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Marching 22 Kilometres a Day

Heroes Remember

Marching 22 Kilometres a Day

I think it was the 9th of January, we marched for 37 days. And there was snow on the ground and we slept in barns. One night especially we had a long ways to go for a barn, I think it was about 10 o’clock and we’d been marching. They expected us to march 22 kilometres a day, that’s what they said so that would be about 12 miles a day or 10 miles a day. We’d come to these farms and at dinner time we would stop and steal rabbits and cook them up and we’d have a little fire going to dry our socks so as to speak and we had a kettle with a rabbit in and this one farmer he said, “All my rabbits are gone!” And the officer in charge said, “They got to eat!” You know we thought they’d shoot us eh? And one other place we stopped he was re-patriated from Canada and that night we had cabbage and ham, you know. The next morning we had porridge, rolled oats anyhow, milk on it. And he said they treated me good in Canada so this little village was behind him so ya, little different things. We got up and milked cows one night, early in the morning and some of the guys had no idea how to work that machine. And a lot of the barns we slept in had grain. They done a lot of their thrashing in the wintertime. They would put it in their barns and then thrash it and we would shell out wheat and fill our pockets with that and, I don’t know, we got along pretty good. We were at Stalag 2-D at that time and that’s close to Stettin and we could hear the Russian gunfire or the German gunfire, whoever it was and Red Cross, you’re not allowed to leave your prison camp in advancing army, you know, enemy advancing army so that’s what the march was about. We stopped at a place, Sandbostel was the name of the place, it was I guess a hospital, I have no idea what they said it was but anyhow we stayed there for about two or three days. And we were marching in civilians and they were just nothing but just skin and bones. Their lips swollen and somebody would be smoking a cigarette and they’d ask for it and they would go to reach for it and he had no coordination, they would fall right over. And some of them were brought in. In Germany when they hauled manure out to the farm they’d lay a railroad track or track and they’d have gondolas they’d dump it instead of going out with a wagon and whatnot and they were bringing some of them in and they would just dump them and drag them in. And that night when they were feeding them, they brought out this (inaudible) of soup or whatever it was and they rushed and upset it and anyhow the next morning somebody said there was eight hundred, somebody said twelve hundred but they were piled like cord wood alongside the building and about 10 o’clock a team and wagon come along and throwing these bodies in. That was the worst…

Mr. Cole recalls the marches and witnessing horrific sights along the way.

Elmer Cole

Mr. Elmer Cole was born in Roche Percee, Saskatchewan on December 22, 1919. At age 15 he started working and left school with a grade eight education. In 1940 he joined with the South Saskatchewan Regiment taking basic training in Winnipeg and in Feb. 41 he came back to Brandon, Manitoba for mechanical training, switching over to The Calgary Tanks as a trooper on the Churchill tanks. Mr. Cole travelled overseas to England where he was given more training until the summer of ’42 when the Dieppe Raid occurred. Mr. Cole fought through the battle only to surrender with other Canadian soldiers where he became a POW until ’45 when they were set free. After returning to Canada, Mr. Cole worked with the Department of National Defence, then carried on as a mechanic but with the strong desire to always be a wheat farmer, he and his wife bought a farm in Oak bank, Manitoba until he retired at the young age of 54. Mr. Cole and wife Isabel adopted two boys. Now widowed, Mr. Cole spends much of his time playing cards and socializing with residents of his retirement home as well as spending time with his grandchildren. In 2005 Mr. Cole was presented with an Honorary Life Member certificate of the Kiwanis Club in his local community. Presently, at age 97, Mr. Coles continues to enjoy a relaxed and healthy lifestyle.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
July 29, 2017
Person Interviewed:
Elmer Cole
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Calgary Tanks

Copyright / Permission to Reproduce

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