Please be advised that Memory Project primary sources may deal with personal testimony that reflect the speaker’s recollections and interpretations of events. Individual testimony does not necessarily reflect the views of the Memory Project and Historica Canada.
Portrait of Victor Guérin at St. Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, January 29, 2010.
(Courtesy of The Memory Project)
"If a tank was coming, you had to get in position to be able to fire at it."
Yes, the Royal 22e Régiment. It was a good regiment, I was happy, we were all French Canadians. At the time, we didn't know anything else. It was a regiment. Before going to Montreal, I hadn't chosen anything yet, they transferred me there, to the 22nd. They needed more people there than anywhere else. So I attended the training and then I went to meet up with them in Quebec City. At the time, the 22nd was in England. They got there in 1939. They had me meet up with the regiment in Brighton, England. And I continued with them from there. We integrated with the whole gang, it was fun. We were happy to meet up with others who spoke our language. We didn't know them but they were like brothers and sisters. That's how it was in the regiments; it was always like that. And it was always like that when we welcomed new people too, we were always happy to see fresh new troops. I was evacuated, because of malaria, just after that. When I got back, it felt different. Because a lot of people had left and never came back. New people would come and that represented another hurdle; getting to know them. For example at night, when we went out to patrol, if one of our guys was hit, our job was to bring him back at any cost. We would never leave him there. We knew our guys and we knew their abilities. It's one of those things you learned automatically. We knew what kind of gun they were shooting up ahead, what kind of cannon they were firing. We could name them all. From Rimini, we crossed over to the other side of the Mediterranean on the Adriatic Sea. We went from one side of Italy to the other. We went to the other side of the Mediterranean to Pisa, the tower of Pisa. From there, we got on a small ship and we went to Marseille, France. It wasn't very far; about eight or nine hours by boat. From there, we travelled across France and stopped in Belgium. In France, we met [Major-]General [Georges-Philéas] Vanier who had been the commander of the 22nd in 1914, he had lost a leg. He welcomed us – he was the Canadian ambassador to France. He welcomed us, the 22nd. It was a joy for him because it was his regiment. The convoy stopped there, in some kind of wooded area. From there, we continued on to Belgium. We stayed in Belgium for about three weeks in order to reorganise everything, a lot of guys were missing equipment. We were also there to raise morale. Then we left for Holland. For me, it was the tanks. If a tank was coming, you had to get in position to be able to fire at it. You had to get down on your stomach; you couldn't fire at shoulder level. We would be thrown back about six feet, maybe not six feet, but at least 15-20 inches each time. A guy who didn't weigh very much would be thrown back a yard; quite a distance. It was a bomb we were firing. It would go off and could flip a 40-tonne tank on its back. The ricochet was strong. In Italy, we would fire at anything that moved. We didn’t tread lightly with the Italians. But Holland was an allied country. They only wanted us to fire at those we could see clearly. Well, we didn't see very many of them, so we didn't fire very often. There was less resistance, a lot less resistance. We were used to it being otherwise; we were coming back from Italy where everything was mayhem all the time; cannons and everything else under the sun going off. When we got there it was really quiet. We could sleep at night!
Book a Speaker
The Memory Project is a volunteer speakers bureau
that arranges for veterans and Canadian Forces members to share their stories
of military service at school and community events across the country.
Request a Memory Project speaker at thememoryproject.com/book-a-speaker.