Veteran Stories:
Welsford Daniels

Army

  • Welsford Daniels's Discharge Certificate, Kingston, Ontario, 1943.

    W. Daniels
  • Welsford Daniels checking the transmissions from a radio in England.

    W. Daniels
  • Welsford Daniels in England, 1943.

    W. Daniels
  • Welsford Daniels's Identity Card, May 31, 1943.

    W. Daniels
  • 4th Canadian Armoured Division, Corps of Signals, Farnborough, England, 1943. Welsford Daniels is 2nd from the right, 2nd row.

    Welsford Daniels
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"There was so much going on about us. And all we could hear was bombs and it was because as the airplanes that were bombing each other."

Transcript

We had no idea as to what we were going to experience, so naturally, most of us were in the boats. In my case, we were out in a small barge-like boat. When we landed, I had to guide my motorcycle through the waters up the shore of France, which was close to Falaise, that would be the town that’s, not too far from Caen. And that time, which was around the early part of the morning I would say, 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning, and the sky was just lit up like it was broad daylight. There was so much going on about us. And all we could hear was bombs and it was because as the airplanes that were bombing each other, this was to make their sight easier.

But then for us that were landing on the ground, as we were invading, we’d found ourselves without a place to protect ourselves. And luckily in my case, there was a two-ton truck which housed the submitting apparatus [communications unit] and I thought that maybe I could get some relief by using it as a shield. But no matter where I looked, there was always that danger that that was not enough.

Another time, I was making my way through one of the areas and was coming back from a sojourn to one of the outposts; it was quite dark and I could hear noises in the field. As I came closer to this area, this soldier or someone came closer and beckoned me to slow down. I don’t know whether he was injured or what. But I continued on because I really wasn’t equipped to leave with another soldier driving a motorcycle and not knowing exactly where I was because I was in between the front lines and the back lines before I even get to my own headquarters. So I’ve often thought about that one instant, it was - made me wonder not taking advantage of helping someone who may have been in need of my help.

And then there was an occasion [in the Netherlands] at Christmas time where we offered our help with our, whatever it might be with the local churches, the local halls and the local service people, how they always looked at our hands to see what was on our hands. [In Dutch tradition] they called them Zwarte Piet, is the ‘Black Peters’ who worked as Sinterklaas’ (Saint Nicholas’) helpers at Christmastime. They were the ones that gave out the presents to the kids. And because they didn’t have coloured people in Holland, they used to use charcoal to make their faces black and their hands black.

And so when we danced with these young people, we’d look over and [see that] they were all looking at and talking about, “Oh, their hands weren’t black?” So we found out, they were looking to see if the black on our hands would come off on them as we held them to dance. But that was something that was - we couldn’t understand until we found what it was all about. And when we were there in this small town, they came and asked us if we wanted to help them with the giving of the kids their Christmas presents. Because we were all, there was about ten of us in there from the West Indies and myself from Nova Scotia and we were ideal for this sort of an opportunity.

And this all was true too with Scotch people. If Scotch people know that they can see something or touch something that’s black at New Year’s; that means an omen of good luck to them. And I remember one family living close to us that had red hair, they asked me to come to their house at five minutes past 12:00, on New Year’s Eve, and they would appreciate it very much and had a cake at the door and that stuff ready for us, and we went there, my brother and I did, and from that time on, we heard various stories about where coloured people had been welcomed in different homes of Scotch people after midnight, to bring good luck to their homes. You had to be broadminded to be receptive to it. In my case, I did not find it derogatory. As long as I brought good luck to them, why not?

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