Veteran Stories:
George Ethelbert Carter

Army

  • Judge George Carter, 2008. Credit: Michael Chambers.

    Michael Chambers
  • Judge George Carter, 2008. Credit: Michael Chambers.

    Michael Chambers
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"Yeah, the war did affect me because it made a number of things open to me as a black person. There were a lot of opportunities became available there."

Transcript

It was a great education for me, the army, of course, wherever I’d go, I tried to learn something. You can learn something even from a fool. There’s a certain fellowship develops, you know, a friendship there and yeah. And you’re in the wet canteen or you’re in the dry canteen, depending your habits. And then you have the Salvation Army [an international and evangelical Christian church movement known for its charitable work] doing theirs.

But I like the idea of exercise, running. You always have your rifle with you, at all times. And then going over that obstacle course always turned out to be rather amusing because you always waited to see which of your friend fell in the mud, in the water and everybody would be screaming on that and making a great deal. Because it’s one fellow competing against another when they’re crossing this. But I found it very entertaining and did it most of the time. But there was a lot of marching and running at a certain pace along the roads with your rifle at the cat as they call it. But all part of your training and I, this part I enjoyed. And some fellows thought, yeah, he’s crazy, that Carter.

So, then they put me in charge of a section of about ten men. I did my march all day or 10 miles out and 10 miles back. Just when you get to the gate, they decide you’ve got to go across the, what do you call it, the obstacle course. And that’s, you’re pretty tired by then. So that’s when the fellows would slip and go in.

You do develop some very great friendships. I think that’s one of the great things of the service, very close friendships. Because we were all training towards, that we would end up having, getting marching orders and head down towards Halifax [Nova Scotia] to board ship [and then going overseas]. I had a friend who was ahead of me and died on the beaches [during the Normandy invasion, June 6, 1944]. I learned that as soon as he hit the beaches in France, he had died. But we grew up together. That was just one instance that stood out very strong for me.

Well, the one thing I remember that stands out, we were going back to Ipperwash [Ontario], having had our leave. And we had been home to visit family and we were now going back to our base at Ipperwash and from there, we knew in due course we would be leaving because there’s another group coming in. And it’s on that train that we heard the news that the Germany army had surrendered to the Russians and then to the … [Allies, on May 8, 1945.] They wanted to surrender to Montgomery [Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, commander of the Allied ground forces, 1944-1945] rather than the Russians. And Montgomery said: ‘Well, you should have thought of that when you started the trouble with them.’

Yeah, the war did affect me because it made a number of things open to me as a black person. There were a lot of opportunities became available there. Before that, a lot of positions, you couldn’t get into. If you wanted to go here, go there, whatnot, oh wow, there are no openings for that. But the war, you see, the war just threw the whole thing open. The war going on, you’re out there with your buddy but he’s got a rifle, you’ve got a rifle. You’re both learning the same thing. Yeah, you’re defending what, Canada, and all that sort of thing. And then one day, it’s over.

And everybody’s going back to Civvy Street and you walk up Bay Street with your jacket on and you go in somewhere to have a drink together. And the guy said: ‘Well, we don’t ordinarily have colored people in here and so forth.’ So this chap would be with me, maybe of another persuasion and he just ordered three or four. And they all stand up and they said: ‘Oh? He was there training beside me the other day, oh yeah, but yeah, now, you going to get my drink or do we park cars here. We’ll just smash every damn thing here now.’ ‘No, no, no, no, no’, and he went and he got the police and everything. The police said: ‘Well, these fellows, some have uniforms and whatnot, they were in the service, what are you going to do?’

So those are the great things that came out of it of course and the other side, there was great tragedies too.

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