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Bruno Ralph Boudreau Shared Memories of World War II War stories are often heard and looked at by many as heroic events which lead to the freedom of our country and the defeat of a demonic tyrant and his massive German army. These stories have shaped the ideals of an entire nation and have left some of the most everlasting effects on our way of life even to this day. Multi-million dollar motion pictures have been made depicting the war heroes becoming victorious over the devastations of a war torn world and the life threatening battles of horrific bloodshed.   But in all actuality, the stories that are written and the films that are watched by many are but mere fragments to an even bigger picture.   There are gaps of missing information that can only ever be told by the soldiers who were there in the world of war. Only they can tell you in truth, what it was really like to see their comrades killed by land mines, or to see hundreds of dead bodies being piled up like trash awaiting a very un-ceremonious and disrespectful cremation, while some of the identities of those dead will remain a mystery.  Only these soldiers who were there can tell you what it was like to lose their families or their friends. Or, perhaps they can tell you what affect the war has had on them as human individuals, should they have the strength of mind and heart to do so. In reality, war is not a glamorous and pretty thing which can be marveled upon as something of an awesome nature. Unfortunately, war is a story of the ultimate human sacrifice. It is a story of pain, regret, torture, death, and power. The victory that was achieved from all of this came at a very high price that was far too costly for the world and the people living in it. Some people may not know this, but there was more than just one war being fought during World War II. There were also inner personal wars being fought inside every soldier that was there. The compassionate human half of their being would forever struggle to remain intact against the enemy within themselves, the part of them that was eventually trained to kill.   The reader will meet a man who has lived a very long life and has seen the world through its many changes over the decades.   He is a veteran of World War II and was willing to shed some light on the war he fought   so many years ago. His story is not one of exceptional length, nor does it take days to tell or many pages to write. However, the few stories he has to tell are full of character and great personal strength.  Though old, he is not without his charm. He has an exceptional comical edge to him that can bring a smile to anyone's face. He is full of life and has an exciting spirit which brings out an innocent and eternal quality to the kind of person that he is. He is kind and polite as well as very patient in all things. Though time has worn away at his body, his mind is still very sharp, although his memory may be slightly questionable at times. For the most part though, he remembers well enough.   He has an eagerness in his hazel sky blue eyes that shows just how young and ready he is on the inside of his aged face, even to this day. He is also decently healthy and fit for a man of his years. He is far from bitter towards life despite some of the sacrifices he has suffered from the hard years of war that are now behind him. He told me that to live life dwelling in the dark pasts of war is a waste of time. Life is too short as it is and he was very adamant of the fact that life is meant to be enjoyed for every second of it that is given to you. This very common philosophy heard by many but practiced by few, is now a principle by which this man lives the rest of his life. He is also a man of great inner strength, for there was a time when talking about the war was very hard for him because of the emotional and mental effects it had on him for a very long period of time. Now however, he finds that the pain he has suffered is starting to go away and that a new chance to experience life in a new light has reached him in a very positively affecting way.  His full name is Bruno Ralph Boudreau. He was an infantry unit soldier who belonged to the Loyal Edmonton Regiment located in Alberta.  He went through basic weapons training and marching drills at one of the bases in Halifax. The medals he earned in the war were his basic service metal and volunteer metal for enlisting in the war effort in the first place. He also went through more training in England.  The knowledge required to use the functions of a rifle were very familiar to him. He went out hunting plenty of times in his life so the rifle was more or less considered to be a hobby as well as an essential practice. He already knew how to use a weapon long before he entered the war in the first place. As far as the marching drills were concerned, he was also accustomed to that as well, considering that much of his life consisted of raw physical labour, like many of the boys who were introduced to it early on in life, during the years of both world wars. He was born in' Little River Harbour. For the most part it was a peaceful place which he enjoyed as a child and still looked fondly upon as he got older. It was a friendly neighbourhood full of hard working people and it had a set of values that taught respect and a good sense of character building. When we got into the topics of the war and what life was like back in the days of the war, the answer I got was not overly surprising. He told me that there was a great amount of confusion during this time. People all over the place, including people in his very own neighbourhood had mixed emotions on just what the war was really being fought over. For the general public, it was quite clear that the threat of Hitler taking over the world was indeed quite a disconcerting alarm bell that rang through most of the minds of the people.  