Alex van Bibber (on left) with brothers, Archie, Pat and Dan.Alex van Bibber
Mr. Alex van Bibber in Whitehorse, Yukon. 25 June 2010.Historica Canada
Private Alex van Bibber on his first day in uniform. 19 August 1944.Alex van Bibber
Alex van Bibber (right) walking with comrades.Alex van Bibber
"It was all equal while we were in the army. The big mess up was on discharge."
I got working out on a mining exploration deals, with horses out [in the brush]. I was away and I had an army call, I found out later, I had an army call. They went to army headquarters in Whitehorse to where this guy was. They said, well, they’ve got him working on a canal road, give this guy a year’s extension on his army call. So he just, let’s see that paper, let’s see that army call; and the brigadier said, he just signed it, and they gave me a year’s extension.
And when that year come up in the fall of 1944, and they had the police look up these guys because most of them were working in the bush and all that, because the police could find us easier. So they said, Mr. van Bibber, you’ve got to go, your year is up, you had a year’s extension. I didn’t know it until then. So, anyways, that fall, I ended up in Vancouver.
I was at Little Mountain ̶ that was my depot, Little Mountain [British Columbia].* All the guys from the Yukon went to Little Mountain. So I went in the army and got into uniform, and was sent to [Camp] Debert, Nova Scotia for basic training. And that was two months basic training in Wetaskiwin, Alberta.** And when the two months was up, they sent me to Currie Barracks also in Calgary, Alberta.*** Two months there, I had four months training and ready for overseas.
So then I was sent on a troop train across Canada to Debert, Nova Scotia. We were already trained; we didn’t have to do any drilling or anything, we were just on overseas draft. They were checking us over and getting us ready to board a ship and all that, to go to Europe; and we were going to take our last medic[al examination] before boarding ship, if they didn’t find mumps in our company. They pulled the whole company off draft and put us in quarantine.
Well, I finally got the mumps myself after two, three weeks in quarantine and went to Rockhead Hospital in Halifax, a big navy contagious hospital there. When I was cured and all that of the mumps; and they put me in another company, formed another company to send overseas. I’d be damned if mumps didn’t break out in that company. So I was slapped right back into quarantine again. I spent six months in quarantine. It’s hard to believe, but that’s true. I was there, still in quarantine, when V-E [Victory in Europe] Day come along.
It was all equal while we were in the army. The big mess up was on discharge. The aboriginal soldiers, when they got discharged, they were sent back to the reserves with probably just the $100 for the clothes. Very little compensation. The white soldiers, they got a parcel of farmland and they got backing to build a home, and they got a little more out of it. So the aboriginal veterans deal, raised heck about it; and they saw that what they did, the government did, and it’s just like these [residential] schools now. So the native people asked for compensation, so the government come up with $20,000 each, so that was a good payoff.
*Camp Chilliwack – No. 112 Canadian Army (Basic) Training Centre
**No. 133 Canadian Army (Basic) Training Centre
***A16 Canadian Infantry Training Centre