"And each man would exit from the aircraft. You count 1,000, 2,000, 3,000, and then you put your head back and look up and see if your parachute’s okay."
Okay, I enlisted, I went to Listowel, Ontario, took my basic training. Now, Listowel, I went to Stratford, a piano factory there we stayed in and I finished my training there. That was my field training. And while I was there, they asked for volunteers for the Airborne [1st Canadian Parachute Battalion]. I put my name in for the Airborne, there was 20 of us volunteered, there was two of us taken. Okay, I went to McGill [University] and they put us through tests there, you know, our memory tests, where we were born, how we were raised, all kinds of questions, they put us through different tests as far as physical and mental. And when we were done with that, they shipped us off to Fort Benning in Georgia. And when we got to Fort Benning, because there was no training facility here in Canada, we started training in the States. At that time, we were trained with American personnel and they put us through the torches until the Canadians took over which they did while I was there.
We did hand-to-hand combat and whatnot in that first week. At the end of the first week, if you qualified, you went to week two, was the mock tower, which was a 36-foot tower which we jumped out of to see if we could exit from an aircraft. Also, we had other stages that were five feet high we used to jump off and do our rolls, to see the five points of contact. After the instructions were clear that we could do all that, in a half week, we were qualified and we were into third week. And the third week was a jump tower, a 250-foot-high tower which had a parachute open on a ring and when you hit the top, it would release it and you were free from the tower. And you come down as a normal parachute jump. The only thing is, you started out with an open parachute.
After you did all your rolls, did the five points of contact and got that down pat, they pushed you onto the fourth week, which was into the aircraft, to do our five day drops and one night drop. We would take off, we’d sit on the east side of the aircraft and when we got airborne, the first command was stand up, hook up, close it up, check your equipment. And each man checked the man in front of him. And the man behind him checked his pack. And when we were all finished, they would tell us to close it up and stand at the door. When we stood in the door, instructor laying on the floor, was called a Jumpmaster, when the light turned green, he would holler, Go. And each man would exit from the aircraft. You count 1,000, 2,000, 3,000, and then you put your head back and look up and see if your parachute’s okay. If not, you look around you and pull your rip cord on your reserve pack, put your hand behind the pack and toss it out to the wind. And come down in your reserve parachute. I had never had a chance to use one.
Now the first jump is quite an experience. You sort of hesitate but you’re not afraid of it. You know you’re going to do it. At least you hope you’re going to do it. Once we jump out of the plane, there’s nothing really more to look at except every time you go up, you still get that nervous stomach feeling. But it goes away.
When I finished training in Benning, I come back to Camp Shilo, Manitoba and Camp Shilo, Manitoba, I was there until I reached my age because my father sort of reported I was underage. And I had to say that, oh, I reached my age. So I ended up as a dispatch rider, riding a motorcycle and I ended up also as a driver for the CO [Commanding Officer] colonel.
In Shilo, we were supposed to jump one night on a night drop. We got permission from the railroad to blow up a dragline [excavator] in Chater and for some reason or another, we got on the wrong side of the road up and blew up the wrong dragline. The reason we got into that pit was we jumped to the wrong side of the road. We came down, the Jumpmaster, I won’t mention his name, made a mistake and he thought he was on the right side of the road. He was on the wrong side. And it was at night, we come down and we landed and we went down and we put all kinds of - … amonol, and 808 and you name all the explosives, we had them on it. It was a training jump. When we got back about 4:00 in the morning, we let it go and in Chater we knocked out pretty well all the windows in the houses. I think there was about half a dozen houses in the place anyhow. And the people wondered what had happened.
The police in Brandon ran around, thought somebody blew the bank up but it was a pretty loud noise. And for a kid only 16, 17 at that time, I thought it was a big deal. I’d never seen an explosion that big. They needed people to go overseas ... and when I reached my age of course, I was able to go. And I went over at Christmas time of 1944 and I was over until cessation of war, in June. When I got there, I was posted to a P.I.A.T [Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank gun] platoon. When we went over the Rhine, that’s where they were going to go the next time. That’s where I thought I was headed. And we were training on the P.I.A.Ts. And finally they said, you haven’t had your English jump training yet, so you have to jump from an English airplane, you’ve got to go through a hole in the bottom. So I didn’t know nothing about that.
So they put us on a jump course in Ringway, Manchester. I had to go up to Ringway and do the British training, which was another different type of parachute. It was a bag-type parachute at that time, known as a T-10. And I got used to that one because we started jumping with the balloon, which went up 750 feet and they dropped you out through a hole in the basket in the bottom or out through the door in the side to give you experiences. We used a tower instead here in Canada. But in England, at Ringway, they did that eight times. We had nothing to do, so they give us some more practice jumping out of the balloon. But I jumped out of all the airplanes that were available, Whitleys and Albemarles and C-47s. They were all there, we jumped out of each one.
When I got back to Corsham - Bulford I should say, the battalion had gone over the Rhine, we were still cleaning up in Ringway, Manchester, and they’d gone over the Rhine and so we got posted to holding company in Corsham, which was about 30 miles out of Bulford. And we stayed there until they needed replacements. However, they didn’t need more replacements, so we just stayed there until it ceased and it was only a few weeks it was over anyhow, so. They should have sent me over sooner.