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Preparing for Italy

Heroes Remember

And we then sailed, joined a convoy and we sailed into the Bay of Salerno on the night of September the 8th, which was my eighteenth birthday. And as we're going in the sky is just alive with gunfire and the noise, the shells and the place was just exploding. And as we're getting ready to go anchor the German Air Force hit the ship next to us and of course it blew and it lit up the harbour so we were kind of a sitting duck. So we moved over a little to get away from the glare of the fire, because we had 3600 troops on. And so we dropped anchor, but before we dropped anchor I had gone up to have a look at my landing craft to make sure everything was good. And there was a young soldier standing by the bow looking over and I said to him, "I guess you're a little nervous, eh?" He said "Yeah," he said "it's a little difficult for me." He said " I'm from New York and" he said, "my family's Italian, my grandmother lives in Rome and" he said "here I am going in to kill the Italians." And no more had he said that when there was a roar across the whole ship, the ship just kind of vibrated, they had announced that Italy had surrendered. And just, unfortunately the timing wasn't great because a lot of the guys figured they were just going to walk in and, and set up camp, but that wasn't the case. This was to be the United States' Dieppe. It, you know, we started loading the troops, you know when it was about, oh I guess by this time it's the morning of the 9th. And we're taking these guys in and fortunately the first few in took a lot of gunfire. And then the troops, some of them would get up there and they established a beach head. So by, we were probably about the 5th or 6th one in, it wasn't quite as bad. There was still machine gun fire, you know I can remember it whistle over our craft a couple of times, but we lost five seamen of the Royal Navy in this invasion. And we took some wounded back. Our sick bay, we had a hospital on the ship, and it was absolutely packed. And then we had these five guys, one of them had been a friend, I befriended, he was only eighteen. His name was Able Seaman Small, he was from Yorkshire, and he was killed. And the skipper asked me to pack his gear to ship to his parents and that was a traumatic thing for me because, you know, two days ago he was a good friend of mine and here I am packing his gear and his life is gone, you see. So our commanding officer in the Royal Navy had requested that we, like we had sewn these guys up in hammocks ready for burial at sea. And the skipper, the Dutch skipper refused, he said that they didn't do it that way and so we had to take them, put them in one of the rooms and take them back to Iran, for burial at, on shore, which is against navy tradition. And it was pretty bad when you walked past that room they were in just off the deck there, you know. You just got that terrible sinking feeling, you know, knowing that hey, that could've been you. Yep, because these were all nineteen, eighteen, twenty year olds. Yeah.

Mr. McLean, now in Iran, has spent time becoming familiar with the engine room of his new vessel. He's soon on his way to a new assignment.

George Henry Foster McLean

Mr. McLean's father came to Canada from Scotland. He was a cooper by trade and was a member of the Royal Navy during the First World War. Mr. McLean was born in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan and has two brothers and two sisters. He was second born, with one older sister born in Scotland. He received his education in the Vancouver school system. He enlisted in the Royal Canadian Navy just after his 16th birthday. He then spent five months in militia training before receiving a call-up to active service effective in May, 1942. Mr. McLean served in North Africa, Malta, Italy and was part of the D-Day raid at Omaha Beach.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
George Henry Foster McLean
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
North Africa
Leading Hand

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