Italy, about 26th or 27th of September, near the Salto River.
Our troop was well dug in and we were preparing to support the crossing of the Fiumicino River by our brigade. Our gun position area had received a lot of rain and the slit trenchs were full of water.The off duty gunners and command post were in a large barn with a loft. I remember at breakfast on our second day in this position that the Germans started to shell the area. A lot of the shells went into the soft ground some distance before exploding, showering dirt and clods of mud down around us. About ten of us had our heads hunkered behind the water truck. The shelling increased in violence and now the shell splinters were winging off the cook's large dixies of porridge and tea. Sgt Roy Johnson's gun tractor went up in flames so this had the Germans throwing the shells into the vicinity of the burning tractor. Sgt Johnson, who we called Smiler, started to curse when he saw his gun tractor blazing away. I said Smiler you will now get a new tractor instead of that old one that had been across the desert. The hell with the tractor, those so and so 's have burned up my best battle dress which was in the tractor.
Soon the shelling was over so we hurried and had some breakfast. We did not have any killed or wounded at breakfast but about ten o’clock in the morning a lone shell crashed well in front of the guns. Art Ulley was walking 2or 3 hundred feet from the bursting shell and was killed instantly. Art was a chap that would not say shit if his mouth was full. A terrific fellow! Married in England, and I think he had one child.
That evening I was up in the loft of this building when I heard some moaning minnies groan and moan away then explode in the vicinity of Lt Ross with Fox troop. I also recall that Lt Ross had a chap wounded this night and a couple more flooded out of a low lying ditch where they had dug their trench. This happened on 28th September. Getting up next morning we were officially told that my troop Captain, Ernie Madden, was missing and believed captured. We have since been told that Capt Madden had left his observation tank and crew to scout a new observation post to enable him to have a better view across the Fiumicino River. This was where the Irish regiment of Canada was located. After the war I saw Capt Madden but never questioned him why he left his tank and crew and walked off into the night on his own.
More bad news as we were told that about 75 of the Irish Regiment of Canada, the whole company, were taken prisoner, leaving a couple of Irish dead and two wounded Irish. This was in the area that Capt Madden, we thought, was checking for a new observation post. A great flap was on as Ernie Madden would have been captured with all the codes and maps. Throughout 8th Army all our codes were changed immediately.
Capt Ernie Madden survived the prisoner of war camp in Germany and returned to Canada. He passed away a few years ago .