Lieutenant Tom Brier, 1 Canadian Parachute Battalion, wearing American parachute equipment: helmet, 7-5 parachute Assembly and reverse, jump boots, parachute jacket, and pants. 11 August 1943.Canada: Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / e002344196 Restrictions on use: NIL Copyright: Expired
"You got to remember that if you're in the paratroopers, you got have patience, you got to have compassion for your buddies."
We wore a maroon beret, we wore our wings, which we're proud of, and we wore brown jump boots. And, you're always dressed [in uniform], not when you're training, you go on leave, you have to go to the guard house, he takes a look at you. If you got one, something wrong with you, a little mark on your brown jump shoe, you got to go back and clean it up or you don't go on pass. You’re always looking sharp.
It just, something that was eating inside of me, you know. I'm the type of fellow that likes excitement and I like to push the envelope a little bit. I was always doing something. Like I tied two big cans and go across the Welland Canal and I can't swim.
Why the cans?
Well, so I wouldn't drown. I can't swim. You’re bored and put two cans and big like that and go right across. Something – climb hydro towers and stuff like that, go up the bridge. At the Welland Canal, they have the bridge, at the bottom there’s one peddle comes out and it's got a light on it, grab a hold of that light, and sit on it, and go up and down with the bridge.
We tried to avoid fights and that. The only one, fight I had with – I went to dance and I'm not a dancer. There was a young girl on the dance floor with this American. And, he was getting a little bit out of hand, let's put it that way. I knew she was uncomfortable, so I walked over there and I told the officer, I said, “Look, leave her alone” – because her husband, somebody was telling me her husband just got killed in South Africa or North Africa. So he says, “Who's going to make me do it?” I said, “I am.” So, took one look at me [and shook his head “no”]. So I said, “Just step aside.” And that's when I hit him. He flopped right to the ground and I took off.
I dated her, yeah. Everything cool, I'm not that type of fellow.
We took a town, I can't remember the name of it, and we dug our slit trenches, with four people in a slit trench. It was a farmhouse on this side and a barn on this side, right hand side. And there was a slate roof, and the Germans start shelling us, with the self-propelled 88s.* And they're a pretty deadly gun. And we're all in this barn. So Sergeant Evans was my sergeant, he says to me, “John, let's go to the slit trench, come on.” I said, “No I'm staying here.” He says, “Go to the slit trench.” I said, “No I'm not going. I'm staying here.” So he went. I stayed there. I figured if they’re going to – something's going to tear through, I can crawl under the manger, right. I felt safe. After the shelling was over, then, they tell me, one, two, three, four - three of them got killed instantly. Sergeant Blacky – not Blacky – Armstrong. Blacky died about two hours later. They were all killed. And I wasn't.
I think it, you got to have certain amount of risk and you got to believe in yourself and you got to remember that if you're in the paratroopers, you got have patience, you got to have compassion for your buddies, you know. You just can't be a loner. You're mixed. And, you got to have it in your mind, like anything else, up here, that you're going to make it as a paratrooper. That’s what you want to be, don’t matter how tough it is, you're going to make it. If you vary from that, you'll probably not make it, which many didn't.
A lot of people, even Americans didn't like us, they say, you know, fly boys, different things. Don't tamper with the paratroopers.
*88mm anti-aircraft, anti-tank, and artillery gun