"I like to leave the impression with the young people that war is not fun, it’s hell."
My name is Alfred James Warford but I go by the name of James. We left Camp Valcartier in 1942 and moved out to Vancouver. What I joined was the 6th Div Ammunition Company of the RCASC [Royal Canadian Army Service Corps]. When we got out there, we found out that the 6th Div wasn’t going overseas. So we were allowed to volunteer to go over as reinforcements. So at that time, I was a sergeant and I threw down one stripe to a corporal to go overseas.
I went over on the [SS] Empress of Scotland, which used to be the Empress of Japan before the war. It was renamed the Empress of Scotland and we went over, unescorted. That was in January and it was in very rough seas. From there, we were put on a train and sent down to England. We were in Hythe, which is on the coast of England, and we could see France on a clear day, you could see across the Channel.
Every night, boats would go out on training and one morning, they didn’t come back. And that was the start of the invasion. We went in on D-Day plus two, because we couldn’t go in and set up an ammunition dump until the beachhead was established. When we landed at Juno Beach, they were still shelling the beach because if they could cut off the supplies, and they cut off the army able to advance. So that was my first experience. They started shelling it as we were unloading and I was in the shell hole and I swear my fingerprints would still be in that shell hole. It’s an awesome experience.
The way we got the trucks in there, they came in from a ship and we loaded it onto landing barges. We had to float the trucks in and in order to do that, because the landing barge could only go in so far, in order to do that, we had to run the exhaust up through the roof of the truck.
Our first main battle we were involved in was the Caen, C-A-E-N, in France. And the next one was at the Falaise Gap, F-A-L-A-I-S-E, Falaise Gap in France. And that one was where they had the Germans surrounded and we were pouring everything at them. And we were hauling ammunition steadily back up to the front lines and the guys were so tired, we were given what we were told an eight hour break. We, the boys had only settled down for about an hour or an hour and a half when we got the call that they needed more ammunition and we had to get them up and get the convoy up, going up there, up to the front in Falaise.
Well, we were going in the convoy and periodically, we had to stop. And the guys, we had to literally go along and bang on the doors of the trucks to wake them up. They were just falling asleep at the trucks and that one sticks in my mind.
We were into Germany and at this time, as I say, we were a composite company, so we were hauling petrol at the time. And we were given a map coordinate to move to. So the word was to move right away and we moved up to this map coordinate. And that night, we heard this small-arms fire and shellfire. We thought, that’s pretty close. The next morning, the infantry come through. They had made a mistake, they sent us up there too soon. So imagine what would happen if they had come through and been able to explode the petrol dump. It would have tied up the, all the armoured divisions and so on. So mistakes do get made.
We had been pulled back from Germany into Holland at a place called s’Hertogenbosch. Don’t ask me to spell that one, I can’t spell that one. But we were pulled back into s’Hergotenbosch and it was in there when we heard of the war ending.
I like to leave the impression with the young people that war is not fun, it’s hell. What you see on television sometimes does not portray it properly.