"While loading, next to us was the [SS] Lady Nelson hospital ship unloading casualties. We remarked that we did not want to come back on that ship"
Military history of the Slater family of Edwin and Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. I, Lloyd Slater, joined the 37th Field Battery Militia [Royal Regiment of Artillery], Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, on August the 8th, 1940. Took a course at Henry Avenue, Winnipeg. Transferred to the RCAF [Royal Canadian Air Force] at the Lindsay Building in Winnipeg on July the 9th, 1941. I was then sent to Brandon, Manitoba, Number 2 Manning Depot. I was then transferred to St. Thomas, Ontario, for training as an air-frame mechanic.
After training, I was sent to Number 3 bombing and gunnery school, Macdonald, Manitoba, to work on preparing battle aircraft - test fly them - at twenty-five cents a trip. I then went to Lachine, Quebec, before going to Halifax by troop train to embark on the [SS] Nieuw Amsterdam - a Dutch ship - along with about ten thousand others. While loading, next to us was the [SS] Lady Nelson hospital ship unloading casualties. We remarked that we did not want to come back on that ship. I guess I was lucky to come back on her, as some did not come back at all.
We left Halifax unescorted, and docked at Gourock, Scotland, then to Gloucester, 419 [Moose] Squadron in Yorkshire, working on Lancaster bombers. While there, I took sick with pleurisy. I went to base hospital at North Allerton, and then I was taken by ambulance to chapel hospital where Lady Astor stayed. She lived in Cliveden Mansion.
While there, prisoners of war were returning who were captured at Dieppe. Lady Astor talked to the patient next to me and asked what he'd like. He replied, "Creampuffs." She replied, "A prisoner of war for two and a half years, and you want creampuffs?" But a couple of hours later, back she came with creampuffs for him.
I was in that Canadian hospital when V-E day came. Lady Astor came in, saying the war was over and we could go home. They didn't need us any more. I was still a bed patient - I was taken by hospital train to the dock to meet the hospital ship, the [SS] Lady Nelson. She was there waiting for me, and took me to Halifax, and home. We traveled by hospital train to Winnipeg, and Deer Lodge hospital where I was on medical discharge. After spending six months in the hospital, I returned home to Edwin. Three of us who served with 419 Squadron were Ken Holland, Merve Owens, and myself. We all became presidents and life-members of Portage la Prairie Royal Canadian Legion.
After returning home, I married Beth Pallister, my school chum, who also served with the Royal Canadian Air Force. We had two boys - Keith and Kenneth.