Veteran Stories:
Robert “Tommy” Atkins

Army

  • Letter to Robert Atkins' family informing them that Robert's brother had been killed while serving in the British Commomwealth Air Training Program, October 1943.

    Robert Atkins
  • Robert Atkins (see the arrow) HQ 13 Canadian Infantry Brigade in Kiska.

    Robert Atkins
  • Japanese Zero Fighter Manufacturers' Identity Panel, 1943.

    Robert Atkins
  • Diary of Defence Platoon, 1943.

    Robert Atkins
Enlarge Image
Listen to this story

"We went out to the Aleutians in 1943. It was a joint exercise between the Americans and the Canadians."

Transcript

Well, I was in Oakville High School and while I was there, I joined the Lorne Scots B Company as an infantryman. And went to camp with them a couple of times. I had been captain of the cadet corps in the high school and I enlisted to Brockville, to officer training. I was assigned from there to Nanaimo, British Columbia, to the 13th Canadian Infantry Brigade and I was in command of the headquarters defense platoon. The defense platoon was responsible for the defense of brigade headquarters against the infiltration, etc.

We went out to the Aleutians in 1943. It was a joint exercise between the Americans and the Canadians. The Americans had a division there and we had a brigade, so we were outnumbered about, oh, three to one, something like that. I think the Canadians had 5,000 troops in that organization. And the Americans had about three times that number, about 20,000. This was in the summertime and we were outfitted with winter gear in Nanaimo. So we knew it was going to be a fairly cold operation but we didn’t know where it was at that time. So we got down to, to training and some of the troops were sent up to Courtenay, B.C., I think it was, for a combined operation/landing operations training. I guess everybody was a little nervous but at that time, we weren’t sure whether the Japs were there or not, because there had been no sightings of any Japanese from the air for about a week. And we thought maybe they’d just gone to ground and were waiting for us to land.

But it turned out that our commanding general figured that if the Japs were not there, it would be good training for us to go through with the landing anyway. And if they were, we’d have a scrap. So we went ahead with the operation and when we landed, there were no Japanese anywhere. The Americans suffered about, oh, something like 20 dead in the operations and the Canadians suffered four. Mostly from mines, booby traps, and friendly fire. Well, people were landing like that and they’re not sure the people they may see in the fog would be friends or foe, so sometimes they just shot to find out. As a result, a few people were killed by friendly fire. But it was mostly from mines and booby traps.

The weather was not very friendly. The Aleutian Islands are situated in such a place in the ocean that the warm waters from the Japanese current come up on the south side of the chain of islands and the Siberian currents from the cold water from out of the north side. So when the air masses over these waters collide, you get fog, rain, snow, etc. We were there until New Year’s, 1943. When we were landing in the Aleutian Islands, the Canadians were landing in Sicily.

Follow us