Portrait of Jean-Marie Milot in uniform, March 25th 1946.Jean-Marie Milot
A page from Jean Marie Milot's service book, August 1945.Jean-Marie Milot
Photograph of the SS Ile de France, a vessel used to move troops back and forth across the Atlantic.Jean-Marie Milot
Jean-Marie Milot with the mandolin that he obtained for 10 cigarettes.Jean-Marie Milot
"The only thing I wouldn’t want to see is war. There’s nothing funny about seeing young people who have to beg for food and they have no clothes."
I was called to serve the army at the age of 18. I registered in Montreal and then they sent me to Petawawa to train with the 25-pound artillery. When my training was over, they sent me to Debert [Nova Scotia], from Debert to England. Once there, they transferred me to the infantry for more training. As soon as my training was over, so was the war. So they sent us by plane to Belgium, then to Holland, and then into Germany with Le Régiment de Maisonneuve. We spent 15 days on the frontline, and then they transferred us to Holland, and after that we formed a 3rd battalion in Le Regiment de la Chaudière to occupy Germany. We went to the town of Zeven where we spent nine months occupying the area. We had to constantly monitor the area with our rifles loaded in case anything happened. We weren’t allowed to fraternise with anyone. After a period of time we were able to talk to people. We didn’t have to walk around with our guns anymore. So, there wasn’t a risk anymore. However, we still had to search all the houses to make sure nobody had any guns. There were people and soldiers who didn’t report in, so we had to check everyone’s papers. We were there for nine months’ time.
In the army, I was sick and weighed only 125 pounds. Then, when I got out, with exercise and the regular good meals we were provided with, I was back up to 180 pounds and in good shape. That’s the story of my time in the army. It was an important experience, and I don’t regret it.
What did I do in the army? Personally, I liked the military life. At 14 years of age, I entered Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal. I spent two years in college with Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal. I really liked the military aspect. I always appreciated the discipline. Then when the war broke out and I was called to the army, I was pleased to go instead of requesting to be exempted like our foreman suggested. I preferred serving my country. Cigarettes cost eleven cents each, and with a cigarette, you could buy food on the black market. I couldn’t believe it, and that’s just what happened. I even bought myself a mandolin with 10 cigarettes. It was made in Catania, Italy. So I was walking around with a guitar that I got for 20 cigarettes. And with a guitar, when taking the train, you could sing songs to avoid getting bored.
The only thing I wouldn’t want to see is war. There’s nothing funny about seeing young people who have to beg for food and they have no clothes. So this is something I would never want to see happen here. Even some creatures had to give themselves for cigarettes or to buy things. I didn’t like seeing that. It’s hard for us to imagine but being there, we saw how willing people were. When we wanted to have our clothes or whatever washed, we went to the fence and people were there who wanted the work but they didn’t have any soap. We had soap though so we put a piece of it with our clothing, and then the women would fight for the soap and to wash our clothes. Then, afterwards when they came back, if a button or something was missing, they darned it and gave it back to us, and we would give them some soap and a few cigarettes. They weren’t afraid of not recognizing us when we came back. It was hard for us you know, since everyone looked the same. How will they know whose clothes belong to who? But they remembered us. We trusted them with our belongings since they were honest people. Even in Germany, during the occupation, it was the same thing. They were very friendly towards us. Everywhere we went, French Canadians had a good reputation. Everywhere we went, people respected us.