Young To Die
night was black as pitch no moon, no stars, no flash
of artillery fire to light the way for the Canadian infantry
moving forward to the start line of their next attack. It
was unusually quiet, as though both armies facing each other
in the flatlands of the North Italian plains had gone to
bed early. The only sound came from the scuffle of the infantrymens
boots on gravel as they worked their way forward
a man, as always, they fervently hoped that the advance
would be a walkover, but it was not to be. The
enemy had not gone away, and they had not gone to bed early.
Except for those momentarily relieved of weapons post duty,
the enemy was very much awake and alert.
were in positions all through the area with their weapons
trained at the single point where they were sure the Canadian
attack would come in on them, and that was the roadway crossing
the Fosso Munio stream.
the lead section of the lead platoon of the Perth Regiment
from Stratford, Ontario spearheading the attack was a 17-year-old
Windsor lad. Actually, too young to have been inducted into
the army, Lance Corporal Freddie Lytwyn had to have lied
about his age to get in the army.
he was a veteran now, a veteran of several hard-fought battles.
As he marched on towards yet another battle, this one only
five days before Christmas, he hoped as all men do when
going into battle, that it would be an easy affair and that
he would come out of it okay.
thus far as they approached the start line at the roadway
crossing of the insignificant narrow watercourse, they entered
a roadside drainage ditch, and with stealth, made good time
on the way to their first objective. They strained their
eyes peering into the black fields around them to catch
signs of enemy presence to evade them if they could, or
to throw fire at them if that had to be.
immediate danger, however, was not in the open fields to
their left, nor was it in the impenetrable darkness on their
right. It was straight ahead along the line of the ditch.
An enemy machine-gun crew hidden behind a stone culvert
waited for them, their weapon pointing down the centre of
the ditch. Their weapon, an MG 42 rated at 1200 rounds per
minute, almost twice as fast as the Bren, could in the narrow
confines of the ditch, do considerable slaughter. There
was no way the man behind the gun could miss the unsuspecting
25 yards range the enemy Fusilier squeezed the trigger,
the gun ripping off a long burst. 400 steel-jacketed slugs
slammed into the bodies of the lead two sections. Twelve
men died instantly, their bodies literally torn apart in
the slash of bullets. Farther along the column, others a
little slower to react to the ripping canvas
sound of the gun, threw themselves onto the slick sides
of the ditch, but they delayed only by seconds their own
in that pile of torn bodies was that of a 17-year-old Windsor
lad. He was too young to have to die in battle. . . he was
too young to die at any time. He, like so many countless
others of our generation had been denied by the cruel fates
of war to reach manhood, to love, to marry, to raise a family,
to enjoy all those things that we as survivors have taken
so, in eternal thankfulness to God that somehow we were
spared a similar fate and allowed to live out our lives
as He had intended, it is only fit and proper that on Remembrance
Day we should pause and pay tribute to their supreme sacrifice.
have taken the liberty of describing the last moments in
the life of one inordinately young Canadian who represents
the hundred thousand and more other Canadians who laid down
their lives in war. I have done this for a reason, that
reason being that it is much easier to focus the memory
onto one individual than it is onto a faceless multitude.
In remembering one. . .you remember all.