"I said “I will go back overseas when Mackenzie King sends down two of his zombie draftees and they escort me on the ship.”"
I was part of six children, five boys and one girl. At a very early age, probably by seven, I had bought my first rifle, $7.25, that I used to supplement the food that we had in the country during the Depression, the Great Depression.
My dad and my older brother were in the Canadian militia in those days during the Depression. It gave you some pocket change, not very much and I was only probably about 13 when I - a big boy for my age, six, pretty near six feet - and we joined the militia, learned how to fire our military equipment. Really, what you get out of the service in the military is comradeship. A lot of the other is bovine scat.
The problem with the Canadian army, we were so short of reinforcements that they never had convalescence, we never had sick leave. And you were pushed right back into combat. When I came out of hospital from the El Boeuf [France] wounds, and four days from the beach in Normandy to Antwerp, Belgium, the biggest port city at that time in the world, still is today, I rejoined my regiment in combat but it took us four, three days to drive. And on the fourth day, I was back in combat.
I was always walking wounded. I did not require wheelchairs or I was always mobile to a degree. And so they were treating all the badly injured ones and we got second priority. They lifted the shell dressing, the big first aid things that we wore two of those on our helmets under our netting, on our steel helmets. I think that, I’m not quite sure but that probably was not changed from when first applied but once, until I got to England, because they had more serious people to look after. They just had a look at it, shook a little bit of the sulfa drugs on it and you went back into the mass of army marquees that they had, hundreds of wounded in varying stages.
After a hard, long fight in February ‘45, they told me that I was going to return to Canada. Mackenzie King had set a policy where a combat person who was wounded in combat, one time in overseas four years, would return for six months leave in Canada. If wounded twice and under four years, they had the same, that was supposedly mandatory. If you were wounded three times, you automatically came back, no matter how long you’d been there, if you had been in combat and wounded three times, like I was. But they drug their heels on that policy and I did not return until I struck off strength, England, March 8th, 1945 and went back to Canada on a British boat. So arrived NOA in Halifax in the middle of March 1945. And then went to Sella’s home, outside of Windsor, Nova Scotia.
When I got off the Digby ferry, I went to Saint John and then took the Dominion Atlantic railroad to Windsor and the high water at that time of year had broken the dikes down because they weren’t able to repair them. They had very high tides. In fact, they have the… tied with Korea on the highest tides in the world in a place called Parrsboro, Nova Scotia, 60 feet of water changed twice a day. These dikes couldn’t be repaired, they broke and I had been in Windsor camp when we met Stella and we got married. And the buses were not running, they didn’t, regular families didn’t have cars in those days. So one of the main bridges was flooded out. So I had to go to another little place.
Luckily I got a drive on a truck that was hauling barite, a strategic war mineral, for strengthening aircraft body. And lo and behold, there were three people in the cab of that truck and one happened to be Stella’s uncle. So he said, well, we can take you down so far because in the spring, the roads were terrible, and from there, I probably had to walk 12 miles with all my personal kit over the road at night, worried about falling into some of the places where they had been washed away by the dikes breaking and the tides flooding through. You could determine my progress by the barking dogs. As you passed through the village, you know, all the countries by the… all farmland and little town.
So finally, some time after midnight, I guess, I stepped up onto the Stella’s dad and mom’s home, where she was staying and the family dog never even barked. So after that, we went to Sussex and, or went back to Fredericton and they were going to send me anywhere but. And I got kind of ugly because Ithey were not going to send me to Sussex, they were going to send me anywhere but. So I said, who is your commanding officer? And I said, I want to see him. They were going to abide by the regulation. I said, you can tell me what you want but I know what it is and I’ve already had an interview with the colonel of No 5 Casualty Convalescence Depot, where my dad was now working again. And they have openings and I want to be sent there. If you don’t send me, I’m going to have him call me and you can’t refuse it.
But we got off Halifax, went to Saint John. They had a big lunch for it. And then went to Fredericton overnight because I had to report into the Fredericton depot. The next morning, they had the selective people who tried to convince you what you should be doing in the military. So this is my first day in Canada, we’d be up until two o’clock in the morning and they had bacon and eggs, which you couldn’t really eat because our tummies weren’t able to take it, very much of it. And the next morning when I went in to see this personal selection officer, so-called. One pipper, just out of university, and he didn’t say “Welcome home, you’ve had a rough time.” He said “When are you due to go back overseas.” I was home on six months leave. So I guess I got a little bit agitated and I said “I will go back overseas when Mackenzie King sends down two of his zombie draftees and they escort me on the ship.” I left it at that and when I went back, I had a problem trying to get posted where I wanted to. So I was not a happy camper.