Veteran Stories:
Roy Bartlett

Army

  • The 25-pounder howitzer gun Bartlett used to train artillery personnel, summer 1944.

    Roy Bartlett
  • The 25-pounder howitzer gun Roy Bartlett used to train artillery personnel, spring 1944.

    Roy Bartlett
  • The 25-pounder howitzer gun Roy Bartlett used to train artillery personnel, winter 1944.

    Roy Bartlett
  • Staff instructors at Petewawa, Ontario. Roy Bartlett is located third from the right in the back row.

    Roy Bartlett
  • Roy Bartlett's CATC badge.

    Roy Bartlett
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"You are the fellows that are holding these men in place up there. And it takes 10 men behind every man that’s in the front."

Transcript

We were going out on parade one morning and it was a morning in May or early June. It was hot, it was sticky, we were in battle dress, steel helmets, all your gear, rifles. And everybody was uncomfortable. A station wagon drove up, a major stepped out, our company commander and he said, “I want two volunteers.” Nobody moved. And he says, “I want two volunteers that can type. You’ve got to be able to type.” So my friend and I said, “What the hell, I don’t want to go out on this damn parade anyway. It’s 35 mile route march in full battle dress.” So we stepped out. And he said, “Can you fellows type?” We said, “Yes sir.” “Get in the station wagon.” So we went over to the battery office. From then on, we were clerks.

And things were so disorganized because there was a brand new centre, we didn’t have enough instructors. During the 1930s, so the army told us, the NPAM, non-permanent active militia, was cut back because of the depression. And earlier camps had taken all the NCO’s [non-commissioned officers] that knew how to train fellows. So we were all in quotas and when we were through training, we had to send on 95% of the fellows. That was the aim. But if you had your quota full and you didn’t have any people leftover, that were in jail, in the brig[jail] or AWL [absence without leave] or hospital or something, away on compassionate leave, their mother or father died, they were needed at home to take the harvest, all that type of thing, we could take some fellows off of quota and make them instructors. And that was how we got into being clerks. And from there, I got into the training end of it.

So I was made a sergeant, I was transferred from the clerical end of it to the training end of it. So I was a sergeant for many years and it was boring as hell at times. You get a bunch of guys in, you go with them for six or eight weeks, and then they start going into different phases of the training. We had, in the battery, we had a group of us and we each did different things. Now really it was interesting at first but after several months of it, you got a little bit cheesed off. And what they told us was, “You come and do this work for a while and there will be people coming back from overseas and they’ll come and take your place here and you’ll take their place over there.” It didn’t work out because the minute fellows came back from overseas, they didn’t want to come to Petawawa and the sand and gravel and cold winters. They wanted to go to their home depot out in Alberta or Toronto or London or St. John, New Brunswick, Fredericton rather. They didn’t want to stay around. They’d done their duty over there, they wanted to get the hell out.

And the other thing is, some of the fellows did go over as NCOs, sergeants and staff sergeants, when they got to the unit, the unit didn’t want to accept them, really, because they had fellows that they wanted to promote. So the fellows would go over and they would write back to us and say, “Hey, it’s not all a bed of roses over here.” If you were a troop commander from some regiment that was from Nova Scotia well see, you’ve got your own fellows, your bombardiers that are moving up the line, you wanted to make them into sergeants rather than accept somebody that was from Ontario or British Columbia.

Our colonel used to have a, a saw and he used to point to the saw. Now we got different talks with the colonel and he knew that we were sort of PO’d [pissed off] with and bored with what we were doing and wanted to move on. But he was trying to impress upon us that we were important. So he had this saw and you know the saw blade cuts into the wood, that’s where the enemy is. But can you take those little points all along the saw and separate it from the rest of the saw? From the saw blade? You can’t, can you? What holds those points in place is the broad part of the blade of the saw. And he used to tell us, “You are the fellows that are holding these men in place up there. And it takes 10 men behind every man that’s in the front. So for every gunner that’s up there with a gun, there are probably 10 fellows behind that are doing different things; paid corps, ordinance corps, remy, dental corps, medical corps, all these different groups.” And he said, “Training is probably the most important one of all of the people that are behind it. And that applies to the infantry, the armoured corps, artillery and combat engineers. They are all people that are at the front. But you’ve got to have the people behind to hold them there.” And he used to tell us about that at different times.

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