John Clarke with family in 1942.John Clarke
John Clarke in uniform.John Clarke
John Clarke at The Memory Project event in King City, Ontario. February 2013.John Clarke
"If they had of come, I believe that they would have succeeded right away. We wasn’t really prepared. "
In 1939, on the 24th of August, I got mustered, or called up. Because we were very short, with supplies and everything, I took my own motorcycle into the army and I became a dispatch rider. I’d done this for a few months, and then, I got a disease called diphtheria. So, I got isolated in the hospital for a month. When I came out, I couldn’t find my motorcycle or anything, so, then I was back on the searchlights again.
Then we got trained into a new unit, a new company. And that was in Oswestry [Shropshire, England] in Northern Wales. In Northern Wales, the sergeant major asked me what I’d come for. I said, “Oh, I come to be a batman, sir.” A batman is like a valet to an officer. That way I was going to miss lots of training and all sorts of things. It was easy job. But in the meantime I trained up for driving the tanks and trucks and everything else.
So during that time, we got sent to another company. I got sent out, and they had a test with about 30 or 50 drivers. Out of these 50 drivers, I was one of the ones that came out at the top. So the commanding officer said, “Clarke,” he said, “We need you to go on a course to become a vehicle mechanic.” I said, “But I don’t want to be a vehicle mechanic” – because at that particular time I was driving the medical officer around and I liked that job. But, they said, “No, we want you to be the vehicle mechanic.” He said, “That’s what we need.”
Though what was happening now, was that the people who were more at risk in England, than they ever were, because they had these vengeance weapons, like what they called “doodlebugs.” They was [V-1] flying bombs. And, you could see - they could see them flying over and the engine would stop and they would just drop and if you was unlucky to be there that was it.
And I remember during the times when I was in England, in the searchlight business, and they was going to have this invasion with the Germans coming to England.* And, I got sent off to go and get a taxicab from London. So we had a taxicab, a Lewis [machine] gun, and some rifles for protection in case they did come, but wasn’t adequate, really. If they had of come, I believe that they would have succeeded right away. We wasn’t really prepared.
*Operation SEA LION, 1940. The Germans never conducted this planned invasion.