Christmas in the trenches

Herb Peppard
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Truro's Herb Peppard recalls the Christmas of 1943 as a soldier in the Second World War

We weren't confined to trenches during the Second World War. It was different than the First World War. Those brave men were confined to a trench and often spent weeks and months enduring every hardship you can imagine.

Our war was different. It was more a war of movement. We didn't have time to dig trenches miles and miles long. Our shelters were individual shelters. Each man dug his own little trench, which were known as fox-holes. Whenever we took an objective and were ordered to hold-\up there, we dug in fast. We didn't need any encouragement.

We weren't confined to trenches during the Second World War. It was different than the First World War. Those brave men were confined to a trench and often spent weeks and months enduring every hardship you can imagine.

Our war was different. It was more a war of movement. We didn't have time to dig trenches miles and miles long. Our shelters were individual shelters. Each man dug his own little trench, which were known as fox-holes. Whenever we took an objective and were ordered to hold-\up there, we dug in fast. We didn't need any encouragement.

On Christmas Eve in 1943, our orders were to take Hill 720 in the mountains of Italy. I could think of places I'd rather be on Christmas Eve, but I had to put those thoughts out of my mind. As we scrambled up the rugged mountain we started to encounter mortar fire. It wasn't until the next day that I learned that my very best friend, my buddy George Smith, was killed that night. I was told a mortar shell landed right at his feet and exploded. He was killed instantly. I'll never forget him.

We eventually reached the top of Hill 720. The Germans had fled down the other side of the hill so we dug in. It was dark at the time but it didn't take me long to scoop out a hole in the ground. I sank exhausted down in my foxhole. I was cold, wet and exhausted but I couldn't sleep because of the explosions.

At first light I peeked out over my foxhole to look around. Shells were still exploding now and then, but not as much as the night before. I could see many fox-holes around where I'd dug mine.

Just then I heard someone yell: "Pep! Pep!"

My buddies used to call me this, a shorter name for Peppard, and I was very pleased to see 'Tiny Beacon' in the next foxhole to me, about 30 feet away. Tiny was from British Columbia and later in the war he was wounded three times.

"Ya got any food?" he yelled.

I searched in my pack for my K-rations. "I got a couple of cans of spam," I yelled back to Tiny: 'What do you have?"

"I got a couple of cans of cheese but I like the spam better," he replied

"How about a trade?" I yelled. "I'd like that cheese better than spam."

So we tossed the cans to each other. I opened the cheese and it looked very good to me. I took one of my four dry crackers and scooped some of the cheese out with it, then washed it down with some stale water from my water bottle. I was determined to enjoy my meal, even in a wet foxhole on top of a rain-swept mountain amidst sporadic mortar fire.

"Pep, Pep," Tiny called again.

"Yeah?" I answered.

I peeped over the rim of my foxhole and saw Tiny's big helmet and dirty face. A smile crinkled his mud-stained face as he shouted above the explosions: 'Merry Christmas, Pep!"

Herb Peppard served with the Devil's Brigade during the Second World War. He is a lifelong resident of Truro.

Geographic location: Italy, British Columbia

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments