I’m Gordie Bannerman, born on a farm in southern Saskatchewan, Canada, 13 September 1921, a son of Scottish parents who both made their home in Canada. My Dad first came to Canada in 1905. Dad joined the Canadian army as a volunteer in 1916 and went overseas to fight for freedom. Dad and Mum were married in 1917 in Scotland. Returning to Canada in 1919 together, in the following years they raised a family of five children. Dad and Mum have passed away but all five of their offspring still are alive. I had a great childhood and at the age of 18, volunteered for the army in 1940. There followed service in Canada, then England and in 1943. Our regiment along with our division sailed for Italy arriving at Naples November 1943. Here we were in a foreign land with no idea of their culture or language. It did not take us long to find that the Italians were a warm loving people who held family above everything else even in such trying times.
We young Canadians, made friends first with the Italian children, then the parents would invite us into their homes. Here the love of family was demonstrated to us. In the Southern part of Italy it seemed that the mother generally held the family together. The father, if you had a meal with their family took pride in how his wife cooked a good meal for their guests. After the meal the father would be bursting with pride with our praise of his wife’s cooking. The father then would have their daughters sing for their guests. Now, in the background the Mother would be seated beaming with pleasure that the evening went well and the young Canadians were not savages. A fine evening for we that were so far from home. After spending a couple of months in southern Italy, our regiment went into combat in the Ortona area at San Leonardo. In the San Leonardo area we did not have any civilian contact until we came into Lanciano for a bath and change of under wear. Twenty or more soldiers showered at the same time. After showering we had some free time to explore Lanciano. The fig market, a chance to see people other than soldiers. I had a shave and a haircut performed by a female barber who did a great job wielding a massive straight razor to shave me. No hot water or hot towels. With the lady barber was a chance to practice your limited Italian. I wonder if the barber is still alive?? It was some time before we were in close contact with civilians until we came to Aquafondata. Here we learned how the population lived and coped with living on a mountain top village. The love of family and willingness to share was once again brought to our attention. Looking back to those years in the areas where we had experienced heavy fighting must have created untold terrible hardship on the residents. Again as I remember the Italian farmer was a very resilient person. Over generations armies had come and gone but the Italian family stuck together and remained to plant their crops as they had a family to feed.
The war went on and I remember the streams of refugees coming down the roads, pushing hand carts, carrying their belongings on their heads and backs, carrying babies or pushing them in Prams. It seemed that the weather at this time was extreme: mud, rain and sometimes snow, soaking the women with their long black dresses getting splattered in mud as they scurried the road to safety. But where? In all this movement of bedraggled humanity, I never heard a baby cry. In the misery of weather and lack of food where were they going to find safety? It seemed that the children were made of iron like their folks.
As the war went on we were finding more contact with wonderful people from Rimini north. Here my contact was generally farm folks as we often had our guns in their farmyards. Sometimes we would return to a farm and find all the family had shovelled in all the gun pits and slit trenches, and from a small cache of seed planted a crop. Life and family went on. When it was time for us to leave Italy, I felt quite sad. We were leaving home and family; also, the saddest part was 5000 of our comrades would remain in Italy forever.
Years later through the wonderful friends at Bagnacvallo and Villanova our young soldiers are honoured as they remain forever under the care of caring people.
I have been back to Italy three times since the war and cherish the love given, we now old veterans. When we are back in Italy the love and friendship extended to us make us feel we were the young men of so long ago. To be an AMICI is truly something I take to my heart as all of you wonderful people gave Edith and I something to remember all our lives.
AMICI. That word has a wonderful sound and to be considered AMICI by the wonderful folk that keep gathering in Remembrance for all the young men who lost their lives and remain forever in Italy, I feel very honoured.
[Memoirs of Gordie Bannerman](https://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/those-who-served/diaries-letters-stories/second-world-war/bannerman)
Gordon died on May 5th 2018.