"In the medical corps, you were on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Now mind you, we didn’t work that all. You slept when you could. But, anyhow, that was it, this was your duty."
I did my basic training in [No. 70 Canadian Army (Basic) Training Centre] Fredericton, then I went to the PEI [Prince Edward Island] Highlanders, then I went to A22 [Canadian Army Medical Corps Training Centre], which was the medical corps [Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps], and that was advanced training. The biggest concern was, about advanced training, as a stretcher bearer, our responsibility was to stop the bleeding, treat for shock and evacuate. That’s three things ̶ and never, now this was the part that I thought about for a long while, never let the wounded fellow or your comrade that was wounded, never let him know that you were afraid. Now, how could a young fellow of 21 years old, of course, I was raised on a farm, and I knew among [live]stock and I had some idea, but anyhow, that was a little different thing when I got up there. It seemed different. I mean, you know, we were trained what to do and we did it. And that was it.
There was a coolness or something, sort of came over you. Well, just when you got into the thick of things.
Six days from the time I landed in England, I had the AV uniform and anti-vermin uniform and French money in my pocket. We got off at, the [SS] Lady Nelson was the ship that I went overseas on. It was a medical ship. It was quite a sobering effect to us young Canadians that had just landed overseas. They took us to the QM [quartermaster] stores and we signed for our death blanket. Now, your death blanket is the one that you take with you; and you’re buried in a blanket. And I know that because I buried a few in a blanket. But, anyhow, that was a sobering effect.
Well, being in the holding unit, and in the meantime, we were about a mile from where we were, was the British 75th [Field Ambulance] Hospital, 600 beds under canvas. Now, and the operating room ran 24 hours a day; and that was an English hospital. When we went over there, we were out on a route march and the doctors that were with us, I was in the medical corps, they were lecturing us about different things in the medical field; and we suggested to them, we’d be a lot better getting some practical [experience] down at the hospital than, now, not that your lectures were not good, sir, (laughs) but we’d had practical. So they asked for 30 volunteers that night, so they got 30 volunteers, one right after the other.
In the medical corps, you were on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Now mind you, we didn’t work that all. You slept when you could. But, anyhow, that was it, this was your duty. There was no timetable, you just worked so many hours and was off so many. There was none of that. If there was something to do, we did it.
We wore a red armband and we wore a field dressing bag. We had our bag on and we had a stretcher. And we had a red armband, with a red cross on it. Because I was up at the RAP, at the regimental aid post, and we had to evacuate at night. And anyhow, but I always, fellows that were up at the front lines, which wasn’t too far away, I’ll tell you that now, and I always had a feeling for those fellows. And after you’ve been up to the front lines, with casualties, we even had to go into ‘no man’s land,’ you realized what those fellows were living underneath. What pressure they were living 24 hours a day.
See there was five of us went up to the unit, from the holding unit, on the afternoon the sixteenth of August from the holding unit to the [No.] 18 Field [Ambulance, RCAMC]. Now, the next day, that was the first time I was bombed, that I was bombed. And the next morning, we knew there was one bomb that didn’t explode. We had 130 some patients come in that night from the anti-personnel that was scattered, that was in convoy they caught; and we finished up at 3:30 in the morning. My chum and I were sleeping underneath an apple tree, with our blanket over our shoulders; and at 6:00 in the morning, the bomb went off and there was a cider apple came down and hit me in the thumb. I ran to the place where we had worked and my chum ran the other way. And that morning… that blew a hole, that bomb blew a hole, I would say, approximately 15 feet deep and about 20 feet across or more. Now, I didn’t measure, that’s approximate. And it dumped a cubic of clay and it killed three of the fellows that I went up to the unit with. And they were …