"He said, the navy needs you. But I think your mother needs you more. Come back when you’re 17. And so I did."
Well, I walked down from the Windsor market, because I was selling some of my father’s product there, HMCS Hunter. I got to the last desk and the duty officer said, how old did you say you were again? And I said, 17, Sir. He said, you look like 16 to me. Which I was. He said, the navy needs you. But I think your mother needs you more. Come back when you’re 17. And so I did.
I walked out of there slightly deflated because youth - I wanted to be part of the action I guess. I’m not sorry that I did but I don’t think we should be recruiting children to fight our wars. And I think you’re still a pretty young boy at 17. I know the big percentage were of that age in the beginning, or at least certainly a good percentage were that age. I’m not sure it’s a good idea.
Well, it’s a new experience. You’re shoved in with a whole bunch of other guys. I think they treated us right though. I went there with what I thought was a short haircut; I had wavy hair, my first bit of action was to be shaved damn near bald. But everybody else was in the same boat.
The clothes I was issued fit somewhat. I almost think there might have been a reason for that, to put us all on our defenses a little bit, or set us all back a little bit so that we could readjust to the kind of life we were going to have, regimented. There’s some psychology in that I think.
First two weeks or so, you could hear some guys crying at night. Yeah. That tapered off. You soon made friends, some of them that stayed with you lifelong. They’re not close but you still know them and communicate with them.
The training, well, that’s not all that difficult. I remember learning to march as a group, handling a rifle in the drill hall, a very noisy place with a cement floor. And one of the tricks was to flip the rifle off your shoulder, down to your foot, back up and then lay it down, at an angle. I couldn’t tell you today what that was called. I got halfway down and I dropped it. And I straightened back up as I was supposed to, the leading seaman in charge of us, he stopped right in front of me. And I thought to myself, uh-oh. And he said, this is the way I want it done and I peeked down and the rifle was lying exactly as it should be.
If I were running the world, which I’m not likely to do, before I declared war on any other nation, I’d run it through a council of mothers and see what the answer was. I think it would be different than a council of military people or politicians. I think they would look for another answer. I don’t think we can stand by and have our country invaded. I don’t think we can stand by and see brutality practiced. But I think we can get at that with education, long before it happens. That would mean helping the countries where they don’t have education, where they lean in the wrong direction. That’s tried in various times but not by the whole world, it’s tried by mission groups, it’s tried by various churches. That needs to be tried by the whole world. Maybe someday, that’ll work out.