"the Japanese shelled the Estevan lighthouse on Vancouver Island. And so immediately, a blackout was declared and we were given rifles and ammunition."
After my first year in university, I decided that I was going to join the air force, but I would give myself a year’s break. So I gave my 19th year to me and then I joined the air force. One day when my young brother and I were out walking in a field on the outskirts of Regina, an airplane went overhead and we made up a song like I’ll join the air force one day. And as it happens, we both did. (singing) I’ll join the air force, far far away, I’ll join the air force, some sunny day. (stops)
After my training, I was transferred, we were informed when we graduated from radar school at that time, some of us would go to Newfoundland, some would go to Britain and some would stay in Canada. So we drew straws to see who would go where. And as it happened, I drew B.C., which was fortunate for me because my family had moved to Vancouver. So I was transferred to Ucluelet, B.C. on the 30th of January, 1943.
What happened in September of that same year, my brother had completed his training as an air gunner and he had come home to Burnaby [British Columbia] on his last leave. So I obtained permission to, to go to Vancouver for, for that occasion and when I was there, he told me that the average life of an air gunner was six weeks. So I was dismayed at that possibility and when I got back to Ucluelet, I arranged to re-muster to air crew, which is like a month later at the end of October, 1943. So I appeared before a board and was accepted. There were three of us of the radar unit that re-mustered. But meanwhile, what happened is the, as you may recall, the Japanese had landed in Alaska at Attu and Kiska, and so Canadian troops had been sent north. I’m not sure where they went, we referred to them as zombies, they were soldiers who had been conscripted. At the same time, the same fall, and I don’t remember what month, I think October or, the Japanese shelled the Estevan lighthouse on Vancouver Island. And so immediately, a blackout was declared and we were given rifles and ammunition and we remained, it remained beside our beds for a week I guess because no one knew if there was one submarine or several or, since Ucluelet is based on the, on an inlet just off the Pacific, whether that submarine might come down to see us.
So as a result, all transfers out of the base were cancelled so I didn’t get to go to [No. 4] ITS [Initial Training School] in Edmonton until in the new year because of this blanket cancellation of all moves. Since I had been accepted in air crew, I was assigned to the station education officer. And so I was involved with him in arranging films to be shown in the rec hall because Ucluelet was an isolated base. And we arranged for debates, things of that nature. I became the editor of the, we started a station newspaper, so I became the editor. And while my transfer still didn’t come through, I was allowed to go to Vancouver on a couple of occasions and arrange for stencil ink and stencils. People have forgotten, there used to be such a thing as a mimeograph machine today. That’s how we printed the The Western Voice, I think it was. And so that’s the sort of thing that I did, waiting to go to be trained in air crew.
Which finally became as I mentioned by going to Edmonton to manning pool all over again in April of 1944. After completing ITS, I was assigned to No. 1 Central Navigation School at Rivers, Manitoba. I found at ITS that I couldn’t be a pilot because of my peripheral vision, and that meant that I could also not be an air gunner or a bomb aimer. So there wasn’t much of a choice. They sent me to navigation school. I graduated in February of 1945. Ours turned out to be the last class at navigation school. We were actually trained for Asia. We should have gone to India, but our training was delayed for a month in October because there were continuous fog over the lakes. So the class ahead of us got to go, but we didn’t.
In January of 1944, at Ucluelet, I was sent to Alliford Bay in the Queen Charlotte Islands [British Columbia] to accompany some equipment. And so I arrived at my parents’ house at the end of January and where my parents had just received a telegram indicating that my brother had been killed. So that’s the last time the balance of our family were all together, the night the telegram came and I had to leave the next morning for the Queen Charlotte Islands, I couldn’t stay with my mother.