How a Metal Shaving Kit Saved This Canadian Soldier’s Life in WWII

It wasn't until Pte. Clem Mageau's commanding officer noticed a hole in his knapsack that the young soldier realized his stroke of luck.

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Pte. Clem Mageau
Photo: Courtesy of Pauline C. Gordon

A stroke of good luck

During the Second World War invasion of Sicily on July 13, 1943, the Battalion of Saskatoon Light Infantry of the Canadian First Division landed on the Sicilian beach. Their orders were to gain control of this small island from the Germans, before crossing the Strait of Messina into Italy.

This brings us to the narrow escape my uncle—Pte. Clem Mageau—experienced, and later related to me.

Uncle Clem was assigned to drive one of three Bren-gun carrier trucks off the ship as they docked in Sicily—the trucks were loaded with ammunition. Travelling on an elevated road towards the railroad, the convoy was suddenly attacked—enemy gunfire came from the left side of the road. The first truck exploded into flames and everyone bailed out of the remaining two carriers.

Uncle Clem dove into the ditch and began to run towards the railroad, weaving and dropping to the ground, following the defensive maneuvers in which he had been trained.

Gaining cover, he lay there amid the noise and fire of heavy artillery coming from the Canadian Air Force back-up planes. During a lull in the battle, he sprinted back to his carrier, dove into the cab, started the engine and sped back to base camp.

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Canadian soldier's knapsack
Photo: Courtesy of Pauline C. Gordon

An incredibly close shave

Once there, he immediately went in to report to his commanding officer. After the debriefing, he saluted and went to leave. His commanding officer noticed a hole in the knapsack resting on Uncle Clem’s upper back and told him to take the knapsack off. Upon examination of the contents, he found that a bullet had entered the knapsack, deflected against his Gillette metal shaving kit, destroying the razor and and blades, before exiting alongside his neck. His shaving kit had saved his life! Who knows how many other soldiers’ lives may have been saved in this manner during both world wars?

Check out more powerful Remembrance Day stories from Canadian veterans.

Originally Published in Our Canada

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