An FM96 listener was generous enough to share 2 letters that his grandfather wrote to his grandmother in 1944. These are an incredible time capsule describing an experience most can’t imagine. Please take 10 minutes to read these letters, and truly appreciate the sacrifice Canadian soldiers have made.
Canadian Pacific Telegraphs – World Wide Communications
Ottawa Ont July 31-1944 1230P
Mrs. Jeanne Amsden
19564 Minister of National Defense wishes to inform you that A57321 Lance Sergeant Leslie Herbert Amsden previously reported wounded in action nature of wounds now reported as bullet wound left forearm and left shin STOP If any further information becomes available it will be forwarded as soon as received
Director of Records
A59321 Sgt. Amsden
Essex Scottish Regiment
Well sweetheart I received your gum, the box of chocolates, and another parcel and also 5 comic books wrapped up in a bundle so at last it is all catching up to me. I also received some more letters. So you want to know more about the battle do you, well I will give you the whole thing from the time I went in until the time I got hit. But first I want to tell you that I found out that Art was wounded by schrapnel in his back. He is now in England but I haven’t been able to get up to see him yet. But if I can get away I will. Now listen sweetheart I don’t think I am bragging now when I give you the story because it is the truth so help me. There are some marvelous escapes and things happen in action so don’t worry too much if it sounds kind of fantastic.
Well sweetheart we greased our carriers up good for the trip across the channel. We arrived on the French Coast in a landing barge. The tide was in so we had to drive off in 3 feet of water. We then went to a spot behind the lines and fixed up our vehicle and weapons for action. Occasionally Jerry would send over a few shells but no one got hurt. It was while we were here that I wrote you the letter from the gang with all the kisses. We were in this place about 4 days and then we got word that we were moving up to the front. My heart flopped and I was really scared but I threw it off and said a prayer.
We moved up at night into a position just behind the brow of a hill and we separated and each carrier unit joined our respective companies. Our section naturally went to B Coy. When we arrived the Coy Commander told us that we were to join the Coy in an attack on the little village just a mile from our position. We took our weapons out of the carriers and sent the carriers back and they were to be used to bring the wounded out of the field. Well we got prepared and we loaded all our weapons and I fixed my bayonet on my rifle. About an hour before the attack was due artillery opened up with a terrific barrage. We couldn’t hear ourselves think it was so noisy.
We were joking amoungst ourselves but we were all keyed up for the attack. I pulled out your picture and looked at it for 15 minutes, anyway and I wondered what would happen in this attack. We couldn’t smoke which made it worse because it was dark and the glow of cigarettes might have given us away because it was supposed to be a surprise party for Jerry. Dawn was just breaking when we got word to move forward. We advanced at a slow pace, Crotty with the Bren gun on my right side and Ross with his rifle on my left. Sgt. Finlay who is the section leader and me second-in-command was on our right and Cpl. Davies and his crew were on his right.
Thus we advanced. Jerry saw us coming over the hill and he let loose with his artillery and mortars. They were landing around us and a few men were hit and the stretcher bearers were fixing them up. We arrived in the village and started to clean out the houses. My crew stopped at this house and I put Crotty across the street and told him to shoot any Jerries that tried to go in or come out. Then I took a hand grenade from inside my tunic and threw on in the second storey of the house and then flopped on the ground then we did the same downstairs.
After the grenades went off Ross opened the door and we went into the house. Of course there were other men working on the other houses also. Well we got in the house and Ross looked through the downstairs while I went upstairs. I just got my head over the railing when Jerry fired but I got my head down to my feet in time. Then Jerry rushed me with his bayonet and I got up the rest of the stairs and boy was I scared but I stayed. He thrusted at me and I knocked his rifle to one side and brought the butt of mine around and hit him in the face with it and then he fell to the floor and he was unconscious or he might have been dead so I stuck my bayonet in his throat.