A lot of people back then of course didn't want to go to war or to experience war for yet a second time. This was understandable considering the devastations of the World War I and the darkness and sorrow that found its way into peoples' hearts after the damage that had been dealt to so many in the nation as well as all other nations that participated in the war. Although, for the most part, when doubt sought to overwhelm many in the world, Bruno said that he knew one thing for certain, and that was that everyone in Canada believed that freedom and peace were worth far more than any resource in the world and they would fight until the bitter end to preserve these two simple things which granted for them what they all believed to be a paradise worth fighting for. When I asked him what was going through the minds of the soldiers and what their personal reasons were for joining the war, he told me that there were plenty of them that were scared, either for the unknown and the anticipation that came with it, or the fear for their own lives considering that a good few of them knew what going to war really meant. The reality that many of them would never make it back home harshly embedded itself into the hearts of some of these soldiers. Others he knew of were eager and head strong. They were more than ready and willing to fight for their country, believing that it was the right thing to do. They were ready to make the sacrifice even though they probably didn't entirely understand the implications of just what that sacrifice really meant. Other soldiers looked at the war as a new chance to travel the world and find the adventure and the thrill that adventure offered to those who were bored of their typical day to day life style. These kinds of soldiers were looking for a change that they thought would be far more worth the risk than just sitting around doing chores or hunting and fishing all day. They were looking for excitement and they would absolutely get more than what they bargained for. Bruno admitted that there were some soldiers who didn't have a real motivator other than their legal obligation to go in the first place. These people were the kind who felt like they had no purpose in life and by joining the war this dilemma would be corrected. As for Bruno, his reason was quite simple yet strong in truth as well as determined. He told me that he loved his country and he and his family believed that fighting for the country that you lived in was a value in itself that should never be thrown away. Bruno felt lucky to live in a peaceful country and he would fight for that country whenever he was asked to. He just believed that it was the right thing to do and that it would be pointless to let the enemy win when he wanted to live through all of this just like everybody else. He never liked fighting but he also knew that sometimes it was necessary in order to preserve the peace. People didn't always see eye to eye and he is a peaceful non-confrontational person to begin with. He is also loyal to his country. He told me that some of the soldiers were very young and the younger you were the more conflict you were likely to face. They wouldn't just be fighting the war. They would be fighting their own insecurity as well. While all that went on inside of them they also had to struggle with the idea of having to grow up far too quickly, at the risk of all those life experiences that had been accumulated on their journey to becoming a man in the face of hell, being all for nothing because they might not be coming home. On this note I asked Bruno what the hardest part of the war was for him to overcome personally. He explained to me that for him it would have to be the fear of all of it. He went on to say that when you're getting ready to engage the enemy for the first time so many things are running through your head at once. Thoughts like getting hit by a stray bullet or getting blown to bits by a cascading shell from a tank, or seeing your friend next to you getting amputated by oncoming pieces of exploded shrapnel going hundreds of miles an hour, are the most obvious things to come to your mind. But he said that once he realised that he couldn't predict anything because it was all happening too quickly and that sitting around thinking about it would only get him killed anyway, he just decided right then and there that he was going to shoot first and think later. The first real battle that Bruno had ever engaged the enemy in would be the battle of the Hitler Line.  This battle was in Italy and as such was almost like a reverse tug of war.   