"Yeah, there were times, times of, mostly it was just hard work, but it was punctuated from time to time with a bit of terror."
I guess I would be in high school. Some of the older fellows, older boys enlisting and that sort of thing, but it didn’t interest me too much because they were older than I was and it would be all over by the time I would be ready to enlist. My mother insisted that I complete my grade 12 before she permitted me to enlist and, of course, then it was time to do so. I was 19 years of age. In 1943, that’s what everybody did. She knew it was inevitable. She accepted it.
I had a very good friend, a school chum. His father had been in the First World War and he advised us, “Stay out of the tank, get into the heaviest artillery you can, that’s the safest place to be.” And we took it from there. So that’s what I did, I joined and asked for artillery. And we were shipped to Petawawa [Ontario], where the heavy artillery and the bigger guns were and everything went on from there. Took my basic training and artillery training there and went overseas to Ramsholt in England and also was in artillery reinforcement school there and I didn’t get over to Normandy at D-Day, but I went over to Normandy as a reinforcement in the middle of July of 1944.
I went to a London, Ontario Regiment, gun crew. Early in July, there was the infantry regiments in Normandy had taken kind of a beating and there was lots of reinforcements needed, so they went through all of their camps of other branches of the army and cleaned them out mostly as infantry reinforcements. But for some reason or other, they left a few of us behind to be artillery, which was my training anyway.
There was a small group of us and one guy goes here, somebody goes to another gun crew and you just joined with a small group of guys and you made some new friends and took your position to do some shooting. It was a busy place. Still, everything came over the beaches, even though that had been a month or so previous. All equipment, reinforcements and everything had to … As a matter of fact, it wasn’t until they opened Antwerp many months later that they started reinforcements and equipment from elsewhere, other than the Normandy beaches.
I was sort of by myself, I didn’t go with a group at all because we were just a scattering of reinforcements, one here, two there and whatnot. I hadn’t gone through training with a bunch of people. With the type of artillery I was at, you’re a little, you took comfort from the fact that the, there were tanks and infantry between you and the enemy. Your casualties came from usually any artillery, that they figured out where you were and you figured out where they were. The shooting towards you was enemy artillery or the Luftwaffe, that kind of thing, rather than direct hand to hand, that kind of stuff. Yeah, there were times, times of, mostly it was just hard work, but it was punctuated from time to time with a bit of terror.
I was duty crew on the night when the guns went silent at the end of the Second World War. I was up in northern Germany near Wilhelmshaven and when we knew that the ceasefire was coming. But I was duty crew that night on the gun. Didn’t know we’d fired, already fired our last round, but we were told to be ready to fire in case we were fired upon.