The Memory Project – David Dickson, How tobacco saved a life

David Dickson recalls how a tin of tobacco may have saved his life

The Memory Project – David Dickson
David Dickson at Courseulles-sur-Mer, FranceGerman newspaper article about David Dickson| Courtesy of The Memory Project

Click play to hear David Dickson’s complete audio story

David Dickson, of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders, recalls how a tin of tobacco may have saved his life in March 1945

My company, D Company, was given the task of following a dyke along the west side of Bienen, Germany, and getting into the town. Unfortunately, Bienen was very stoutly defended by a large number of machine guns and we suffered great casualties there. I suffered a wound while crossing the dyke, trying to get into the buildings of the town. I got a bullet through me that penetrated my right side and came out the middle of my back, and went through my lung, liver and kidneys. [The bullet] broke several ribs and went through my diaphragm.

My wife used to send me John Cotton pipe tobacco from England and I never could keep a tobacco pouch. I used to keep the tin of tobacco down inside my battledress blouse. I was pulled off the dyke, ultimately, by another artillery signals corporal, after one of my sergeants had been killed almost on top of me by a mortar shell. The corporal got my jacket off and the tin of tobacco fell out. He said, “My God, look.” He said the bullet went right through the tin of tobacco. The bullet missed my spine by only half an inch where it came out the back and made a big hole. I always felt that perhaps that tin of tobacco saved me from being incapacitated for the rest of my life. Or being dead for the rest of my life, I guess.