Veteran Stories:
John Adams

Air Force

  • Mr. Adams in St. John's, Newfoundland, August, 2010.

    Historica Canada
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"I remember one day standing on the back of a truck with other airmen and airwomen on the way to St. John’s. One fellow told the girls that I had never been kissed, and each of the girls kissed me in turn."

Transcript

I joined the RCAF [Royal Canadian Air Force] in June 1942. After spending a month in [RCAF Station] Halifax, I went to St. John’s, Newfoundland. I was in a convoy of ships on the Atlantic for four days. I was very seasick; and I was in my bunk the whole four days. The officer came down to look at me every day, but he did not say anything. A couple of my comrades brought me down a few pieces of hard bread. After we arrived at [RCAF Station] Torbay, the ground rolled around for what seemed like hours. I was a LAC, leading aircraftman, and had been trained at Galt, now Cambridge, Ontario and at [No. 1 Wireless School] Montreal, to be a wireless operator ground. My job, along with other operators, was to receive messages by Morse code from aircraft on submarine patrol.

We were on shift, as the watch was continuous. We had to remain alert, even though waiting for signals could be tedious. I especially remember the Knights of Columbus [Hostel] fire in St. John’s on 12 December 1942 and the blackouts in St. John’s at that time. We did not go to St. John’s very often, but I do remember walking one day with a bunch of airmen from the Torbay base to Rawlins Cross in St. John’s.

There was great fellowship among the RCAF personnel. I remember one day standing on the back of a truck with other airmen and airwomen on the way to St. John’s. One fellow told the girls that I had never been kissed, and each of the girls kissed me in turn. I was shy in those days and sometimes had speech difficulties. Roll call often was hell. There was not much to do in my spare time and some of my comrades nicknamed me ‘Horizontal,’ as I spent considerable time resting in my bunk.

In the summertime, we sometimes went on picnics. I remember very well one picnic we had on the cliffs of Torbay. I did have a photo of that picnic, but it may have been discarded when I moved to the [Caribou Memorial Veteran’s] Pavillion. I do not drink alcoholic beverages; and I tried not to make an issue of it. Most of my comrades accepted it, but I remember one occasion when some of the other 17 men in my barrack rooms were drinking. They tied me with a rope to my upper bunk, pried open my mouth and were going to pour scotch liquor down my throat, when the leader, at the last moment, stopped them. There were no hard feelings.

One of my good friends was as quiet as I was, when he was sober. But he literally tore the door off its hinges when he had been drinking. He told me that his father was a bootlegger in PEI. I should not have done it, but one day when we were alone, I pretended I was going to take a drink and he begged me not to start. There were no TVs, of course, in those days. Although there were radios, we did not have one in our barracks. The nightly entertainment was a movie, free; and I usually went each night. My only indulgence was a 10 cent chocolate bar each day, so I was able to have a considerable part of my monthly pay of $60. I soon became a banker to more free spending friends, no interest charged.

I used to attend church services every Sunday. I was not too happy when one of my colleagues came to me and said, the padre did certain things, and why did I not do them. But I always stood my ground and was my own man. After serving about two years in Torbay, I was transferred to the RCAF [Station] Greenwood, Nova Scotia where I served in a similar capacity, until I was discharged in October 1945 after the war ended in Europe. I was only a small link in the chain necessary to win the Battle of the Atlantic, but every link was necessary to bring victory.

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