"And this dust was just like white flour, about a foot deep so if you moved a foot, with a vehicle or anything, you got sent up in a cloud of dust and all the German positions were on the hills and these little towns were all built on hills and this you'd see for miles. So the minute you stirred that dust up, look out, we were plastered."
The first time I saw action was in Sicily [Italy]. There was plenty of action going on in England the first year because the bombers were coming over in the hundreds and we saw plenty of destruction and we were close to London and there was over 40,000 people killed there in those raids. So we had a good introduction to the war but the main thing I think that I remember about those days was the cooperation between the people and the prime minister of England and everybody was willing to lend a hand to help in any way and they were ready to fight with pikes and swords and fires and axes and anything that had, that's all they had. So it was a real ... But that didn't bother us at all. We went dancing and all that in the evening when we were off duty. And we got along great with the English people. And oh, it was just as I said, three years of solid training but during those periods of time, we were given leave. And in 1941, I met a girl in Brighton, England, and we went together for a year and a half and I married her on April 3, 1943. And on July the 10th, I landed in Sicily with the British 8th Army. So we had two months of marriage before I left for three years.
My wife was pregnant when I left and I had a daughter born while I was in Malta getting over jaundice. I'd already had malaria and that's another story, that's Sicily was because the temperature when we landed there was running in the 105 to 150 [Fahrenheit, over 40 degrees Celsius] all the time and terrible heat, dust was a foot deep. And I crossed Sicily on a motorbike, that was my job, being in charge of the one troop, signals. And this dust was just like white flour, about a foot deep so if you moved a foot, with a vehicle or anything, you got sent up in a cloud of dust and all the German positions were on the hills and these little towns were all built on hills and this you'd see for miles. So the minute you stirred that dust up, look out, we were plastered. So it was only a 38-day campaign but the Canadians were in the center and they did a good job but we lost a lot of good fellows there. So at the end of that campaign, they stationed us in a, I always call it a mosquito camp because it was at one poor night, there was almost 25 percent of the First Div [First Canadian Infantry Division] was down with malaria. And that meant being sent back down the line to get treated with quinine and stuff. So then it was just waiting around to invade further the Italian mainland, which we eventually did.
[Traveling over to Scotland after enlistment] I was pretty good on a violin and a mandolin and we had a little group. And in mid-ocean one night, we had in the Queen's Room, this is a big ballroom on the ship ... By the way, before I forget, when we got on that ship, it had just landed in Canada and was restocked for the return trip to Britain. And that ship had all the waiters, white coats and the towels over their arm and all the food that was going to be given to these passengers that went back to Britain. In the meantime, war was declared, they hastily painted that ship battleship grey and we got out of it and enjoyed all that great food all the way. You could have seconds and it was, I got a little 10th Battery booklet here which says what our meals consisted of and boy, I never ate so good in my life. But that was just the preliminary, when I got out of that. But that's one of the things I remember.
The second was where we were in the mid-Atlantic and slowed down and this ballroom was filled with all the troops aboard and all these different little groups that could play instruments or sing or whatever, we all put our show on for the thousand or more guys that were sitting all around that ballroom. And I've thought of it was since, here we are in a world war and we're sitting in the middle of the Atlantic and enjoying ourselves. But I had a good night.
The tenth day, when we rolled up the Clyde River [Scotland], the sun was coming up and it was shining on those mountains around there. It was just a glorious site, a real welcome. The shore was lined with people waving. They knew that we were coming, somehow, but they were waving us up to Gourock [Scotland] and that's where we got off the ship.