Craftsman Robert Hammill, Base Workshop, Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (R.C.E.M.E.), Bordon, England, 3 April 1945
Credit: Lieut. Christopher J. Woods / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-191183
Restrictions on use: Nil
Roger Maynard was also in the Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
"From there, we were able to start gathering assault vehicles that had been immobilised or damaged, and we slowly started fixing what could be fixed."
I finished the Montreal technical school in 1937. From then on, it was the Great Depression in Montreal. So, I started working in a few big garages. At that time, work was scarce. We would go and sit in a garage on a bench and wait for the clients to come in. If by chance someone came, we were free to take the client or accept the repair, and then we would stamp the time we spent fixing that car. That was our system; we were paid only if there was something to do.
I was trying to get into the Air Force. I was refused due to problems with my eyes. My eyes were bad and I had been wearing glasses since the age of seven. So the Air Force rejected me. I went to the ordinance to ask if there were any vehicles or anything else I could fix as a mechanic and they still refused me, they didn't want me at all! Until the moment when I went to see the brother of a friend of mine, he was an officer in a French Canadian regiment, and he knew me quite well. So I went to speak with him and finally they agreed to take me on as a soldier. So that's when my military career began.
We were in Valcartier and he was aware that we were preparing to go overseas so they transferred me to the general quarters of the brigade. Then the riflemen left for Ireland. I stayed behind for another three weeks with the general quarters and then we left for England. When I arrived in England, I was put to work as a mechanic and I did anything mechanical, until they sent me to give classes in that field. I continued my instruction until I had enough knowledge to take an armament fitter course, to become a technician in electricity and mechanics. So I went with the English army, to the Royal Military College of Science and I attended the entire course. I finished that and they promised the rank of Chief Warrant Officer and I was employed by the 2nd Armoured Brigade, with the REME workshop [Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers]. I went over on the day of the invasion. The day that we landed in France with 40 men, I was the head of the situation for 40 men. Basically, I landed with 40 of my men who weren't all mechanics.
I was supposed to leave when the war was over, but the war was ending so we had to take all of the assault vehicles used by the 2nd Armoured Brigade. Each assault vehicle had to undergo a full inspection, an assessment and had to be sent out for repair. Then we had to make sure that all of the required work was completed properly and then they were sent to the ordinance and back to the storehouse. So I had to stay and I couldn't go back to Canada until all of that work was completed. I went back to Canada on the day of Japan's victory.
We were on the ship, it was our turn to get off, and so we took our transport vehicles that were in the boat's hold. We used a cable, while others went to secure the vehicles in the bottom of the hold, and then lifted the vehicles onto the deck. Then, near the boat, we installed barges and lifted the vehicles from the boat onto the barges. We used barges because the ship couldn't get any closer to the shore, the water wasn't deep enough, but the barges could pull right up to the bank. Then the barge doors opened, and the vehicles descended into water about three or four feet deep. The vehicles were all adapted and could even operate under water. They could make it to the edge of dry land but from then on, we were exposed.
There was a steep bank, so when getting off the vehicle, you had to be careful to bypass the bank. It was possible to go by foot but we had to leave our supplies in the vehicle. So we set off by foot and walked and walked. There are always Germans who could come up from behind. So, after walking for about 20 minutes or a half-hour, we rested for a few minutes; just enough time to check the periphery to make sure there were no landmines that were about to explode. Then we arrived at our position and we waited there. So I waited with my men until I was told what to do. It was probably the next day; we kept accumulating supplies, surrounding ourselves with all sorts of supplies that were arriving by truck. The next day, we were pretty well advanced so we left to let someone else take our position and so that we could get rid of some of the hodgepodge of supplies we had accumulated. Then from there, we broadened our territory and started the assembly in order to plan what we were going to do. So we kept that up for the first few weeks until we became stable. From there, we were able to start gathering assault vehicles that had been immobilised or damaged, and we slowly started fixing what could be fixed. We cannibalised vehicles and took what we needed and got rid of the bad parts. We kept that up until the end of June (1945).