Photo taken in England in 1944, Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (RCEME) Workshop.Walter Blaszynski
Photo of Walter Blaszynski during his basic training in Orillia, Ontario, 1942.Walter Blaszynski
Photo of the workshop in Leer, Germany, 1945. Walter is pictured in the centre.Walter Blaszynski
Tent city in Orillia, Ontario 1942.Walter Blaszynski
Photo of the No 1 Canadian Sub Workshop RCEME in England 1944.Walter Blaszynski
"We knew the invasion was on because we were delivering tanks and everything else to a staging area ready to load on the ships to go over."
The first thing that [I] really realized what war is like, as you know, [in] the First World War, there were a lot of soldiers that were gassed, mustard gas and that. Well, we got a good taste of it. They would put us in a room with gas in it with our respirators on and then you had to take your respirator off and do a little exercise and breathe in gas. So, you know, you realize how valuable your respirator would be if in case, you know, it was ever used again. Fortunately, it never was used in the Second World War, but, yes, it was quite an experience. And then I guess the next, like I’m not a lover of water, and when we were going on the troop ship to England. We went over without a convoy.
And about halfway out in the ocean, we were out two or three days, and I was alerted to, they shut the engines down, everything quiet, nobody was to speak because there was submarines in the area. And where I was, there was 5,000 troops on there, and along the port side, you know where the decks are, well, they had hammocks, five on top of the other, hanging and so everybody slept in the hammock, you know, right in the cold weather.
But, anyway, I realized where the lifeboat was and your lifejacket is with you. But, fortunately, I guess we were about four or five hours, you know, just the ship was motionless. And then after they got all clear to start sailing in and we got to England.
At one point in Italy, when our Canadian troops were there, they asked for some tradesmen to go to Italy; and I volunteered again, but we were quarantined for about 20 days under guard. I guess they were advancing faster than they realized, so that was called back and I went back to the [Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (RCEME)] workshop. So I was there until 1943, Christmas. I was on leave to visit my cousin in the air force and I got an attack of appendicitis and so they transported me back by truck to Aldershot [Canadian army headquarters in England] where New Year’s Eve, they took my appendix out; and unfortunately, my appendix burst before they got it, so I had about six week recuperation in Colchester, England.
While I was there, the [Normandy] invasion [of June 6, 1944] started. You saw like thousands of planes in the air going overhead, so you knew the invasion was on. But we knew the invasion was on because we were delivering tanks and everything else to a staging area ready to load on the ships to go over. So we didn’t know when, but we knew the invasion was coming. The experience of the bombing of England, you know, the doodlebugs [Vergeltungswaffe-1 (V-1): German flying bomb], which were these, they would come over and you know, after a while, you would watch them and if there was flames coming out of the tail, well, then you knew it wasn’t going to land, it was going to go a little further, so you didn’t bother running for air raid shelters. And then there was a couple times in London [England] when bombs were dropped. There was three million Allied troops in England, so they had a place to feed and house them and bring food in, and so it was quite trying times.