’t know. But anyway, that’s what I thought it was going to be. So all of a sudden out of nowhere machine guns open up ahead of us and we hit the ground. And I hit the ground and I thought holy mackerel, these people are shooting at me. That’s the first time and I couldn’t, I was so scared I felt frozen when I lay there; just laid on the ground and oh god if they say get up and go, what am I going to do? Anyway you asked what it was like, the first minute was complete fright because this isn’t what it is supposed to be like. I am supposed to be, you know, in the movies people are talking to each other and people are friendly and they are saying, “Hey Joe, there’s somebody over there.” There wasn’t anything like that, it was you were there and they were shooting at you and people were getting hit and shot and all sorts of stupid things. I thought, “What am I doing here?” But then we kept moving and then to top it off, that particular era of time, that was my first time in action and we got ahead, everybody got ahead, some people were left behind, of course, but after about two or three hundred yards we started getting through the Jerry slit trenches and so on. And that was the first time I saw a bunch of dead bodies. These Germans had been caught and the tops of their heads were cut off, like at the very front right across here so there must have been a blast of some sort. I looked down and one of my first feelings was I am going to get ill because I am looking at people’s brains. I don’t think I had ever been at a funeral parlour never mind anything else and when I saw that I thought wow I am not going to be much of a soldier, cripes I got to get my act together because by that time I was working automatically, I got numb, I was numb by that time. If they told me to jump off a cliff I probably really would have but I just kept on going and going past that and then the final as we kept on going up, I walked past a Jerry on the ground, a young man in a nice white uniform and he was a young boy about my age. He was dead and I felt myself, I felt myself not breathing well, I said, “Jesus Christ, what next?”

Thinking combat was going to be like the movies, Mr. Preece shares his story of the realization of fear and gruesome sights witnessed against the enemy

John Preece

Mr. John Preece was born October, 1926 in Toronto, Ontario. Mr. Preece grew up without a father and at the very young age of fifteen left home and joined the Norwegian Merchant Marine. After some time, he decided to join the army, enlisted in Canada and travelled overseas where he then joined The Royal Regiment of Canada. As part of the infantry, Mr. Preece experienced combat and while in action became wounded which resulted in him being unable to continue active service. Mr. Preece returned to Canada after the war, achieved his grade 12 education and continued on to university. In 1959 he received his B.A.Sc. at University of Toronto, C.O.T.C. 2nd Lieutenant, a B.A. Arts (Psych) degree in 1971 and retired with a P. English. His career included many management positions in varied businesses. Mr. Preece is now retired and resides in Ottawa with his family.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
April 30, 2015
Person Interviewed:
John Preece
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Liberation of Holland
Royal Regiment of Canada

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