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Safely Through Close Calls

Heroes Remember

Safely Through Close Calls

We got back across the river, and there's rather a flat piece of ground there, and a number of our own vehicles would come up and were bivouacked in this area, and it sort of died down, the action sort of died down, so we brewed up a cup of tea. And we're just getting the tea nicely brewed, waiting for orders to see what the heck's gonna happen, we hear this nebelwurfer, "moaning minnie," start up on the other side. And I suppose somebody told you about a "moaning minnie"? Interviewer: Well, you describe one. That had to be, in my opinion, the most frightening weapon of World War II. It was an eight barrelled mortar, and the Germans had it, it was deadly. And you could hear the pop of the firing, you could hear the thing going up, and then it screamed coming down, the "moaning minnie", and it had a circular pattern, eight shells and it ended up in a circular pattern. So we heard these "moaning minnies" start up on the other side and we heard the pop and we figured, "Uh-oh, better take cover." So we, the nearest cover we could get is our vehicles, and where I happened to be sitting, I was away from my armoured car. There was a carrier, a universal carrier, and it was facing, in relation to the river, which was running east and west, this carrier was facing north and south. So, I got behind one of the tracks, on the south side, another guy got behind a track on the south side on the other track, and the third guy got in between us. So, all he was protected by was the back of the carrier, and I'll be damned if one of these "moaning minnie's" doesn't land right smack bang in front of the carrier, and the explosion comes through. Now, the two of us were protected by the tracks, it took most of the blast, we didn't get it. But this guy was standing in the middle, and the blast came right under the carrier and got his legs, and he just screamed like a plucked chicken, and he started to run, and he went running for about two hundred yards all through this, this area. And we learned later that his legs were broken in seventeen places, and I guess it was just automatic reaction, you know, like a chicken with his head cut off how it runs around. And when I knew this fellow, his name was Hamm, Walter Hamm, he was a young man, six foot two, about a hundred and ninety pounds, just the football player type, matinee idol type. I saw the guy in Winnipeg later, being pushed in a wheelchair, and he was down to about a hundred and ten pounds, and just a pathetic individual, it just ruined his life, you know, and his wife was pushing, he'd married an English girl from Westerham in England. And just by the grace of God, I could have been in the middle, but I was on the track at the side, and he got it and I didn't.

Like so many Canadian Veterans who served at the front, Mr. Hyde realizes how close he came - several times - to losing his life or, at the very least, receiving serious injuries. He tells the story of an incident along the Hitler Line in Italy. He escaped uninjured. His buddy beside him didn't fare as well.

Gilbert John Hyde

Mr. Hyde's father was an electrician with the Moose Jaw Power Company and also a Veteran of the First World War. Mr. Hyde was an only child. He enlisted on 18 October 1938, two weeks after his 18th birthday with the PPCLI. Basic training was taken in Winnipeg before sailing from Halifax to Scotland in December 1939. On arrival, Mr. Hyde went directly to Aldershot in England where he spent several months in further training. Mr. Hyde then moved from being a military police officer to the job of dispatch rider - to a signaller assigned to a signals battalion with the Princess Louise Dragoon Guards. That was followed by a 3 ½ year stint on a Bren Gun carrier. The squadron was eventually posted to Scotland and eventually sailed for Sicily where Mr. Hyde participated in the landing there and went on to a number of battles in Italy before returning to Sicily, where his troop, the PLDG, received several awards, including a battle honour and a commendation from the Divisional Commander and the British 8th Army Commander.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Gilbert John Hyde
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards
Armoured Car Commander

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