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Project WWII: Voices of the Greatest Generation

British soldier raids farm

by Dylan Welker

picture
British veteran, Frank Rosier, raided a
farm in search of eggs and food supplies
after getting cut off from a supply line.

A British veteran, Frank Rosier, fought with the 2nd Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment from Feb. 8, 1943 to April 1945.

He told me the story of how he was severely injured just after his unit crossed the Seine River in France pushing east toward Germany.

"They pulled us back 3,000 yards," Rosier said. "As we pulled out we passed this chicken farm, so we went back, two of us."

The two British soldiers raided the chicken farms to supplement their army rations.

His unit was ordered to retreat to allow the artillery units to do their job.

"I had a battle blouse full of eggs, two chickens over my shoulders," Rosier said. "The smallest mortar bomb in the German Army landed between us. If it had been a bigger one I would not be here."

The men had been cut off from their supply lines for days.

They had been living off the land, salvaging anything they could find from the abandoned farms in the area.

A piece of shrapnel shot through Rosier's neck and out his cheek, below his left eye.

"It knocked him (the other soldier) out," Rosier said. "I was leaning over him; he was covered in blood — my blood. I tried to pick him up, but I was weak. I walked back to my lines and everything went red."

Rosier was unconscious for 10 days. He suffered a fractured skull.

His friend returned to fighting the next day, with a bandage over his forehead.

"As I got hit, I dove on the ground, I had smashed all these eggs and there was no way I was going to get another uniform," he said. "Bloody eggs, I hope we find a river soon so I can wash this muck off."

Rosier did not need to worry about the eggs that had soiled his uniform; he was not to return to action. He spent four years in the hospital as a result of his wounds. He lost his left eye and went through several facial reconstruction surgeries.

The time he spent recovering from his wounds allowed him to heal mentally as well as physically.

"Being in the hospital in those days was very therapeutic," Rosier said. "The rest of our boys in those days were told 'Go on get a job; forget.' I was in the hospital with very badly injured people."

In the hospital, Rosier was surrounded by men who were forced to confront the horrors of war due to the injuries they received on the battlefield.

"Two lads got up one day and started breakfast just arguing away," Rosier said. "By lunch time, it was pretty ferocious. So one sitting there said 'Come on lets go outside and sort this out.' Everybody started laughing, including the nurses. Neither of them had an arm. They had lost both arms. Of course the rest of us were saying 'What are you going to do, kiss him to death? Kick him to death?' They started laughing as well. They had forgotten they were armless."

He called it "hospital humor." It kept up the spirits of the men and was a relief to their serious predicaments.

Reflecting on war experiences, Rosier said to survive a war, a soldier needs to be fully aware of his surroundings at all times.

"The longer you are out there, something you learn, I don't know what it is," he said. "Rather, you get crafty or cagey, what ever word you like. Your chances of survival increase a hundred fold. And, bear in mind, when I got wounded, what was I doing? Something I should not have been doing — getting eggs."

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