Veteran Stories:
Robert Bates

Army

  • Robert Bates, shortly after enlisting in the Royal Canadian Artillery.

  • Soldiers survey the damage to a bombed building.

  • Robert Bates wearing his regimental jacket and medals.

  • Information on German soldiers distributed to Allied soldiers, counselling them to be very cautious of the enemy.

  • Left to right: 1939-1945 Star, Italy Star, France and Germany Star, Defence Medal, Canadian Volunteer Service Medal, War Medal 1939-1945, Canadian Force Decoration for 12 years of service.

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"As it happened, we were members of the Airedale Unit that was the first reinforcement unit for the 1st Division, which had gone to Sicily"

Transcript

My name is Robert Bates. I joined the Army – it was the 78th Battery in Red Deer on June the 3rd, 1940. I was seventeen years of age. Later that year, we moved to Truro, Nova Scotia – Camp Debert. We did a lot of artillery training there. While I was in Camp Debert, my father had re-joined the army. He was a veteran of the First World War, but had re-joined the army, and he was with the 15th Field Regiment. For some reason, I decided that I'd like to be with him and his regiment for a while.

We moved from Debert, Nova Scotia, to Sussex, New Brunswick. Our regiment was called for overseas. Unfortunately, my father – they had discovered he had a hernia, and at his age, they wouldn't let him go overseas. So I went overseas with the 15th Field Regiment, 95th Battery. I had received a promotion as a Lance Bombardier at the young age of nineteen, and they considered me a little young to be an NCO in the Signals section of the troop. And then as a Bombardier, which is the equivalent of a Master Corporal now.

We trained in various places in England. And while I was on a Signals school, the Sergeant Major came and asked a friend of mine and myself if we would consider volunteering for a situation – he couldn't tell us exactly what it was, but he suspected we might be going to Africa. So we decided… we had both reverted to the ranks of Gunner previously, but we decided that's what we had joined the Army for, so we volunteered. As it happened, we were members of the Airedale Unit that was the first reinforcement unit for the 1st Division, which had gone to Sicily. And we were stationed at Philippeville in Algeria, and then moved to Constantine, where we were training with the Aryshire Yeomanry of the Guards Division. At that time, the Canadians finished in Sicily and invaded Italy, and nineteen of us that were with the Aryshire Yeomanry for training were sent to Italy as reinforcements for the Canadians, outside of the San Leonardo River, previous to Ortona. Also Monte Cassino, on up the valley. At that point, we were on the outskirts of Rome when we were pulled aside and told that we were to stand aside and let the Americans capture Rome, because they had never captured the capital of a country.

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