Lewis Billard, in his Royal Canadian Air Force uniform.Lewis Billard
Lewis Billard (top row, 7 from left) and the other graduates of the Technical Training School in St. Thomas, Ontario, 1943. The course lasted from October to December.Lewis Billard
Crest of the Royal Canadian Air Force that Mr. Billard displays on the front cover of his scrapbook of his war experience.Lewis Billard
Dance hall and theatre of Mr. Billard's RCAF base overseas.Lewis Billard
When Air Marshal Leckie his RCAF base, Lewis Billard's superiors asked him, a member of the ground crew, to be in the photo. He is on the far right.Lewis Billard
"Of course, I'd never left Glace Bay before that, so this was quite an experience. So everything I'm telling you is by a person who was completely unfamiliar with traveling, and so it was tremendous experience"
My name is Lewis Billard, and I was born in Glace Bay, 1923. I was working in the Bank of Nova Scotia in Glace Bay for almost two years before I got my call to enlist. My father always worked in automobiles, so I decided that I'd like to work on the engines of aircraft. I worked in the banks, so the fellow at the recruiting station said to me, "Why do you want to do that? It's going to be cold, it's going to be outside, and you're going to get your hands dirty and greasy. Why don't you go into the Pay Corps?" "Well," I said, "I'm really not that interested. Do you have an aptitude test?" He gave me one, and of course they discovered that I was really quite mechanically inclined.
So I became, after much training, what was then called an aeoroengine mechanic. I took some training, before I got my uniform, in Moncton, and this was basic training, like filing metal and learning various things. Then I went to the Manning Depot in Lachine, and then I was sent to the technical training school in St. Thomas, Ontario. Of course, I'd never left Glace Bay before that, so this was quite an experience. So everything I'm telling you is by a person who was completely unfamiliar with traveling, and so it was tremendous experience. I was elated, you might say, all the time. I just really enjoyed going everywhere.
From St. Thomas, I went to the No. 9 Bombing and Gunnery School, and I was there for almost nine months. And then I was home on leave in Glace Bay for a while when my friend, with whom I had joined (my number was R252010 and his number was R252009), he had gone to England, because they were wanting persons to volunteer for overseas service. I was somewhat disappointed that we were going to be separated, so he said, "Why don't you apply?" and I did. We both went over on the same trip across the ocean. In those days we traveled by boat, of course. It was the Ile de France, and I keep joking that I had return ticket, because I came back on the Ile de France.