Veteran Stories:
Harold Nahdin Young

Army

  • Government Pamphlet, August 23rd 1944

  • I.D. Page from Harold Young’s Service and Pay Book, 10th July 1943

  • Medical and miscellaneous entries from Harold Young’s Service and Pay Book, 10th July 1943

  • Portrait taken in a Professional studio in Montreal while awaiting discharge from service, September 1945

  • Harold Young carrying Olympic torch on entry to Thetford Mines during tour of the country leading up to the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, December 5th 2009

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"On every house, there was a flag, but it was a white flag; and nobody out in the streets at all, except a number of German soldiers who were just wandering back in the general direction of their homes, I guess."

Transcript

I was put up for officer training in England and this was a long course, it was about a ten month course. So during most of the war, I was going through this training period rather than being sent over to the continent while the war was going on. It wasn’t until about a month before, I guess in March, I have the date somewhere. March the twenty-sixth, I was transferred over to Belgium to a holding unit there. I was in the artillery and then in the holding unit, we had to wait there until a demand came from the front for us to be transferred up as a replacement.

In the holding unit, it was an interesting experience there, but we weren’t doing very much. We all wanted to get back into the, we could see that the end of the war was coming along; and everybody wanted to get up and get into action before it finished. Finally, a demand came through for reinforcements for a group up in Germany, which was up near Oldenburg. So we were put on trains and sent to, first of all, to the town of Nijmegen in Holland, which is right on the border of Germany. We landed there on May the eighth; and that happened to be VE [Victory in Europe] Day, the day everything stopped.

So the people in Nijmegen were extremely happy that the war was all over. So to celebrate on the Nijmegen, on VE Day, I can remember being downtown. I think the whole population was down there, thousands of people. There was nothing really organized except that somebody had put a loudspeaker up in the window somewhere or another, and were blasting out music to keep everybody happy. There were a number of people around there seemed to have machine guns and were firing tracer bullets into the air to make it look like fireworks. And there were other fireworks which were homemade fireworks.

In the shells which we used, the artillery shells, the explosive which was in there, it was called cordite [smokeless explosive material]. This was made up of a number of little, looked like long pieces of thin spaghetti with a hole through the centre of them. They found that if they crimped one end of it, and they lit the other end, and then they put this thing into a wooden block with the holes, holding it with their hands, then they lit the other end, these would take off like a rocket, and go scooting around, all around and then come down. Three or four times, they landed in the hair of the girls there and their hair would catch on fire. This is how they were celebrating the end of the war.

The next day, when we were traveling, we went by trucks from Nijmegen up to Oldenburg, to the place where we were going to be assigned, I remember seeing on every house, I think there was a Dutch flag was flying. And on the streets, the people would line up and were greeting us there and holding up their hands so that we could touch them as we were going by. Then as soon as we got across the border, it changed. On every house, there was a flag, but it was a white flag; and nobody out in the streets at all, except a number of German soldiers who were just wandering back in the general direction of their homes, I guess. They hadn’t been rounded up; they were just wandering by themselves there. And the white flags, of course, were showing that there was nobody in there that they had surrendered. It was just like travelling from day into night, as we traveled across that border.

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