Veteran Stories:
Douglas “Ross” Annis


  • Annis's Medals (Left to Right): 1939-45 Star; Italy Star: France and Germany Star; Defence Medal; Canadian Volunteer Service Medal; War Medal (1939-45); four post-1945 medals.

    Douglas Annis
  • Douglas Annis wore this lanyard throughout the war.

    Douglas Annis
Enlarge Image
Listen to this story

"And that was the morning of Dieppe . And our switchboard was just flashing all day long."


The war was on. I was old enough to join. I tried to join in 1939, but they told me I was too young, that even though I was 20 years old. I didn’t have my birth certificate with me and, or enough weight either, I was only 114 pounds. So they told me, no, you go back to school and I, I went back to work. A friend of mine was joining the militia signals, and he talked me into coming down with him. I went down and joined signals down there in the militia and stayed with them for just a few months. Went to camp, a summer camp and enjoyed myself. Around the first of October, I, it was announced that we were having active force personnel there and if we would like to join, which I did.

We went to Kingston and I spent around eight or nine months there. I started out as a lineman and I went overseas as a lineman. During that time, they had so many linemen coming in from the Bell telephone and places like that, that they took a lot of the younger fellows and put them into different trades. I went into switchboard operating. I stayed there for quite a long while, right up until I came back to Canada I guess, I was still the switchboard operator.

Our basic training was very strict. We had a marvelous warrant officer or sergeant major for an instructor. He was more than an instructor, he was a man. Because he had feelings about us, the same as we felt about him. He was very strict and very tough. But he had been in the Armed Forces for quite a while himself. You all worked together. When we were, when we went on guard, sometimes the fellows, you were, there was what we call the stick man. And the odd time, the best dressed soldier and things like that would get picked as the stick man and he wouldn’t have to go and do guard, he would just be ready for small jobs the next day. I’ve seen fellows polish the boots and everything and carry these fellows out onto the parade square so that they wouldn’t get any dust on their shoes.

And oh yeah, this was done as a joke a lot of times, but it was friends and the chaps that you were with. Of course, you were bunked with them and everything else and you took their problems the same as they took your problems. Most of the fellows that I was with, we went to, like I joined a group in England. I went to the holding unit first and from the holding unit, you took your postings out to the field. My posting was to 1st Canadian Corps. We were slated to go to Italy. We didn’t know it at the time, of course, but we were the group that went to Italy and Sicily. And these fellows I was with all through the war, and from there, we went to Sicily in 1943. We served there until we came up into Germany in 1944.

As a switchboard operator, you were on call and you sat in the back of a truck, a converted switchboard area and did your work from there. The switchboards were a good size. They were, I believe they’re called field and fortress, the switchboards. And they were already in the truck and all they did was just fasten on the connections outside.

The one experience that I had was I went on duty on the morning of the 19th of August, on the switchboard and the fellow that was going to work with me that day had taken the day off. I had a young lad come on with me to learn the switchboard. And that was the morning of Dieppe [the Dieppe Raid of August 19, 1942]. And our switchboard was just flashing all day long. And he learned switchboard very, very fast. I guess the greatest thing was to, when we came through the boom at Halifax, that all the ships all hooted. We knew that they were appreciating us coming home.

Follow us