For one local veteran, Remembrance Day is an important day. Yesterday’s recognition of those who served in war should continue to be an important reminder of our freedom, said Rudy Deutsch, a former soldier who served in the Second World War.
Deutsch, 91, was part of the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps as a stretcher-bearer beginning in 1943.
“Our fundamental foundation was to care for the wounded and sick of our poor, bloody, brave comrades in the infantry who fought one battle after another. They broke 40 lines in Italy and many more in Holland,” he said. “We also took care of the unfortunate civilians and wounded German prisoners.
“I was an ordinary soldier who did not carry a weapon but shared the fear and uncertainty of being killed at any time. The only protection we had was the Red Cross armband and a Geneva Convention card.”
Deutsch said he was 20-years-old when he was drafted into the army.
“I wanted no part of it, but I got drafted. I was going to Notre Dame College at the time. Most of the college boys at the time were joining the air force and I wanted to join the air force too in the summer of 1943. They wouldn’t take me because I had a ruptured appendix and my health wasn’t that good, so they turned me down,” he said. “I was called into the army in the summer of 1943.”
In January 1944 Deutsch trained in Camrose.
“I chose the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps for two reasons – I had severe adhesion pains from my ruptured appendix and I didn’t want to shoot my cousins.”
Deutsch served in the Second World War in Italy and in Africa.
“When we went overseas we first arrived in Africa. There was already fighting going on in Italy and the wounded were coming by ship to North Africa to the 67th
General Hospital. We carried the soldiers from the ships to the hospital. I got malaria while we were over there and I ended up in the hospital for three weeks,” he said.
After recovering in hospital, Deutsch then headed to Italy.
“Ortona was one of the worst battles we were in. That is where I was hurt as well. The second day I was taking care of a wounded soldier and I dragged him into a building and was putting field dressings on him. A shell hit the building and it blew half the building away. The wounded soldier that I was dressing and myself were blown right out of the building onto the street. That is where my nose was broken and my back was hurt,” he said. “I saved the guy though. I got him over to the clearing station where the doctor was there and we treated him and saved his life.”
After leaving Italy, Deutsch traveled to Holland as part of the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps.
“In Holland, our first action was liberating a little town. I had lots of rough experiences there right off the bat. We were trying to get the wounded back across the river because the bridge was blown out,” he said. “I found a little boat and I got a wounded soldier on there. We get halfway across and they knew we were crossing so they were shelling us. The boat was hit and was upset and I was trying to get this guy back up on shore again.”
Deutsch was able to save the lives of many but he said it was hard knowing his fellow soldiers were always in danger.
“I grieved when I saw these poor, bloody, infantry soldiers go into the front lines and I knew within an hour or two that they would be wounded or dead. It was so hard.”
Meanwhile, Deutsch said to this day he still suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and from time to time has nightmares about his time in the war.
“After I came back from the war I became a workaholic and that is how I coped with what I had seen in the war,” he said. “Right now I don’t sleep. I wake up and I have night dreams.”
For Deutsch, Remembrance Day is a day of honour.
“Remembrance Day means remembering our comrades that we left behind,” he said. “It all comes back to the hell we went through. I honour the infantry because they are the boys that went into action, battle after battle.
“It’s important for our kids today to know all of the hardships we went through for their freedom.”