CORPORAL HARRY WINTHER'S WAR JOURNAL

 Harry Winther was born on October 22, 1918 in Tversted, Denmark, on a farm that has remained in the Winther family since 1600. His family immigrated to Ostenfeld, Manitoba in 1927, where they began farming. Harry volunteered for the Canadian army in 1940, serving first with the Winnipeg Light Infantry and then with the Saskatoon Light Infantry. He served overseas in Sicily, South Africa, and England, and fought in the battle of Ortona in Italy. He received five medals for his service: The Service Star, Italy Star, Defense Medal, Volunteer Service Medal and the War Medal. Harry returned from the war on August 4, 1945. Shortly after, he married Frances and they joined the family farm in Ostenfeld, Manitoba, which they maintained until 1990.

Corporal Harry Winther’s War Journal

Corporal Harry Winther’s War Journal

Enlisting

In December 1940 shortly after war was declared I trained for a while with the militia. However, on May 13, 1942 I decided to enlist in the Armed Forces. Father drove me in to Winnipeg. Down at the Army Recruiting Office on Smith Street, Sgt. McAlpine suggested I should enlist with the Winnipeg Light Infantry. I was sworn in and got three days leave. After one week of training I was recommended for thirty days N.C.O. (Non-Commissioned Officer) school, after which I got my first promotion to A/L/Cpl. (Acting Lance Corporal). My pay went from $1.20 per day to $1.30.

On June 19th we left for Vernon, BC by train where we spent 6 months basic training. The worst was the crawl trench where we crawled through mud and water while the sergeants fired live ammunition over us to teach us to keep our heads down. I spent the summer as section commander teaching basic training to eleven privates, Jensen, Dorward, Jackson, Baird, Pollock, Petrescue, Exner, Schidler, Zinnick, Zawislack, and Kawalchuck. Sgt. Murrey, who was later killed on Vino Ridge, was our Platoon Sergeant and Lt. Ackland, killed in the battle of the Hitler line, was our Platoon Commander.

Toward the end of our training we went on a forty-two mile route march. Before starting out we were timed going over the assault course which entails climbing over a ten foot wall, going hand-over-hand on a rope over a water filled pond, climbing through culverts, and various other obstacles.

We marched all night and the next day carrying rifle, haversack, respirator, and water bottle. Every hour we had a ten minute break where we just lay down in the snow and sometimes fell asleep. On arriving back in camp we were timed going over the assault course again to test our stamina. We only lost one man out of the one hundred on the march. Everyone received a weekend excused duty to heal our blisters which I spent on a bus trip to Kelowna.

Most of our training at Camp Vernon consisted of parade square drill with webbing, small pack, water bottle, gas mask, and rifle; such as platoon fall-in, attention, slope arms, by the right quick march, right turn, left turn, about turn, platoon halt, order arms, stand at ease, break off. I spent endless hours with my section teaching rifle, Tommy gun, Bren gun, mills grenade, poison gas, first-aid, and physical training. The weather was hot and dry with very little rain. We lived in bell tents with six to a tent and slept on the floor on a straw filled palais. Our ablutions were outdoors where we only had access to cold water to shower, shave, and wash clothes. Our meals were quite good as my company had agreed to contribute five cents per day towards extra messing from our army pay. This provided things like extra milk and grapefruit juice etc. Most of us gained weight, I gained twenty pounds.

Toward the middle of December I came off a field firing scheme to find that my furlough had been granted. I caught the train that evening and reached home in time for all the concerts and dances, visited all the old friends like Freddy Mattern, H. P. Nielsen, and all the people at church. On Christmas Eve Norman Nielsen brought me a telegram which came over the telephone at Pastor Damskov, the only telephone in the community, requesting immediate return to my unit.

The folks took me to the C.P.R. station Christmas day, on the way we stopped at Demko’s store where Frances Symbol was working, she took my picture outside the store and gave me one of herself which I carried in my wallet throughout the war. I arrived back in camp on December 27th. My good friend Pte. Jensen tried every way to get on overseas draft to go with me but he was refused so he said good-bye to me and to the army and headed for the tall timber around Prince Albert. On December 30th my draft arrived at Fort Osborne Barracks in Winnipeg as we all got five days embarkation leave. I phoned from Jensen’s and the folks met me at Vivian.

Infantry 1

 

After spending the New Year holidays at home I reported back to Fort Osborne Barracks. On January 10th we entrained to Derbert, Nova Scotia where we waited for our ship. We were quartered in huts which were very comfortable, however, the food was poor and the plumbing froze up. I met my old friends Ernie and Eddie Mills and Tony Armstrong and learned to drink beer with them. We were not doing any training here so we put in the time with a few sight-seeing trips to near-by towns like Truro and Derbert.

Continued part 2 - Going Overseas

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