Veteran Stories:
Gerard Culkeen

Army

  • Gerard Culkeen, 2009

    Historica Canada
  • Gerard Culkeen's Medals (Left to Right): 1939-45 Star; France and Germany Star; Canadian Volunteer Service Medal; War Medal (1939-45); Centennial Medal.

    Gerard Culkeen
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"We treated them better because if you were nasty to them, then they would renege and do the same to us over there."

Transcript

Gerard, GERARD, Culkeen, CULKEEN. I was born up north at Sparrow Lake, which was about a three mile from Kilmore Lake. And that’s about 100 mile north of Toronto. I got called up in ‘43, in November. I was 18 at the time. And I was to report in November of that year but my father was already in the army and I had to be at home to look after things. So I wrote back when I got the letter and I said, my father was already in the service and I says, could I have it later. Word came back, permission granted, you’ll report the first of February in ‘44. I told them what was what because married men had Christmas off and the single got New Years. That was the start back and then I had to report down to the Exhibition grounds and that’s when I enlisted. And I was the oldest son at home and I’d look after things while he was away. As a veteran guard, guarding the prisoners when they’re brought over from Germany. There were some pretty high ranking officers from there. And Gravenhurst was one of the internment camps. And they were all over Espanola and down near Windsor and he was to those different places. Well, I think they were treated better than ours were. We treated them better because if you were nasty to them, then they would renege and do the same to us over there. We didn’t notice too much damage until we got, seen around Cologne and stuff like that. That town never (unintelligible), pretty done over. The roads were cleaned with bulldozers and all the bricks were there to let passage go through but the end of houses, you could see bathtubs on the second floor and the walls all around them were knocked out and bricks piled all over the place. It was totally disaster. Once we found out the regiment we were with, we had to walk up through, through the field… this row and then cut through a field and then we finally got into where our OC - our major, he was - welcomed us to the regiment. And then from then on, that was fighting. There was a lot of that you had to lay down and shoot behind hedges and stuff. And the odd place if we had time, we would dig a trench and stay down because we had to lay down, we were digging because they could, they could shoot from these old windmills, which was an observation post for them. It was after dark. We had to lay down or else we’d have been shot at. And there was only one or two dugouts that we had to make in the field. We stayed there until our corporal, when he got word, then we’d move on to another place. We had to get out of there and run and hide behind the houses, so we wouldn’t be shot at. And there’d be two of us maybe at a time but we had to go like a bat out of you know. (Laughs) We came home later after that. My mother and two and three of the women that they knew, met me down at the exhibition and we were marched in from the train. The officer in charge says, you, when you get in the building, you’ll look for the letter of the alphabet that your last name starts with and if there was anyone here, looking for you, they’ll be there under that letter. So of course, I looked under my letter C and it was my mother and a couple of cousins there waiting up in the seats. And that was that and I came home and I got a month’s leave, and I got my discharge the first of October of ‘46. It was just like about 60 some years ago this last weekend.
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