Veteran Stories:
Warren Byrnell


  • "Sitting with Don, myself sitting, Dick McBride, Swift, MacDonald" Mac's D.T. Diamond T Wrecker truck

  • Pontoon Bridge, Korea 1952

  • "The old teal post" Byrnell on left

  • Warren Byrnell and houseboy Kim

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"Get to our border and that’s the end of the police escort and they didn’t even hardly recognize them, there was hardly anybody waiting at this train station downtown Vancouver"


Well, I had been in the reserve army for about two years before and I was working for the power company. And I applied for a job and they, they turned me down on the application. So I got angry, I’m going to fix you and I quit. I immediately joined the military. And in September, was sent to Kingston, Ontario, for my basic training. I had to go for a road test on the diamond T wrecker. I go for this road test and these wreckers of course, all standard transmission and those days, there was no such thing as automatics. So then when I went for the road test, one of the, the tests you had to do, you had to come from the fifth gear, gear by gear, all the way down to the first gear. When you go in the first gear, nine times out of ten, you’ll grind the gears. Well, as luck would have it, I came from the second gear and the first gear just went click and this fellow, I can still picture him, I can’t quite, but I still picture him, his mouth dropped and his eyes went up. And so then after we came back, he said I passed. I didn’t do a lot of repairs once I went to Korea because it was more the recover work. But when I was here, the repairs were everything. Actually, I injured my back. Our routine job was to backload vehicles from all the different light aid detachment to the base workshop. If a vehicle required eight hours of labour or more, then it was supposed to go to base workshop but a lot of these regiments didn’t have a lot of spare vehicles so they had a tendency to, because of the LADs [Light Aid Detachment] as we call them were part of that regiment, they would insist that the REME that were there in light-aid. They kind of fudge on it, if work had to be done. If it was over, looked like it was going to be over eight hours because, once a vehicle was back loaded, they never saw it again for at least a month and a half. Well actually, the Brits that were sent with recovery were the misfits from the base workshop, that they didn’t volunteer necessarily, they sent all their misfits up to recovery. So then them run across a bunch of Canadians, they were able to fit in quite well. And the other thing was we had to do our own, at nighttime, had to do our own guard duty every two hours and then the last one on guard in the morning from 4:00 to 6:00, their job was to make the tea in the morning for, to wake everybody up. Well, the first time the Canadian got in there, we managed, because the base workshop the ration truck came right by our camp. And the fellow driving the ration truck was a Newfie [Newfoundlander], friendly with us and he’d swing and everything and we’d give him different stuff that he couldn’t get himself and he’d walk away and leave his truck and we’d raid the truck for butter and coffee because we were on English rations. All I knew was that we were against; the United Nations was against communism. And actually, in a really old factual manner with what the Korean War was and the Canadians had a big part of, big part in it, as it turns out. That was the beginning of the end of the communism as a whole in the world. It took a while after that. I guess the next thing that just about put an end to it was when the Berlin Wall was knocked down. But okay, when I came home in 1953, we landed in Seattle again and the ones who were coming to BC were put on buses. The ones who were going back east were put on the trains. The buses from Seattle to the border had a police escort all the way. Get to our border and that’s the end of the police escort and they didn’t even hardly recognize them, there was hardly anybody waiting at this train station downtown Vancouver where we were all taken and dropped off to even say hello, goodbye here, how are you or whatever.
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