Hugh Johnston in his uniform during the war.Hugh Johnston
Hugh Johnston (left) and a friend pose with their wireless equipment.Hugh Johnston
Hugh Johnston poses in his Tanker uniform during the war.Hugh Johnston
Hugh Johnston (right), poses with some Dutch civilians during the liberation of the Netherlands in 1945.Hugh Johnston
Hugh Johnston poses with Dutch children in 1945.Hugh Johnston
"Well, it probably isn’t a funny story to a lot of people but it was funny at the time and the person that was involved in the story probably didn’t find it funny. However"
Well, it probably isn’t a funny story to a lot of people but it was funny at the time and the person that was involved in the story probably didn’t find it funny. However, we - the Gurkhas [Nepalese soldiers serving the British Army] were part of our infantry support and we were rendezvoused in an olive grove and the first thing the Canadian and the British Army did when they set up for any length of time, there was a guy designated there to put in a latrine, to dig a hole and do the little holes and so on, like that.
Anyhow, the Gurkhas are great infantry people. They’re not very good under shell-fire; they get a little bit antsy. However, what happened, this little Gurkha went out to avail himself of the use of the latrine and the shells started to land fairly handy. And as they landed handy, he became very nervous. Now, just go back one step, their uniforms were supplied by the British Army, which issued a pair of suspenders. They being, used the suspenders although probably they didn’t need to. They’re slight little people. However, as the shells got handier, he decided he’d vacate the thing and he got up and started running off in a location that was, well, there was some olive groves that had been there and there was some stumps.
But anyway, as he drove, the suspenders were dragging and the suspenders caught on a stump and he went back the other way at a great rate. However, after he got up and going again, with his suspenders up, a shell that probably would have got him had he kept going, landed in front of him and he, he probably would have been killed had the suspenders not saved him.
We were close to Algiers [Algeria] at a placed called Zeralda, out in tents and that. And the drill was there, guys got leaves but every unit had to supply a 1,500 weight, a bunch of blankets, a driver and an NCO [Non-Commissioned Officer]. So it came my turn, I had to go out. Now, what I did, there was three brothels there, the Black Cat, the Sphinx and the Half-Moon. And we had to circle around, in the vicinity of those places. We weren’t allowed to go in now but anyway, the reason being, some of our guys got too much beer for sure - just beer. They would get out and if they got on the side street, they would be found with no clothes on them and that and the Arabs would clean them right out. That’s the reason for the blankets.
So anyway, we did our turn there and each unit had their turn. Well this time when we got back, there was a little guy from Nova Scotia, a little corporal and he said, well, you know, when I get back to Canada, and I’ll marry and maybe I’ll have a son, you know. And if he sits up on my knee and says, daddy, what did you do during the war, well, he said, I was always taught to be honest, so I’ll say, son, I guarded a whorehouse.