Veteran Stories:
Len Van Roon

Army

  • Kodak Ball Bearing Shutter camera that Mr. Van Roon bought in London in 1944 for $2.50.

  • Boots that were issued to the 3rd Canadian Division for the Invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

  • Mr. Van Roon sent this field postcard to his mother on June 10, 1944. He knew that she would have heard about the D-Day landings and wanted to send a quick note letting her know that he was doing well.

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"When the landing came, it was good to just get it over with. I’d do anything to get off of those boats."

Transcript

My name is Len van Roon. My military number, H1240 – you never forget those things. I was born in Winnipeg. My father died when I was quite young, so I was totally inexperienced in almost everything. I got my grade 11, and then this time came during the war that everybody had to just go, so everybody just plain went. It was quite an experience for a young fellow coming off a little poultry farm in a suburban area. The funny part was that the first thing they gave me to do was to crack eggs for umpteen hundred men in a barracks. I started just cracking the eggs and putting them in these muffin pans. It got so boring that finally I cracked the egg, put the shell in the muffin pan and threw the other in the garbage. So that was my beginning in the military. I took basic training in Winnipeg, and then took training in Dartmouth in Nova Scotia for anti-aircraft gunnery. After training in anti-aircraft, we went to England, and I tried to get into field artillery, but my trigonometry was rusty so I didn't quite make that, so I was relegated to anti-aircraft stuff, which was ok by me. But then, there were two of us picked out of a camp, and they picked the two of us and put us into training as an 'ack'. An ack is an assistant to the Fire Control Officer. So we ended up in the 19th Field Artillery. We were based in Bournemouth in England, and we went onboard ships at Poole Harbour which is close to Bournemouth, and these ships would approach the French coast just in maneuvers and then turn back, just to confuse radar and that type of thing. Boy, I'm not a sailor. I hated those boats. But anyway, it was training for the initial landing. When the landing came, it was good to just get it over with. I'd do anything to get off of those boats. We were subjected to operating from a small, almost fishing boat type of thing. It had a crew of four sailors, and those small boats were attached to the main ships, just the way a lifeboat would be. Then we were launched into the Channel, and boy that sea was sure rough. The idea of our job was to direct artillery fire onto the beaches, and they had two crews in case one was lost in the procedure. The other boat didn't show up. We were pretty fortunate to end up in the boat that survived.
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