Veteran Stories:
William “Bill” Agnew

Air Force

  • Bill Agnew in Victoria, British Columbia, March 4, 2010.

    Historica Canada
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"It was warm stuff, and they said, oh, you’re going to where it’s cold, up to the Arctic. We said, oh, for goodness sakes, we were going to the Middle East."

Transcript

So we got marched down to England, to Liverpool, and we all formed there as a unit that was going to be attached to a bomber unit. It was Hercules bombers. I think it was Squadron, I think it was [No.] 216, I’m not quite sure, whatever it was. So we were there for a month, I think, and in the midst of all this, they’d write, sorry, boys, we’re changing now, you hand all your kit in, a new kit, and we thought we’re getting now and it was warm stuff, and they said, oh, you’re going to where it’s cold, up to the Arctic. We said, oh, for goodness sakes, we were going to the Middle East.

Anyway, we got organised to go and then they said, cancelled again. Throw it out, take it all back and you’re getting kitted this time for real for the Middle East. So that was when we went to Liverpool, to get on the troop ship. Now this was one of the exercises I’ll never forget during the war. This was a troop ship and there were quite a few of them. They carried about 3000 troops in the ship and sailed wherever they were going, the Middle East, wherever, around the Horn [of] Africa, wherever they were going, and down we went to Liverpool. And that was quite an exercise because, well, there’s 3000 on and they said eh, we’re absolutely packed here.

Well, in the troop ships they had an officer, who was the commanding officer of the ship, and he was in charge of all the military. And then you have the captain, the guy that sailed the ship, of course, and the military captain, he came on and he said, well, there’s been a lot of unrest amongst people that are down below, you know, two decks down. He says, well, it’s just to assure you that this ship holds capacity 3000 bodies and you’ve only got about 290 on board. So everybody, oh boy. And anyway, that was it. So we got on our way from Liverpool.

Went in through the Bay of Biscay after we left England and that was about the roughest part of it. There was the North Sea and then it was down into the Mediterranean. And there was a clash of tides, you know. It was pretty rough. Anyway, we got on that and we were on there for quite awhile, but the crowd that was on the troop ship, they had tables like this. I think there were six at each table. The tables were screwed to the deck, of course, and the food came from the kitchen, nothing they hadn’t dished out between 6:00 in the morning or afternoon, whatever, and then we cleared the tables after the meal. We then got the signal, the trumpet and all the rest, to hang up a hammock. We all had to have a hammock and sling it up and there was a fight for the hammocks, to get them. But anyway, we got all the hammocks and then, of course, it was fairly rough in that area, going towards the Mediterranean and there were people that were sick. They were all over the place. But, anyway….

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