Bruno went on to explain that the Hitler Line' was a special German military perimeter which stretched all the way down through the center between Italy and the German military forces. The objective of this line was to ensure that no one would pass through into the German occupied area of Italy and overtake what they, the Germans, had worked so hard to keep. Hitler was relentless in his efforts to ensure that this simple and well-fortified idea would last throughout the war as insurance that whatever territory he gained along the way would be well protected by his strengthened line of defence which was filled to the brim with German forces ready to strike at a moment's notice, should their enemy try to overtake their side of the line. So the line would just continue to get closer to the Canadian forces if they just decided to do nothing and let the line get closer and closer. The reverse tug of war idea: two sides pushing at each other in an effort to pull themselves into one another's territory, one in the attempt to dominate an area and one attempting to take back that area. It's a pretty crazy notion, very much like waiting for two giant title waves to crash head long into each other and become one big mess that can't be cleaned up with a simple mop. Bruno had said that once he had gotten over his fear of being killed that he was ready and able as part of a combat unit. He said that the battle was crazy and to him it felt like an eternity. He was wondering when it would all end. Luckily, however he and the rest of his regiment had succeeded in holding the line and forcing the Germans back on to their side of that line. The Loyal Edmonton Regiment had successfully carried out their orders. Bruno described how he had come very close to death on several occasions during that fight. You see it wasn't just men that he and his team were fighting. There was also artillery in the mix of all this. There were turret guns, grenades, and so on and so forth, which made it dreadfully hard to continue onward towards the German occupied territory. Bruno said the most annoying part of the whole battle were those "blasted" turret guns. They were well mounted in awkward positions which made it almost impossible to get near them. They sounded like giant fans of deafening thunder and they shot bullets so fast and in such great quantities at a time, that it was very much like giant threads being fired at you instead of bullets. Bruno had dodged a few bullets here and there while some had just simply missed him by mere hairs. He said that it scares the hell out of you when you hear  that sonic wine of a bullet as it just grazes your skin and keeps on going letting you live for one more second. A very electrifying experience is what he said it would be. In the end, he suffered injuries from oncoming pieces of shrapnel and had to be shipped off to Rome to receive treatment for his injuries. He got to stay in one of their hospitals. I asked him what the hospital stay was like for him. He told me that it was far from luxurious and far from comfortable either. Hospitals during any kind of war were always running out of room. They never had enough beds for the people staying there. Also, supplies always ran low so you had to survive with what you had. People were dying everywhere in their beds on the floors and so on. This kind of chaos led to the nurses being extremely stressed and way too over worked. This also meant that they were really strapped for time and the wonderful virtue of patience was completely run dry. Bruno told me that you had better be on your best behaviour when you were in the hospital or the nurses would make sure that you had the worst stay of your life. Bruno always said how much he appreciated the women who served in the war. He agreed that without the women working in the hospitals and the factories the war would have ended in a German victory long ago. For every great man there is an equally greater woman. He said that his bed was extremely uncomfortable. But, it beat being out on the battlefield any day of the year. After he received treatment for his injuries and began his recovery he learned that he had suffered shrapnel wounds to his right leg and his left shoulder. The piece that was stuck in his shoulder was successfully removed without any further damage to his inner tissue. His arm would repair itself and be as good as new after it healed. The piece that was stuck in his right leg however could not be removed for fear of causing further damage to the patient. The shrapnel was lodged and melded to certain pieces of his thigh muscle and was permanently sealed there and wasn't budging. There was also a risk that the metal was stuck and bonded to minor nerve tissue which could cause a small proportion of mobility loss in his right leg. The good thing was however, that the metal was not internally positioned in a way that would cause any more damage to his leg so as long as it was left alone. The way it was set there it could move with the muscle's flexibility and Bruno wouldn't be compromised. So they left the shrapnel in the leg and let the external tissues heal over it. To this day Bruno has had a permanent piece of the war literally stuck inside his body. He says that it's actually quite amusing because now his leg is part metal as well as organic. He told me of another battle he had witnessed during his time on a convoy supply ship in Italy during 1943.Their ship had been torpedoed and completely destroyed and it began to sink. Bruno described how he had seen this fast tube shaped mechanism with a propeller jetting its way towards the ship seconds before it had had reached them. Knowing it was too late to do anything he just ran as fast as his legs could carry him away from the general area where the explosion was going to happen. He headed closer to the center of the ship and away from the edge near the water.  