Then I called myself all the asses in the world because I didn’t know if he was alone or not so I dropped behind his body and laid still for awhile listening. I heard shots downstairs and I wondered if they had got Ross. I laid there for a couple of minutes and then I got up and started once more to search the rooms. I opened one door and found that it was the room that I had thrown the grenade into and there was a Jerry officer lying on the floor. I went over to him but he was dead so I took his Luger from him and his belt and holster and put it on. I searched the remaining rooms and there were no more Jerries so I cautiously went down the stairs because I didn’t know if Ross was shot or not but who should be standing by the back window with his rifle on the window is Ross smiling at me. I waved Crotty in and he saw my Luger and he said that he was going to get one. Ross had shot the Jerry through the head as Jerry was getting out the window.
Jerry started firing machine guns from the house across the alley or at least across the back lawn so we dove flat on our faces. Crotty moves up by the window and fired his Bren at them. We weren’t sure whether we got any because someone fired a PIAT bomb into the house and put it out of action. Well then we went through the village into the field and then dug slit trenches. About a half an hour later we see Jerry coming in a counter attack. Artillery and mortar fire started to come at us thick and fast so we stayed in the bottom of the slit trenches until it passed over. Jerry was only about 50 to 100 yds away then so I told Crotty to fire in bursts as Jerry showed himself and I guess Finlay and Davies did the same because the three Brens opened up and Jerry started to hit the ground. I saw one crawling up so I fired and guess what. He stopped crawling and stayed there. Ross was having the time of his life and had killed 4 Jerries as they got up. Crotty was knocking them out like flies. Someone yelled down and we dropped in the slit trench an then I heard the explosion and found out that Jerry had thrown a hand grenade but it didn’t get anyone that I could see. The action lasted about 3/4 hrs and then Jerry went back so Crotty and Ross went up and got themselves a luger and holster and also one for Shean.
Well sweetheart that was our first action and I have always wondered why that Jerry in the house never tried to shoot again after he missed but thank the Lord he didn’t. I will tell you about our next battle in the next letter so don’t get impatient. In this battle we only lost one man in the platoon and that was our officer.
Well sweetheart I will close for now.
Chin up and sleep tight
Your ever-loving and faithful hubby;
October 4, 1944
A57321 Sgt. L. H. Amsden
Essex Scottish Regiment
Well here I am for the remainder of your story but listen don’t start publishing it in the newspaper because I am only telling you about the section. They will find out about the Regiment later on from our own Correspondents.
Well we stayed up on that position for 3 days and they shelled us quite a bit. Usually about dawn the Luftwaffe would send a few planes over and dive bomb and straff us but it didn’t seem to do any harm. On the third night we were relieved by an English unit and we moved out. We went about 12 miles and here we put in another attack. This time we had 2 Regiments of tanks supporting us. It was in this attack that I got cut over the eye right in the same place as I got hit with the ball it now has a good scar.
At dawn we put in the attack after the artillery had layed down a heavy barrage. The tanks went in first and Jerry opened up with his 88mm anti-tank gun and quite a few of the tanks were put out of action. The Jerries were stubborn and we got into some hand to hand fighting. One Jerry came at me with his bayonet and he was taller than I was and we walked up to one another and both thrust at the same time but I almost threw my rifle at him and I thrust low and he went high and the cutting edge of his bayonet hit my eyelid and cut it open again but I felt my bayonet going in and he fell. My bayonet went into his groin and he was dead so I pulled my bayonet out. Crotty was using his Bren gun from the hip and sometimes used his Luger. I saw Ross stick a Jerry and his bayonet got stuck so he pulled the trigger and the blast of the bullet jerked his bayonet free from the body.
