"I was back to the house with the milk and I only walked about 500 yards when a large shell hit and exploded right where I had been sitting milking."
I went overseas on May 25th, 1944, and returned on November 14th, 1945. During my tour overseas, I helped occupy or did guard work in England and the bombs and the planes were flying over. And then I went over to Normandy shortly after D-Day [the Allied landings of June 6, 1944]. And as soon as I hit the shores on Normandy, I was assigned to the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders [of Canada].
Well, I was stationed in England, before going over to Normandy. And the Duke of Edinburgh [Prince Philip, later consort of Queen Elizabeth II] came to view all the troops, Canadian, British, American, you name it. The Queen wasn’t with him at that time but a group of us were placed in the building, I don’t know what kind of building, but there’s room for, you know, maybe 30, 40 soldiers. So the Duke came into that building and he walked around. We were lined up along the walls and he shook hands with all our soldiers. So when he asked each individual what battalion or regiment they served in, and when he came to me, of course, I had the honour of saying, oh, I served in the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada. He said, oh my goodness, that’s my wife’s regiment. So he shook my hand a little more tight and I didn’t think he was going to let go but he finally did and, and that was, that was another honour, another highlight of my military career that I could shake hands with the Duke of Edinburgh.
I was assigned a Bren Gun carrier because I had qualified and trained as a driver/mechanic. So I held that title and the carrier until the end of the war. I functioned as a driver/mechanic and I drove all the way along up the west coast of Normandy, in the dark mind you because we couldn’t have lights on our carriers. The enemy would see us. And I was assigned to the mortar platoon, the three inch mortars. And we had kind of a platoon of six different mortars and we fired them, at almost point blank or over a hill or what have you. The distance of firing was about three quarters of a mile. And we fired so fast that our barrels on our mortars got red hot and then we had to quit firing because the enemy would see those red barrels. So we quit until they cooled off.
We kept going to, as I mentioned, Belgium, Holland, into Germany and then finally the war was over when we were in Oldenburg [Germany].
While I was in Holland, and they mentioned we sort of occupied vacant farm dwellings. And that’s where we slept because the people had vacated the buildings on account of the war and we must remember, we were on the front lines. We rose in the morning and decided, well, let’s make some porridge for breakfast. So we cooked porridge for breakfast and then we didn’t have any milk to put on the porridge. So I, being a farmer’s boy, I volunteered to go out in the field where a herd of cattle were grazing and I took what is known as a four litre ice cream pail and I started milking the cow.
I got my pail half full when a little pony came over and scared my cow. And that was the end of my milking. So I started back to a camp, I was back to the house with the milk and I only walked about 500 yards when a large shell hit and exploded right where I had been sitting milking. So I was very grateful to that little pony for frightening my cow away and I have loved horses ever since.