"We had to ride bicycles for six months beforehand, because when we got into action there would be no transportation…"
I'm J. Norbert Todd. I joined January the 30th, 1941, and I was discharged on December the 13th, 1945, so I spent just about five years – four of those overseas. What I went over with was the 1st Field Squadron, which I did not like because I was in the hospital here in Petawawa and then Ottawa for three and a half months, so my unit left, and they put me in the 1st Field Squadron. I did not like that outfit – none whatsoever. My Sergeant was an ex-priest, and you can imagine how mean he was.
My oldest brother in the Winnipeg Rifles put a claim in for me to get me out of there, so they said, "Forget about that, we'll put you into the 3rd Division," which was what my older brother was in. But they helped me in the... unit there. They gave me some stripes and a hundred and ten men, and wouldn't let me go. After about six months, I had a nice fight with the Major and he finally let me go. He stripped me down and sent me out to the 18th Field Company, 3rd Division. So that outfit I got along with good. They were a mix from right across Canada, and that's the outfit I stayed with until the end of the war.
I was in the Royal Canadian Engineers and with 1st Field Squadron. Bridging and mines – that's what they'd do there. But when I went into the 18th Field Company, in the later part of 1942, it was a different deal altogether. You worked with the infantry – more like assault engineering. We set up courses for the infantry to go through and all that sort of stuff. You'd still do bridging and mines; you had to keep up with that. You also learned how to do a little bit of booby-trapping, or picking up booby-traps. That was very interesting.
Later on, about six months before D-Day, they gave us bicycles. Only one, No. 1 Platoon was given bicycles of the 18th Field Company. All different types of bicycles. We had to ride bicycles for six months beforehand, because when we got into action there would be no transportation, and they issued out paratroop bikes. So that's what you did. Everywhere you went, you had your bike with you. But for about six weeks before D-Day, we started practicing on the beach, taking obstacles off the beach, and learning how to get rid of the mines. But when we were the first wave going in on D-Day, that was our job, to take these mines and obstacles off, but they didn't tell us there were mines on every one of them. There were mines in all the obstacles, and there were also T-gates, which were about twice as high. They had no mines on the beach, thank goodness for that much.