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The Luck of Changing Places

Heroes Remember

The Luck of Changing Places

We were putting in bridges at that time and then all of a sudden we were, they came out one day with orders that we were on the move again. So that’s when we ended up with the 7th Div going up to Northern Holland but we would, a place called Emden, near there, we went up to the north, that’s where they were. So they were going to assault Leer on the Ems River. And our main destination there was to assault troops across Leer on the Ems River and we did that on April 28th. That was our last assault. We took four regiments across the river. That’s when I lost my bowman. We started there, we were back in a small canal about five hundred feet from the river and this Corporal Martell, was my corporal and we were ready to get in the boat and, I was the bowman, I was the guy that has to hold the boat when you get over there and let the infantry out. As soon as you hit land or come to that, you got to get out and hold that boat so that they can just go right out of the boat. So the corporal says to me, “Don, I have never been on an assault before, how be you operate the boat?” I said, “You’re the corporal, you say it, I do it!” So we got over there and he held the boat and I had the guy beside me, he was hit pretty bad. He never got out of the boat so the motor conked out. We had it at a slow speed but it just stopped. In the meantime I am trying to start the motor and one of our other boats came in beside me and all at once I heard one of the other men there, he hollered, “Martell is hit!” And I look around and there all I see is the back of his blouse. He says, “Give me a hand!” So we had to jump out in the water up to our shoulders and then we had to lift him and toss him over into the boat like you know and I had to get back up on the boat and get the motor started and then take off back. So I got back there but by the time I got back there he was dead. In the meantime, it’s fate. That’s why I am here seventy years he gave me by just changing his mind and I never forget it. When I come over here I always put a poppy on his grave and thank him for the timing that, well you shouldn’t say, it’s funny you know but because he changed his mind I am here today and he’s there or I would have been there and he might have been still alive.

Mr. Sommerville shares an emotional story of how his fellow corporal asked to switch places and for that reason Mr. Sommerville survived. His friend was not as fortunate.

Donald Sommerville

Mr. Donald Sommerville was born September 19, 1922 in Chatham, Ontario. Mr. Sommerville grew up on a farm and attended public school. He and his buddies decided to join the army and left for overseas as part of the Royal Canadian Engineers. Mr. Sommerville became part of the 23rd Royal Canadian Engineers, 3rd Canadian Infantry Division. He takes pride in the service provided as part of “Operation Duck” - an operation that lasted nine days before the war ended. Mr. Sommerville has returned to Holland for commemorative anniversaries. He now resides in Ontario with his family.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
May 6, 2015
Person Interviewed:
Donald Sommerville
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Liberation of Holland
Candian Royal Corps of Engineers, Electricians and Mechanics, 2nd Tank Troop Workshop

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