Informing them of whatever had happened to their loved ones, whether it, they were killed in action or missing in action or prisoner of war or something.
Transcript / ShowHide
My first posting when I graduated from [No.2] KTS [a composite training school in Toronto], I went to the Y depot, which is Halifax, which I was supposed to be going overseas. I was there for four days but when I got there, this new rule came out that nobody could go overseas unless you were 21 because some of the girls were going over there and they were getting pregnant and it wasn’t acceptable. And I thought, well, my goodness, you can get pregnant in Canada just as well as you can overseas. Anyway, they wouldn’t let me go, so I went to Cape Breton Island.
My first Christmas away from home, and here I was 17 but everybody thought I was 18. I was so far away from home that I couldn’t get home for Christmas, so I decided, I told the boss, he was a wonderful man, he was a sergeant and I told him that I would stay, I would be the skeleton crew for Christmas at the office, and he didn’t want that. He said, no, there were two girls, they were sisters, that were in my barrack block, they lived in Halifax and they had invited me to their home for Christmas. One was Doris and the other was Claire, and their name was McAndrew. And they lived in Halifax. Mr. Brown or Sergeant Brown decided that I should go with them so I did. And that Christmas was the most memorable one I’ve ever had. I didn’t get a parcel from home, it came late, and I got there and everybody had a gift for me and the girls had a brother that was home, he was home for Christmas weekend.
Now, we all went to church and it was just like a picture postcard. We walked to church from their house and it was up on a little hill. We came out of church and it was snowing. I could not believe this. It was coming down snowing, just like a Norman Rockwell thing. It was absolutely wonderful. And we walked home and throwing snowballs and, and just, just had a wonderful Christmas. Their parents had open house all the time. They had a guestbook on the front table, everybody signed it and it, it was just like in the movies. It was wonderful.
It was when I was there that we got word that my brother that was just a little bit older than me had been killed in Italy. Mom asked if I could get a compassionate posting closer to home so that’s when I went to Ottawa. It was so much harder for me because I had had my one brother that was killed and then my other brother, who was in the tank corps, he went over on D-Day, which was June the 6th, and he was very, very badly wounded. And when you have that, and then you know, then you have to tell somebody else that these things have happened to their loved ones, it’s a little hard.
I went to records office there and it was very boring, a very boring job. It was keeping the records of all the people from the air force; all their tests, examinations and everything else would come to Ottawa and then we would transfer them into their card and file away. Everybody had a file. So it was filed away in their file and that’s what I did, for a few months. And then I went into the records office casualty branch. When we were on the day shift, we would be writing letters to the next of kin, informing them of whatever had happened to their loved ones, whether it, they were killed in action or missing in action or prisoner of war or something. And when we were on the night shift, we were on the teletype and we had to receive the wires that came in. And we would look up the, we would get the airman’s files so that the day shift would have them ready so that they could write the letters.
Well he [John Gillespie McGee] was an American and he was in our Canadian Air Force. And he was killed but he had wrote a poem called “High Flight.” And that was in his files and it was one of the files that I had to retrieve one time when I was working. And I read his “High Flight” in his file. It’s a beautiful poem.
After V-E Day, it wasn’t too long after D-Day, I can’t even remember exactly when it was, and then we were getting the wires coming in that these people were, were found, the prisoners of war were being released. And that was good.