Those who didn't run fell overboard.   Many men died that day and those who survived the ordeal had nothing but the clothes on their backs and the water to float in as they waited to be rescued. When finally rescued they were transferred temporarily to a holding area; a temporary shelter for the men who had survived the attack from the Germans and the destruction of the ship.   While there, Bruno and the others had no supplies   except for a few food rations they had managed to salvage from the wreckage of the ship. He and a friend had nothing but one thick blanket to share between the two of them and nothing but a hard cold cement floor to serve as their bed. Bruno   surmised that this situation   put a whole new definition to the meaning of "roughing it". I also asked if there were any mementoes from the war that he had found along the way. Bruno told me of a time after a bloody battle when they were instructed to round up the dead and collect their identification dog tags.   During one of the round ups Bruno came across a dead German soldier who had no identification on him whatsoever. He simply had an iron cross fastened by a silver chain around his neck. The identity of that young German soldier was a mystery and the only thing that proves he even ever existed is that little Iron cross and silver chain. I asked Bruno what his hardest loss during the war had been. He told me about how he had four brothers who had also served in the war along with him. Out of all them the brother he had been the closest to and the most connected with was his brother Percy. He and Percy did everything together and always told each other things they wouldn't tell to anyone else. They always knew how to have a good time and he had been the brother responsible for introducing Bruno to his future wife. Unfortunately, Percy was killed in France from a friendly fire accident by the Americans. This hit Bruno really hard, worse than any bomb shell could ever have done to him.  During a military leave to London, Bruno and Percy went to a bar where there was dancing and drinking, fun and laughter. Bruno had been eying a pretty girl who had been dancing with her friends all night. Bruno was too shy to go up and talk with her, so Percy saved the day by arranging for Bruno to meet her.  When these two met each other for the first time, it was love at first sight.  They just couldn't take their eyes off of each other.   Percy was always the one who could lend a helping hand all in the good intention of spreading happiness and love to others when someone was feeling down or afraid of the challenge. Bruno said that if it weren't for his brother he would have never met the girl in that London pub that night. Bruno was glad that Percy was able to do one more thing for the people he cared about the most, before he died in the war. Bruno said that he knew Percy died a happy man because of what he had done for his brother. This makes Bruno extremely happy, even today. After the war things just got better for Bruno and the girl.  Bruno and Ruth were married in Scotland during a trip to celebrate the end of the war. They moved back to Nova Scotia. They had four children of their own and adopted a fifth child. As for Bruno, he became a successful lobster fisherman.  He and Ruth were married for sixty years.     The most powerful story of all had to be his love story and how the relationship between he and his brother, brought about the marriage of Bruno and   wife. He is a man who has suffered in a way you and I can only briefly imagine but at the same time he has lived his life in a progressive happiness.  He may be elderly in his years but he is the liveliest veteran I have ever met. It was an honor to have met this man and I hope his story is heard. Bruno is also forgiving as well for he has acknowledged the fact that most of the soldiers on the German side didn't want to fight in the war but had no choice because they were forced by their leader to do so. Bruno will be the first one to say that he relates to the humanity of all involved in World War II. [This article is based upon a written record of an interview by Travis Martin, a history student at Yarmouth Consolidated Memorial High School 2005, with Bruno Boudreau   Bruno Ralph Boudreau of Comeau's Hill, Yarmouth Co., passed away on Thursday, August 23, 2007, in Yarmouth Regional Hospital aged 85.  He was born on August 12, 1922, in Little River Harbour, the  son of  Bruno and Charlotte (Gaudet) Boudreau. He was a retired fisherman, having also successfully tried his hand at carpentry, masonry and mechanics. Bruno was a very proud veteran of the Second World War, having served with the Loyal Edmonton Regiment. While on route to South Africa, the vessel he was sailing on, the “Santalina”, was torpedoed. He subsequently served in Italy, where he was wounded twice. He was a member of the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch No. 155, Wedgeport, and he had a great fondness and respect for Remembrance Day.]
Loyal Edmonton Regiment - Itally WWII
Loyal Edmonton Regiment - Itally WWII
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Bruno Ralph Boudreau Shared Memories of World War II