"I became a gun sergeant. I must have been, what, 19 or 20 I guess. All the men under me, some of them old enough to be my father."
In 1939, I was still in high school and our teacher every morning used to say, well, last night or yesterday, they lost so many ships at sea, so many tons of cargo that were lost and we got into it. And, of course, we had a little cadet corps at school, which I was only in for the last year. And that summer, that’s when I joined the reserve army. I was only 17, I can remember when, I joined the 3rd of September, because my birthday’s on the 14th of September.
The sergeant major came along and he says, “Eh, you’re only counted as a boy, you owe the army some money.” I said, “Why?” “You’re only 17.” I said, “Well, I’m going to be 18 on the 14th.” “Oh,” he said, “to hell with it.” Those were the little things that happened.
When we got there, we were on .50 calibre machine guns and then, oh, at the end of six months or so, they started bringing in these anti-aircraft guns and of course, that involved a lot of training, which was, everything was new to us. And we did pretty good.
I became a gun sergeant. I must have been, what, 19 or 20 I guess. All the men under me, some of them old enough to be my father. It felt funny having a lot of responsibility and dealing with men that were, most of them were older than me, a few years up to what, we had some men there that were 45 years old, for God’s sakes. But it was fun.
We were there and we had them on the ground and we had guns mounted in the bush on towers above the treetops. And of course, we did a lot of practice, small planes dragging a target. Then we’d be firing at those things. The only excitement we really had there one morning was we had a bunch of planes coming in that nobody knew about. And of course, we used to be out there manning our guns at daybreak until the sun was up and then at night also.
When we first got there, Gander [Newfoundland] was a huge airport. The Americans, they really, oh, they had a huge theatre. They even got in a lot of girls working in the offices and everything, and of course, at our sergeant’s mess. When we first got there, there was no women at all. Then the air force CO [Commanding Officer] got his wife and she was the only woman there for a little while. And after that, they had the Americans, all the ladies were in the army, working there. And we’d go and invite them, there was so many of us in our sergeant’s mess and we’d invite so many, if they’d want to come to a dance, it was, if we would organize.
And then they sent us to Utrecht [Netherlands] in a monastery. And the monastery was a nice big place. The Germans had made a mess of it. Oh, they destroyed the heating system and the electrical work, the waterworks. So we had lieutenants, I remember one lieutenant was an electrician. We fixed everything up. When we left there, everything was working. And that’s when they sent me. Of course, and then at the end of the war, to come back to Canada, they were basing it on a point system. But I had already had almost five years or something in the army, so I had over, I forget, I forget even how to work it. But I had enough points to leave instead of staying with the occupational troops. And then they sent me, that’s where they sent me to the Chaudière Regiment to come back to Quebec City.