Veteran Stories:
Carl Alexander Collins


  • Mr. Carl Collins, November 2011.

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"Well, when we pulled up in the train, my father was there of course and he said: ‘If I was younger, I’d be with you again.’"


Well, when we pulled up in the train, my father was there of course and he said: ‘If I was younger, I’d be with you again.’ See, first he said, no, he’d shoot me in the backyard if there was one and then before we pulled out, he said: ‘I wish I was younger, I’d be with you.’ [Mr. Collins’ father was a First World War veteran wounded at the Battle of Passchendaele.] It was a passenger ship that came to New York and unloaded the people that wanted to get out of Europe. Then it came around to Halifax to pick up a handful of troops and that was our little bunch, not many of us, I think maybe, it wouldn’t be a couple of hundred, just a small group because they had to go. And the skipper told the fellows, the crew: ‘You can give them anything they want except liquor.’ Because if we land in Britain with nothing, that’s the way to be. But you look at them at the table, there’s four guys to a table, we slept in bunks and we didn’t have to make our bunks because they made them for us. Oh, it was a jolly trip. And there was an escort of a destroyer with us, but one time, the Pacific storms, those big waves, we took a bit of a licking on that, that great massive, they’re as big as the ship almost. And then when we could watch our escort, they didn’t go up and down like we did. They went through them and it was at times you could hardly see that ship because those great big waves coming to them. Because the destroyer’s not very high out in the water. Oh yeah, it was fine. And we had a pencil tacked on the wall with a piece of string and then hung perpendicularly like that loose. But as the ship rolled, it looked like the pen was going like this and then come on back, come on back, yeah, oh, great, ooh, here we go again the other side. I think it was a pencil, the pencil stayed loosey but the ship was going. Oh yeah, of course, we were all excited, there wasn’t that many of us, it wasn’t a real troop ship, it was a passenger ship, passenger liner. And then when we landed in Liverpool, yeah, I think it was, some fellow from the British War Office come down and congratulated us. And that’s the first time I ever saw a vehicle run by fire. See, the Brits over there, they had, the lorries as they called them, freight trucks, they were run by steam. And underneath, they had a firebox. Over the firebox was a water container. And from that, the steam propelled the driveshaft and all that sort of stuff. And we were looking at this and saying: ‘God, doesn’t anybody know that guy’s on fire?’ Because we didn’t have anything like that over here. And then they explained to us, that’s what it was. And along the roadways, there was things like horse water troughs and as the trucks would be delivering, they’d start to run out of water, they’d put the hose in the troughs of water and bring it out and had to go into this tank, which developed the steam. Oh, it was very interesting.
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