Veteran Stories:
Ivar “Little Jesus” Bjerke

Army

  • Ivar Bjerke in Chilliwack, British Columbia, October 19th, 2010.

    Historica Canada
  • Ivar Bjerke's Service Medals (L-R): Canadian Volunteer Service Medal; War Medal (1939-45); NATO Medal; Peacekeeping Medal; United Nations Service Medal; Canadian Forces Decoration.

    Ivar Bjerke
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"Food was not in great supply and cigarettes were in great demand."

Transcript

At Christmastime in 1942, I walked out of school and didn’t go back to school. I went and joined the army in January 1943, and that was in Vancouver. And I was moved to [No. 121 Canadian Army (Basic) Training Centre] Maple Creek, Saskatchewan for my basic training. And when I completed basic training, I was supposed to go onto advance, but because of my age, they decided I should spend a year in trade school until I was old enough. So I went to [No. 70 Canadian Army (Basic) Training Centre] Fredericton, New Brunswick, for a drafting course, which I finished and then we had an exam up in… that was a one year course which gave us a lot of training in surveying and drafting, and everything. But it was quite interesting.

And then I went up to [A5 Canadian Engineer Training Centre] Petawawa for our advanced engineer training and spent about three months there in 1944. And then they shipped us, when we finished that, they shipped us to [Camp] Aldershot [Nova Scotia] and over to England. So I took a dispatch rider’s course, which was the only short one they had, was one week long, and they figured I could spare that much time. So we went through the course and then I was shipped over to Holland for being a dispatch rider with the 4th Field Park Squadron [Royal Canadian Engineers].

I only spent about three or four months there, not even that, three I guess, and then [Canadian Major-General B. M.] Hoffmeister, who was our general at the time in the 5th [Canadian (Armoured)] Division, was soon taking over the 6th [Canadian (Armoured)] Division for the Pacific force and he had a big meeting in the stadium there; and he said he’d like to see some familiar faces in his new command. So I got on my motorcycle and headed back to the camp as fast as I could to volunteer for the Pacific. And there was already seven ahead of me lined up. I don’t know how they got there because I had the fastest motorcycle in the place.

Anyway, I got on the Pacific force and went home, had a month’s leave, and during that time, VJ [Victory in Japan] Day happened and the whole thing was over.

We were in Groningen in Holland and the Orange group [Dutch Resistance movement] volunteered to do the guard duty on our… We were staying in a school, sleeping on the gym mats. And they relieved us of our duties. That was their underground, the Orange group. And so we had more freedom to get around and meet a few people. There was some unfortunate things you see there, like in Groningen, they had the, all the ladies that had consorted with the German troops, all had their, they were all in a compound with their hair shaved off to designate them as unpopular people. There was a few things like that that was a little bit disturbing. They were a little bit on the, we thought they were a little on the cruel side because a lot of the poor older Dutchmen and even the young ones were in need of many things. Food was not in great supply and cigarettes were in great demand. So they were always trying to trade something with us for chocolate bars or anything good that we had like cigarettes, which was not good. But they wanted them.

I remember one time, one of the Orange group shot a poor old guy in the foot because he was too persistent. So we chased them away. We took over our own guard duties, we didn’t want them any longer, because that was a little rough we thought.

One of the problems is that some people just can’t handle any authority. Like they get a little bit of authority for the first time in their life and they become power crazy, we used to call it. And I guess that’s what took over this young fellow that got careless with his weapon. Yeah, it may even have been an accident, we didn’t know that, whether it was or not, so we fired him anyway.

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