|John Mahony VC|
A lesser known member of this force, was the twenty-three year-old Private, John William Culling of Bluffton, Alberta, an infantryman of the Westminster Regiment. Culling's actions on that day, single-handedly destroying a German Self-Propelled 88mm gun. Culling's platoon had been the first across the Melfa. Before they were done frantically digging their slit trenches, German tanks and self-propelled guns appeared and began opening fire.
|L/Cpl J.A. Thrasher, Westminster Regiment and the Self-Propelled 88mm he knocked out with a PIAT, near Pontecorvo.|
"Culling grasped this heaven sent opportunity and his Bren gun. First he wiped out the commander with the Bren then tossed a grenade into the open top of the vehicle, killing the driver. Two more of the crew were shot with the Bren and the remainder called it a day and surrendered."
|Melfa River Crossings Lawren Harris. CWM|
A modern account in the Maple Leaf puts the story as such:
"The tank commander opens his hatch and starts to climb out, and Pte Culling throws a grenade, killing the officer and getting the attention of the gunner, who swivels the turret toward his slit trench. Pte Culling takes another grenade, pulls the pin and tosses it at the hatch, where it rolls around like a basketball on the hoop before dropping in."
Here we have a tank, not a self-propelled gun, not to mention the slightly different circumstance of Culling's feat. One is left wondering, whether the war correspondent's initial account, or that gleaned from later personal testimony is legitimate. Then again, perhaps such analysis is merely nitpicking. Culling dispatched an armoured vehicle that day in a hard pressed situation, with a well-placed grenade. It is clear that he deserves the Military Medal that was awarded to him for the action.
5th Canadian Armoured Brigade War Diary. Appendix 5. 3 Jun 1944
Daniel Dancocks, The D-Day Dodgers, 268.
Maple Leaf War Time Story