'That dismal day:' A Canadian veteran's recollections of D-Day
'Some of us were lucky... but for so many their paths ended in the water or on the beaches.'
Shelley Pound grew up hearing her dad Wilfred's many stories of service in the Second World War. Before he died in November 2016, Pound and her mom worked to collect his recollections.
Throughout 2017, we're asking Canadians, "What's your story?" Pound, of Brighton, Ont., shares her father's story of D-Day, the allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.
The white cliffs of Dover were far behind as the wind and rain raged and tossed the boat around in the English Channel like a dinghy.
For my Dad — driver Private Wilfred John Pound 1st Canadian Army, 3rd Battalion, 8th Brigade, Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa, Midland Regiment from Brighton, Ontario, the youngest of three sons in the Canadian Armed Forces — it was the roughest trip of his young life:
"My vehicle, a 60 hundred weight truck — then the largest truck in the Canadian Army — and many others were on a boat called a Landing Ship Transport (LST) towing a large raft called a Rhino.
"As close to shore as possible the LST would come to a stop, the Rhino would move to the front of the LST and the waterproofed vehicles would be driven from the LST onto the Rhino which would travel towards shore until it hit sand and the vehicles would drive off into the sea and onto the beach.
"I was so sick and lying on a pile of planks when Captain Butler came and said it was almost time to drive my big truck off the LST and onto the Rhino. I tried to convince him to get someone else because I was so sick, but he came back with pills and a drink and said for me to hurry up and go.
"During the transfer the rough water caused the Rhino to rise and the opening of the LST hit my booster brake.
"Once I reached the shore I realized that the booster brake was jammed and I couldn't get my truck to move forward. Under German attack from high above, on the shore near Bény-sur-Mer, I drove into four or five feet of water.
"The bullets whizzed above our heads as I scrambled under my truck at about 11 a.m. to repair and release the brake while Lou May and Gunner Colborne, the two other soldiers in the truck, prayed and yelled for me to hurry up.
"Finally we moved away from the beach and started to look for the rest of the survivors who had moved on.
"We were separated from everyone and could not find the Maple Leaf Up sign [road signs that pointed to the ever-shifting Canadian front lines in the ground battles for Northwest Europe] to tell us which way to go so we kept driving. Paratroopers saw the truck at about 4 p.m. and directed us to their cover. We didn't know until then just how lucky a day we had had — without knowing it, we'd been driving through enemy territory. They asked us to dig in and camouflage with them for the rest of the night.
"We could only dig in about three inches in the shale, so for protection we drove our truck over that shallow ditch where we tried our best to sleep.
"Our friend in need the next morning was a dispatch rider, I think his name was Zarzan, who had been sent to find us since we had the rations, mortar ammunition, machine gun and supplies for our companies and headquarters. Returning to our own later that day, we were told that Canadians had met their target and had traveled the greatest distance of all the troops on D-Day.
"Some of us were lucky — we had taken a different path that dismal day — but for so many their paths ended in the water or on the beaches."
Dad would have been 97 years old on Christmas Day last year, but he passed away on November 10, 2016, on the eve of Remembrance Day. He was a proud Canadian Veteran.
Wilfred Pound was recognized in 2012 with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal and in 2014, with the rank of Knight of the French National Order of the Legion of Honour for his D-Day participation.
What's your story?
What defines Canada for you? Is there a time that you were proud to be Canadian, or perhaps a time you felt disappointed? Is there a place, person, or event in your life that sums up what being Canadian is to you? Tell us at cbc.ca/whatsyourstory.