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The Wound Badge

 It’s cold tonight, being midwinter February, 2014.  I am very tired and the old brain is slowing somewhat; so to change the pace I thought it might be a nice break to tell a kinda humorous story of how I came to own a German Wound badge, given to me by a wounded German Wehrmacht soldier. 

This incident took place in the third week of March 1945 on the drive north though Holland, not long before the end of the War, when I was working as a signaler in the 26th Battery of the 4th Field Regiment, 4th Brigade of the 2nd Canadian division, Royal Canadian Artillery.

As my readers know from my past articles, most of our combat situations involved forests, farms, fields, villages, small towns and often windmills. One of the reasons for this is that the Germans fortified houses (mostly brick) and windmills in particular.  The very thick stone bases of windmills made them excellent miniature castles, almost impervious to shell fire.

They were also used because they had stairways inside leading to the very top portion of the windmill and there were several small window apertures that made excellent lookout spots for directing artillery fire or for enemy snipers. Or as my friend Gunner Spack used to wryly call them, “those GD snippers.”      

Our infantry, The Essex Scottish Regiment of Windsor Ontario, our supporting tanks and artillery had been blasting away at this particular fortified Windmill for some hours when finally a white flag of surrender appeared at one of the windows.  We held our fire. Soon, about thirty or so Germans came jogging out hands in the air, on top of their helmets or behind their necks.  A German officer waving a white flag was in the lead.

As they approached, a few men of the infantry were ordered to go out and bring them in.  I guess the Colonel of the Essex didn’t think there were enough men available because he came over to me and asked me to take my Bren gun and give the guys a hand bringing them in.

So there I was with my Bren gun held at my waist, pointed at the enemy and supported by my shoulder strap, charging towards the Germans now about fifty yards from our farmhouse.  As we came close to them I saw that several were very frightened, fearing I might shoot. Even today, I still recall how uneasy I felt to see such terror in their eyes.  

Just then the Sergeant in charge shouted an order to take them to the pig pens to search them and make sure they carried no weapons. As soon as I turned away and pointed towards the barn, I saw the look of relief on the faces of those who had been so frightened. 

The pig pens were concrete cubicles with walls about four feet high and iron gates across their entrances. We had four or five prisoners in each pen Those who were wounded were immediately looked after by the medical guys.  It took an hour or so to go through the routine of emptying pockets and making sure it was safe to send them back down the line to the prisoner stockades.

I was in the process of looking after a short somewhat older German soldier (40 or so) who was quite cheerful and knew a few words of English.  He was bleeding from a small shrapnel wound in his neck; not yet looked after but he preferred to stand rather than sit on the dirty straw so I told him to lean against the wall for support while we waited.  He held a clean bandage patch against the wound to stop the bleeding.

It was them I noticed his combat ribbons and I knew he had seen plenty of the war, including a year on the Russian front he later told me. However, there was a dark metal badge pinned to his tunic just under his heart that I had not seen before.

The medic then came along and cleaned the surface of the wound with alcohol and cauterized it with a sulfa compound. I could see that there was still a piece of metal fragment in the wound but that would have to wait until he reached a field hospital.

Soon as he was free of the medic, I asked him what the badge was by tapping the badge and saying in my half high school German and English; “Was ist das – badge – Warum haben zie?  (What is that badge, why do you have it)

????????? ???? ?? ???????-?????? (1939).svgHe replied with a smile and said “das ist fur verwundet

Was? Sprecken sie langzam bitte. (What? Speak slowly please, I said).  

“Ist fur verwundet, verwundet!”  Now I realized he was telling me the badge was awarded for being wounded by the enemy.  Hence, the full name is Verwundetenabzeichen – meaning Wound badge.

Well, he began to laugh quietly and I asked him why he was laughing.  So he said to me; “Actually, there are three badges like this that they give out.  The first is Bronze if you are wounded once, the second is Silver for two wounds and the third is Gold for three wounds.”  *

He then touched his wounded neck and burst out laughing saying, “I now have four wounds and guess what; they only gave me this crappy lead badge!”     

We both laughed and I shook his hand and congratulated him. Yet once again I had encountered a brave ordinary German soldier that had a terrific sense of humour and was happy at last to be out of the war.

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* Note: The different levels of the badges were given out for different numbers of wounds than my prisoner stated but then neither of us spoke German or English well enough to be able to understand anything too complex.  The actual awarding qualifications are outlined and pictures shown on this website: 

 ttp://www.quanonline.com/military/military_reference/german/badges/black_wound.php

 It does seem strange though, that none of images shown on the website appear on the reverse side of medal he gave me.  In fact my medal has a perfectly smooth back. It is quite heavy and does seem to be made mostly of lead.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

Comment from Gudrun
Time August 16, 2014 at 3:12 p08

Your style is really unique in comparison to other people I have read tuff
from. Thanks for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I will just book mark this site.

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