""Meyer! Your leave is cancelled." "What the F for?" I exclaimed. "Because the war's over" he said with a grin. This was May the 8th, 1945."
My name is Art Meyer, a Veteran of World War II, for about four years overseas. My heading is, "Cry havoc, and let loose the dogs of war!", with apologies to William Shakespeare.
You have probably heard from many sources about the Second World War. I would like to tell you some of my own personal experiences and thoughts, which won't be like many Hollywood film versions. One cannot sweeten the subject of war. Wars are an abomination which try to push us back to the Stone Age.
I went overseas with Col. Secord's Number One Advance Base Workshop - RCEME - Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. It was the first week in January, 1942, when we sailed from Halifax on a Norwegian ship, the Bergensfjord. We were not able to explore elsewhere - only the deck to which we were assigned. Armed sailors guarded the stairwells at the port and starboard. Left and right sides of the ship were large signs: "Keep away from the railings. If you fall overboard, we will not stop to try to rescue you." We realized the ominous truth: the ship would become a stationary target for the U-boats - submarines. You will appreciate why we stayed as far away as possible from the ship's edges.
I was in England for three years, waiting for the second front to start. The idea was to split the German forces, half fighting on the eastern Front, and the other on the western front. Shortly after D-Day, we were taken by trucks to the Marshalling area near the south coast where we awaited our turn to board the assault craft across the channel to Normandy.
Shortly after arriving in Normandy, I asked for a transfer to the Infantry. My upbringing was to love peace, but I felt I had to do something to fill the boots of true Toronto fellows, who had been killed fighting with the Royal Regiment.
After some months, on my first morning with the Royal Regiment at about 5 am, I was laden with rifle, several hand grenades, ammunition pouches, emergency rations, and a side webbing attached to harness. At that time, General Montgomery was deploying us from northeast Holland to northwest Germany. Some of us were taken prisoner, others were wounded or killed. The idea was to give false evidence to the enemy that we had troops in both areas. In reality, we traveled through the night in trucks, fought during the day, sometimes with a little sleep in between.
After my six weeks on the front line, an officer jumped out of a tank. I think he had been listening to classical music on the radio. I thought about the contradictions of war. Some killing going on, and a soldier enjoying Mozart. He shouted: "Meyer! You've been six weeks on the front line. You are not supposed to be there for more than five weeks. Tomorrow you go to Paris, for two weeks leave." "Fine with me" I said. About an hour later he reappears and shouts: "Meyer! Your leave is cancelled." "What the F for?" I exclaimed. "Because the war's over" he said with a grin. This was May the 8th, 1945, at the south end of the Emden-Wilhelmshaven Canal.
We should remember all the fighting and killing that had taken since 1914-1918, when the War to End All Wars was fought. Beware of jingoists who speak of our way of life. Recall the words of Dr. Samuel Johnston: "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."