Veteran Stories:
William John Patterson

Army

  • (LtoR): Officer of the Order of Military Merit; Special Service Medal with NATO bar; Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal; Canadian Forces Decoration with three bars, representing 42 years of military service.

    (LtoR): Officer of the Order of Military Merit; Special Service Medal with NATO bar; Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal; Canadian Forces Decoration with three bars, representing 42 years of military service.
  • Mr. Patterson wrote this book "A Regiment Worthy of Its Hire: The Canadian Guards 1953-1970, in 1997."

    Mr. Patterson wrote this book "A Regiment Worthy of Its Hire: The Canadian Guards 1953-1970, in 1997."
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My name is Bill Patterson. I joined the Army – the Reserve Army – in 1948, and I was in Kingston, Ontario. It was a different kind of reserve army in those days from today, because many of the people serving were World War II veterans, and so we had a large number of officers and non-commissioned officers who were actual veterans of World War II, and we had a very large unit. In those days, units were three and four hundred, all ranks. I served in that unit for about seven years. It really was conducted and run I think on World War II experience, and we had World War II weapons, and we conducted ourselves probably much as the Army had done since World War I.

But then in 1955, I joined the regular force, and it was a new sort of army as far as Canada was concerned. For the first time, the regular force was greater than the militia. It came about because of the war in Korea, and sending troops to Germany to form part of a NATO force. Of course, in those days, the big enemy was Russia and the Soviet Union, and the fact that there was some fear that they would try to take over more of Europe than they already had. So NATO was created, and the Canadians sent a large number of people to Europe – about six thousand in the Army, and about six thousand in the Air Force.

I joined the regular force in 1955 and went to Germany in 1959 with the 1st Battalion of the Canadian Guards. There were new units in the regular force. Today, we have a traditional three units in the infantry, but in those days there were six, and we had the Black Watch and the Queen's Own, and I was in the Canadian Guards. And we formed a very large component of the British Army of the Rhine, and of course the troops were all volunteers, and many of them had been in the Army for some time, and it was a very open force. It was one of the highlights of my military career, although I was a Lieutenant and Captain in those days.

Because we were overseas, in those days there was no Internet, there was no talking on telephones, there was no coming home, you were there for three years, and you were in a group that very much became family. So it was a great thing in my life. But in 1965, after I had gone to a school in England for a couple of years, I came out of the regular army and back into the militia and served for the next seventeen years, rising from the rank of Captain to Brigadier General. I ran out of time eventually; that was the highest rank you could achieve, so in 1982 I retired. It's been an interesting career, and at the end of it all, first of all you have a tremendous amount of friends. You belonged to something really important, and I think that serving Canada has made me feel good in my life, and hopefully I did contribute something of value.

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