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Photo of Jo Vicaire, at 18 years of age, taken in Edinburgh, Scotland, May 1945.
(Courtesy of The Memory Project/Joseph William Vicaire)
"We saved money there, took money off our pay and bought us chocolate bars and cigarettes and turkeys and dinners like that, we gave them all a good feed"
Well, I was born here in Listuguj, [Québec] I was born on August 22nd, 1924 and I stayed in the Listuguj area all my life and … Well, my mother didn’t know [I had joined the Army] until I told her. She didn’t like it but my father was in the First World War so she didn’t mind after that, she said, okay.
So we get off and we landed [in France], we spread out on the edge of the field and then we had our meals there, we had breakfast there, everything all quiet, no plane came along to bomb us. We had the hedges placed all around us all the time, in case the Germans came along to strafe or anything like that, so they was ready for us. I mean, the planes were, in case something happened
So when we got all with breakfast and everything, they told us what you’re going to do now, he said, you have to bury the dead, they’d been laying there for a month. And geez, everybody looked up and, bury the dead? The Germans.
So we all dumped them there, the bulldozer came along that afternoon there, covered them all up. … So that’s what we did say first day I was down there. Back out about a mile and a half, just in case you got bombed or something like that, because it happened before. It’s how they bombed the Polacks [1st Polish Armoured Division], the Canadian Army, the Germans must have laughed at us that time there, and they didn’t want it to happen again [Polish and Canadian troops were mistakenly bombed by Allied aircraft on August 14, 1944]. So, to keep us safe, we waited until this sergeant come along, he says, we’ll wait until the day come, daylight, we’ll see – as long as they don’t fire at us, we ain’t going to fire back. So okay. So it’s just coming daylight, there were these two Germans just come up with the flag. Comrade, comrade, you know, he says, we surrender. So, [we said] tell your friends to come out too and all that, you’re not going to shoot them and all that. So I found one German who was talking good English.
So anyway, what happened we got two, one, fifty Germans come out all around us from that direction there, in the fields. So what we did, we searched them and we had no car to take them back, you just tell them to take the road here to go back and they’ll pick you up... somewhere there in the back.
They found a place with a little creek there…so they can set up some showers and all that. So we took showers, got new pressed uniforms and everything and that was up in the, this last part of August  at that time, by that time. So we were pretty dirty all the time anyway at that time but they said, you feel better when you’re clean, we got all cleaned up because most of the time, you just wash your face with that cold water and everything and wash your hands sometimes.
Well, you worry about it but not too much. You always think about it because you’re under pressure all the time. You like, if you, you worry about stuff, and actually thinking about something that you’ve got to forget like you know? Like it’s there all the time, so your pressure, your mind’s up, your nerves are up all the time. No rest at all. Only time you get rest, something happens and all of a sudden, you get kind of scared but you come to it again, you says, I’ll get over it, I’ll get over it, you know. It’s not me or somebody else, you know, but still, if you’ve got good nerves, that was very important. But some people, if you didn’t have it, they go crazy. That’s what happens when the, when your nerves are bad. Because like our sergeant says, he told us a story that for a couple of weeks he was worried about us, what not to do thinking how he was doing you know and watching everything, you know. He went around crazy like you know, We told on him and they took him away.
Eight kilometres east of Nijmegen [Netherlands], there’s only a village named Hernen. There must be about 100 people in it, small little village. So that’s where we stayed for the winter until February . So we had a Christmas party there with the people there. We saved money there, took money off our pay and bought us chocolate bars and cigarettes and turkeys and dinners like that, we gave them all a good feed, everybody had a good feed, the children there, a few children, just women there and old ladies, old men. We had a great big barn there to set it up as a kitchen and everything and all the Canadian Army did that. All the places they were, they had a party with the Dutch.
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