Veteran Stories:
Don Hadley


  • Canadian R.C.E.M.E inspecting a B-29 Superfortress bomber, sister ship to the Enola Gay and Bock's Car that carried the atomic bomb in 1945.

  • Hadley, Hodgins and Jones beside a German tank in Ravenna, Italy, 1944.

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"So I sent home to my mother an SOS: “Send Over Skates”. So she did, and from then on I guess I was the only Canadian in England with my own skates."


Donald Hadley. I was a Lance-Corporal in World War II and the unit I was with was the Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.

I was 21 years old when I first joined the RCOC in Toronto. We had a workshop on University Avenue where Mount Sinai Hospital now stands, but then after about three months, they sent me to Camp Borden for basic training. Ironically, we went from Borden, Canada to Borden, England. This big workshop was waiting for us. We had to work on all the equipment that the Canadians had had in England for two or three years. All the tanks and guns, and everything was just in bad repair. I was at A Company working on tanks most of the time.

I was trying out skates in all the different arenas at Brighton, Perly, Aberdeen and places like that, but every time I rented a pair of skates, couldn't hardly use them because they were so dull, never been sharpened. So I sent home to my mother an SOS: "Send Over Skates". So she did, and from then on I guess I was the only Canadian in England with my own skates.

They started taking the older men that had been in field workshops, they were bringing them in, replacing them with us young guys that had just arrived from Canada, so after that I was transferred to 2nd Brigade which was a field workshop.

We were stationed about halfway between Rome and Perugia. It was a quiet day, the blue sky was in perfect condition and all of a sudden we heard this tremendous roar overhead, and as we looked up, there was three squadrons of US heavy bombers – Liberators and Flying Forts – like, a wave of three of them. Each squadron had 36 planes. But there was no less than ten of these waves, which you could see all at once: 1,080 planes.

And one day my Sergeant-Major came to me and he said, "Tomorrow morning be on parade in your best uniform because you're going on a trip." Arrangements had been made with the USO Show, which was in our area at the time, starring Marlene Dietrich and Danny Thomas. And they were so close to our unit that they invited two Canadians from each unit to come over and see the show. And I was one of them. Always remember that.

After we went through the Sicilian campaign, which only lasted about a month, and then another 19 months in the Italian campaign, they decided to move the Canadian Army- the Canadian Corps- we had two divisions there in Italy. And so they decided that they wanted the Canadian Army all together. Two other divisions- or another Corps, I should say- they had been going through from Normandy through to Holland, so the rush-rush was to get the Canadian Army all together as one before the war ended. So they decided that us guys in Italy, the 90,000-man Corps of the 1st Division and the 5th Division, had to be moved out of Italy in a hurry and brought up to northwest Europe to join up with the rest of the Canadians.

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