Veteran Stories:
Robert Wilson “Bob” Innes

Army

  • Company Sergeant Major Bob Innes, just prior to his discharge from the Canadian Army, March 1946.

    Bob Innes
  • Company Sergeant Major Bob Innes' Royal Canadian Army Service Corps uniform. Note the four colour square Pacific War patch.

    Bob Innes
  • Bob Innes, wearing his wartime Royal Canadian Army Service Corps uniform, St. John's, Newfoundland, August 9, 2010.

    Historica Canada
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"The Newfoundland government, as I remember, decided that no new Newfoundlanders would join the army unless they had a trade. Well, I had the trade, as an accountant."

Transcript

I had attempted to volunteer for service three times and got turned down because of eyesight at that time. At that early age of the war, they were examining you pretty closely to be physically fit. Towards the end of the war, I think they were just counting the eyeballs and not examining them. However, I failed on the three occasions to pass the physical because of eyesight.

So I came back to Newfoundland and my job was in the bank; and I had been transferred to Grand Falls, Newfoundland. And at that time, I used to play the piano and I still play the piano, but I was playing in a little four, five piece combo on Saturday nights when the troops used to come up from [RCAF Station] Gander and from [RCAF Station] Botwood. Well, after about four or five months on these Saturday nights, we’d have two to three hundred army and air force personnel from Gander and Botwood at these dances; and after a few months, this officer came over to me and said, I need an accountant down in Botwood at the [Royal Canadian] Army Service Corps; and I think I can get you in the army. I said, well, I’ve tried three times, I haven’t been able to get in the army. He said, well, come down on Monday morning and I’ll meet you at the station and take you up, and go for a medical. I never thought anymore about it over the weekend. Finally, Monday came and I was in the teller’s cage at 11:00 in the morning and I thought, oh, I can get the afternoon off, I’m not going to be able to get in the army but, on the other hand, I get the afternoon off, I’ll go and see the manager.

So I went into the manager. He was a bit disturbed because he knew I had tried to volunteer three times. However, he said, okay, go ahead, and get somebody to take over your cash. So I, the train used to go from Grand Falls to Botwood at that time, so I got on the train, 12:00, and got down to Botwood. And the officer that I had spoken with, he was a First World War veteran, serving in Botwood at that time, in charge of the army service corps. He took me up to the hospital, run by the [Royal] Canadian Army Medical Corps at that time, and, of course, he asked the various questions, the captain in charge there. So after filling in the address and where I was and what I was doing, and so on, put me on the scale, weighed me, took my height; and then a knock came at the door. You’re wanted in the operating room immediately, this case has just come in, it’s an emergency. Jumped up from his desk, took his coat off, army jacket, hung it up on the hook after taking off the white coat on the hook, put on the white coat and took off and shouted back at the sergeant, "Sergeant, fill in the rest of the form, I’ll sign it when I come back."

He was gone, sergeant looked at the form. He said, "okay now, can you read the chart?" So I, with glasses on, I read the chart, 20/20. I was okay. Now, the next thing they had to do was apply to the Newfoundland government for permission for me to join the Canadian Army. Because after a kerfuffle that happened once before, when some Newfoundlanders joined the, I believe it was the Royal Rifles [of Canada] and were sent off to Hong Kong, pretty well untrained, the Newfoundland government, as I remember, decided that no new Newfoundlanders would join the army unless they had a trade. Well, I had the trade, as an accountant. And the authority came through. A big long piece of parchment, with all seals and various things on it, so I was in within a couple months, I was in the Canadian Army in Botwood.

I remember particularly being involved with the bakery we had in Gander, which baked all the bread for all the Canadian and the Canadian Army and the Canadian Air Force. And that got dismantled and shipped back by Crown assets. So that was about the end of my duties in Newfoundland, so I was sent to Halifax for discharge. I got to Halifax, went through the medical, had my rank confirmed, got my discharge papers all lined up and so on, and then that being completed, having gone through the physical and so on, the officer said to me, he said, "what are you going to do now after the war?" I said, "I’m going to Toronto. I’ve had my job moved from Newfoundland to Toronto; and I’ll be leaving for Toronto." Well, he sort of questioned that and he said, "you can’t go to Toronto, you’re not a Canadian." I said, "well, I’ve been in the Canadian Army for over four years." "Well, that doesn’t matter, I’m going to have to pass you over to customs and immigration." So they did; and I went through the same rigorous training, rigorous examination by the customs and immigration. And finally they said to me, "can you prove you have a job in Canada?" I said, "yes, I have a letter in my pocket here," and I took out the letter and showed him that I was being transferred to Toronto. So he said, "well, we’ll have to wait a few minutes, but I’ll be back in 20 minutes." So in 20 minutes, he came back and gave me the green landed immigrant card, so I could go to Toronto.

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