has shot a gun to defend his
has witnessed comrades die and become fatality wounded.For over five years war was his
was 18 when he
decided to pick up a gun to defend his
country and about 20 when he
used it against another human being.
sits in front of me.He
is a jolly man in his
eighties. In his hands, he holds a picture of himself, taken when he first joined the service. He
is just a boy in the photograph, with a baby face and innocent eyes.It breaks my heart to think that he
had the option to join a war when he
was so young. Gaudet admits now he had no idea what he was getting into when he decided to enlist in the army.
"And my father told me that," he
said, noting his
father served in both wars."But I didn't listen."
is asked what he
remembers most about fighting in the Second World War the cheer drains from his
voice and he
answers with one word.
Before the war, Gaudet
said "times were tough."As a teenager he
would help harvest potatoes in the fall after school.
would also drive a truck for his
father, who worked for the department of highways. He
was a teenager when the Second World War began.His
father, who was wounded twice in the First World War enlisted his
services working in a German prison camp in Canada. Gaudet
was thinking of joining the war and his
father told him it was a bad idea.
did not take his
father's advice. He
was 18, when he
mother's signature and joined the army
, without telling his
father. On Dec. 9, 1940, Gaudet was shipped off to Sydney, N.S. where he joined Royal Canadian Artillery for coastal duty against the U-boat threat.
Before leaving the Island, he
had a chance to speak with his
father in Charlottetown. Gaudet
was not angry nor offered any advice.He
said they just spent time together as father and son. Gaudet
spent about three years in Nova Scotia, where he
married Corina, who sits in a chair across the room during most of the interview.
With the threat of the U-boats decreasing and the need for infantry soldiers increasing, Gaudet
was sent to train for the North Nova Scotia Highlanders
and aid in their battles overseas.
"But then I took the scarlet fever and that could have saved my life," Gaudet
said, which takes me off-guard. He
explains that the fever caused him to leave for Europe about a month late.
did eventually make the tip overseas. He
spent nine days sailing to Europe. He
said they would change their course every 15 minutes so German submarines could not get a bearing on them.
While talking about boat-ride, Gaudet
admitted for the first time during the interview he
was frightened by the war.
"They would shut the shutters up at night on the sides of the ship and that made us nervous," he
voice dropping a notch.Gaudet
said they would seal the ship up so its lights couldn't be seen at night, which meant the troops could not see outside either.Gaudet
eventually arrived in Scotland and went to England for two more weeks of training.
With a chuckle, Gaudet
said the "fun was all over" after he
left England. Gaudet
still recalls his
first time in battle.He
and company of men was chosen to capture German soldiers for questioning.
They left in the morning, dressed in white to camouflage with the snow.
On the way, Gaudet
first brush with death when he
stepped on a mine.
"The igniter went off, but it was a dud," Gaudet
As they progressed, Gaudet
remembers shells landing in front of them as his
captain lead the men too far to the front, stopping just before they were hit by their own men.
The group diverted their course and managed to sneak up on some German soldiers who were in a trench, but had to coax some of them out by throwing a grenade in beside them.Gaudet
also captured a soldier that day after an unsuspecting man came around the corner, only to face the end of Gaudet's gun.
Shooting at his
feet to get the man to move, Gaudet
prisoner through a minefield.
started shouting mines, mines and I started shooting at his
feet to get him going.I got him going," he said shaking his head with a smirk.
"I could have blown the both of us up too."Gaudet
went on to fight many other frightening battles, looking death in the face several times.
It is hard not to stare at Gaudet wide-eyed, with a dropped jaw as he
casually talks about being shot at by 700 pound rockets, almost being shot at by a tank and having to muzzle an old woman who threatened to give away their position to German tanker. He
said the woman kept screaming "no soldiers here, no soldiers here, "So I had to my hand over her
mouth," adding that the tank was outside of the house.
said it was only after the war he
only found out his
superior was alive and well.
After seeing his
officer fall, Gaudet
and another man became pinned in a ditch.Gaudet
spotted a house and told his
comrade that he
thought they should make a run for it.
said they could not see what direction the shells were coming from.
The only thing the soldiers could do was wait, as the ground exploded all around them and pieces of the gravestones flew through the air. Gaudet
doesn't remember how long it lasted, but it seemed like a long time.
In the end he
managed to come out OK and he
and fellow soldiers took over the village.
"About three men received medals for that day," he
would later revisit the town of Bienen in 1967. He
has photos of the graveyard where he
platoon were shelled. He
points to some of the gravestones, which still bared the marks of the war. Gaudet
said there were some good days during the war, but they mostly occurred on leave or when he
got to go home.
The best time Gaudet experienced on leave was in 1945, when he
was greeted on the streets with news that the war had ended.
About six months later he
was on a ship home.On the way home he counted three of the 15 men that joined the NNSH with him in England.
"The rest were either killed or wounded," he
landed back on P.E.I. a day before his
22 birthday. At home
, Gaudet's wife, who had a brother die in the war, anxiously waited among a sea of happy faces for her
husband in the pouring rain.She
said there was not a moment that went by when she
did not worry about her
husband and four brothers while they were gone. She
watched some pretty crippled soldiers come off the boat and seeing her
husband in one piece made her
all the more grateful.
After the war, Gaudet
continued to serve with the legion.He
helped organize 54 reunions among ex-soldiers of the Second World War.
But now time is starting to claim the lives of these soldiers and the get-togethers are becoming smaller.
For this reason, Gaudet
said the last reunion was held this year - in the year of the veteran.
As I leave Gaudet's house that day, I look back with complete admiration for Gaudet.
I realize by the time Gaudet was my age, 22, he
had witnessed some of the most atrocious things a human being could ever witness.