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Operation Duck

Heroes Remember

Well after our first wave there we sat at this large barn affair and then they notified us that we would have to make a second wave, that the first wave they had got over there they had so many casualties that we would have to put a second wave across for support. So anyway we got all lined up, the boats in the canal there and the officer came up and said, “Okay, you guys start now, it’s okay your tanks are going to start fire across the river and that for tank support." So anyway, I got in the boat, got it started up and back up a little and my bowman had to push us back and then I could start ahead. We didn’t have reverse in those boats then and they have a new motor. Anyway we got turned around there and I’m going up the creek there and I just got out and I was just going to make a turn there and I looked behind and I don’t know, I looked behind, I thought the boats were right behind me. There wasn’t a boat at all. So anyway I said, “Oh my God,” and you could feel the fire, the bullets were hitting all around the water, you know, like you throw a stone in the water. I said jeez if I stick my nose out there we wouldn’t last two seconds. So anyway, at the end there was a little bit of a coast so I slid the boat in there and I can remember some of the guys bitching say, “Christ almighty Sommerville, they’re only about six inches above our heads!” So I said, “Well what we can’t do nothing if we go out right now we’ll be cut, you won’t last two seconds.” I said, “I know, I’ve been out there in these cross fires.” So we wait for five minutes and finally the boats start coming out. But what really happened, the prop, we overloaded the infantry and that and when they sat down where the propeller is sunk into there and it hit rock and the propeller sheared the pin. I found out after when I come back what the real problem was. So he had to take the motor, pull it up, knock the pin out, the copper pin and put a new pin in there and put the propeller on and then put the pin through there and that’s what held us up for that five or six minutes. In the meantime once I looked down I seen the boats come up, I let one go by me and I slipped right in beside it, you know, beside them so we were going along close to the shore because we had four or five tanks along there and I could see they were giving us cover fire on the other side. So all at once I see these two boats and I noticed, the two boats were there and I’m right here and all at once I look and there’s no boat at all and all the guys are standing in the water. So I said, right now I said I’m broadside, I got to get this way and I wheeled it around and went straight into the far bank on the other side of the river. And that’s when the guys jumped out and I was lucky that way, everybody got out but there was two guys got stuck in the mud, they were a little longer getting to the shore. When I came back there was only two or three guys left, the most of them drowned right there. There was an officer come down and pull two guys out. But what happened, with their life, we never had life belts on but those infantry did but with their web, they had something that hooked on but they had it the wrong way and they couldn’t unhook to let all their web and slip that off and that’s what pulled them right down. And that officer when you look in that book, I think he got an officer’s reward, one of the highest, you know, because he did rescue two or three of them, I’m not just sure and the rest perished.

Just nine days before the war ended, Mr. Sommerville recalls his adventures in “Operation Duck.”

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

Copyright / Permission to Reproduce

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