‘Blimey. I guess this is it’

Reginald Wise was a sniper with British commandos in Italy. He's one of the local veterans profiled in the Reporter for Remembrance Day

At 17

One of Surrey’s few surviving veterans of the Second World War was very nearly killed in the conflict’s final weeks.

Reginald Wise, 91 and a proud member of the Royal Canadian Legion in Cloverdale, was a Green Beret sniper with Britain’s 40 Royal Marines Commando back in April of 1945.

The elite British paramilitary unit was in northern Italy, battling entrenched German forces in what became known as the Battle of the Argenta Gap, part of an Allied spring offensive to liberate the Po River valley.

They were searching for enemy flak gun positions when they came under fire.

Corporal Wise took cover behind a broken-down tank as the bullets whizzed by and proceeded to aim and pick off the gunman.

Except it turned out there was a second gunman – a barrage of bullets struck his arm.

“Next thing I knew I was on my back looking up at the sky,” he told the Surrey Leader in 2007.

“I thought ‘Blimey. I guess this is it.’”

It wasn’t. Someone else silenced the enemy gunner and ushered Wise to safety, although one German bullet remains lodged in his arm to this day.

Others were not as lucky.

Seventy-nine British commandos died in the Battle of the Argenta Gap. Wise was among the survivors who returned in 1995 to mark the 50th anniversary and pay tribute to his comrades.

“You think about the other guys,” he said. “The ones you lose. The ones you were friends with for quite a while. Some were only 19.”

Wise was just 20 years old himself by the time he was fighting in Italy, barely a month before the war ended.

As a 16-year-old he had volunteered with the Home Guard and manned anti-aircraft guns in southern England to defend against German bombers. (The family house was bombed in the Battle of Britain in August 1940, injuring his grandmother.)

He joined the Royal Marines’ commando brigade in 1942 at the age of 17.

His marksmanship quickly got him sniper duty.

The small highly mobile force specialized in raiding and reconnaissance ahead of larger Allied attacks.

Wise saw action that was at times fierce in Yugoslavia, Albania and Greece prior to Italy.

“We would go in first and do the little things,” Wise recalled. “Our best weapon was surprise.”

Killing was part of the job “you got used to,” he said. “Sometimes it’s hard to talk about,” he said. “In certain situations, you got out more or less unscathed and started to think you were lucky. I guess I was.”

In 1951, Wise and his wife Phyllis emigrated to Canada and settled in Surrey with their six-month-old daughter. Two sons were born here.

Very lucky, indeed.

– Cloverdale Reporter, with files Surrey Leader

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Staff member at Surrey long-term care facility diagnosed with COVID-19

Fraser Health said a rapid response team is on site

White Rock’s namesake spray-painted black

Vandalism occurred sometime between Friday and Saturday

South Surrey resident blames city after house floods

Marilyn Molter said debris from city-planted maple trees easily clogs street drains

Sunny skies expected across Lower Mainland this week

After weeks of rain and smoke, Environment Canada forecasts clear skies and steady warm temperatures

Senior White Rock election worker not concerned about safety at the polls

‘Casting your vote will be like getting a take out coffee,’ says Elections BC CEO

QUIZ: Do you know what’s on TV?

Fall is normally the time when new television shows are released

Canadian ski resorts wrestle with pandemic-vs.-profit dilemma as COVID-19 persists

Few are actually restricting the total number of skiers they allow on the hill

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Victoria-area RCMP locate high-risk sex offender thanks to help of taxi cab driver

Scott Jones wanted on a Canada-wide warrant, ‘a risk to women and girls,’ police say

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A (virtual) walk around the world by 88-year-old B.C. man

George Doi says it’s simple: ‘I like walking’

End of CERB means uncertainty for some, new system for others

As of a week ago, the CERB had paid out $79.3 billion to 8.8 million people

Horgan, Wilkinson trade barbs over MSP premiums, health care at campaign stops

Horgan called a snap election for Oct. 24 earlier this week

Most Read