"and he turned around and said, can any of you soldiers serve mass? I said, I can. So I served mass in the Vatican, in St. Peter’s."
After teaching two or three groups the advanced training, I got my advanced training, and then I taught two or three others, they put me on a ship for going overseas and I had to revert down to a private there, that’s back to private again, it goes corporal, lance corporals and back to private. Went overseas to Aldershot [Canadian military headquarters] in England on the [SS] “Louis” Pasteur [troop transport] boat. It was a fast boat and I was seasick from an half hour out of Halifax until we got into where the Beatles come from, the town, Liverpool.
I was in England for three months and we went on a ship to, convoy, I guess it was, to Italy. I arrived in Italy on Easter Sunday 1944, I guess. And we were stationed at Avellino, that was the holding unit. And I was put on guard duty there. I decided if I was going to be back to provost corps [military police] stuff, I wanted to learn to drive a truck because provosts don’t last long overseas.
So I took a day course and was on night duty. When you’re younger, you don’t mind that. And I learned to drive the 1600 weight [truck]. Drove all over Italy hauling supplies to the front lines and to camps from different places in Rome. I’m Roman Catholic. The priests in the army, military priests, were allowed one mass in the Vatican in St. Peter’s [Basilica]. This American had got his time; and he turned around and said, can any of you soldiers serve mass? I said, I can. So I served mass in the Vatican, in St. Peter’s.
We went from Italy to become the Canadian army in Europe. We drove a lot of people down to Naples to the ships to go to Marseilles; and we loaded our trucks on another ship and went to Marseilles. We lost one truck somewhere between Avellino and Marseilles. Don’t know what happened to it. I think somebody must have traded it off or it was stolen, or something, I don’t know. But it disappeared. We lost another one when the crane lifting the trucks up on the ship, one of the hooks came loose and the truck tumbled out and crashed. And I remember seeing the Italians deck workers running towards the truck and they had it pretty near stripped before anybody got near them.
I was in Paris on VE [Victory in Europe] Day. So that’s why the celebration’s there. We had them all over the trucks there and that’s why we parked there, and celebrated with them. Where I parked my truck, we were a convoy, so we parked all alongside the road and left the car there, and that was when you went into Paris. They were so used to this curfew, the people were all out on the street. And I had the French Canadian fellow with me and I was English-speaking Canadian, he spoke both. He had about 15 to 20 girls with him and I had a couple with me.
We walked all down through, oh, the subways too, taking to go to sections of Paris, and past the Eiffel Tower and whatnot. At 10:00, I guess it was maybe 9:00, 10:00, somewhere there, they suddenly disappeared. Everybody disappeared. The underground was closed and you couldn’t get on them. So we had to walk from there clear across Paris to where our trucks were.