"One day they got throwing over a bunch of mortars and I was forced into a slit trench that was already dug."
I was a dispatch rider with an infantry regiment, the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry [RHLI]. And you’re attached to the signal platoon. Actually, your job is to post to the colonel, when he decides he wants some message to go to, say the companies, or if you’re on the move, once you’re sitting in a stationary position for a while, the signal platoon puts in phones to all the companies so that they can phone each other. But you still have to take messages down to brigade headquarters. We belonged to the 4th Brigade. The 4th Brigade took in the RHLI, the Essex Scottish [Regiment] and the Royal Regiment [of Canada], that made a full brigade.
I got my motorcycle and I was doing what I do. One day they got throwing over a bunch of mortars and I was forced into a slit trench that was already dug. And there was a soldier from the South Saskatchewan Regiment who was in there and he was already dead for maybe a couple days, and it was the heat of summer. I can remember he had glasses on like I have, his face was swelled right over the glasses. I was scared to stay, I was scared to get out. I did stay and that’s one of the memories that I remember.
We were riding along in a convoy. At that particular time, if you could get a hold of a Volkswagen or something like that, like a German car, you could kind of commandeer it and they’d let you horse around with it a few days before they take it away from you. So we were riding along in this convoy and I said to one of my buddies, I says, “Let’s take a ride down on this road and see if we can see anything laying loose that we can pick up.” Like, you’re not supposed to do that kind of thing in the army, but we did it all the time.
And so we go down about a mile or so and I kind of glanced over my shoulder and I could see this guy crawling across the road. So I stop my motorcycle and run back and he was still crawling and I shoved my sten gun under his nose and, of course, we had the language barrier. And then I was explaining to him that he was my prisoner and I finally got it across to him and he was all armed to the teeth with hand grenades and everything else and he reaches down to these grenades and he’s pulling them off and tossing them on the ground. And I thought, if he pulls the pin out of one of those, we’re both goners. And so anyway, I got him taken prisoner and by that time, the guy I was with, he was on ahead of me, he had turned around and came back.
So I was sitting, oh, maybe twice the length of this room from my motorcycle and I said to this guy I was with, “Keep an eye on this guy while I go back and get my motorcycle.” So I went maybe from here to Bill, and I heard a shot and I looked around, and here, as soon as I had went to get my motorcycle, this guy had turned and run, and the guy I was with had shot him. And he was shot right through the back. And by the time I got back to where he was, he was unconscious. And we looked him over and I said to the guy that shot him, “You may as well finish him off, I don’t think he’s going to live anyway.” So the guy says, “I can’t shoot him.” I says, “Okay, I’ll do that then.” I take a look down the barrel of my little sten gun, I couldn’t shoot him either.
So then I went back down and got back to our own convoy and got a Red Cross Jeep, took it down and picked the guy up, took him into the, wherever they take them. But the guy, I saw him one time later and he said the guy died later in the day, which is kind of sad, but that’s what our job was.
We never did really have an announcement as to when the end of the war was, it just kind of came about kind of gradually. Like, I remember just about the time the war was ending, I was riding along on my motorcycle and I went right past a field and there must have been 15 000 German soldiers in there and they were kind of on parade. I didn’t know what to do, will I get the hell out of here as fast as I can or will I … So I just stopped and I looked. Because if they wanted me, they knew they could take me anyway, so… and I watched this parade thing for maybe as much as ten, 15 minutes, then just drove on. But the war must have been over at that time and I didn’t know it.
Well, we came into Hamilton [Ontario] here and my parents and Cutler, my brother, came down to pick me up, and there was people upstairs in buildings waving their arms and we really felt like we were somebody.