"warfare consists of long periods of intense boredom punctuated by moments of intense fear. And I can say, that I entirely agree with."
In February 1940, our unit was sent overseas. We landed at Greenock [Scotland] in I think the 8th of February 1940. And then we sat in England until 6th of June, 1944, except in June 1940, a short excursion to France. We were there for, oh, something like four days; two days on a train going to Paris and then two days sitting on the train coming back again to the port of Brest. And from whence, went back to England and sat there until D-Day [the invasion of Normandy]. I mean, ours was not an ordinary unit. If you’d been infantry or artillery or any of those sort of things, that was quite a different affair. They’re soldiers. We were a production unit; our job was to produce maps. And the soldiering part of it was really a very secondary affair. As somebody once put it, [former British military commander] General Sir William Slim was quoted as saying that warfare consists of long periods of intense boredom punctuated by moments of intense fear. And I can say, that I entirely agree with.
We went out on some patrols with the infantry, which I still remember. And quite early in the campaign after D-Day, I lost three of my members of my section. One was killed outright and two were wounded and what happened to them, I don’t know whether they survived or not, I don’t know. This happened in a place called Vieux Cairon. I remember that the area had, village had been pretty much deserted and there were some chickens running around in a yard and we thought that would be a nice change, to roast a chicken. So we dispatched a couple of chickens with our bayonets and one chap, who was a former butcher, proceeded to dress them and took one look inside and said, you can’t eat these, they’re all, I think he said tubercular, I can’t remember. Anyway, he found they had white spots on their livers and he said they’re not fit to eat. So no chicken dinner that day.
I had a week’s leave and as good luck would have it, truce was signed or peace was declared [Victory in Europe], whichever was a truce at my last day of leave there in Paris. And we were sitting in a cabaret and the lady who owned it - I was with three other friends - and she stood us a bottle of champagne. And it turned out she was a day too early. There was a rumour it had all been settled but it actually, the truce wasn’t signed until the following day. So this was in May, I can’t tell you exactly what the date was [V-E Day, May 8, 1945]. And then of course, as soon as possible, I got shipped back to Canada.