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Staley Goodwin 4th Reconnaissance Regiment (4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards) New Brunswick Hussars A Vivid Memory of Christmas 1944 - Italy Staley Goodwin, born in Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia, was just sixteen years old when he joined the Canadian forces." I didn't have problems getting in. I had a card that we were issued back then and I told them I lost it." The card would have alerted the recruiting office that he was under age. In 1942 he worked in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia picking apples and at a plant where they processed dried apples. In January 1943 Staley went to Kentville and enlisted. He was on his own at that time and "everyone else was doing it". On January 11, 1943 he began his basic training at the Canadian Infantry Training Centre - Camp Aldershot. After what was a short training period he was transferred to the Canadian Reconnaissance Training Centre - Camp Dundurn, Saskatchewan for wireless training. With training completed, and still only seventeen years old, Staley was deployed oversea. "We crossed to England on the Mauritania … went south toward Bermuda and then across. We were Canadians and Americans, about 5000" From Scotland, Staley was deployed to Sicily and then to Italy with the 4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards. "We had a convoy of American battleships and ships for the invasion of Sicily. Going down we were on a crowded Dutch ship. I learned how to play cribbage on the way." In Italy, his Regiment was transferred to the 12th Infantry Brigade, 5th Canadian Armoured Division, and served in an infantry role. Because of his wireless training Staley was deployed to the New Brunswick Hussars as a wireless operator in the tank regiment. In May 1944, during fighting in the Liri Valley, "we broke though the lines and found ourselves being fired upon by the free French and American planes. We put out yellow smoke, a signal that we were friendly and the Americans stopped firing at us and flew over and tipped their wings before they flew off ". During the breakthrough they came upon an Italian who told them there were Germans in the next house. They captured three Germans without incident and unable to hold them as prisoners sent them walking toward the Allied lines. In each tank there were five men and no room for prisoners. Progress was often slow. For the tanks there was always another hill, another valley, and another mountain as they pushed against the German defences. In one assault on the enemy, 800 guns opened fire at night. "It was so bright you could read a newspaper". But the memory of the war years most vivid for Staley was Christmas 1944. "Christmas day of 1944 was one Christmas I'll never forget." The Germans "buried an 88 shell right in front of my trench … blew me back about 20 feet into the mud". The ground was soft so the shell went into the ground as it exploded. "If it had been on top I probably wouldn't be here" The guy in the next trench thought the exploding shell had killed Staley. "I got up and took off toward a house" As he passed a hay stack on the way, a second shell hit the stack and covered him in the hay . Still unhurt, he finally managed to reach the house just as a third shell hit the roof and exploded. "But, I was okay". Staley would spend both the Christmas of 1944 and 1945 overseas. "No Christmas dinner just rations … we ate the rations cold … wouldn't know it was Christmas." With Italy in the Allies control, the New Brunswick Hussars were moved to Marseilles in southern France. They were transported to Marseilles on an American destroyer. "Near our base the Americans had a prisoner camp for Germans and the Americans came over and wanted us to play baseball. They build us a ball field and supplied us with all the equipment … so we went out and played baseball. Of course they beat us." But, Staley managed to find a softball pitcher who was serving with the Canadian Medical Corps. In the second game with the help of the new pitcher they beat the Americans 6-3. "They never came back… when we left we left all the equipment behind." They had only played two games. They discovered that the Americans had previously been in Saudi Arabia guarding oil fields and played most of the time. From southern France the New Brunswick Hussars would move into Belgium and Holland. When the war ended there was "relief it was over. Everyone was happy the Germans had surrendered unconditionally". Staley returned to Canadian in January 1946. (Article is based upon a 2006 interview with Staley Goodwin by students at YCMHS )
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A Vivid Memory of Christmas 1944 - Italy