Veteran Stories:
Phil Peterson

Army

  • Phil Peterson at the George Derby Center, Burnaby, British Columbia, November 2011.

    Historica Canada
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"Some died on my right or my left, whatever. That’s the way it was. It’s a wonder I didn’t get bombed too. Because it’s a horror story on the frontlines, I tell you."

Transcript

I came up here and joined up at Little Mountains [a neighbourhood in Vancouver, British Columbia] where the bus depot is, there’s a big army camp there. Because you used to take the streetcar down, and there were streetcars then, downtown in the east end there. And so sell a bottle to the bootlegger, I had enough money to eat a good meal, because I didn’t like the meal in the army camp. And then from there, they shipped me to Alberta and I did my basic training in Camrose [Alberta]. And then from there, I went to Calgary [Alberta], the army camp is not in Calgary anymore but I did my advanced training. Every time you finish training, they gave you two week leave. And they shipped me back to Nova Scotia. They sent me to Italy and I was in the Seaforth Highlanders. I never got hit or anything. I was lucky but I think a lot of them did get hit, got wounded or killed. It wasn’t very nice to see but that’s part of war, you know. I’ll never forget that, I tell you. I was just lucky that I didn’t get it. I could have. Some died on my right or my left, whatever. That’s the way it was. It’s a wonder I didn’t get bombed too. Because it’s a horror story on the frontlines, I tell you. I remember a sniper, it was in Holland, almost to the end, and this boy was beside me, the sniper got him. He could have just as well got me because I was bigger than him, you know. You never know. Towards the end of the war, we were getting just outside of Amsterdam [the Netherlands] and was 90 to 100 people in a big town like Rotterdam and Amsterdam and the big cities, dying really of starvation. But then towards the end of the war, we weren’t moving ahead or anything, they flew planes over to drop food for the Dutch people. And I guess they’ve never forgotten that, it was nice, you know, I enjoyed it. We moved into Dutch barracks after they signed the agreement with the Germans. And the Germans wanted some of the rebels back so they could shoot some of the soldiers that had disobeyed. They weren’t very nice. And my good friend, I had a good friend, and we trained together. He was Protestant and I was Catholic, so we were going to church every Sunday. I’d go to his church once I think when I was in Calgary, he’d go to mine. Oh boy. And that was a good friendship though. He was good, he reminded me of Fred Astaire because he was a good dancer. I wasn’t a good dancer but he was. I inquired about him because he was in Europe and somebody said got killed. And that hurt me quite a bit because we were really good friends, you know. But I wasn’t with him. So a lot of them didn’t make it. There are cemeteries over there and they’re not small. I don’t know why they have so many wars, they’re not nice.
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