Veteran Stories:
John Slater

Army

  • The beret (upside down), with Royal Canadian Corps of Signals cap badge, that John Slater wore from 1942-1945.

    John Slater
  • Left to Right: Canadian Volunteer Service Medal (CVSM); War Medal (1939-45); Defence Medal; 1939-45 Star; France and Germany Star

    John Slater
  • Army bunks in Newmarket, Ontario.

    John Slater
  • Four men and a Sherman tank.

    John Slater
  • John Slater and friends.

    John Slater
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"And all I was interested in was, I’m going home. It was a lovely time when I got that message. I thought, oh, thank God. I’m alive. And then, boom, shook the hell out of me."

Transcript

Once I hit England, we were given a truck of 1,500 weight Jimmy, that’s the old GM wagon, covered wagon with the wireless and we did the training in the fields and out and down towards different parts of England, the southernmost part. And then we did all the practicing, practiced for quite a while. And the same four fellows that were in that group were the same four fellows I served all the time overseas with. Thank God we didn’t lose any of them anyways.

In our unit, we were trained especially, especially when we got down to, in the coast. We were trained to be Air Support Signals Unit, ASSU. And our job, all the way up the front, was to go up to the company and move up with the three brigade units. One would move up and we’d be told to move with them. We were always back out of the fighting, I admit that, but a bomb is sort of a different thing altogether. But we’d put up with that and a Q Signal when you’re closing off and you heard a bang, you’d run for the hole in the ground and you’d get down there. And just a few marks on my arms where they came a little too close at times but we don’t count those little things.

And altogether, the air support signals, I don’t suppose it was a very big unit. It wasn’t a tremendous unit. But we had had special training. The idea of our training was to get the message from the brigades. And we’d be sitting there and we would send it back to forward air field. And then the air field, if they [the brigades] couldn’t break through something, our message was, once we got the okay from the officers to send that message, they’d sign and we’d put it in code and we’d send it down and send it back. And that was: we needed air support, and they’d give a reference and so on.

The one time the big one I did see, I was on top of the truck when they were doing it and the Spiffies and the Typhoons come over, about six of them. And they just dove. First one peels off, then the other peels off and the other one peels off. And then all you see is them coming down like that and all you see is, voom, voom, voom, voom, voom, voom. We were after a quarry. We’d been sitting there for over 10 days trying to cross the river. And they blasted the hell out of it. And I’ll say hell this time. We found parts of their tanks, two fields away, the top, turret and all, was sitting two fields away in an orchard. And it landed there and we wiped them right out and the boys were able to get across the river and from there, and it’s just, well, move every time we had to, that’s all.

They told us to report to forward airfield and the day before, I guess some German found himself a weapon. And he fired and it landed at the forward air field. And I was sitting on my set in the morning and I’m working away and all of a sudden, I hear, I can hear this (makes noise). Stop, Q Signal, boom. And I thought, oh, that’s far enough away, it won’t attack. I’m sitting at the table and I’m waiting for them to go back on their radio and all of a sudden, what they had done, there were trees, you know when they build a forest where you can, no matter where you look, you see a row of trees that have grown, man built? Those trees were that way and, our tent was tied to one of the trees. And when that come out, I didn’t think it was because it sounded so far away but it came down there and it lifted the tent and the wireless set. This is the day before the war was over. And I had the message that tomorrow, there was going to be the capitulation of the war and it was on my message pad. I thought, oh, good God, now he wants to kill me. So there I was, flattened out with a wireless set down on my lap. I could show you today that I never reported it, because I was lucky enough, I was one of the lower numbers. I was 107 to go home. If I had reported it and stayed over there, God knows when I would have got home. And all I was interested in was, I’m going home.

It was a lovely time when I got that message. I thought, oh, thank God. I’m alive. And then, boom, shook the hell out of me. And I felt we were really important to the war. If we hadn’t been there, where would they have got their air support from? Somebody had a good idea and we were part of the good idea.

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