Veteran Stories:
Joseph Henry Rivard

Army

  • Portrait of Henry Rivard, England, 1941

    Henry Rivard
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"Even the Germans, they were glad the war was over too."

Transcript

My name is Joseph Henry Rivard. I was born in 1918, the 6th of April. In June of 1940, I, and a friend of mine, joined up, we volunteered. And we ended up in Petawawa for… sleeping on the ground, that they had no huts then, they just had tents. And from there, I went to England for three years. I volunteered. I was a dispatch rider, I was a gunner. And then from there, we left and we went to Sicily in Italy and then France, Holland, Belgium, into Germany. And then they took me off and sent me home in 1945. A dispatch rider is, from one company to another company, to if something comes up, they send you in the dispatch something that you have to deliver, because they never used the phone. So no matter what kind of weather and especially in England, we had to deliver no matter what kind of weather it was. Just like a postman, you deliver, you have to deliver special delivery. So that was the job. The worst one was one night in the fog, well, it happened more than once but this one night, and on our motorbike, got a little tiny light on the front, like a square one about as big as the tip of your finger. That’s all they have. So I was going along and I was going slow because like the fog and that, you could see shadows in front of you. And I didn’t know at that time but there was an English convoy there and one truck pulled out, just as I was getting close to him. So I saw this big thing and I went to the left and there was a big ditch there with two feet of water in it. I fell off the bike and I rolled into the water. And they helped me out and I got back on the bike and I had to go all wet to deliver my dispatch which are waterproof. And go all the way back to my own unit after. And at that time, I didn’t have a raincoat, we had nothing at the beginning of the war. No glasses for the bugs on the bike, no helmets. But we got all that later, so. So we used to have to wear a gas mask and we used to carry a gas mask with us all the time. And we were on a convoy in Lenham one day and after we, we had our mask on, but after we took them off, my sergeant says, Rivard, take us home. But I looked at the map but I didn’t really look at it right because we didn’t come that way, we were going back another way. As I got on the bike and took off and in England, they have on the outside of the towns, they have little streams that run through the road. So they had little humpbacks like, they’re like a hump. I didn’t see it and I hit it and I went up. So while I’m up in the air, I can see in front of me, there’s a Y in the road and there’s a house with a big brick wall and that’s the way they were. And now I’ve got to work fast because if I’m going to hit the ground, it’s gravel and you hit a gravel road with a bike and I knew all that. So I went to the left and that’s all I remember. I ended up in the hospital. The helmet hat on was, wasn’t a, it was a football helmet that my friend who wasn’t going out with us, he lent it to me. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have had the helmet on. Because we didn’t get them until much later in the war. And then when they give it to me in the hospital, it was cracked. So that means I hit the, you know. But then I got home, I was in pretty good shape. Even the Germans, they were glad the war was over too. But don’t forget, lots of them went along with Hitler because they were all afraid, you know. If they didn’t go along with them, then they ended up somewhere in a grave, you know. I met a lot of Germans at the, they were glad the war was over, you know. You get the one that, you know, it’s, like here we have young people that believe in one thing or the other, so it’s … But most of the people were glad it was over. We were lucky, we lost only a few people. But right now, with that 120 people that we had in my troop there, there’s only six of us left. That’s why I brought the pictures, to show the people that we had and my motorbike. I’ve got a couple of pictures of my motorbike. Well, they’re old, you know. I try to preserve them but it’s pretty hard.
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