Eldon Comfort at the end of a 48-hour leave in Brussels, Belgium in November 1944.Eldon Comfort
Eldon Comfort stands next to his jeep in the pouring rain near Antwerp, Belgium in October 1944.Eldon Comfort
Eldon Comfort during his basic training in Cornwall, Ontario in August, 1942.Eldon Comfort
Eldon Comfort stands with his wife and holds their daughter for the first time since returning from two years overseas in July 1945.Eldon Comfort
Newspaper clipping that shows Eldon Comfort examining a Teller mine wired to an artillery shell that failed to go off. It was left behind by the Germans as they fled Dieppe, France in a hurry. The article appeared in the Toronto Evening Telegram on September 14, 1944.Eldon Comfort
"It was at that point that I became a confirmed pacifist. To see those young men, boys really, behind barbed wire, dispirited, bedraggled, hungry, disorganized, of course, and I thought to myself, surely, these guys aren’t my enemy."
What did I think about going overseas? Well, I knew it was inevitable, that was the reason for signing up, because sizing up the situation, as it was going then in Europe, they needed all the men they could get. So I had no qualms about serving at the front.
Well, on the way, I was seasick all the way, so when I arrived, I wasn’t in very good shape. We went over on the [SS] Île de France [troop transport vessel] and landed in Scotland, and then took the train from there down to southern England, where we would be held there in reserve.
But I wasn’t attached to any particular branch of the service when I went over. I went over as being held in reserve and as it happened, the signal officer that I eventually replaced got injured and I was called to take his place, oh, four or five days after D-Day. So I went over in one of the landing craft across the [English] Channel and had to wade ashore.
The landing craft couldn’t always get right up because the beach was fairly shallow. And it got up as close as it could and then like a big tailgate at the front came down, and we emerged from that. It was just a wide open kind of flat boat that would hold about, oh, I suppose there were 50 of us on there. And we’d go down this ramp into the water, about up to our waist, and then up onto the shore.
From there, I was posted to the headquarters of the 2nd Divisional Artillery [part of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division], which was where the officer had been that I was replacing, so that my job was to take charge of a section of men who were in charge of the communications between the 2nd Division heavy artillery and the observation posts. So we used telephones, so we had to put out lines when it was possible. If we were on the move, we had to use radio.
I had to keep close contact with headquarters, so that I would know if there was going to be any move. And I was always part of the reconnaissance party that went forward. When the headquarters was going to move, then I had to go with them to set up our own communication post at the head or near the headquarters. And when we weren’t on the move, I was sort of troubleshooter for the men. They were problems always arising; and I would have a jeep and driver at my disposal, and could move around within the area in which we were operating. So I was supposed to know something about the radios and the telephones, and be able to do the troubleshooting.
Right after V-E Day [Victory in Europe Day: 8 May, 1945], our unit was stationed up in Wilhelmshaven [Germany], just to try to keep the peace for a while. The Germans had been disarmed, of course, but there were still a lot of them around and a lot of them were still in sort of prison enclosures. It was at that point that I became a confirmed pacifist. To see those young men, boys really, behind barbed wire, dispirited, bedraggled, hungry, disorganized, of course, and I thought to myself, surely, these guys aren’t my enemy. I was a reluctant soldier in the beginning myself; and I couldn’t help but wonder how many of those youngsters had been reluctant soldiers themselves, that were simply obeying orders. At that point, they didn’t know that Hitler had already been dead for about a week.
So at that point, when I talk to high school students and so on, back home, after I came home, I used to tell them that the question they should be asking themselves is not who is my enemy, but who is my brother and sister.
Interview date: 10 November 2010