War stories: Kid from Rosedale learns about ‘real life’ at Monte Cassino

Jack Rhind’s world during the battle of Monte Cassino in the Second World War was simple and small.

“I had to learn how to dig a pit in the ground,” he said. “There would be a small table in there with maps. We used the maps to calculate ranges where guns were to fire.”

The veteran spoke at the Learning Resource Centre at Centennial College’s Creative Communications campus, during a Remembrance Day observance.

Rhind said it would take about a half hour to dig a pit and the longer he spent there the better the pit would become. Sometimes veterans would even add walls made from sand bags and a camouflage net for protection.

Rhind said although that may all sound relaxing, it was the total opposite.

“It wasn’t fun,” he said. “It was dark, muddy and the guns would get stuck (in the mud).”

Rhind, who served with the Royal Canadian Artillery in Italy, said it was a beautiful place to defend, but there were many obstacles along the way.

“It was tough,” he said. “The Germans destroyed bridges, so there was always a river to cross with (the) enemy on the other side.”

The troops spent seven weeks at the foot of Monte Cassino. They were unprotected and had to live underground for a time.

After a year in Italy, Rhind was pulled out and shipped to Holland. One special memory he holds to this day concerned the village people. They were suppressed for three years and were going to be free. He felt that he did not deserve the credit.

Fifteen years later, Rhind’s wife convinced him to visit Italy again. He went to go see where his old gun position was. From what he remembered, everything had been destroyed.

“I (went) there and I thought this can’t be the same place,” he said. “The sky was blue. The birds were singing. The grass was green. This is how God meant it to be and the war messed it up.”

The trumpets played while veterans, faculty and students stood for the moment of silence.

Veteran Howard Walker, who service RCAF aircraft throughout the war, saluted while others stood remembering what they or their loved ones went through.

Walker said during the moment of silence, he thought only of his family and friends.

“(I thought about) my brother and cousin,” he said. “(And) people that I’ve known that (aren’t) here anymore.”

Rhind said he thinks about his friends and family as well.

Although being in the war was difficult, Rhind said he considers himself lucky to have gone through such an experience.

“I’m glad I went to war. I learned about real life,” he said. “I was just a kid from Rosedale. It made me a better person.”