Veteran Stories:
Jim Kingsley

Army

  • Basic training at Camrose, Alberta, 1943. Jim Kingsley is in the front row, first on the left.

    Jim Kingsley
  • A jump tower at Shilo, Manitoba, March 1944. The tower is approximately 125 feet tall. Note the trainee jumping on the left.

    Jim Kingsley
  • Jim Kingsley's medals. From left to right: 1939-1945 Star, France Germany Star, Defence Medal, Canadian Volunteer Service Medal, War Medal 1939-1945, Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal

    Jim Kingsley
  • Jim Kingsley, center bottom, at Shilo, Manitoba, 1944. The other men are Brown, George Ehr, Vallevard, Cousins, and Volkes. All had just qualified as paratroopers.

    Jim Kingsley
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"We went over Christmas day from England to Belgium. We always say – they had a big Christmas dinner, luncheon, at 12:00, thereabouts, and we started getting on the boats about 2:00. And we said they had fed us up good, fit for the kill."

Transcript

In my case, I volunteered and I volunteered to go to the Corps of Sigs [Royal Canadian Corps of Signals]. So I was sent to Camrose [Alberta] for military training. And then they knew that I wasn’t interested in going on to anything else but the Corps of Sigs and the sergeant major there said, “Well we can use here for a month or two as an instructor and see if we can get this straightened out”. So I was an instructor for about four months in Camrose.

And then they used to have what we called a runner. He would come around about every 10 days and give a piece of paper to the sergeant or whoever was in charge of this particular area, and it would be a call for volunteers for the parachutes, paratroopers.

And I was at the back of the drill hall one day with my sergeant major, because I was still an instructor trying to get out of there, and he said, “Kingsley, if I were you I would try for that outfit”. And I said, “Well sir, you know I had a broken eardrum and I thought maybe it wouldn’t work.” “Well,” he says, “it’s worth a try.” And I said, “You’re perfectly right.” So I went down and put my name in.

And they started the actual parachute training and if I remember correctly, 20 of us got our wings after three weeks. Very, very intense; a very proud moment when the 20 of us got our wings, it really was.

We went over Christmas day from England to Belgium. We always say – they had a big Christmas dinner, luncheon, at 12:00, thereabouts, and we started getting on the boats about 2:00. And we said they had fed us up good, fit for the kill.

A town called Rochefort [Belgium]; that was the bottom end or extreme end of the Battle of the Bulge [16 December 1944 to 25 January 1945, major German offensive through the Ardennes mountain region of Belgium, Luxembourg and France]. The bulge went out down into Belgium itself. As far as the Germans went, they got as far as Rochefort and that’s where we came in and helped drive them back up, back up into their own territory.

Well I only got one prisoner, picked up one prisoner with my sergeant. Well he was just standing in a corner up against the – I don’t think I even got it in the book – up against the house, against the wall of a house. And I covered him with my Bren gun [a light machine gun] and my sergeant said, “Keep him covered, Jim”. And then he went up and he got the guy’s revolver. So I got nothing out of it.

I was on a patrol in Holland across this badly busted up bridge and my sergeant, myself and my number two on the Bren were going across this bridge as best we could to try and find a prisoner on the other side. Well what happened is my number 2 – my sergeant kept going when my number 2 stopped and he should have been keeping an eye out for us. And my number 2 chickened out, he wouldn’t go any further. He was pointing down to the river and saying, “Those are guys down there.” And I said, “Freddie, they’re not guys, they’re just a pile of roots and stumps that have been washed up in the flooded river.” “No, no, they’re guys, they’re guys.”

So I had to stay with him. I was afraid that if I went off and caught up to my sergeant that who knows, when we came back he might start shooting at us you know; the shape he was in. So I stayed with him until Andy came back.

And then when we got back to our village I went right to my sergeant, who I was very fond of and we got along very, very well. And I just had to tell him what happened. Andy didn’t do it, so I went to [Jonesy] and I said to [Jonesy], “I just had quite an experience.” And I said, “I don’t want him as my number 2 any more.” “Oh,” he said, “Who do you want?” I says “Who can I have?” He said, “Jim, you can have anybody in the company.” So I got a friend by the name of Bill [Raybeck] who ended up working in the pulp mill up in Port Alberni [British Columbia], only 20 miles from us. But he became my number 2.

We went into a house down by the river, our platoon. That’s about 10 guys. And I was told to set my Bren gun up in front of this window inside the living room like. And the window faced the river and the bridge. And I set my Bren gun up there and that was my position in that house.

And I didn’t have to shoot very often but we ended up doing mostly there was, there’d be two or three of us go out to the bridge and we had a big slit trench there. And we were down in the slit trench guarding against the Germans coming across, or if they thought they might like to come across; but they never did. We used to fire across the river at the Germans and they used to fire back at us, but nobody was ever hurt.

When we came back from England and they were getting organized to go back across the Rhine [River], we had to have a practice jump. And I came in backwards and hit my heels and my bum and my head and next morning I couldn’t get outa bed. And that was the end of the war for me.

The boys got ready and I’m down in the training battalion on the afternoon that the boys took off for Germany. That is the whole division eh? And I sat on the steps of a hut at our camp and cried when the planes went over, because there’s my buddies up there and it was almost more than I could handle.

I had seen her when she first came to town. I mean you couldn’t come to town without everybody knowing you were a new arrival. And she was pushing her handicapped cousin down the road with a pushcart. And I had been not long out of the navy and I saw this beautiful girl. And I’m on my bicycle and I said to myself, “There goes my wife.” And then I said, “Don’t be so damn stupid, you’re only 18. You don’t know who you’re wife’s going to be.” And she became a girlfriend of my sister’s and then eventually we got rid of my sister.

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