A newspaper clipping from the Red Deer Advocate featuring Joe Bill and his five siblings in uniform, 1943.Joe Bill
The telegram Joe Bill's parents received after he was wounded is shown here with the announcement that followed in his local paper.Joe Bill
Joe Bill is shown here on the right during his training in 1942.Joe Bill
Joe Bill is pictured here (right), with his brother and sister in Red Deer, Alberta, 1942.Joe Bill
Joe Bill in Red Deer, Alberta, December 2009.Historica Canada
"He put me on LOB, Left Out of Battle, because he thought I was too young."
My name is Joe Bill and I joined the army in April 1942 at 16 at the Calgary Highlanders in France. I was wounded 13th of August, 1944 and remained in hospital until we come home 13th of January, 1945. We come home for 30 days leave and then went to the convalescent hospital in Victoria, until May 1945. I come out back to the Colonel Belcher Hospital and from there, I was transferred to Queen Mary Park in Edmonton and they operated there two more times. And then I got out of the army 26th of July, 1945.
Well, I was going to school with the convent and they were a little, I don’t know, I just took off on my bike after school. Well, I was in the reserve here first and then I took off 5th of April, and rode my bicycle from here to Camrose [Alberta]. And I joined the army in Camrose because the doctor that delivered me in Vancouver was a medical doctor in Camrose. I knew then that when they got there and had my medical, he said, “Well, when were you born.” And I said, “23rd of May, 1923.” And he says, “You look young,” and I said, “Well, you delivered me in Vancouver.” And he said, “Oh, that’s right,” he said, “I remember your family.” He said, “Yeah you are old enough.” I got in.
Well, I stayed in Camrose for basic training and then went to Camp Petawawa [Ontario], artillery training. And from there, we went to Cape Breton Island [Nova Scotia] to camp there. We went on embarkation leave. I was a day late coming back and they moved the troops out and they went overseas, so I went from there to Windsor, Nova Scotia and trained there. And then from there, the ship just down the road to Aldershot [England], took artillery training there, six pound anti-tank [Ordnance QF, 57 millimeter gun] . And then from England, we went overseas and I was in E Company, Calgary Highlanders, they sent us to Calgary Highlanders from Aldershot. From there, we went into the infantry and I went to A Company and then C Company. I went to France with C Company and then transferred to Support Company. We went to Folkestone [England] when D-Day, and then we trained again and we went down to Lewes [England] and went from Lewes over to France.
Well, we landed in France and then we proceeded up by Carpiquet Airport [France] and we stayed overnight there. And then the next day, we proceeded to Hill 67. But the Officer wouldn’t let me go. He called me of it and put me on LOB, Left Out of Battle, because he thought I was too young.
About a week after that, I was transferred from the Infantry Unit to Support Unit when I was with six pound anti-tank guns. And I was a gunner on that. I had been trained for that before. We proceeded down the road and there was a ‘moaning minnie,’ which is a Mortar Unit attached to the German Unit. And they woke up and they seen us coming and they took off and they went down the road and opened up with us. And that’s when I got wounded. I was wounded in the left ankle, had it nearly all blown out. We all ran for cover once, and then we went back and ran for cover again, and I turned around where I had my feet first, or head first and turned around and went in the other way, and I got hit in the ankle. And they stopped gunning us and I said, “I’ve been hit.” And you couldn’t feel it because it was, I don’t know, shrapnel was hot I guess and everything was numb. And then they called stretcher bearers, and they put me on the jeep and took me to the first aid station. And then from the first aid station, they fixed me up and patched me up and shipped me down the road to the beachhead to the hospital, field hospital.
I stayed in the field and operated there, stayed in the field hospital until the 19th, I think it was, of August. And then we flew over to England to the hospital in England. I went from Colchester [England] to the hospital and that was I had my last operation there, you know, until they could do them in Canada. And then we stayed there and then went to Watford, just outside of London, after Christmas, and then we left there 13th of January to come home.
Well, hospital ship, you know. Took us a long time, it took us 13 days from the time we left England to the time we got to Calgary. Ten days in the boat. My two young sisters met me and then we went home. My mother never would go to the station. She said, “I leave you at home, and I’ll be here when you come back.” Well, it’s something we had to do, but I wouldn’t do it again. (laughs)