Veteran Stories:
Russell Bruce Wilson


  • Russell Wilson, shortly after enlisting in the Royal Canadian Navy, 1942.

    Russell Wilson
  • HMCS Vencedor, 1943. Russell Wilson served in this vessel in 1945.

    Russell Wilson
  • Russell Wilson, Olds, Alberta, June 29, 2010.

    Historica Canada
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"The four top blokes go west and all the rest go east. So I kept my nose right in the book to get a West Coast draft."


I’m from Saskatchewan and so is my wife, from Saskatchewan and we went to the same school. When I was in the [Royal Canadian] Navy, naturally the first thing you do is like all the rest, you’ve got to learn how to march and start from the bottom, marching. And I’m out there marching and here I am whistled over the loudspeaker to report to the - and everything to them is on the double, that means you run - so I went in to see what I’d done now and I went in and they said, we are trying to pick out someone that we think would be qualified to make a signalman, send you to Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, for a course. Naturally I said, "and how long do you think that’ll take?" He said, "it’ll take, it’s a long course; they really put you through. It’ll take 24 weeks;" and that was a long time then. So I went down and I took a course and our instructor was from overseas. And all’s you had to do was listen to him to tell that. So I asked him, I said, "how do they figure it out?" I said, "it’s a well known fact that out of a class of twenty-four here, only four get to go west and all the others go to Halifax." And I think he asked me, "which way do you want to go?" I said, "well, my wife is in Saskatoon, so naturally, I’d like to go through Saskatoon, which is west." And so he said, "well, that’s, no problem." I can still hear him, he said, “That’s no problem, chappy”, he said, “You’ll be able to go, go there.” So I got a West Coast draft out of it. Oh, he said, like I had said before, the four top blokes go west and all the rest go east. So I kept my nose right in the book to get a West Coast draft. And I got it and I went back there and eventually, I went on - I didn’t take her that time out to the coast - and when we got there, instead of getting the ship, they sent us to Prince Rupert [British Columbia], three of us, picked out the three, to Prince Rupert. And so I said, "Well, what are we going up there for?" You’re going up there to teach the Army naval signals so they can do their own signalling with the ships that come in at sea. So that was there and we were there for a whole year. I don’t know if we were dumb or if they were supposed to take that long but anyway, after a year, they announced to me that, well, you’re on draft again - that’s what they called it, and they were going to ship me out - you’re on draft again, those fellows can handle it now, you’ve taught them well. [laughs] And so, I said, well, "where am I going now?" Oh, he said, you don’t say where you’re going, you just go where you’re shipped to. So they said, you’re going likely to Halifax. I said, well, that’s where I wanted to go in the first place. But so, I said, if I’m going straight to Halifax, I had Dorothy my wife with me up there this time. Oh, and to get her a job - I asked about this ahead of time - they said, if, the only way is if she’s got a job, we’ll find you a place to live, we’re so short of women to do the work in the … So they said, I made arrangements with them to bring her up there and she got a job and so she was up there all the time I was. From Prince Rupert, we moved my wife, she went down to [HMCS] Givenchy or [HMCS] Naden they called it and we lived in Victoria, bought a house in Victoria and she used to come out to the ship to see me. They allowed that at that time. It was getting near the end of the war so they weren’t quite as pusser as we used to call it, that’s fussy. So she used to come out there to see me.
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