So as soon as I got this hole dug, they started firing again. One went there and one went there, and the next one was where I was. So I went flat under a tank.
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I was 14 when the war started, I guess, and you just figured, well, by the time I’m old enough, then I go. My father was all through the First World War and as I was leaving, he said, I hate like hell to see you go, but I’d be ashamed of you if you didn’t.
Well, at Fort Osborne Barracks, Winnipeg, it was just a holding until they got a group together. And then I moved direct to Orillia, Ontario. And that was the basic training camp for the Canadian Armoured Corps.
You don’t get into a regiment until after you get into the fighting area. As a replacement, you don’t. The Canadian Army was given the job of clearing the west bank of the Rhine. As they were losing people, they drew on us, we were right behind it then, in Nijmegen, but so we were close by, ready to reinforce. As they lose a tank crew, they call somebody else in.
My job was keeping contact between our squadron and our regiment [The Fort Garry Horse], and the infantry we were working with. The wireless sets did not work off the same frequencies. So if the infantry needed anything from us, it would come into me, in headquarters squadron, and then we would have one of the fighting troops or more take care of it. And if we wanted to talk to infantry, I had to get in touch with them, so, a middleman, in other words.
I took a call one night about midnight. The squadron was out of immediate action. Tanks were very rarely in contact with the enemy at night, they’re too vulnerable. So generally, we moved back a little bit. But I got a call and notified the officer commanding the squadron that they wanted to move to such and such a place. We got up there about 1:00 in the morning. The whole squadron just came into a small pasture, so they were fairly close together.
Not a thing happened until daylight and then we were looking down across quite a wide valley, probably two kilometres across. And mortar fire came in. And he [Jerry - the Germans] just shot five rounds, they were just, he knew we were there, he could see us. But he didn’t have exactly the pinpoint. So he put five shots right across. Ten minutes later, did the same thing. And he did that for an hour, just keeping us under cover. We couldn’t get out of the tanks, we didn’t dare, except sometime when I had been on duty for 10 or 12 hours by that time.
So you’ve got to get out and obey nature. And I thought, alright, he’s just put that thing down, he’s firing every 10 minutes, I’ve got time to jump out of the tank, dig myself a little hole, use it and get back. In my own stupidity, I didn’t realize that he could see me too. So as soon as I got this hole dug, they started firing again. One went there and one went there, and the next one was where I was. So I went flat under a tank. But when you do that, you’ve got a tank suit on, you’ve got battledress braces and all they’re all around your knees, what do you do? [laughs] All my crew was telling me, get up in the tank. I said, how can you climb into a tank with your pants around your knees? [laughs]
Because I was the wireless fellow for the squadron, when we were sitting back in a place like that, if we had one radio onto the squadron, another one was sitting there. Put the earphones inside a helmet and you could sit and listen to the BBC. That’s how we found out the war ended. [laughs]