George Scantlebury as a cadetGeorge Scantlebury
"It was pretty well every guy was for himself when you were in that reserve camp. "
I remember V-E Day I was 13 years old, and I’m not sure of exact dates, but I remember that because I remember crowds of people all over the city, dancing in the streets and things like that. At that time I was in the cadets, I was in the school cadets. School cadets were a big deal in those days. It was strictly men, or boys, the girls didn’t have to go through with it, but the boys all did. Not quite sure what that was about. You were pretty well obliged to join the scouts. It was, after all, right at the end of the war. We were very sophisticated. There was a lot of marching and drilling and target shooting, and a whole lot of things like that. I assume that they would think that that would be necessary if the war kept going. I was a Company Sergeant Major my last year there, and my job was to do demonstrations, physical education demonstrations with my platoon. We used to parade out to the cannons in the park. The first year I was in it, we used to, all our army uniforms they gave us were left over from World War One. It was the most pathetic display of army I ever saw. My uniform must have had – they were all breeches, eh, and, you had puttees, and there were patches everywhere, patches, patches – and they didn’t match because everything had faded. The second year, they outfitted us all in brand new uniforms, we had real nice uniforms, we were a pretty spiffy lot. Then the Colonel would come from the mainland and inspect them. He travelled – I’m not sure if they did it right across Canada, but know they did it in the Atlantic Provinces because we were competing with Maritime schools.
You were in cadets until you finished grade 10 school, and I went right into the reserves. And that was when I was about, I’d be about 14 then I think, late 13 or 14. It was very close to after the war because I remember, just a very short time, maybe one or two months or six months, but we started getting servicemen coming back from overseas and going in the reserves with us. So when we were taking our training we were kind of a mixture of boys just out of school, in grades 10 and 11 and 12 and hardened veterans, mostly army.
There were two branches of the army in Charlottetown or PEI at that time, there was one of the Recce and the Signals. And I forget the number of the Reconnaissance regiment, but I elected to try to learn something about radios, because radio was just beginning. We had a 19-Set it was called, and it was a monstrous thing. It took two guys – it had two handles – and it took two guys to operate and it had a range of about 15 miles, and that was on a good day! It had no range at all most days, but this is what they’d been trying to fight the war with, these old 19 Sets, and I think that’s why the motorcycles were used in both the First World War and the Second World War.
Most of the radio training at the local branch was just Morse code. We were learning Morse code, and then you advanced to still learning Morse code, and a heck of a lot of marching. I have no idea why the Signals corps marched so much but we marched, marched, marched, marched every day.
The camaraderie was kind of strange in the army, in the reserves, because all these guys were coming home, and some of them were pretty tough guys, I mean, they’ve been in the war. Some of those fellows were 8-10 or 12 years older than us, and some were a little younger, and some were only two or three years older than us but those guys have been in war. There wasn’t too much camaraderie at the camps, it was all business, you know. There wasn’t much interaction in that; it was pretty well every guy was for himself when you were in that reserve camp.
Rationing was a big deal. Everybody in the family would get one egg every month, and there was no such thing as butter, hardly at all, they had a kind of fake butter. But we had coupons for everything; my mother had coupons for everything. And then we had the black full blinds – you didn’t pull them, they were kind of rolled down – for all the windows, and every home had to have them so the light couldn’t get out because they were fearing bombing. Now in those days, actually the truth of the matter is that there wasn’t a plane made that could get to us from Europe. But they still were kind of worried about somebody because technology was advancing very quickly. I mean, they went from the Lysander to the Spitfire in about a year, and it was just like night and day. The Spitfire was so much more efficient and everything. The bombers were quite efficient too.
The other thing that always stuck with me, we had two bins in the backyard. And one bin was for steel, and the other was for aluminum. And aluminum was highly valued.
If you would go to the big theatre on the weekend, and you took aluminum, anything aluminum, they would give you free entrance. And we had two boxes. And I remember oh, every once in a while it would be a special thing that happened. My mother would give me an old aluminum pot or something and I could go to the movies for free.
The very first thing you saw on the screen was a report, a daily report every day on, they – I may possibly mis-remember that, it was once a week – it was very well done, with pictures, and commentary about how the war was going. Even through the bad times and the good times, and they would show the bombings and they would show the… you really knew what was going on over there.