While in the Pignataro area we watched the fires of burning houses, hay stacks aflame, and the flash of exploding shells. All this was on the area of Highway # 6 which ran alongside the mountains to our right flank. Now this battle was going on well to our right rear and we were getting observed, accurate fire from the Germans who controlled these hills. We wished that the 78th British Division would get the lead out and bring their front up to our level, or better yet get on with and increase the distance on our flank. There were smoke generators along Hwy.#6 but this did not mask the German observers higher up on the mountain. We had also been told that the Polish Corps had, through great bravery, taken the Abbey of Monte Cassino and the German Paratroopers had left that area on the 18th of May and had filtered down into the position before Acquino.
This name would come up a time or two in my story.
If I remember correctly that the afternoon the 21st May there was a lot of shelling in and around the our position. Now in RHQ house we heard all this crashing of shells with some landing very near. After a terrific burst of shelling l/sgt Applegren rushed into RHQ house in a very emotional state saying they are all dead, they are all killed. It took a moment to calm him down so we found out E troop had taken a lot of casualties. My old troop! I grabbed hold of a stretcher and told l/sgt Sharpen, our medical nco, get up of your hinder and grab the other end of the stretcher, Out the door we went on the run down the road towards E troop. All this time the shells were still coming in. As we came to E troop, the nearest spot was a scene of indescribable horror! Body parts were strewn about, and a smoking pile of someone was entangled in a camouflage netting that was a smouldering heap. I said to Sharpen we can not do anything here so we kept going, crouched over to a figure that I knew was Sgt Sid Robertson. Sid was kneeling over a person tying wire around the stumps of both legs of the person not known to us as yet and when we dropped down beside him, I whispered or may be in a low voice said, one of ours? Sid said Yes, Johnny Peltier. Sid then rolled him over. I said Sid he is gone. Damnit Gordie he is not was Sid's reply. Just then a medical corp jeep ambulance drove up so we loaded Johnny on the ambulance. The ambulance picked up a couple more and departed. Johnny either was gone before we loaded him or passed away immediately after.
The shelling was still going on and seemed to move to our right and near the BCD tanks parked there. I could see burial parties would be needed as it would be a sad task for those left at the guns to pick up the pieces of their friends and dig graves while firing their guns. I went back to RHQ house gathered up a few fellows. Some of the survey section and, I think, Chuck Watson came with me. We had shovels and picks and went to the rear of E troop some couple hundred feet. Here we came upon some German trenches that were deep and all we did was extend the length.
Again while doing this the guns were again getting shelled with a few of the shells bursting beyond us. Pretty soon E troop gunners came along carrying their dead which we buried in the graves that we had prepared. Our Padre Fraser came out and said a few words in a quiet well meant manner with the dignity that under the circumstance was all you could do.
I will write next on what this shelling did to smarten up the BCD's and also what happened to E troop.