I was interviewed by a British colonel, asked if I would like to volunteer for service behind the enemy lines in Malaya because I looked Chinese. And I was supposed to be able to speak Chinese.
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I was interviewed by a British colonel, asked if I would like to volunteer for service behind the enemy lines in Malaya because I looked Chinese. And I was supposed to be able to speak Chinese. They needed people like me over there because they already exhausted all their manpower for people to jump in the lines in Malaya, to fight against the Japanese. So they finally decide to recruit some Chinese from Vancouver. I didn’t have to join, I had to volunteer.
I was attached to the Royal Canadian Engineers for basic training. I learned all about explosives, arms and weapons, special training, even tear gas, nerve gas, had to go through that ̶ anything that required training with the Royal Canadian Engineers. After seven weeks of basic training, I was slated to go overseas. And this British colonel came to interview me again at [A6 Canadian Engineer Training Centre] Chilliwack and I was supposed to go back east to get my commission because I was already with COTC, Canadian Officer Training Corps. He says, Herb, don’t go overseas, don’t go back east for your commission, come with us and I’ll give you a field commission. You know, when I went overseas, I was attached to the British army, what’s called SAS, Special Air Service, and actually with the Special Operations Executive, SOE. You cannot find anything in Canada on SOE, only London.
I was the only wireless operator who knew the code. All my Morse Codes got to be in code, not just plain language. I had to learn wireless operator in code, to transmit and receive 25 words a minute. That means 125 letters a minute to receive and transmit. I tell you, I don’t like wars. Wars are a waste of time, waste of life and money. I always say that. I have no pleasure in wars, killing or dying. But I didn’t know that when I volunteered. But it was just for, hey, I thought that … My parents say, why you do that, why you join up? I told them, hey, I felt it.
Crazy, but I did it, but I never regret it. I’m glad for all the experiences, you see. No one particular experience, no because everything combined. But I know it’s, hey, what I went through, I’m glad I went through because I think I was better for it. I did not die, yeah. Bullet wound. See it? Yeah. It’s a little thing. I saw a lot of things. A lot of people dying, but it made me a better man because of that. I’m glad I went through that. If I didn’t go through that, I don’t appreciate life. I don’t appreciate my wife or my girlfriend, my children. You, [your] whole life. Yeah, I’m lucky. Like this time when I went back to my village, I felt so lucky and humble.