"For example, in Holland the people were starving. It was terrifying. The villagers would come to see us to get a cup of tea that we would prepare on the fire outdoors."
My name is Louis Le Moing. I was born on May 5, 1920. I joined the Royal Canadian Air Force when I was 21 years old. If you were a Canadian at the time, you were called up to serve. Rather than be recruited by force- if I can put it that way- I chose to join the Air Force in Winnipeg. In the spring of 1945, I was sent to the continent; meaning France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. I also worked on four-engine planes in England, on Halifax bombers and Lancasters. But once I was on the continent, I mainly worked on small planes. It was called the AOP in English, the Air Observation Post. They directed artillery fire by radio.
We had a half dozen of those little planes. You could land them on any airfield in Belgium, Holland, anywhere. I was in charge of maintaining the planes. The pilots were Canadian artillery officers who had experience and they directed the artillery fire. The planes flew very low in order to not be hit by anti-aircraft guns. Towards the end of the war, we saw a lot of sad things in different places. For example, in Holland the people were starving. It was terrifying. The villagers would come to see us to get a cup of tea that we would prepare on the fire outdoors. Often, when we received packages from home, the children would come see us and we would give them chocolate and other things.
Then we went to Germany when the cease-fire began. I was near the North Sea, in a German town near Wilhelmshaven. Since I was responsible for those planes, I had an office. It had a table, a radio, a telephone and a revolver. At three o’clock in the afternoon on May 4 , I knew that the cease-fire would begin at seven o’clock the next morning. The war was over. We returned towards the south to eventually arrive in England. We would stop from time to time. Once, we stopped in a field and we heard an explosion. We jumped in our vehicle and went to the village from where the noise had come. Bombs had been dropped on the railroads by Germans but they hadn’t exploded. Civilians had tried to clear away the shells. They were able to clear one away successfully but the second one exploded. When we got there, there were bits of Dutch people everywhere. It was a horrible massacre. I saw terrible things.
When I was new and I heard the German 88s, [88mm anti-aircraft gun] the eighty-eights,they made a special sound. I didn’t know what it was. Nearby were some Polish soldiers who were supporting the Canadian Army with their tanks. I heard them speaking in their language. Then, all of a sudden, they hid under their tanks. I understood very quickly. A bomb has been dropped and when it exploded, it made a crater big enough to fit a house in.
Young people from Manitoba…I am speaking for a lot of people when I say this… Young people, 18, 19, 20, 21 years old, they only knew their own small town, going to parties at night and working a little bit. The war changed me a lot. It matured me quite quickly. If I listened to the radio, it was for pleasure since I played violin when I was young. I was invited to parties. It was the good life, despite the fact that we didn’t have a lot of money - it was the hard times of the 1930s.
After that, I saw a lot of people suffer; a lot of people get killed. I saw people in the hospital in London, England. The bombs would come and the sirens would ring. They would seek refuge in air-raid shelters. The people would sing and play piano and drink a beer. It was often said that Hitler lost the war when he decided to stop bombing the airbases. For a while, the planes couldn’t even take off due to the holes in the runway. He decided to bomb London in an effort to break the spirit of the British people but let me tell you, nobody can break their spirit. You have to give them that. From what I saw anyway, that was true.
I say it to those who want to hear… When I was in Holland… I read and hear it still; the Canadians were very good to the Dutch. The Dutch are grateful towards Canadians and they talk about us everyday in their schools. Us as Canadians, we lost a lot of people. We lost many men. Too many. Sometimes we forget. In my opinion, what you’re doing here is a step in the right direction. We don’t want people to necessarily speak about the war everyday, but we don’t want people to forget either.