Veteran Stories:
Jack Neilson

Army

  • A fire jump by the Canadian Armed Forces Motorcycle Display Team, for centennial activities, 1967.

  • J. Neilson's publicity photo for the Canadian Armed Forces Motorcycle Display Team, 1967.

  • Members of the CAFMDT "hanging around" at a centennial event, 1967.

  • J. Neilson proves that he can still perform a layback ten years later at the Canadian Armed Forces Motorcycle Display Team reunion, 1978.

  • The celtic axe of the Northern Army Group (NORTHAG) of Europe. Few Canadians served in NORTHAG.

  • Royal Canadian Corps of Signals collar dog issued for the 1995 Signals Corps reunion.

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"Our mandate was to prevent civil war, arrange a cease fire and halt all military operations. Prior to this was the apprehension and detention of all foreign military and para-military personnel not under UN command. And it was specifically related to mercenaries. Use of force was authorized."

Transcript

My name is Jack Neilson. I served in the Canadian Army Signal Corps. And I think that from a very early age I was destined to join the armed forces. My great grandfather served in the British Army. My grandfather in the Canadian Army during 1918. And my father in the army from 1930 to 1951.

My own service runs from 1954 to 1982. I had a desire for travel and adventure and looked on the military as the best way to fulfill that desire. In 1954 I joined the Naval Reserve as a communicator. In 1955 I transferred to the regular Navy, again, as a communicator and I set off for HMCS Cornwallis for basic training. Things went well 'til the end of basic when we were on a final training cruise and it was discovered my eyesight wasn't good enough for my trade. Kind of a funny story on that one. The first incident was I reported a light which ended up being a star just rising over the horizon. The second was reporting an aircraft which turned out to be a seagull. That's when they sent me for the eye test. So my only options given were to transfer to cook or steward or take my leave 'cause all the other trades were full. Even though I'd attempted a career in the Navy, I always wonder if the army should have been my choice.

They released me from the Navy and I was told to report to the Army Recruiting Centre in Winnipeg. In September of '56 I enlisted in the army and I reported to the School of Signals in Kingston, Ontario. And at that time basic training was infantry-oriented, very tough. This was followed by driver training and dispatch rider training. Dispatch riders delivered messages in the field by motorcycles or sometimes by Jeep. On completion of training I was posted to the 1st Canadian Infantry Division Signals Regiment in Camp Borden, Ontario as a dispatch rider.

In 1958, was assigned to 3 Brigade Signals which relocated to Gagetown, New Brunswick. In 1961 I did a partial tour in October to November, with the United Nations operation in the Congo. And I worked out of Leopoldville, which is now Kinshasa in a detachment to provide communications relay functions. Our mandate was to prevent civil war, arrange a cease fire and halt all military operations. Prior to this was the apprehension and detention of all foreign military and para-military personnel not under UN command. And it was specifically related to mercenaries. Use of force was authorized. Maintaining the territorial integrity of the Congo was added to the mandate which led to the UN fighting the ... forces in the Catanga Province, these were led by foreign mercenaries again.

On return from the Congo I was a posted to a newly formed unit attached NORTHAG, the Northern Army Group of NATO. We provided strategic communications at the headquarters level and tactical communications for the British Army of the Rhine. Our role was to act as a first line reaction defensive force in the event of a Soviet invasion.

On return from NORTHAG in 1965 I was posted to Camp Borden Signal Squadron where we provided communications facilities and working in a blast-proof underground bunker. This also had facilities so the Ontario Government could continue to function in the event of a nuclear attack.

And then in 1966 the Canadian Armed Forces Motorcycle Display Team was formed to participate in centennial activities during 1967. I volunteered and, after very rugged testing and evaluation period was selected for their team. We provided a 45-minute show which included high speed precision riding, acrobatic stunts on motorcycles, jumping through fire, etcetera. We also provided two 10-man teams who provided similar services to the Canadian Armed Forces Tattoo.

From May to October in 1967 we did a cross Canada tour performing in 105 locations from BC to Newfoundland.

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