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Walter McKinlay's War

by Lancshomeguard

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Walter McKinlay
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08 July 2005

This story has been submitted to the People's War website by Liz Andrew of the Lancshomeguard on behalf of Walter McKinlay and added to the site with his permission.

I was twenty two when the war started - I had been working in a firm called Duncan and Fosters in Manchester but I joined up in 1940 - I joined the Kings Own Scottish Borderers.

We landed two days after D Day. We came in on a landing craft - we had to rush forward and jump into the sea waist deep - we had to keep our weapons above our heads so they didn't get wet. We were weighed down by the weight of all our wet clothes and equipment and as the landing craft went into reverse to stop grounding, the water got deeper and some of the smaller lads were drowned. It was hard getting out of the sea and we couldn't change our clothes - we were absolutley soaking.

Once we were ashore we had nothing to eat - just the cider apples we found on the farms and in the fields. It went on for days. We were never properly fed and for water we had to fill our bottles in the troughs where the animals drank. We had to use this water to shave in the mornings so that , if we were captured, the Germans would think we were fresh troops.

Our objective was called Crucifix Hill - the Germans thought it was impregnable. They were convinced no one could break through - but we did at tremendous cost. Some of us were blown to mincemeat, to smithereens by the German guns. When I looked back to see my mates there was nothing left of them....we were all young lads.

The worst part for me was when we had dug into a trench and a German Panther tank came right over us and fired his gun. I lost my hearing and my mate died with the shock. The tank driver didn't even know we were there - he fired, revved up and moved on.

After we secured Crucifix Hill we moved on. We were in action for about three weeks. We had no rest or anything. When we came out of the line we got a shower - we were only allowed 4 minutes in it - and a clean change of clothes. I can remember eating black potatoes and strips of stringy meat - I think it was horsemeat. Because of the Geneva Convention we were ordered to give the German prisoners our mess tins - but they just looked at our food and threw it on the floor. They thought we must be fuddled to be eating it.

I was wounded in the early morning of November 5th 1944. It was in Holland near the river Maas. Eight of us were ordered to go in and clear three cottages and a farm of a group of Germans who had been machine gunning the 6th Battalion. The area had been very heavily mined and as we walked over them they went off. I was the only one left alive.

My leg was broken, both arms were fractured in two places, both shoulders were broken and the 3rd and 8th vertebra of my spine were also broken. When I came round I was on a drip. Then I was flown over from Holland to Epsom and I was looked after there by a specialist called Mr Wood.

When I look back now, I wonder whether it was all worth it.

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