Veteran Stories:
William Kilbourne

Army

  • William Kilbourne, age 18.

  • On the way to Amsterdam, 1945.

  • From Edith de Levie to William Kilbourne, 1946, reminding him of the day of the liberation of Bussum (20 km from Amsterdam).

  • Basic training in Winnipeg, 1940.

  • Memorial to Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) regiment, who were the first to cross the Ijssel River into Holland, 1945.

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"So they said they were going to join the army. So I said, "Well I’ll go with you.""

Transcript

My name is William Bert Kilbourne. And in July 1940 I joined the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry in Winnipeg. And I was a sergeant. My brother and a friend of his, they got riding freight trains looking for work and whatnot and they come home one time in July in 1940 and they said that's no... no life. So they said they were going to join the army. So I said, "Well I'll go with you." There was a lot German submarines along the east coast and they gathered up a bunch of us guys and sent us to Newfoundland and trained us as coastal gunners. During that time we had these great searchlights, 800 million candlepower searchlights. I guess I took quite an interest in it and the Commanding Officer sent me back to Halifax to take a month's course. So I left St. John's, Newfoundland and went to Port aux Basques and a night trip across on a little ferry called a Caribou to North Sidney and then on to Halifax. And a month later I reversed the trip. I just got back to St. John's and the little caribou, used to travel at night only, a German submarine snuck in there and sank it. That was a blow because I had just been on the thing a night or two before that. Two or three of us guys that kind of got high-jacked to Newfoundland wanted to rejoin our own regiment and we asked for a transfer and they gave it to us. And before very long we boarded a troop ship and come all the way down to the Strait of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean and landed in Naples, Italy. We spent pretty near a year in Italy, I guess. And we had some pretty tough times there. The Hitler line and the Gothic line and the Savio River. One time we were patrolling and we found this young lad up in the mountains. And there didn't seem to be any villages around, so we ask him where his parents was and he didn't know. And talked for a little while and asked him would he like to come with us. So he said, "Fine." So we took him back to our camp and he turned out to be a real neat little guy, you know. We were moving up in Holland, a stone got in the track of our Bren gun carrier and it bust some of the hard rubber out of the boogie and we had to stop and break the track and put new boogie on it. And I thought we were in the country but, man, people just seemed to come from everywhere. A bunch of people was around and... and this young girl started to talk but I guess I give her my autograph or something because when I got home, I get this letter from a girl in Holland. Her name was Edith De Lavie. I did write back to her but I... I don't know what ever happened. Fifty years later we were over in Holland and the people that we stayed with the... these people got on the phone and, after we come home, we got a letter that they had found a niece of this girl. They gave me her address and I wrote to her and... and we corresponded back and forth. We boarded the Ile de France ship to come to Canada and we were out at sea for two days walking around on the ship because there was literally thousands of men on that ship... walking around on the deck and, geez, I meet my brother. You know we kind of lost track of each other because I went to Italy and he went over to France and... so it was great.
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