"And that took two or three weeks and the day came for the first jump. Nobody slept very much the night before, I’ll tell you that. Pretty exciting."
As soon as I had finished my basic training, I just happened to be in the gym of one of the buildings at the base and I looked up and there on the wall was a huge picture of a man on the end of a parachute, nice red boots and nice red hat and they were looking for volunteers. So I went and volunteered and was accepted. And that got me on the route out to Shilo, Manitoba to take the parachute training.
It was pretty tough. You had to be physically fit. At that time, you couldn’t, they didn’t accept anybody that had had an operation or broken bones. You sort of had to be all in one piece to get in. But oh, once you were accepted, why, you started into the physical aspect of it with lots of running. You never, you never seem to walk anymore, you always ran from point A to point B. But it was good.
And then we had, as soon as they build up your physical aspects, by then, they’d put you, started jump training. And you’re going through the mock towers and the ground training before jumping. And that took two or three weeks and the day came for the first jump. Nobody slept very much the night before, I’ll tell you that. Pretty exciting.
I think we were scared. We were nervous at least anyway. But we had faith in our parachute. It was just the fact that it was the first time we ever had to step out and get air at 800 feet above the ground. And, but we jumped in sticks of 10 and if you were the first man in the stick to be standing at the door when you were ready to jump, you got pushed out anyway, whether you wanted to go or not. And we had a lot of training on how to perform in the air, you know. Like guys were shooting stuff like that, that all seemed to be forgotten at first when we were … We were just like a bunch of ragdolls at the end of a rope, it seemed. They had motion pictures of us and our officers didn’t like it very well, that we got out of the plane in such poor shape. But we survived that. Then we had four more and then a night jump and then we were qualified to be a parachutist. Yeah.
In the day jumps, you could see when you were coming, when you were landing. You could anticipate fairly well when you were going to touch the ground. But at night, it was a little easier in a way, the simple fact that you couldn’t see the ground and you didn’t know when you were going to hit, you were still sort of in a relaxed mode when you struck the ground. And you crumbled quite a bit but it wasn’t bad.
Shilo didn’t have a landing field, we had to Rivers in Manitoba to, where the plane, they had an airfield there. And we jumped in a, the first plane was a Lockheed Lodestar with the door taken off of it. And it jumped ten at a time. And we’d go to the, at the camp, we would go to the parachute hall and pick up our chutes and our reserve chutes and then they’d load us in a truck and take us to the airport. And there we’d strap them on and everybody helped everybody else to make sure they were tight and everything was hooked up right. And then they’d load up ten at a time and the plane would take off and they give you an initial flight, we went up to about 10,000 feet, just to give us a bit of a feeling of what it was like. And then we come down and they lined up in the landing or where the jump zone was. And they tell you, then they tell you to stand up and you hook up your parachute and you check the man in front of you, to make sure that he’s hooked up alright. And then there’s two lights, a red and a green light in the plane. And the pilot up on the front would control those two lights. And there was always the red one on and as soon as the green went on, the first man at the door took off. And everybody pushed in behind him. It didn’t take very long to get rid of the ten men, they just ran right out the door.
Well, then your chute would open up and then you’d float down. It only took three minutes to get down on the ground. Especially in the wintertime, you drop a lot faster in the winter than you would in the summer because the air is drier, at least it was out west there anyway. And then when you land, you gather up your chute and wait for the truck to come and pick you up.
Well, when I was just finished up training, D-Day was like on June the 6th of 1944, our unit jumped in on D-Day and they were really beat up, I don’t know, there was about 125 casualties out of 600 guys that went in. And they needed a bunch of reinforcements and when I graduated, I hung around Shilo until the draft started to go over to reinforce the depleted unit over there. And so I went over in December. So I was there about a week and they just started into some more training. We had to go to a place called Ringway, which is near Manchester, to take a week of special training because the English chutes were different than the Canadian parachutes, in size and a bit in structure. And they also opened up differently, like the Canadian chutes opened up with such a, a force, it just sort of shook you like, like I said, a ragdoll on the end of a rope. The English chutes opened up so softly, you almost had to look up to see if the darn thing was open or not. And so we had to go there first and then take that.
And when I come back, I was called in and they found out I had been a baker and so well, they said, we need you in the cookhouse. So there I was, that’s where I was volunteered for. Like I said before, I just nicely got there and they put me in the cookhouse and that’s where I stayed, until we came home in 1945…