Veteran Stories:
Jack Wilcox

Army

  • Jack Wilcox with fellow "boy soldiers" and members of the Canadian Technical Training Corps ski patrol. Mr. Wilcox is second from right, back row.

  • While stationed with the Fredericton unit of the CTTC, Jack Wilcox posed in his winter-issue cap after the first snowfall of winter, 1944.

  • A very tall Jack Wilcox poses with fellow "boy soldier" Shorty Fairhead from Montreal. The two were assisgned the task of washing windows.

  • Group of CTTC recruits in Fredericton in the back of a 1600-weight Army utility vehicle. Jack Wilcox is second from right.

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"You had to go down and up, but they threw smoke bombs at us so you didn’t know when the ditch was coming."

Transcript

I enlisted as John Wilcox in the Veterans' world and my health card says John, but they call me Jack. I'm seventy-eight years old now, born in 1927. I guess things started when I left Dartmouth High School in 1944 to volunteer for Army service. I was seventeen at that time. So I volunteered, and they put me in the Canadian Technical Training Corps., which was an outfit for what we called 'boy soldiers.' When you get to be eighteen you get a Private's pay. I transferred then to the Royal Canadian Artillery to train in gun management at St. John, New Brunswick. We did serious basic training, bayonets and all, and there I almost killed a colleague at one time because they used to put us through the obstacle courses in full battle dress and bayonets and run us through the obstacle course in which there was the occasional ditch. You had to go down and up, but they threw smoke bombs at us so you didn't know when the ditch was coming. And they also threw at us things we called 'thunderflashes,' which simulated grenades more or less, but made a hell of a noise. We were running across this course and the friend of mine in front of me fell and sprawled in the ditch and I fell behind him in the smoke, and my bayonet just went between his arm and his chest. We got the hell out of there, needless to say. We scrambled out of there fast, because there were guys behind us still. That was the most serious event that happened to me as a near-death experience during the war. After V-E Day in 1945, and that was only eleven months after I'd joined, Canada asked for volunteers for the Pacific war. Our outfit volunteered one hundred percent. We made plans to ship out to Kentucky for training in Pacific warfare, but the Americans dropped the big bombs on Japan and we were hurriedly discharged from service. When I got out, I learned that provisions were made for continuing education. So having lost both my mom and dad in the 1930s, Army service gave me the opportunity for education that otherwise wouldn't have been possible. My married sister was living in Sydney at the time, so from her home I completed high school – senior matriculations – with an accredited certificate from Sydney Academy High School down in Sydney, Cape Breton. While I was in Sydney, I gathered photographs and prepared biographies of the school's war dead. They were just names – sort of a roll call on a poster sheet that was in the main hall. So I got biographies and gave a little human interest to the young people who'd died. There were fifty from Sydney Academy who died during the war, and the resulting booklet is now a very vital part of the Academy's annual Remembrance ceremony.
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