"If you were a zombie, that’s what they called us, zombie, well, you were second class, but eventually they’ll get you, eventually they’ll send you overseas and put in the war."
Well, they sent me a letter and said that I must report on such and such a date. I took the, yeah, I reported. I reported a little bit late, but I reported. Prior to the letter from the army under the National Resources Mobilization Act, prior to that, I went to Hamilton, tried to join the air force, if they would send me where my brother was in England. They declined and I declined.
Then I thought I would try the merchant marine and I went to Fort William [Ontario], Patterson Steamship Line. Thought I would try out on the boats and the lake first, and then decide what I wanted to do. In the meantime, I had the letter from the government, telling me to report. And I stayed there for a while, but it wasn’t what I wanted, so I come back to Toronto and went to my grandmother’s house on Strachan Avenue and from there, I walked over to the army base at the Exhibition.
Well, basic training was tough. Everything was difficult. When you went and reported, they gave me the bedding, etc., I slept in the horse palace and by the time I got the dampness out of the blankets, it was to get up in the morning, with the Scottish bagpipes wailing at the end of my cot. Most of them that were with me were drafted. In fact, I think it was 100 percent. Some were French and they really showed displeasure in being in the army, the French being the Quebec people. If you were a zombie [conscripted soldier], that’s what they called us, zombie, well, you were second class, but eventually they’ll get you, eventually they’ll send you overseas and put in the war. Even though [Canadian Prime Minister] Mackenzie King said you can’t, they would.
Figured that I’m going to wind up dead anyway, so let them, if they’re going to send me overseas, I’m going to have to go overseas.
Sent me out to [Camp] Dundurn [A27 Canadian Reconnaissance Training Centre], Saskatchewan, where I had some more training with heavy rifles and washing pots and pans training, and cleaning out the washrooms and the toilets, and things like that. [Camp] Wainwright, Alberta, after that.
We lived in tents there. And then we had training where we’d go out in the countryside and learn how to use plastic explosives, and things like that. That was the 31st (Alberta) Reconnaissance [Regiment] Corps. From there, we went to, I don’t know where they went, but I went to Prince George and the polar bear expedition.
Well, you’d get up in the morning, I’d put on the radio, hold the radio, I carried that. And we’d reconnoiter the places and one time, we went up to a small mountain. We climbed a mountain, above the snow line, and if I remember, that was the time I think that they were going to, some artillery was supposed to go behind us, which would be just above the tree line and we were up in the snow. And heavy snow, no trees, and they started firing and then we scooted out of there. It took us, I think, a better part of the day to get up to the top of the mountain and about 20 minutes to get down. [laughs] I really don’t know what they wanted to do. They put us on, we had skis; we camped out in the bush. We were going to wind in Bella Coola [British Columbia], that’s what we were training for, which was on the west coast in case the Japanese attacked there, we were going there. So they did send, some of our group went to Bella Coola, but I stayed back in Prince George, or Williams Lake to be exact.
When that ended, I worked on sending some of the equipment back to probably wherever it had to go, on the train. And then the next thing I remember is I’m on the train going back to Toronto; and I get there and they gave me embarkation leave. By the time I got back, things were over in Europe and they didn’t know what to do with us at that time. They let me out for six months, without pay, and I stayed in Toronto for six months, in the army, but out of the army.
About the act, yes, I thought it was a good idea. You have to remember that at that time, the Japanese were in, where was it, one of the islands off of the Alaskan coast, and they were going to come through that way. And then I was, really, I’d have been there for that. When I come out, I was a little more grown up.