Veteran Stories:
Herbert Charles Heron

Army

  • Herbert Charles Heron at the Sunnybrook Veterans' Residences, Ontario, January 25, 2010.

    Historica Canada
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"But we all know what happened to the Far East, they dropped the bomb."

Transcript

Herbert Charles Heron. Now, my dad was Herbert, by the way, so I go by Charles. I was in the reserves in the Scots Fusiliers in the city of Kitchener [Ontario]. I enlisted in Kitchener. Yeah, we went through all of the route marches and training and whatnot. But they took me from the reserves and made me a sergeant. Well, enough said about that. And one of the jobs, the very first job they had me do, early on, they asked me to move my 31 people from this point to another point and not be seen. Disaster. I got them from one point to another without being seen, but I took them through a pasture of poison ivy, and they all ended up in hospital. And I was a private in a hurry. Yeah, I took my training at Quebec City and Debert [Nova Scotia]. I wanted to be a piper, but I couldn’t play the chanter [part of the bagpipe]. So they made me a signaler. Eventually, they had me repairing radios, 13 and 43 sets. They had a course in Brighton in England. I’d go to this course and then go to a dance, tea dance or something, I liked dancing. And so I went to tea dances. And then take the train back to my headquarters in Angmering. My sister, Marion, had joined the air force and was working in Yorkton in Saskatchewan in an [British Commonwealth] Air Training Program. The first thing that happened is I’d get leave, go to London, because of family friends, I’d visit them and go to a dance at Hammersmith Palais [de Danse, a ballroom venue] in London, which had two bands on a rotating platform. So dancing never stopped, it was carried on. Of course, the time came and you had to go to the washroom, and I was standing at the basin washing up and beside me came an Australian. And this is the first miracle, how many millions were in England. He says to me, “Hello Canada.” I said, “Hello, Australia.” He said, “I just came back from your country, it’s wonderful. I was in the Air Training Program.” “Oh,” I said, “where were you stationed?” And he said, “In Yorkton.” I said, “My sister’s in Yorkton.” “What’s her name?” “Marion Heron.” And he pulls his wallet out and there’s a picture of him and my sister, Marion, at his graduation party when he graduated from the program. Time came, I was looking after these radios, which is an important job, but I was a private. And in 1943, late 1943, my colonel says, “I’m going to recommend you for officer training.” I said, “What are you talking about, I haven’t had any education, I had a year and a half in high school.” “I know you haven’t got much of a chance, but 57 attended in England, a pre OCS 2 [Officer Candidate School] course, including me.” Somehow I qualified academically, which was amazing. I ended, of course, you’re interviewed by all sorts of brain doctors and whatnot. I said, “Look it, I don’t have an education.” Well, I ended up, the final day, taking a subject that everybody, they wanted somebody to pick a subject they could discuss intelligently. I was most upset, I said things like, what are we going to find in Russia, talked about something none of us knew anything about. And my subject was, what has the army done for you, socially, physically, intelligence. And they accepted my chairmanship, all 57. And I ran a meeting. Anyway, they sent me back to Canada to get … They castigated me, for saying I was stupid and this was the judges of colonels and whatnot. And I ended up a lieutenant. Back in Canada, getting my lieutenancy, and what happens is the war goes on whether I’m there or not. They send me back to England and I’m given the job, there’s an election committee, an election, so they gave me the job of returning officer. The ads at the time said … Oh, by the way, I got married in Canada on the 1st of July, 1944. And that added a lot of points to my ability to come home. And he says, “Would you like to go home.” I said, “Sure.” But of course, you had to sign up to go to the Far East. You couldn’t sign up and walk off. But we all know what happened to the Far East, they dropped the bomb. So I got discharged in July [1945].
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