"I know at 21, you had to automatically get called up, so I didn’t want to go into the army. I wanted to go into the air force. So I joined up at that time, although dad didn’t approve of it at the time."
Well, in enlisted in Saskatoon in the spring of 1943. I did nothing to enlist earlier due to dad requiring help on the farm, and my brother, Jim, had been in the army for three years at that time. I know at 21, you had to automatically get called up, so I didn’t want to go into the army. I wanted to go into the air force. So I joined up at that time, although dad didn’t approve of it at the time.
Where I started from was [RCAF Station] Brandon at landing school. And that I was selected there for air crew and I ended up being in the hospital there, just at the end of my basic training. I went in on a Friday to complain about a sore throat; and the next day he said come back and see what’s going on, and I had mumps at that time. So they sent me up to the Brandon airport in the isolation hospital the next day. The next day they discovered I had pneumonia and after that, pleurisy [inflammation of the linings of the lungs and/or chest cavity]. So they started treating me with sulfa drugs, which I believe was prior to penicillin.
Unfortunately, I was unconscious, I guess, for the next two weeks. My brother came up from [Camp] Shilo [Manitoba], he’d been stationed there after Fort Benning [near Columbus, Georgia, United States] training, and I have no recollection of him being there at all. I know I came to a couple of weeks later, they said. The nurse was suctioning all the phlegm, I guess, out of my throat and mouth, but after that, I was in that hospital, I think, for at least a month or six weeks, I don’t know. They sent me back home for six more weeks on sick leave.
From then, I returned to Brandon, Manitoba and they said my basic was completed anyhow, so they sent me up to [RCAF Station] Edmonton to further my education up to air force standards. We went to the, we called it ‘Wet- P,’ but it was WETP [War Emergency Training Program]; and I still don’t know what that stood for. But we lived out there and we boarded out, but we learned the rapid calculation math, physics just to bring up my education. I guess we also took English and whatnot.
From there, I was transferred to [RCAF Station] Regina, out to ITS, initial training school. We had, well, a little bit of everything there. Of course, everybody knows about that, anyhow. But one of our last exams was in navigation and it was a three hour air plot. They passed out the night before a few of the old air plots that we had been doing for practice and stuff. And fortunately, the plot that I had refreshed myself on the night before came up on the exam. And I got a very high mark naturally, just everything flicked right into where it should be. My ETA [estimated time of arrival] was right on the button when I got done.
Anyhow, I graduated out of ITS, but I had to wait another six weeks there, due to a backlog for pilots going to elementary flight training. They sent me with train tickets to [RCAF Station] Mount Pleasant, PEI, for operational training, which was basically a rehash of what we had done in [RCAF Station] MacDonald, except it was advanced bit more. And we were back on [Bristol Fairchild Type 142M] Bolingbrokes [maritime patrol aircraft] again and whatnot. That winter in PEI was terrific for snow. They had put the bulldozer right through one of the drifts and you could go through it as a tunnel, it was so bad.
Anyhow, we were waiting to be selected for overseas after that and the medical officer, when we went up to the last review, he discovered I had a hernia and he operated on me the next day. When I was in there, the whole draft was cancelled because it was VE [Victory in Europe] Day and some of the boys came back to the hospital to see me. Of course, they brought a little booze along and I don’t know, just everybody was celebrating anyhow. I got pretty well loaded up, I think, and I fell out of bed, but they got me back in anyhow.