Mr. Bandurka's service medals (L-R): 1939-45 Star; France and Germany Star; Defence Medal; Canadian Volunteer Service Medal; War Medal (1939-45).Stephen Bandurka
Mr. Bandurka at age 19 in England, 1943.Stephen Bandurka
Mr. Bandurka's active service pin received after the war in 1946.Stephen Bandurka
Mr. Bandurka's discharge card, 1945.Stephen Bandurka
"And he sent everybody out and he went into this building to dismantle this mine and all of a sudden, the whole building just went up, him and the building and everything."
The war came along and I was a little under age but I thought I’d like to join the army. And they said I’d have to wait. But I went to Saskatoon and I had a brother-in-law in the reserve. He was a sergeant in the reserve, so he said, if you want to get in the army, I’ll get you in. That’s how I got into the army. We were in the engineers. Instead of privates, we were called sappers.
Well, they asked where I come from, we lived on the farm and they said, oh, you’re a farm kid, so you’re in the engineers. The highlight of the engineers, we put one of the nicest bridges on the Emmerich [Rhine River] in Germany, a return Bailey, a huge- it was a work of art. We had to get across the river, and get the seat down for the bridging, and then like get the two seats started and build towards the centre. But we had to do it in the dark because we’d get shot down in the daytime. So a lot of it was done in the dark.
It was on the east side of the Emmerich [Rhine]. The cows were still in the barn and the pigs, so we butchered a pig and a cow and we had fresh meat. (laughs)
The shrapnel was so bad that we had to cover our tires on our vehicles so they wouldn’t get shrapnel in them. And then proceeded to build the bridges where we could. But it was a beautiful sight when we got finished. Double Bailey, a return Bailey.
Some of the boys figured it would be a good time to go over and see what we could find. And they asked me if I wanted to go along and I said, no. So I stayed on the other side and I was looking after the equipment for the bridges. And they went across and I never seen them again because the whole street blew up. The Germans had mined the whole street. So I was happy I didn’t go with them or I wouldn’t be here. (laughs)
We built bridges, we took infantry across, lifted mines and all the menial works, like getting rid of, pardon me, bodies, some way or another. And clearing the road so that, getting all the mines up, so that the troops could come through. You had to be careful because there was push igniters and there was pull igniters. So if you lifted it and you pulled the igniter, you set the mine off. If you stepped on it, you set the mine off because those were push igniters. And then there was the anti-personnel mines. Even our Sergeant -Major, he got a mine in Belgium and it was a great big round- they were built for big vehicles and that. And he sent everybody out and he went into this building to dismantle this mine and all of a sudden, the whole building just went up, him and the building and everything. So the mining was very important, to know where all the igniters were and you had to dig around sideways, not from the top, because if you pushed on it, or pulled on it, it was different. They had the Polish [Mark I] mine detectors. Like I say, I’d parked my truck on one and I didn’t know there was a mine there. But you were always careful for mines, watching for mines.
The Polish detector? Well, I never worked one but it’s just things for your ears and it went down and a thing at the bottom, a round thing at the bottom detected the mine and it went up through the hearing thing and you listened to that. I’m not used to describing what I did. And a lot of the times, I hardly talked about it and over the years, it’s a distant thing.