"There was a common bond of fealty, a common bond of loyalty that developed, that stuck for me for a long time."
I’m a member of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion Association, but I didn’t serve with them in wartime. There were a number who didn’t get overseas and I was one of those. I didn’t get over. I joined the air force in 1943. What happened in 1943 was this: I went up and joined the RCAF [Royal Canadian Air Force] just before Christmas in 1943. The first thing that they did to me was that they gave me four months leave, before I even got in. I said, well, four months leave? They said, yes, you’ve got four months to go before you get your degree at university. So get back and finish it, and come in here when you’ve graduated, you’ll be of more use to us then. I was disappointed.
When I was in grade 11 in high school, in Lennoxville, Quebec in 1939, three of my classmates the following year were dead. People that sat in the next desk to me had been killed, killed in the RCAF [Royal Canadian Air Force] ̶ and I was in university. I didn’t feel too well about that. I also had a mother who had lost a brother in the First World War; and I received nothing but encouragement from her to get into the services, that there was a debt to pay.
I went into the air force full time in the spring of 1944. I had volunteered for the air force. You’re not conscripted, you have to volunteer; and they’d found out I didn’t have the eyesight to be a pilot, so they were going to make a navigator out of me. Then they discovered in 1944 that they had too many navigators, that the air commonwealth plan [British Commonwealth Air Training Plan] had turned out too many, so that was a failure. I transferred to the army and my only chance to fly was to join the paratroopers. It was a rough outfit but, it was a great education.
The time that I spent in [A35 Canadian Parachute Training Centre, Camp] Shilo, Manitoba training with the Canadian parachute corps, we had about a month of what was called battle inoculation. Battle inoculation was where we paratroopers were taught to attack enemy positions; and we would do that in attacking enemy positions at the platoon level. That is, a group of 35 men and it would be broken up into three sections, and each section would have approximately 10. It was that unit then that practiced attacking enemy positions with live ammunition. Now, that was as close as I ever got to actually having live ammunition around me. Many platoons that went through this, somebody on the platoon took a bullet in the leg during the practices that went on. I remember that.
I also remember the actual jumping out of the airplane. There may be some paratroopers that’ll tell you that they weren’t frightened, but most of the ones that I know, they were frightened. I was frightened. I wasn’t frightened of dying, that never occurred to me. But the thing that I was frightened of and the thing that I think most of us were frightened of was the fact that we might let our buddies down. There was such a strong bond that developed over the two months that you were with these other chaps in your training group, that there was a common bond of fealty, a common bond of loyalty that developed, that stuck for me for a long time.