Pte. Willard Garner of 27 Myrtle Avenue is back home, and all he was able to tell and also things he could not tell would make a best seller novel. What he was able to impart was decidedly interesting.
He enlisted in April, 1940, and while with the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry was taken prisoner of war in the battle Dieppe, in August, 1942., one of the slightly wounded veterans of that classic of the war.
Pte Garner was born in Crowland township, son of Mr and Mrs. Joseph Garner., was educated in Wellend Schools, attended Welland High and Vocational School, and has been an inveterate baseball fan.
We give his story from the day the famed Battle of Dieppe. He is a first aid man, and as such was tending wounded on a landing barge when it was smashed by a Hun mortar. he had to change boats on four different occasions, and of that experience he says, I found one landing craft after another mortared by Hun guns, and I had to swim from one craft to another on four different occasions. The weather was calm, but the bullets rough.
Pte. Garner told The Tribune that he got ashore and went to the stern of a landing craft to tend more wounded when a mortar shell from Enemy lines exploded 10 yards away and he was struck in the left shoulder by a piece of shrapnel. As the wounded were at the rear of incoming barges and were in a precarious position, risking being drowned, an officer put up the white flag and the Jerries came up and marched us all downtown.
Pte. Garner related how while British and Canadian prisoners were awaiting transfer to the respective stalags (camps) a German officer jubilantly told them you wont be with us long, eight weeks the Russians will be smashed for good, and you will go home. Garner said that as a matter of fact I was prisoner of war for two years and seven months before I finally got home, and the Russians were not smashed.
Pte. Garner said the the British and Canadian soldiers were marched down town to fields about 5 miles outside the city of Dieppe. :They took us to an old building on the outskirts of town. The worst cases were sent on to Rouen, the minor ones such as his were send to the prison camps. Right in the hospital grounds in Dieppe, one noticed a mortar gun all set for action and aimed at the allies. The German doctors as he found them were a fine lot of men, and all operations were made under major anaesthetics, and for the most part were undertaken by the British prison Doctors at the behest of the Enemy medical chiefs.
OF WAR FREED
PTE W S GARNER
Manacling of Prisoners.Speaking of the manacling of prisoners of war, Pte. Garner said this, according to word, we received bodies of German prisoners of war, washed up on the shore near Dieppe and had been found with their hands roped together. This is said to have incensed the Germans, and in retaliation they did the same to us. About three weeks after I had been captured I was manacled at the wrists with rope. However, in my case that lasted only about seven weeks because I was then freed as a protected person because of my knowledge of first aid.
That meant that Pte Garner was found to be useful in Red Cross and medical activities, and therefore, released.
He stated he had been recognized as protected personnel some two months after he wounded and captured. His experience was that the Germans adhered quite well to the conventions of the Geneva Conference. He could not pretend to give evidence other than that he had himself experienced. It was true, he added, that the majority of the Allied prisoners of war from the Dieppe Do had been manacled first with roping then with regulation handcuffs, and chains, over a period in some instances of over 14 months.
Manacles were removed from 8 p.m. to 8 a. m and prisoners slept without manacles he added.
Question of treatment.Asked if he knew personally of any inhumane treatment, Pte. Garner stated that was a difficult question to answer. If bad food, vermin in beds and monotony formed part of inhumane treatment, then it had been the lot of the prisoners of war. So far as he was aware, German soldiers also had poor grub. Pte. Garner outlined the food to the Tribune. It comprised mainly four thin slices of black bread a day, plus four small potatoes and a little piece of margarine, and a bit of jam. The whole lot could well come under the basic ter. Ersatz he added, If it had not been for the Red Cross parcels, I would have been dead today. He stated that the prisoners of war also received a bowl of soup a day but it was certainly ersatz, and comprised some sort of liquid, with what appeared to be floating bits of chopped wood in it.
Bombers Brought Joy
Pte. Garner stated that the first night Allied bombers were seen over the prison camp, which was in Silesia and near benzene production plants, the prisoners of war went wild with joy. The cam was bombed over a period of at least eight months. This was in the vicinity of Blakhammer, Silesia.
For a week the prisoners of war were pretty well on the firing line as the Allied army advanced, and it looked pretty hot all round for a while, he told the Tribune. Finally the Allies reached the camp, the prisoners were released, and soon they were on their way to Odessa in South Russia. From Odessa they took a ship to Scotland (Greenock) taking the trip in the C. P. S. Dutchess of Richmond in 21 days. They travelled by train from Greenock to Aldershot, and finally took a ship to Canada.
Prior to leaving Europe the prisoners of war stopped a month in Saczlowlez Poland. On their way from Odessa to Scotland they stopped in Naples, and there Pte. Garner met up with Pte. Roy Lee, who has since come home. Pte. Lee lives only a few doors from Pte. Garners brother. Ralph Garner.