Henry Killham's discharge certificate, October 12, 1945.Henry Killham
Henry Killham posing on Westminster Bridge, London, England, May 1942.Henry Killham
Bill Mcready, Henry Killham, and Charles Edhouse. The three men joined the army together in 1940.Henry Killham
Henry Killham's medals (left to right): 1939-45 Star; France and Germany Star; Defence Medal; Canadian Volunteer Service Medal; War Medal (1939-45).Henry Killham
An unidentified dispatch rider riding his motorcycle through water during a training course, Bordon, England, May 1, 1942. Henry Killham served as a dispatch rider from 1940-1945.Library and Archives Canada - Faces of War Exhibition
"I was told not to stop for any reason, even if it was a brother, you don’t stop for him, you just keep going and you’d probably make it to the shore."
Went to work and I was telling a guy at work how I’d been turned down by the 48th Highlanders. And he was an officer of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, and he said, well, why don’t you come and join our outfit, because we’ll be going active, one of the first units from now. So I said, okay, that’s a good thing. So my two buddies and I came to the armouries and joined the reserves or whatever they called it at the time.
I got in a big shock there, the man who was taking the form and he said, what nationality are you and I said, “I’m a Canadian.” And he said, “there’s no such thing as a Canadian.” “What do you mean, I was born here and my”, and the guy said, “your parents are British?” And I said, yes. “Well, you’re British, and that’s it.” I was very shocked about that. But I’m glad to see they fixed that up just after the war.
But when D-day came, we guys did not have no idea that we were heading off, because we’d done this every couple of weeks for years. And we’re in vans going down to the Portsmouth to the docks down there and all civilians are lining the road up on either side. What on earth is going on here? They’re all waving their hands and what’s going on here? And I thought, they couldn’t know about it, it’s a secret, they’d never know about it, but they did. And by God, it was another surprise for me. And again, we went on boats and this is a thing that was regular, we would go on a, a ship and then it would steam out somewhere and we’d make a landing or so. And there was just one, there was a big fat man coming up there, holding his fingers up and I said to Charlie, “Geez, that’s Churchill. This really must be serious.” A little while later, the king came by, saluting us and were saluting him. But that’s how dumb we were, we had no idea.
We went on the decks of the ship as we were sailing in towards the land, we could see the greyness of the land back there. And all of a sudden, all these larger... the name of the boats that they carry the, the shell, the guns and all that. The guns were loaded and all pointed towards shore and suddenly, they opened up and started to fire. And then thousands of guns in all directions started firing. What a startling sight, my goodness.
But we had to get into the boats, in our boat and I found myself, I was sitting in the last seat on the third row. I never realized until we landed that I was going to be the last man going off my boat. And I thought, my God, they’d have a lot of chance to aim for me. So I was told not to stop for any reason, even if it was a brother, you don’t stop for him, you just keep going and you’d probably make it to the shore. But they were a little more confident than I was but they …
When I went there, I had a bow wave in front of me and like a ship, I just ploughed right through to that shore and got there. And then the officer says, well now we’ve got here, now we’ve got to find out who’s on my right and who’s on our left. So he said, “I want you to go down here as far as you can, until you run into the division or brigade landing beside us.” And I walked for some time and I kept this arm right by the wall and I kept going. And I didn’t realize I was walking past a big bunker, German bunker there, that raised hell with C Company, they were trying to go around this town. And they got a lot of actions for killings from that. But I didn’t even know it.
And then I thought, well maybe they didn’t make it to the beaches, I’ve heard that some guys going on the wrong beaches and things like this, so I turn around and came back and had a guy call me and there was a guy sitting up on top of a carrier, coming in. And he yelled and it was a guy in my platoon, so I run over, went over and shook hands and “glad to see you, hey, glad to make it.” And so I turned around and started back to the walk and I heard a terrible bang and this carrier had hit a mine. And they just dumped. And I saw a body flying through the air and that was my friend. He landed in the cold water and he came to, no problem to it. But I had to keep going anyway to …
And then when I got back to my officers, well there’s nothing there now, go down this way as far as you can and find out. So by then, the people were floating in on the tide and that’s not nice wandering around amongst your friends and things like that, ankle deep in the water.
And the only reason I came home is they reduced our food for the poor Dutch civilians. They used everything up as far as food so they said for the health of our Dutch companions, we were cut in the rations. Somebody came to me and he said “so, are you thinking of going home?” And I said, I hadn’t but I think maybe I will. So they made me on a draft of one and usually there are normally 50 or 60 guys on a draft and I went on a single, so I had a good trip home and things like that.
But I have nothing really heroic to say about the war. I just, whenever the officers would say, “come on, let’s move,” I moved. And got through.