August 1944 Italy, near Capau. About the first of August we were ordered to take down all unit and formation signs and also remove our Canada badges from our battle dress. We left our area to move towards the North. Now here is where I forget and I feel that seeing I had just been promoted and had a motorcycle as part of this promotion I do not remember riding it going up the Liri Valley and through Rome. Well we left the Capua area and journeyed up past the ruins of Cassino then along highway #6 through all our battle ground of May and early June, Pignataro, Pontecorvo, and all the way through Pofi, Frosinone, and through Rome .
As we went north of Rome we were able to see the carnage that the Desert Air Force had caused to the retreating Germans. Hundreds of vehicles, guns, and some tanks strewn along the roadside also amongst this mess were quite a few rifles sticking in the ground with German helmets hanging on them. This marked where a German soldier had been buried in a hurry. It must have been a terrible ending for a lot of them as the road had been crowded and there was no escaping death from the sky.
Looking back now I have a different feeling than we all had then. We thought, boy did our air force ever kick the shit out of Tedeski along this route and we were thinking they would have less tanks, guns, and men the next time we meet which was to be sooner than later.
I do remember moving along the shore of a very large Lake which was named Trasimene. As this move was made to hide the Canadian Corps from the Germans, we knew that something big was about to happen and we to be part of it. All the Canadian Corps now were on the west side of the Apennines and not too far south of Florence. It seemed that the strategy of the 8th Army was to let the Germans think the main thrust of a new offensive was to be north of Florence and not on the Adriatic side of Italy. The Canadians as the Germans knew were somewhere around but really did not know exactly where.
I think that a couple of first Division patrols entered Florence to justify the presence of Canadians in that area. We now moved to a large concentration area near Montefalco, I suppose close to the western edge of the Apennines. Now I remember reading that in the Montefalco area that the main attack on the Adriatic side necessitated that allied engineers blasted and bulldozed a route across the Apennines Mountains so our tanks could be moved across the mountains on their transporters and negotiate the curves and slopes to arrive at Jesi near the Adriatic.
In this area we were well camouflaged and our identity hidden. In this area we heard a lot of talk about the German Gothic Line which was to be a extremely difficult task for us. Colonel Armstrong had gone to Brigade HQ for orders and on the road back to the unit was killed when his jeep rolled over him . About 25 men from each troop paid our last respects to our Colonel as he was buried in a small temporary cemetery.
Our new Colonel FT McIntosh arrived a couple of days later and we were on the move again to a forward area. In this area Lt Casselman, and Sgt John Wiebe plus all the survey section were on a mine clearing along a road. Mines being cleared Lt Casselman jumped in his jeep to drive back to the unit. He backed into a wide area and drove over a mine. The resulting explosion killed Lt Casselman immediately . John Wiebe being the passenger was thrown about twenty feet into the air. John told me while he was up in the air he could see for miles clear to the Adriatic. He then wondered how he was going to get down. In the next instant he crashed nose first into the hard backed earth. John bore the scars on his nose until he passed away in 1983. Mind you he was well battered and bruised. John lived almost forty years after that miraculous event which spared his life.
RIP Johnny old school friend.