Veteran Stories:
Alfred Babin

Army

  • Infantrymen of C Company, The Royal Rifles of Canada and their mascot en route to Hong Kong. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, 27 October 1941.

    Credit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-116791 Restrictions on use: Nil Copyright: Government of Canada
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"Just when we came around a curve, there was gunfire. Of course, we didn't hear the gunfire, the only thing we heard was the smashing of glass, which – a bullet hit the windshield of the ambulance and glass splattered everywhere."

Transcript

The first fellow we picked up was, he was a Hong Kong Volunteer.* It was dark. We had a canvas stretcher and the other fellow that was with me, I said, "Okay, I'll take his legs and you take his, you know, his head and shoulders." And, he said, "Ugh!" So what he did, was he had put his hand on the fellow's head and part of his head was blown off. So that was our first casualty.

A few days later, they asked if someone could drive the ambulance, so, anyway, I ended up, by driving. The ambulance was a left-hand drive. It had been a hearse and they converted it to an ambulance and they had two stretchers on either side of the inside of the body and then they sat someone in the middle. So it could actually take five people - four on stretchers and one sitting down. And that was what I did from that time until the 25th of December [1941].

Just when we came around a curve, there was gunfire. Of course, we didn't hear the gunfire, the only thing we heard was the smashing of glass, which – a bullet hit the windshield of the ambulance and glass splattered everywhere. And I just kept on going, of course, as – and I accelerated around the curve. And they were firing from the top of the hill, so you take everything in at a glance. So I just pulled in and I pulled in the shelter of the hill, because the roads was blocked off. They had sandbags in the road and there were a couple of Hong Kong Volunteers were in the enclosure.

Bickley was moaning, so I turned around and had a look, first chance I had to look at him. And, of course, he was bleeding, profusely from [his face]. The glass had shattered and, gone – his eyes were just gone. So I had a shell dressing bag. I just tore it open, or I tore one up, and I put it over his eyes and I just wound it around his head and I propped him in the corner. And I said, "Just stay there, Bickley, and I'll be back in a few minutes. I'm going to check to see what, you know, what's what."

So I get out, went round the back and opened the doors, and here these guys were moaning. And I guess some of them had been hit by ricocheting bullets that hit the ambulance. But there was a guy sitting there, in the middle, and he wanted to get out and fight the Japanese. He had no rifle or anything, you know, we were not carrying arms. So I just pushed him back in. I said, "You stay in there and I'll see if we can get us out, if I can get us out of here."

So anyway, I closed the doors and went out and I called out to the guards and they said, "Everything is blocked up here." And then just one of them was shot and he just collapsed. So that made up my mind. I just got into the ambulance and I decided that I would try and turn it around and go back the way I came. I wasn't a first class driver but I managed to get around.

*Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps (HKVDC)

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