"I looked back and she got up. I was really glad to see her get up. But she must have laid flat on the ground because it didn’t hurt her, but it wrecked her bike."
When I joined the army the 15th of March, 1940, they were short of drivers overseas. So anybody that held up a hand and said they could drive, they shipped us out. Well, we were in Calgary maybe two or three days, then down to Ottawa, where we gathered some more, and they called us the 1st MTVRD [Mechanical Transport Vehicle Reception Depot] Service Corps. So, and then we stopped at Newfoundland to pick up I think it was 15 more. At that time, Newfoundland belonged to Britain and they wanted to join the British Forces.
We got on a ship called the [SS] Duchess of Richmond and at that time, it had been changed to a troop ship, so we went over first class. And we had somebody to shine our shoes and make our beds and keep our cabin clean. But we zig-zagged across the Atlantic, it took us 14 days trying to avoid the Nazi submarines and the destroyer met us a day out from Liverpool [England]. And there, we met Prime Minister [Winston] Churchill and Anthony Eden, I think he was Minister of State then.
And then we went to our camp at Bordon, south of Aldershot, south of London, where we stayed. And at that time, our present queen [Elizabeth II] was a princess then and she was training as an ambulance driver. And we used to see her every day, right across the road. We used to go up to London quite often to CMHQ, Canadian Military Headquarters. And we used to see them princesses riding out on their horses.
When we got over there, we found out half of these people couldn’t drive. So our job was to take the vehicles in from the docks and take them out to the different units. We had to stop at our garage and fix them, if anything, then take them out to different units. A lot of drivers left the emergency brakes on and burned the brakes, so they had to be fixed.
But you had to learn to drive on the wrong side of the road and in the dark because everything was blacked out. Oh, and then our first time we came from Southampton [England] a German fighter pilot came right down the line and shot a hole through the windscreen and the windshield. But we were in the ditch by then.
The next bombing I had was some German bombers came over and a Frenchman in the gun pit, he opened fire or they wouldn’t have bothered us. But two of the the bombers turned around and just flattened the camp. I had a shirt on the line, just washed, and it was just full of holes. It’s a good thing I wasn’t in it.
By that time, we were in an air raid shelter, everybody was afraid, it was their first bombing. And in the morning, there was a fellow, a Bill Cooper from Calgary, his hair turned white overnight. Then I was sent up to Cardiff in Wales to pick up an ambulance and it was donated by the Dionne quintuplets. And I drove that ambulance in London during the blitz, so Battle of Britain, Hitler bombers are bombing London, he thought he could beat them. But they stayed down in the underground railroad and they had a good time down there. When I went down, I used to see them playing cards and singing. Every night after that, we were called up to watch if Hitler and his troops would come into Britain, and he could have and the war would have been over. But he made a mistake and went after Russia and Russia fixed him.
I drove millions of miles over there and I never had an accident. One time, they used to give me $5 command pay, it was about 500 miles from our camp to Glasgow, where I picked up a tank and coming home. The roads were awful narrow over there, they didn’t have any sidewalks and they just walked right out to the street. But one day, I was coming back and a woman drove right out in front of me and I couldn’t stop with all that weight, with the tank and the truck, and I thought I must have killed her. I looked back and she got up. I was really glad to see her get up. But she must have laid flat on the ground because it didn’t hurt her, but it wrecked her bike.