"I said, Mervin, I don’t think you’ll see your 22nd birthday. That’s exactly what I said to myself, that’s when I was on the ground, you see."
The time came around to pack up and go overseas. And by October 1942, we were in Colchester, England, which is the northwest part of England. It was an old, old, old town, going way, way back. It was a garrison town, I guess, for a couple of hundred years. So we were there and, then we carried on our training and it came around that, I guess it was 1943, the … Oh, meanwhile, there’s in the southern coast of England, there’s anti-aircraft guns to try to keep the German planes out, you see. You had the heavy stuff and you had the light stuff. So I guess the light stuff, the Bofors 44 mms [anti-aircraft guns] were there and needed a break sort of business. And that’s when we were picked up and we were sent down there to take over the place.
One of the things we used to do is that to tell the difference between aircraft, we hadn’t got time to study them, so what they used to do, the aircraft had a colour on each, a coloured light on the tip to each wing and one on the tail. And these would change every day at sunset. So I had the job to go to headquarters, pick up the new code shall we say, and take it around to gun positions. On one of these little escorts, I still don’t know what happened, I had an accident. And I ended up in the hospital. While I was in the hospital in England, the circular came around from the army headquarters, Canadian army headquarters in England, saying, we need people for the [Canadian] Airborne [Regiment]. I said, that sounds pretty good. [laughs] So I put my name in and I didn’t hear anything. I went back to my unit delivering messages on my motorcycle, and all that. The first thing you know, I got word from army headquarters to report to a certain place, I forget where now at the present time.
Anyways, I ended up then out on Salisbury Plain, that’s where the airborne was and I started practicing physical exercise and plus jumping out of a mock airplane on the ground, you know what I mean and rolling, and stuff like that. This went on for a couple months and then first thing you know, there’s, coming around to the third or fourth of June 1944.
I got on the plane, and then first thing you know, we’re over France and what that they had, what they had arranged was that the, prior to us jumping and all that, somebody located the field. There was no bombs in and no stuff like that, you know. So we presumed that this was going to be our field. And so then first you know, as we approached this field, it was stand up, hook up. So you’d stand up, hook onto the cable and move back close together. And the little red light is on, you’re looking to go. And the first you know, then that little red light turns to green. So you go to jump out. The number one jumps out. I go to jump out and the light turned back to red again; and it stopped me. Because they tell me, I found out after, if I had have jumped out, I would have landed in the minefield. You see. So they stopped me from jumping out.
So the nice part was, I say nice, there is the plane, there’s the right hand side where the door is. I’m standing in the doorway now. So he’s going to make another run at that same place. So, he banks to the right. So I’m just lying on my stomach, stopping from falling out. And he goes all the way around again and takes another run at it and soon as we advanced again, the little light turns to green again and I jump out the door. You see, that’s fine.
And then later, this just came back to me lately, I had trouble getting my damn chute to open. It just wouldn’t, the rip cord … Eventually I got it out, got it open and landed on the ground. And I’m just standing there and said the words, if it’s a lie, I hope they strike me dead now. I said, Mervin, I don’t think you’ll see your 22nd birthday. That’s exactly what I said to myself, that’s when I was on the ground, you see. And then we started advancing to do the, whatever jobs we had. We had different jobs to do, you know, do this, blow up this, save this and stop that. And one of the main jobs they wanted was the, in our case, I’m sure some were sent towards the city of Caen, but the others that went towards the east and they wanted the Pegasus Bridge, it wasn’t the Pegasus Bridge then, they wanted to save this bridge because the seaborne forces that’s coming in behind us, if they’re going, they want to get in, some go to, they definitely take the city of Caen and the others go east. And it was the only bridge over this body of water. So we took it, we took a little, took this bridge and it’s now named the Pegasus Bridge. And that’s where we started our work, yeah.