Veteran Stories:
John Leach

Army

  • Portrait of John Leach.

    John W. Leach
  • John Leach on guard duty.

    John W. Leach
  • In a light moment with a friend, John Leach pretends to be taken prisoner.

    John W. Leach
  • John Leach's unit loads a Canadian Ram Cruiser Tank onto one of their vehicles.

    John W. Leach
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"And the American boys, they had nice dress uniforms and nice dress shoes and we got these, we just had to go in our own uniforms and these old army boots. And we’d get them all polished up, any time we went on leave."

Transcript

Well, once war declared, of course, there was training camps springing up all over. And I was living in Kingston [Ontario] at the time. Of course, when war was declared, all fall fairs were forgotten. So we used the fairground to build army huts in. And the one I was in, I remember it was stationed in the grandstand. So we done our basic training there, two months I think it was. And then it come time for advanced training and I thought we’re going to some other camp, just to, I was in the Army Service Corps and I would be a driver driving something. Come time for us to go to this advanced training. So we all got in the lorries and they took us down to the water and put us on boats and took off and we didn’t think anything of it because we figured, well, wherever it is, it must be going to advanced training school. We kept going and we ended up somewhere in England. Finally we got into the regular routine of it and we were just, we were busy all the time, night and day. But one hard part of it was driving in the blackout. I know a lot of the guys and myself too, our eyes would be just burning, trying to see when you couldn’t see. We just tried to follow the guy ahead of us, follow his taillight. And then the jeep, the head tractor would follow the taillights on the jeep and the jeep had usually an officer and then he had two DRs [Data Receivers], two guys along and stop traffic coming across the other way. We hauled all over England, Scotland, and then finally the day come, D-Day, and there come a big storm the night before. We got partway across and they had to turn back. So we waited until the next day and we’d went across, three tractors and trailers to a barge went across and the barges go from England to France and … So we finally got over there and went ashore and got our equipment organized and we started right in working. That was supposed to be advanced training. Well, that was advanced enough, we knew what we were doing and we kept on starting hauling tanks all over France, Holland, Germany and Wales, or Germany and all the provinces in Germany, all around Europe. I went on leave one time. Every three months, we’d get nine days leave. They had that big palais in Edinburgh. That’s where we used to spend the evenings and we’d go to the pubs for about an hour and just sit around and gab and then when the right time come, we’d head for the palais. Boy oh boy, what a place. The floors were just shiny like glass. And us guys with these big army boots on. (laughs) And the great big orchestra. And boy, we’d have a real night there. Real pleasant night. And the American boys, they had nice dress uniforms and nice dress shoes and we got these, we just had to go in our own uniforms and these old army boots. And we’d get them all polished up, any time we went on leave. (laughs) We thought, well, it’s a wonder they don’t kick us guys off the floor, got them nice shiny floors with us in there with these old army boots on. But they didn’t, they wouldn’t do that. They’d have a riot on their hands if they did that. So anyway, everything went fine. Yeah, we had a good many memories at the old palais there. And three of us guys just happened to be, there were like two sections of this big room. And we were sitting around this table all by ourselves, just waiting. Because usually, when the girls would see Canadians sitting around, they’d come in and they’d make a beeline for our table. And so they did too and they all come over. They went past this part of the room. Up above, there was mistletoe. And of course, you couldn’t see that until you got past it. And when they, the rule was, when they went past this mistletoe, the girls, if any of the girls went past this mistletoe, they’d have to come and over and kiss all the boys that were sitting around. (laughs) Of course, we didn’t mind that at all, you know. So I just got back off of leave and I was waiting for a truck to come along and take me up to my unit. And one of the worst days that I can remember. They come over the radio, “The war is over! The war is over!” Of course, everybody was happy, but I got thinking, I just got back here a day too soon. If I had have been back in England, We would have been celebrating and really celebrating. But I missed that part, but I thought, “Oh well, there’s lots of time yet, I’ll make up.” And I did.
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