"until VE-Day and they started broadcasting it in regular English and I took the message that the war was over. Well, that was a great feeling."
My name is Arnold Knox. In civilian life, I had been taking some wireless operator courses. So when I applied at the RCAF [Royal Canadian Air Force], they asked me what I’d like to be and I told them I’d like to be a wireless operator, because I’d had some bit of training in that. So they said, fine. So I went to Galt, which is now Cambridge [Ontario] to take preliminary training. I was there for three months. Billeted in a private home, which was nice.
And then we went from there to Hamilton, to be sworn into the air force. And then back to Manning Pool here in Toronto, which is the old horse palace. And then we were there for about two weeks I guess doing drills. And then we were shipped to No. 1 Wireless School in Montreal for another three months training. And graduated on the 31st of January, 1942.
The funny part of it was that before graduating, they came around and asked us, ”Where would you like to be posted to.” So I said, “Overseas or the west coast.” Well, where did they post me? Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. But I was only there a short time, then I got my posting overseas.
Mostly, during the night, the Germans would come over and drop bombs. But not too close to Headley Court but you could hear the bombings. The worst bombings I’ve ever seen, when we hit France. And German air forces used to come even in the daytime and drop bombs on us. We had to scurry and hide under a truck or we had dug dugouts where we cut down small trees and thatched the roof and we lived underground on account of the air raids.
We went to Headley Court, which was First Canadian Army headquarters, and I had the honour of meeting the general of the Canadian army, General McNaughton. We were taking messages on our radios by then, we had a message, it was sent to him. I fortunately took the message myself so my sergeant says, “Well, you might as well deliver it, you took it.”
We were about a mile south of Headley Court where all the Canadian brass was and I had to report to the Orderly Room to a sergeant and he showed me to a lieutenant and then he showed me to a captain and right on up the rank to colonel, who took me to General McNaughton. And he, a very nice guy, asked me where I was from. I told him I was from Toronto. He read the message and I waited because, I said to him, I said, “Sir, is there any answer?” And he said, “No, it’s all right.” So I left.
And a couple days later, I was walking from our radio room down into Leatherhead itself, which is about three quarters of a mile [1.2 km], and this car pulled up and stopped and there was a woman in it. So she says, “Are you going into Leatherhead” and I said, “Yes, I am.” She says, “Well, get in.” And I got in and got talking and she was General McNaughton’s wife. I didn’t know it at the time so she says, “Have you met General McNaughton?” and I said, “Yes, fortunately a couple days ago, I did.” She said, ”What do you think of him?” This was before I knew she was his wife. I said, “I thought he was a nice guy.” And then she introduced herself.
Going through Belgium, on our way to Brussels, going through this small town, and the fellow that was with me -- we had to keep watching because the Germans used to leave snipers in the buildings, you know and keep your eyes out -- and I turned and all I could see was red running down his face but it was a tomato that somebody had thrown up to him. It hit him right square in the lip. You know, at first glance, it looked like he’d been shot.
Oh, the people were so, they were throwing up bottles of wine and fruit and all kinds of things. Girls were climbing over the tailgates to get in. We didn’t stay long in Brussels, we kept right on going.
We were sending messages all the time and you’re receiving messages about different things. Of course, it was all done in code. You had to take the message. It was usually in letters and numbers. We always had a deciphering officer who put it into a machine [probably either a Typex or a combined cipher machine], that would translate it in English, whatever the message was.
As we took the message, we logged in everything: the time, date, whether it was an important message or not. There was codes for that. We would take it to -- like we were in tents most of the time -- we’d take it to another tent where the coding officer would be and then he would code it in English. We never saw what the message was actually, until VE-Day and they started broadcasting it in regular English and I took the message that the war was over. Well, that was a great feeling.
There really was a Holocaust. Because I saw, saw it myself.