Well we went on and met some more Jerries and I stabbed one who was still in his slit trench and next I met one who was quite young parried with our bayonets and I knocked his bayonet to one side and brought my butt of the rifle around to hit him and he stuck his rifle vertically in front of him and stopped it and my rifle was horizontal and we were locked there with our rifles crossed so I brought my knee up and kicked him in the …. (you know) and then I dropped my rifle and hit him in the face. He was still standing but was dazed so I gave him a good kick in the stomach with my boot and he fell. I picked up my rifle and stabbed him in the throat. I got kind of left behind and my eye was bleeding like a stuffed pig so I dropped into a slit trench and put my first field dressing on my eye and then crawled up to find the rest of the gang. I found them but the stretcher-bearer told me to report back to the M.O. He bandaged my eye and I was kept behind the lines for 2 days and then I was sent up again. I just got up to prepare for another attack. This one was to start at 3 PM in the afternoon.
The carriers were not in the attack itself we were to go up after the attack and keep the Jerry snipers away from the infantry during the night so that they could have some sleep. We hadn’t eaten for 12 hrs. but we went in. The Essex were supposed to stay behind as reserve but one Regiment ahead was wiped out so we had to take their place. The infantry went forward and we followed in the Carriers. When the infantry stopped we drove up beside them and dismounted. Ross, Crotty and I went forward and went 100 yds past the infantry into No Mans Land and dug in. Jerry was shelling quite heavily and one shell landed between Crotty and me. We were about 20 feet apart and we heard it coming and we flopped and it landed between us and neither of us were hit but we heard plenty of schrapnel whizzing around us.
We finally dug in and opened fire on Jerry while the rest of the section came forward. When they had gotten into position we stopped firing and dug. During the night Jerry snipers were keeping us busy but none got passed us and when dawn came we were supposed to go back behind the rifle coys in case Jerry put in a counter attack. During the night Ross went back and got 3 quarts of beer and a little bottle of Rum. Where he got it I never did find out so we drank it and boy did it hit the spot. It started to rain and it rained all night and all morning and we were soaking wet. Jerry fooled us and put in the counter attack just before dawn and we were caught flat footed. We tried to fire our Bren guns but they had gotten wet and seized up. Sgt. Finlay beat it and didn’t tell me that he was going and I was waiting for orders from him until Osty yelled to me that Finlay had deserted us so I told the Bren gunners to retreat back to the Carriers and the remainder of us fired rapidly with our rifles.
After the gunners had gone back for about 10 minutes I sent the rest of them back and I stayed up and was sniping at Jerry. I got 3 of them as they were running acrossed the field. And I hit a sniper who was up in a tree and he fell out. When the men had gone back for awhile I started to go back. I was creeping through the field and Jerry must have seen the wheat moving so they opened up with Spandau (Medium) machine gun. They followed me all the way through the wheat but I was following a furrow that was used for drainage and the bullets were whistling all around me but I was safe in the furrow. I came to the end of the furrow and then came the difficult part and that was crawling on the flat ground. I crawled for 25 yds. on flat ground and a bullet went into my left forearm and the arm went dead, I couldn’t use it. I crawled a little way farther and I got hit in the left leg. So I laid still for awhile and then crawled 100 yds. with one arm and one leg to the Carriers.
The boys helped me into the Carrier and I ordered them to retreat so we went back. We just got started and Jerry started firing his machine gun at the Carriers. They were hitting it but they weren’t coming through. I was worried that Jerry would open up with an anti-tank gun and I told Shean and he took over and drove the Carrier off the road and across a ditch into the field and we went across country and Jerry couldn’t see us anymore so he saved us from going to Kingdom Come. We went right back into Caen and I saw our C.S.M. and told him the score and told him to get the boys some dry clothes and some food. I waited until they had gotten their clothing and were sitting down to eat and then the C.S.M. took me to a dressing station and from there I went to a Gen. Hosp. and then the next day they brought me back to England and you know the rest. The boys were mad at Finlay and were going to shoot him if they found him and they thanked me for the good job I had done. They think I did a good job but it was only in the line of duty as a Sergeant.
Well sweetheart enough of war. Now you know the complete story. Parts might sound a little far fetched but that is what happened and there a lot more miraculous escapes than mine over there … you see them everyday.
Well sweetheart I am playing basketball again so I am happy.
I guess I will have to close now so…
Chin-Up and Sleep tight
Your ever loving and faithful hubby