George Ens (on left) and D. York posing in front of a tank at Camp Borden, Ontario.George Ens
Barracks at Camp Borden, Ontario.George Ens
Photo of George Ens taken the week of gradutaion from Driving School, Woodstock.George Ens
George Ens poses with his rifle at Camp Borden, 1943.George Ens
Shoulder patch for the Royal Canadian Infantry Corps.George Ens
"It was a regular mustard gas. It was kind of, maybe a frightening experience, but I, personally, I felt that the people that were training me knew what they were doing."
I enjoyed the army activity because of the challenge that was there as far as training and learning was concerned. Just being a farm boy, I was naturally interested in machinery and so on, and naturally, with the machine guns and mortars and tanks and you name it, it was a territory that I was really interested in.
The army had a system, of course, of different areas specializing in specialized training. For example, [CFB] Camp Borden [Ontario] is the first place where I took my basic and advanced training which is strictly military. But they also had a tank corps there and a service corps, so as a result, there was all kinds of interesting items to look at. As I said before, I wound up taking my basic and advanced at the A11 Canadian Machine Gun Training Centre, that’s where they specialized in training on 4.2 [millimeter] mortars and the Vickers machine gun.
Some people don’t believe me, but also that’s where I had my introduction to gas. I had two, two sessions in the gas chamber, so we knew the effects of being gassed. And anybody who doesn’t want to believe me, I still have my pay book that indicates the days that I, times that I spent in the gas chambers. They had the training in gas warfare.
It was a regular mustard gas. It was kind of, maybe a frightening experience, but I, personally, I felt that the people that were training me knew what they were doing, they weren’t going to leave me as a corpse in there. So we were in a hut, in a barracks, where the gas exercise took place. They had us running around in the barracks in this building so that you were breathing deep, breathing well, and then they turned, they had a generator going in the middle of the room, and they turned it on and they kept you walking around in the building while they had the gas generating. Of course, then they had that timed for so many minutes or whatever, I can’t remember exactly though. But then they had us put the gas mask on, continue walking around the, inside the building some more. Some of the personnel would get nauseated, would get sick and vomit. Part of the training was that you had to hold your breath for whatever you could, and then you reached inside and scooped your puke out of the gas mask, and put the gas mask back on again.
But I pulled a sneaky one. When I was going through the exercise to make sure I was breathing deeply, I didn’t breath too deep and I did just shallow breathing. So as a result, when I put the gas mask back on, I didn’t get sick. Yeah, it’s a sneaky one that I pulled on them. I didn’t go according to orders, but anyway, I survived without getting sick, because there’s nothing I hate worse than throwing up.
So after I did my basic and advanced training, then I went on the training on 4.2 mortars. 4.2 mortars, we went to a camp north of Camp Borden and we fired mortar rounds onto the lake at Meaford. We were trained in range finding and target practice and so on. This was all part of the 4.2 mortar training. After I finished that, I had my pay book initialed by the lieutenant training officer that I had taken the mortar course. And also at the same time, we were up in Meaford, which was about 30 or 40 miles north of Camp Borden. We also did our PIAT training, projectile infantry anti-tank training [PIAT] there. We had a fire at the, these PIATs, at the tanks to indicate the damage that we’d do by blowing the tracks off a tank and so on. Of course, they were just dummy tanks, they were training tanks. There wasn’t any personnel in them, but that was part of our training.
And then also, up in that area, up in that Meaford area, the live ammunition training area, there was about, I suppose it was a quarter of a mile long, covered about at least a quarter of a mile or more, where we had to crawl on our stomachs. And in the meantime, machine guns were firing over our heads. Again, I knew that they wouldn’t be plugging us, but it was quite a sensation to be crawling along and hear those 303 Vickers machine gun bullets whining overhead. But when you looked ahead, this is a range that has been used for a good four or five years or more, if you looked ahead, you could see the trees were all whittled down to a height of about four feet high of stumps. So you knew that there was a lot of ammunition being fired there.
After I finished my basic and advanced in Camp Borden and the machine gun training and the PIAT training and the gas and all that, then I was transferred to Woodstock [Ontario] for my driver’s training. I was trained as a driver/radio operator. So from when I graduated from Woodstock, then I was sent to [CFB] Kingston, to Vimy Barracks in Kingston. And the Vimy Barracks is where they taught radio. By that time, the war in Europe had had wound down and they didn’t need, the drafts overseas suddenly just eased off. Like I remember when I was stationed at Camp Borden, the last draft from the adjoining camp, the adjoining camp to our machine gun training centre was the straight infantry, and the last draft of overseas, I saw them march the men out for that. That was the draft that went overseas was from A10 in the adjoining camp, at Camp Borden. So that’s how close I come to getting shipped overseas.