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"Our landing was not bad compared to the fellows ahead of us. The first wave had taken the blunt of it"
My name's Doug Vidler. And I was 19 when I joined up in Toronto. After having some basic training at the Brantford and advanced training at Camp Borden, was picked out for a special course on 3-inch mortars. I really didn't know what a 3-inch mortar was. I thought I was going to learn to lay bricks or something. I didn't know the first thing about a mortar. But anyway, I was really fortunate because, even though I ended up in an infantry regiment, I was on 3-inch mortars, which was quite a bit better than being in a straight rifle company or in the infantry. First of all we got to ride in Bren Gun Carriers which is an armoured vehicle, open top and it tracks like a tank but carried five men and the 3-inch mortar. I was glad that I went into that because my chances of survival turned out to be much better than the straight infantryman. I landed in England in August, '43. Joined the SD&G, Highlanders Stormount, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders, and I had a choice between them and the Regina Rifles in the Black Watch. SD&Gs were an Ontario regiment and I decided to join with them. They'd been over there for a couple of years before this in training and it took a while to break in to that atmosphere of fellows who had been together for so long and a real comradeship built up between them. And anybody new was classed as a new kid and was kind of late getting there or... even though I'd just turned 19 at the time. We made several landing back in England... in practice landings. We used landing craft which were called LCTs which were Landing Craft Tanks. We did a number of these exercises but not nearly the training that the other fellows had, had two years previous. When D-Day came, after having been inspected by the King [George VI} and by [Field Marshal Bernard] Montgomery and by [General Dwight] Eisenhower, they all had a good look at us to see who all these guys were that were foolish enough to go and do all this... after that we were in this camp in two-men pup tents. The facilities were run by the British Army. They did all the fatigues and did the cooking and everything. Not more than a week before D-Day they showed us this sand table model of the beach where we would be landing, with no names given, of course. The beaches were all code name by colour. I think we were supposed to land at Red [Juno] Beach and the towns were named by flowers. I forgot the names of the flowers, but they were all code name flowers. We didn't know where the country was, but it turned out to be France, of course. Now going across we received a letter from Eisenhower saying this was the big push and this was going to be the final battle, hopefully, to clear Europe of the Nazi occupation. And going across, and it was fairly rough, I remember the sergeant beside me was so thrilled when he got the letter to say that we were actually going to be this because we'd been training for so long and this was going to be the final big day and he was so excited to think we were going to be one of the first troops in there. We turned out to be the second wave. First wave went in about 6:30-7 o'clock and we didn't land 'til about 10:30. During this time we were circling around there and I remember getting broadside to the big battle ships. When the guns would fire the concussion from them was really something. We circled around and finally went in. These Bren Gun Carriers had extra sides put on them so the water wouldn't come in. The carriers had all been waterproofed so the motors would still run and we landed in about 4 feet of water. Our landing was not bad compared to the fellows ahead of us. The first wave had taken the blunt of it. By the time we got there, we were concentrated in all the one area because the beach where we were supposed to land at was on fire and there were a lot of landing crafts damaged and we couldn't get in. And so there was twice the concentration of troops in that area. I always thought if the Germans had opened up fire on us we would pretty well have had it because we were so congested in there. So we really didn't get hit too bad 'til the next day when the Germans put in counter-attacks and that's when we really found out what war is all about. And from there on in it was pretty rough.
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