WINNIPEG -- This Remembrance Day, a Second World War veteran is telling his story of fighting on the front lines of the war.

“I was only one of millions,” said Orville Marshall, who volunteered for the Canadian Armed Forces when he was just 18 years old in the early 1940s.

He said during his first three months he was in the service he stayed at home , because they didn’t have barracks built at the time. His regiment eventually settled down in Ottawa and kept moving on from there.

“Then we were selected to go as reinforcements for the Hastings in Prince Edward regiment, which was located in Belleville, Ontario,” he said, adding that Japan entered the war so they went to the West Coast for about six or seven months.

Then in May 1943 he went to England, where he remained for the summer, and by October he was put on a troop ship and sent to North Africa for about two months.

“Then as the war progressed, our troops were being killed and wounded, we were moved up to the front.” Marshall said, noting he was moved up to the front on Christmas Eve of 1943 near Ortona in Italy, which he described as one of the most “vicious” places in the war.


While fighting on the frontlines in Italy, Marshall nearly died.

“It was large chunks from big shells that landed fairly close. I had a rifle in my hand. I had two bandoliers, a rifle and ammunition over my shoulders. And then I had, in addition to that, a two-inch mortar,” he said.

“Oh I was loaded, I don’t know why they put everything on me.”

Marshall explained that at the time of the incident, he was sitting, looking and watching when all of a sudden he heard an “awful bang” and his hands went numb.

“I didn’t know what had happened,” he said, noting that he had been hit in the eye with a piece of shrapnel and his rifle ended up completely bent in the blast.

“It was a close call,” he said.

After that, Marshall couldn’t go back to the front and spent months going back and forth seeing a doctor at the Canadian hospital in Italy. The doctor then told him he would need to find a job. 

“You’re not ready to go home, but you’re not ready to go to the front, so we’ll find you something to do here in the reinforcement depot,” Marshall remembered the doctor saying.

From there he became a driver and spent the next year driving people up to the front and bringing them back.

“It kept me going,” Marshall said.


Marshall said he learned the war was over in Caserta, Italy, while checking the front end of an old Ford truck.

He described the moment as series of “lots of noise, bells, everything,” 

After that, Marshall was assigned to drive a brigadier.

“There was a place set aside in Rome for drivers, people bringing people in,” he said.

“So I’d drive him to the best hotel in Rome, then I’d go and park in this area that was set aside for people like myself.”


Marshall got emotional recounting the time he was working for the brigadier and he nearly witnessed the execution of a Canadian soldier.

“The sergeant of his platoon said he was a number one soldier, he was really good, but he got fed up with what was going on day in and day out,” Marshall said of the executed soldier.

“He deserted and he went to Rome.”

Marshall said when the soldier got to Rome he met a group of five other soldiers who had deserted the military and they “were stopping trucks and stealing whatever might be on there they could trade.”

Marshall said these six soldiers were having a party one night, when one shot the other. The group, including the Canadian, then took the injured soldier, who was about to die, up a road, shot him again and threw him in a ditch.

“After that they found these guys and they executed all five of them, because they said one couldn’t be held responsible when there were five of them there,” he said.


Marshall said Remembrance Day makes him thinks of the boys he was close to, where they were, the things they did, and the evenings spent at the bar.

He said if he could tell his 18-year-old self anything he’d say, “Go, you’ll enjoy. There’ll be good times, there’ll be bad times, enjoy them.

-With files from CTV’s Maralee Caruso.