Veteran Stories:
Rino S. Albanese

Army

  • Rino Albanese's platoon within the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, taken in Petawawa, 1943. Rino is sitting down, furthest left in the front row. the picture was taken by Rino's identical twin brother Philip, who served in the same platoon.

    Rino Albanese
  • HMS Comet docked in Wilhelmshaven, Germany. Rino was invited aboard by two British soldiers.

    Rino Albanese
  • A few fellows from Rino Albanese's platoon in front of their barracks. Rino Albanese is standing in the back row, second from the right.

    Rino Albanese
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"We felt that was really great, you know, because, yeah, they referred to us as Canadians and that was a good feeling for us."

Transcript

They sent my brother and I over to the United Kingdom (it was called the United Kingdom then, not England) to take a course with the artillery as driver operators. Because we were twins, we had a right to stay together. Brothers they could separate, but not twins, if the twins insisted on staying together. I don’t know if that’s the case now or not, but that was the rule then.

But after a few days, some of the fellows came into the hut and said, hey, guess what, we’re all in the infantry. So we got kind of worried, you know, that’s where we’re going to end up, in the infantry. So the SP officer [Personnel Selection officer], what they called a selection and personnel officer in the artillery, he came down and talked to us. And the gist of his conversation was: there’s some talk that you guys are going to go into the infantry. That’s all baloney, he said. We’re not going to let you guys get into to go to the infantries, you all got high school educations, we’re not going to let the infantry get a hold of you. Perish the thought. [laughs] Next day, we were all in the infantry. [laughs]

And they decided to send us to this signals camp to learn infantry signals. You were given a code every 24 hours; you had to change your frequency on your radio. And you were given a code like NBT, like Nan Baker Tear. So if you wanted to send a message, you were at, say headquarters companies, or you wanted to send a message to A company, it would be like this: Nan Baker Tear one, Nan Baker Tear one, message, Nan Baker Tear two. Or three or whatever that happened to be. And they’d reply.

I noticed the biggest transition when we got to England because in those days, you weren’t a Canadian unless you were of British descent, then you were Canadian. You were, well, in our case, we were Italian, and we were Italian until we got over England. Then all of a sudden, everybody in England were calling us Canadians because we had Canada on our uniform. And this was a tremendous psychological feeling for Phil and I, and the rest of them because we weren’t Ukrainians or Poles or Italians, we were Canadians to the British people. [laughs] We felt that was really great, you know, because, yeah, they referred to us as Canadians and that was a good feeling for us.

They sent us to Holland and the war ended right there. So we didn’t get to see any action, front line action. Instead, they put us in occupation duties. You see a lot of things that you don’t like to see. We used to see the highways, the roads in Germany just packed with refugees. They had no place to sleep. They’d sleep all on the side of the road and that. And these weren’t all Germans. A lot of them were slave labour. And yeah, it was hard to...

I remember, it was around Christmastime; and German kids in Berlin were on the verge of starvation. There wasn’t that much food. So the army had to go to Berlin and pick up these kids, these German kids, and distributed them amongst the farms in our area because they figured there would be more chance of them to feed them. And your dad [speaking to his niece] was then attached to this one camp for radio communication. And the kids would come in on a truck in the evening. Five, six year olds. And they’d be little girls. They’d be clutching a little toy, a little doll or something. We’d put them overnight in this camp, give them a hot meal and in the morning, we’d ship them out again.

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