Veteran Stories:
Sam Lenko

Army

  • Sam Lenko in Rome carrying ten cartons of a thousand cigarettes for trade and currency, since Italiian money was worth so little during the war.

  • Sam Lenko took German language lessons with this group in Recinizeng, followed by training at Aldershot in England in 1942.

  • Sam Lenko (centre) with fellow Loyal Edmonton regiment members cutting cordwood in the Arctic in August 1939.

  • The S.S. McKinzie, a boat Sam Lenko worked on from 1938-1939 two miles from Great Slave Lake before serving in the war. He was paid $1.50 a day but could eat all the strawberries he wanted.

  • Sam Lenko and Harold Wiltse clowning around before being shipped overseas with the Loyal Edmonton Regiment in 1940.

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"And a great big Welshman there grabbed me by the neck, and he says, Come on Canada! You can make it!"""

Transcript

My name is Sam Lenko. I'm now eighty-two. I joined up in February the 14th, 1940. I had to lie about my age to get in. I only trained for about thirteen weeks in Calgary, and then I was sent overseas to Aldershot, and I joined the Royal Edmonton Regiment there. But then this raid come on to Spitsbergen, and our company was chosen. That was one of them that was on this trip. We had to go in there and take the Russians out to Russia, and the Norwegians back to Scotland, and they eventually came to Canada. But we burnt the towns down. About three hundred thousand tonne of coal. Destroyed everything, and got back to England safely. And we went to Sicily. And it was awful getting on the ship - a heck of a storm. We made it on the landing craft. I think it was about two o'clock in the morning. We were dumped off in the water on a false beach. I had a Mae West on, with air, and I floated in a bit. And a great big Welshman there grabbed me by the neck, and he says, "Come on Canada! You can make it!" I managed to get up on the bottom of the shore - on the rocks - and as I run up the shore, you know, you're full of water... the thing was that three hundred yards or so just seemed like a lifetime. There was one Italian shooting, and that was all. We broke through into the brush, and there was an Italian standing there with an Abyssinian rifle about two foot longer than himself, and he seen me, and he threw his rifle. The Sergeant beside me, and he says: "Shoot him! Shoot him! Shoot him!" And I looked, and I said: "But he's got no boots on." We were so well trained that I noticed that, you know, it was odd that the guy didn't have any boots on. So the Sergeant says, "What are we going to do with him?" I told him, "Just point for him to go down to the shore." And that was it.
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