"I wanted to do the most I could and I figured that was the airborne. A lot of people thought we were crazy. Out of thousands of men at Camp Borden, only four of us volunteered."
I was an usher at the Uptown Theatre in Toronto and every week they would have newsreels showing the Battle of Britain. It was very important and I still remember those newsreels about the air battles. And the bombings of course, yeah. As a high schooler, I marched in all the victory parades for Victory Loans, war bonds. There again, I enjoyed the military music. I played a trumpet and then of course, I guess patriotism.
I had a little bit of service in all the three services, air force, navy and army. Air force was just voluntary but the navy, I have a discharge certificate and the army I have a discharge certificate. Like I say, I guess patriotism led to the military service and, of course, I wanted to do the most I could and I figured that was the airborne. A lot of people thought we were crazy. Out of thousands of men at Camp Borden, only four of us volunteered at the particular time they asked for reinforcements. That’s another story.
I was in charge of the four of us going out from Camp Borden, Ontario to Camp Shilo in Manitoba. It was very interesting. I was placed in charge of the weapons, the meal tickets, the train tickets and I was a little bit concerned because every time the train stopped, my three comrades would hop off the train and head for the nearest bar or hotel (laughs). So I was always a little bit concerned when the train gave its going-away horn. They would come running but the train was moving and they’d have to run pretty fast. It was amusing at the time but it wasn’t amusing to me.
When we first went into camp in the winter of 1944/45, we met a group of soldiers on sick parade. There had to be about two dozen. And some of them had their arms in casts from broken arms, some had their head in casts, some had whole leg casts. It was a pretty grim sight and I remember saying to myself, what in the hell have I gotten into now.
In wintertime, you don’t hit soft ground, you hit hard ice and snow. And there’s no give in it. So if you don’t land right, you’ll end up with a broken bone. There was a lot of concussion.
Well of course, a lot of us made it through. The comrade in our platoon was killed by friendly fire and I was exposed in his same position the day before. And I sometimes wonder, you know, if I shouldn’t have had mentioned that, you know, our machine gunner was not the most reliable person. At the time, I thought, it was strictly very realistic battle training. That was the one sad time.
It seems to me that I was one of the pallbearers, you know, where they carried the coffin back to the hearse, yeah. So that was a sad time, having one of our members killed because it was witnessed by a lot of the members and it was very sad.
V-E Day at Camp Shilo has to be remembered because although the parade square was sacred ground, you never went on there unless you were on parade. On V-E Day, they opened up the canteen with all the beer you wanted and there were a lot of drunks stumbling around.
And the training I received there and in the army, carried me on through life. I think when you become a paratrooper, you get the feeling that you can accomplish just about anything. It gives you a confidence that you might not otherwise get. You’ve been through the baptism of fire and I think that has stood me all my life. I appreciate it.