The Memory Project – Burton Edwin Harper, Battle of the Bulge

’I couldn’t leave him there. So I made one of the worst decisions.’
The Memory Project – Burton Edwin Harper
First annual reunion of CANLOAN officers. Lieutenant Burton Harper served with The East Lancashire Regiment. | Courtesy of The Memory Project

Click play to hear Burton Harper’s complete audio story

Burton Harper, a Canadian officer from Miramichi, N.B., was on loan to the British army when he was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge in January 1945.

We were to attack a little village of Grimbiémont [Belgium]. We attacked two of the houses. I had half my platoon on the houses on one side, half on the other and we went down house by house, being very careful not to throw grenades first because there were civilians in there. But we rousted them out right to the bottom. Near the bottom of the hill, there was an explosion on the road and an explosion inside my head at the same time. I found myself on my hands and knees, looking down at the snow and blood and teeth. I’d been hit in the face. You can’t stop for anyone in an attack when there’s artillery coming down because you’d lose everything. So my chaps pulled me to the door of a house and kept on going. In the house, there were some Belgian people. They grabbed me, took me down into the cellar and wrapped up my face [with] scarves. Another one of my chaps was hit in the leg and they got him down too.

After a couple of hours, I was still conscious, not too uncomfortable, but the other chap, he was in pain. I was afraid that the attack would have failed and there might be a counterattack and I didn’t want to be taken prisoner and I couldn’t leave him there either. So I made one of the worst decisions one could make. I couldn’t see, he couldn’t walk, they got me to the door of the house and with arms around the shoulders and waist, and with his eyes and my legs, I made a decision: we’re going to get out on the road and go up to where the stretcher bearers were or where the medical people were. So we got out on the road with our backs to the enemy, not very far away—they could hit us with a pistol. The war continued on both sides of the road and there wasn’t a shot fired at us. I considered that an honourable enemy. From there, it was back to the hospital. In the hospital, I met a nurse who took good care of me. We just celebrated our 63rd wedding anniversary in September [2009].