Infantrymen of the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada taking part in a Vickers machine gun training course, England, 3 December 1942.Credit: Lieut. Alex M. Stirton / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-177137
"Boy, if that Frenchman hadn’t told you JO and we had that five minutes to get this moved, I’d have been right there when that bomb come down."
When I left high school, give or take a year, 1937 approximately, I managed even to graduate from Kitsilano High, and I went to Alberta. I worked in the oil fields for about two years. And then I left Alberta to go, I went downtown in Vancouver to join the air force, I wanted to be the best fighter pilot in the Canadian Air Force. And that’s where they checked me out, my weight, my size, my height, how far I could see, everything was fine except the final thing. Guess what was wrong? I’m colour blind, red and green. Therefore, the air force would have me on the ground, but not up in the air because you have to know your colours when you’re flying around.
I had to go in and start a bunch of training down at the 72nd Seaforth Highlanders down on Burrard Street. And then we got transferred over into [CFB, Canadian Forces Base] Shilo, Manitoba for more training. And then from there, I went from, have you ever heard of Nova Scotia? I went down to a place called, I think it’s called [CFB] Debert, Nova Scotia. So I went to Nova Scotia for more training and from Nova Scotia, they sent me back to Toronto.
I was sent from Nova Scotia to southside Toronto, learned to be a small arms instructor. And here is me, I didn’t even know which end of a gun a bullet come out of and I was going to be a small arms instructor. I was in Belgium and I was in charge of a group of guys. And I lived on a motorcycle, that was my home, riding on a motorcycle. And leading the other guys where to go and how to get there. And we carried all this ammunition and big bombs, etc., in trucks and then I had to go and look ahead and find out where they were going and what to do with it. And as we pulled out of the road, out of the road where we were camped, a young French fellow hollered at me and says, “JO [Junior Officer]! Hang on a minute, I’ve got to move this stuff over here. I’ll just be a couple of minutes.” “Okay, get going there, Frenchie.” So I waited about four or five minutes at the most and then he said, “Okay, let’s go.” And I pulled out onto the road and that five minute was a lifesaver.
As I went up the road ahead of me, there was a truck being pulled by a horse. An older farmer was taking his produce to somewhere, and just as we come up the road, I couldn’t get past him, so we turned over to the left. We drove past them on the left, and just as we started to go by him, not quite, one of these, you wouldn’t know this, you wouldn’t be old enough I don’t think, but it was called an F-2 came down. [F-2 or F-Bomb for Flying Bomb, was a colloquialism for the German V-1 and V-2 rockets.] It was one of these flying bombs that they could project back in those days, that’s before all this new computer stuff was involved. And this thing come down with a bang and it blew a hole in the ground that you could drop a house into. Boy, if that Frenchman hadn’t told you JO and we had that five minutes to get this moved, I’d have been right there when that bomb come down.