Fred Graham, 2009.Historica Canada
"When he tried to take the gun, he got shot. You were there for a reason and the chances of getting killed were great, and the same with on their side."
Born in Toronto, signed up in Toronto. At the age of 16 actually, I was, I did a little cheating on the side. [laughs] I wasn’t supposed to be in the army. But, anyway, I got into the army. They didn’t find out about the discrepancy, so I got away with it more or less until come time to go overseas in 1939 and, at that time, I was with the 2nd Field Park Company of the Royal Canadian Engineers. And, of course, when it come time, 1940, to sign on permanently, they discovered my age, so I had to drop out. So I dropped out for about a year.
Not being able to get parental consent, I told a fib [laughs] and got back in again in 1940. I stayed in all the way through until the end of the war, 1946. They hadn’t discovered my age difference all the way through, so I was able to get away with it. I signed on permanently with the Lincoln and Welland Regiment from Hamilton or Niagara-on-the-Lake. That’s where I spent my beginning of the training.
The Lincoln and Welland Regiment was an infantry regiment. Finally, in the end, we got involved in the push forward going north. As I say, I landed at Caen and did some training there. And then from there, we went from France and then into Belgium, and then into Holland. I was with the anti-tank platoon. We used to drag a 6-pounder [British anti-tank gun] with us, with a Bren Gun carrier and we towed that all over Europe with us. I don’t know whether you’re familiar with a 6-pound gun. It’s towed by a trailer and your Bren Gun carrier had a hitch that hooked onto the gun, wherever you were sent, that gun and trailer went with you. If you had a job to do, like trying to get rid of some tanks, they would send in the 6-pounders to do the job.
We were in one placement, we had to break up and leave; and my sergeant, who was commander of our anti-tank gun, was a Dutchman of all things. When we went to pull out that day, there was a dead German draped across the barrel. And I don’t know whatever became of the soldier, but we took him off and left him there. We had to go. The battle was raging around us, so we didn’t have time to stop and think about anything. You just picked your gun up and took off.
We were in at nighttime, on the course, they would come back and forth raiding us. And, of course, he got in as far as the gun and got shot. I don’t know what was going to happen, but we didn’t stop to think or ask questions. He was there and he shouldn’t have been there, so. And we can see them in the distance, you know, like it was a wooded area. Just at dusk, you could just see them moving opposite to where we were. So we had to put a guard on night patrol, just keep an eye on them, to see that they wouldn’t try to take us over. Unfortunately, he didn’t realize I guess that we were awake. When he tried to take the gun, he got shot. You were there for a reason and the chances of getting killed were great, and the same with on their side.
It was in Holland that I had my 2IC [second-in-command] of my regiment happened to have been in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders [of Canada, Princess Louise’s Reserve Infantry Regiment]. And, of course, they had a band, pipe band, which I was interested in. So I asked him at that time if I could have a transfer into the Argylls. It was getting towards the end of the war and we weren’t doing a great deal. So he said, leave it with me and I’ll see if I can get you a transfer. So he did and I was able to get the transfer. At that time, the Argylls were up in Berlin. It’s what they classed as the Berlin [Infantry] Brigade. Well, I was a drummer during my, I guess you’d call it the relaxed period, training period, over in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Although we were not recognized as a pipe band, our colonel, Colonel Bewer, was a Scot and he wanted a band. So we had funds available and they bought the instruments for us, the pipes and the drums. And, of course, we had people that were capable of teaching and so, I got in with the drums and ended up as a staff sergeant in the band. [laughs]
The many pipers went through, one in particular that I can recall was our pipe major, John Wakefield. As I say, we were stopped from playing in around the 1942 area because that was when they decided to put the regiment over into Europe and so that meant that we were an infantry man first and pipe band second. So we lost our instruments until the war was over but, for me, it was almost over up in Berlin. I was able to ask the colonel if I could have a transfer into there, seeing as he had been an Argyll and had taken over as the colonel of our regiment. He had been the 2IC in command in the Argylls. So when the opportunity come about, I asked him if I could have a transfer, which he gratefully did for me. Anyway, I enjoyed it.