Survivor’s Sicily account reads like Hollywood movie script

This photo shows Canadian soldiers assembled for inspection during the Battle of Sicily in the summer of 1943. Library and Archives Canada

Tom Slater & Tom St. Amand

Sergeant Jesse Harold survived the invasion of Sicily and was anxious to let his father in Sarnia know about it.

So he dictated a letter from his hospital bed. Seventy-five years later it’s still a harrowing read:

“Myself and an officer had gone two miles into the enemy area when they knocked us off our motorcycle with a mortar,” he wrote. “We were standing in the middle of the road. The Transport Officer got it with one bullet, clean through the head.”

Jesse Harold went on to describe how he’d been strafed by German sniper fire and hit in the chest, the shoulder and at least twice in the legs.

He staggered to a wall beside the road, bleeding profusely, and collapsed out of view.

“Every time I moved, a sniper on the rooftop went to work,” he wrote.

Harold had lost his submachine gun and had only a pistol for defence. To stay where he was meant certain death or enemy capture, so after a few hours he headed back through the enemy lines.

“I felt myself getting weaker, because I was pouring [blood] and could only step one pace at a time. It took me half a day to drag myself a quarter mile,” he told his widowed father in Sarnia, Jesse Harold Sr., himself a veteran of the Boer War and First World War.

Harold finally fell into a culvert and stayed there two days. German patrols passed on the road at night, and once he almost called out when he heard their voices.

But he stayed silent and hidden from view and after 48 hours Sergeant Harold was, against all odds, rescued by his comrades.

The Allied authorities in Sicily feared he might lose both legs and flew him to North Africa. But doctors there determined amputation wouldn’t be needed.

In addition to the multiple gunshot wounds, the exploding mortar shell had broken his nose and torn through a cheek.

Lying in his hospital bed in North Africa, Harold couldn’t write the letter by himself and dictated it to a fellow officer.

It arrived at his father’s home at 148 Front St. in September of 1943.

After assuring his dad he doing just fine, Jesse Harold Jr. expressed his hope that after a few months in recovery he could return once again to the front lines.