Veteran Stories:
Léon Omer DesLauriers

Army

  • Cap. Léon Deslauriers, January 2010.

    Historica Canada
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"You have to get involved, for better or for worse, but at least get involved! Don't just stand there, that doesn't help anybody."

Transcript

I was part of the COTC [Canadian Officers Training Corps] that they had at the time. There was one at the University of Montreal, McGill [University], Loyola [College] and we had one as well at [Collège] Mont-Saint-Louis. I served with them until I left Mont Saint-Louis to take a course out of town. So I couldn't stay, I had to be there. Then I served with an anti-aircraft, heavy artillery regiment in Montreal. Then I enlisted in the active army. In the active army, they didn't have the same ranks that I had before where everything was ''acting''. I wasn't sure how it worked anymore. It was all ''acting'' and I show up there as a private, leading to officers' training. Just as I joined up, the war in Europe was ending. I wasn't part of any unit; I was a generalist, what they called a ''one-man raft''. They didn't know what to do with me. But I took that officers' training anyway to prepare to go to Japan. The evening that the diplomas were being conferred, I was on my way to my class, and the war in Japan ended. There were about forty of us on the course, and about 20 or 25 had come back from overseas. At that point, they stopped the training and said to us, ''Go back to your units, we aren't going to take you''. I was stuck; they didn't know what to do with me. So I got out of it. That was my big event during the war. I attended all of the basic training at the COTC and I conducted training for others as well. We were limited at Mont Saint-Louis and at another school that was part of it. We were a bit limited. McGill and the University of Montreal were the strongest. Some people were dispatched but not me, not us, since we were still students. So all we took was the basic training. We went to Farnham, we went here and there. It was intense; they even held a demonstration of flame-throwers and other things like that. There were accidents as well. A plane dropped too low and a wing caught somebody. Then after that, I followed intensive training on patrolling, sabotage, parachute jumping, but not free-falls, we just went around because we didn't have enough time. Training on leadership and on defence principles. That was very heavy. I learned that the war was over while I was in the middle of signing some papers. Everything was almost done and I was on my way to Saint-Jerome. I think that I was going to go get my uniforms the next day. Then we found out. I was on the bus. All of a sudden, I saw people outside shooting .22's, flashes were going off and you could hear the radios in the stores. So that's how I said, ''Hello world! I join the army, they hold me up, I show up to serve and now it’s over! But I continued anyway. So that's how I found out. I knew that the war was close to ending, but I didn't think it would end so quickly. I remember the events that led to war. I remember how it was prepared. I remember all the foolish things we did despite all the warning signs. It took us forever to prepare. I remember that we were so happy because we had worked so hard because of the Great Depression that we had no cares. There was Nazi propaganda and communist propaganda that helped the Nazis a lot. Don’t forget that the Russians helped the Germans. The Russians chipped away at Poland, we shouldn't forget that. They cried for our help afterwards but they had gone after trouble. So we were stuck with those people. We had the communists on one side, the Nazis on the other, and then we had the nationalists in the middle who wanted to stay here. What were we to do? We did the best that we could. That was the apathy of people who didn't want to get involved. You have to get involved, for better or for worse, but at least get involved! Don't just stand there, that doesn't help anybody.
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