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Red Hot Shrapnel

Heroes Remember

We heard the mortars going off and so we hit the, we had a trench there and we hit that. Both of us in the same trench and a mortar bomb hit a tree, an olive tree, close, and the shrapnel went into my neck. I knew I was hit, but we started following. And Locke said I was staggering and he called for an ambulance and they took me back, took me to a big house. There was so many people wounded in that, at that time, that they never registered me. They sent me downstairs, down into the basement or whatever they called it, wine cellar actually. And I was on two mattresses down there. And that was probably around 10 or 11 o’clock in the morning. And I was there... soon as I got down there, I realized I couldn’t move. I was paralysed, finally. I must have jarred something. The mortar fragment was between two vertebras in my neck. Anyway, a shell come through the wall and hit one of these big vats. And towards morning, I could feel the wine soaking into the mattress and coming up. No one come down to get me and finally, about, well probably about 9 or 10 o’clock, there was a guy opened the door in the cellar and I hollered at him. And he was so surprised he come wading through the wine and got me out. All my reports that I was wounded on the 20th and I was actually wounded on the 19th. But they never registered me in being wounded until the 20th. So then they sent me out, and that’s another different deal too. Of course, they sent an ambulance. All it was, a half ton, they called it a two by four or something like that. A four by two, actually, and there was three guys in there. There was an MP, a military officer. He’d got hit in the head with a brick, with a bomb. And there was a guy on just the frame of a bed, you know, how the springs would jump up and down. He was laying on that. He had a broken leg. He’d laid out on No Man’s Land for about a day and a half in the rain. And every time, he was just screaming. And there was a guy sitting in the corner of the truck and never moved. We didn’t know what was the matter with him. And this MP and I we got that guy on the floor, finally, so he’d be off of that springs. He was hanging onto his head and I was hanging onto my neck. We got him down the floor. I wasn’t clear paralysed then. I could walk and move my arms, but oh, the pain, you know, to even think of moving. So time we got to that night I couldn’t even feed myself or nothing. A little Indian boy fed me. Well, it was great effort to even try to move. You know, they’d help me. They got me in the truck and that. I couldn’t see that kid laying on the mat or on the springs like that. It took four days to get there. By that time, I was really paralysed by that time, because it was... what would you call it, it would... I can’t think of the name. Anyway, my neck was all swelled in there. They operated, on the night before Christmas, or the day before, like on the 22nd, something like that. And then Christmas Eve, they took us downstairs to see a program put on by the nurses and staff. So anyway, they operated and the English doctor brought the piece up for me. It was just like a .22 bullet, only it was burnt black. So it had gone into my neck red hot. So then he wanted me to keep it, but the next time I looked in my pocket book, it was gone. It was so sharp it went right through my pocket book.

Mr. Kocher shares the story of how he got wounded and how long it took to receive medical assistance. He talks about his surgery and being given the sharp piece of shrapnel they removed from his neck.

Lyle Kocher

Mr. Kocher was born in Clive, Alberta on June 2, 1918. He was the youngest in his family with three brothers and two sisters. After six years of school he decided to quit and help his father with farming. As a young boy, Mr. Kocher joined the Royal Fusiliers of Edmonton Reserves. He enlisted in Edmonton and then went to Calgary for basic training. Mr. Kocher spent much of his army life in Italy and Africa. After returning home he wrote a book about being a Canadian soldier during the Second World War. In it, he shares his story of lost innocence and self- discovery.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Lyle Kocher
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Royal Canadian Regiment

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