On December 15, 1942 I, Wayne H. Arnold, joined the army at Depot 13, Calgary, AB. On December 28, 1942, I was transported to Currie Barracks with numerous other active soldiers, where we received Basic and Advance Training. I think it was only a week or ten days when I was made a Lance Corporal, as I had First Aid training, so I instructed First Aid. Basic and Advance training continued as per K. R. Kan (Army Book of Routine Orders) to the end of February, when they were drafted for overseas duty. I wasn't one of them because I was awarded another stripe, making me a full-fledged Corporal and sent to School of Instruction.
The C.O. in Basic Training was Major Finnegan, a great singer. This was in "F" Company. My platoon sergeant was a burley Scotsman named Woodford. He and I got along very well. Now, on to Advance Training, with Sgt. Woodford, transferred from "F" to "A" Company. Captain Marsh was our C.O. and Jorgenson our Sgt. Major. As for Lieutenants, they were much in the same boat as I. They had received their commission and were assigned as trainees, then drafted overseas, like the majority of the lower ranks. As a Corporal in Advance Training, I was required to do Orderly-Sergeant work which was an assistant to the Orderly Clerk. Added to that, we as Corporals were required to call and form parades and then turn said parade over to the Sgt. Major.
Following School of Instruction, I was taken on staff of "A" Company until September. I enjoyed this part of the army very much. I received respect from my senior officers and tried to return same. In fact I did a lot of Orderly Sergeant work for RSM Lloyd, and my association with him grew to be quite an attachment. In the morning we were busy but in the afternoon it was rather slack, so RSM Lloyd and I played a lot of cribbage. A lot of my duties were parading defaulters, etc. in front of the O.C.
One such case was a chap from Bragg Creek, who had often requested to visit the O.C. One such time was after his meeting with Col. Scott. R.S.M. Lloyd and I were interrupted by Col. Scott, with a letter from same chap's wife. This chap used every method in the book, so to speak, to get leave to go home. This letter was from his wife, requesting her husband be granted leave, as she was "running short". The three of us had one good laugh and Col. Scott told us that he had never had a request of this caliber submitted to him before. The request was granted.
In the meantime Captain Marsh, our C.O. of "A" Company, left and a Major Wilson replaced him. He was better known as the "Green Hornet". During the summer of 1943 "A" Company prepared soldiers for draft overseas. On one such occasion, a draft was being sent on embarcation leave. I and a number of NCO's were in the orderly room while these draftees were receiving their passes, etc. One chap was apparently from the back woods and asked how to use this transportation warrant. Major Wilson stepped up and, quote, "Will some NCO take this nit witt by the hand and go to the station and buy this nit witt a ticket and put this nit witt on the train?" At this time I stepped forward, demanding that Major Wilson immediately apologize. Sergeant Major Jorgensen, standing in the rear, attracted my attention; his eyes were really sparkling, as if to say "that's my Corporal, give him shit". The major immediately apologized and left the orderly room.
I had on another occasion accosted said Major in the camp barber shop. He had come in while the barber was doing his job. The Major said "let me have those clippers, I'll show you how to cut hair". He was about to run the clippers over the middle of the head of the chap getting a hair cut when I jumped up, grabbed the clippers, and ordered him out of the shop, as I would lay a charge. He immediately left. From then on I watched my step very closely.
About mid-August ‘43, I was made a Sergeant for one day. I was to go to Officers Training School but my overseas draft took precedence. In late August ‘43, I was drafted overseas and went by C.P.R. to Montreal, along with Lt. Butters and a number of other NCO's escorting about 75 army prisoners. From there we marched from the C.P.R. station to the C.N.R. station to be entrained on some old relics of passenger cars. We crossed the St. Lawrence River to Riviere De Loupe, where the train stopped for 20 minutes. Most all of us soldiers ran up town to a tavern where we were informed that the bar was closed. What a predicament; however we soon had it open and the beer was flowing again. Eventually an officer appeared and announced that we should get back on the train or we would be charged with desertion. We complied after delaying the train for over an hour. Eventually we arrived in an army camp at Windsor, Nova Scotia. We were there approximately 13 days. We then boarded a train for Pier 21 in Halifax, boarding H.M.C.S. Queen Elizabeth. After loading on 25,000 personnel, the tugs started to push the ship away from the dock, then the tugs pushed the ship back to the dock and a lot of Negro Americans started to board the ship. Later I was told an American ship almost lost its rudder near New Foundland. It crippled back to Halifax, where a cargo of 8,000 U.S. Darkie Service Corps. squeezed on with us.
Then we were off to the open sea with 33,000 on board. The two large swimming pools were planked over to serve as mess halls. We were served two meals a day and on our way from the mess we could pick up some bread and cold cuts as well as some fruit for a lunch. One day about mid afternoon I was called to the Orderly Room, where I was told I would be in charge of 16 soldiers for blackout watch. No one was to be allowed on the open deck during the night hours. For this I was given an RP (Regimental Police) badge and arm band. This was a security watch and I had to relieve each of the 16 guards every two hours. The only trouble I had was with some medical officers, who were across the passageway from the Orderly Room. I guess they were toasting our cruise overseas. The next morning my duties were complete so I turned in the arm band but kept the RP badge, which permitted me to roam the ship at will.
On the third day at sea, I think about 14:30, the ship's alarm sounded. I was on the Sun Deck at the time, where about 200 nurses were congregated. I heard an order for "Full Left Rudder". They also shut one propeller off and opened full speed ahead on the right rudder. This huge boat seemed to pivot and really listed to the right. Looking down at the ocean, we saw two German torpedos slowly passing by. They told us later that that was the 14th time the Elizabeth was fired on by U boats and never was hit. On account of this situation, we detoured by Greenland as there was a pack of German subs loitering in the Atlantic Ocean.
A soldier's favorite past time that prevailed during the days on board was shooting craps. And who were the big players? The darkies. This prevailed all day long but not at night because of the large population of the ship, we slept one night in a cabin and the next night on the inner decks. Most of the crap games had quite high stakes. The gamblers didn't like one dollar bills as they didn't count up too fast and they were bulky so they were thrown over their shoulders and the surrounding audience picked it up. I garnered enough to buy a case of cigarettes. Obviously, I didn't stand there all day.
Late the next day we anchored at Greenock, Scotland. I think this was Friday. I didn't get off the Lizzie until Monday to board the train for Aldershot, England. We had been on the Lizzie for four days. What a cruise! On the 6th of October, 1943 a Lieutenant, Sgt. Clifford McLachlan from Lethbridge and myself were drafted to The Canadian Scottish Regiment stationed at Bournemouth, England, on the south shore. Arriving in Bournemouth, we discovered the Scottish had moved. Where? The Lieutenant being senior in rank had a job to do, find out where the Can. Scotts. had moved to. Eventually we got on board the train and headed for Portsmouth where we arrived about 02:00 AM to be greeted by Colonel Freddie Cabledu and a few other personnel. I was attached to "C" Company.
Early in December ‘43 the regiment was moved to Ryde on the Isle of Wight. Soon I was attached to "D" Company where I met up with Cpl. Bill Knight. We got aquainted quite soon and became good friends. Shortly, Bill told me he was slated to return to Canada for Officers Training. Bill had been seeing a girl around the corner from where we were billeted. He spoke with her family about Christmas day as he was invited to spend Christmas there and asked if it would be okay if he introduced me to take his place. This was fine with them so one evening Bill took me to meet Fred, Ethel, Jean and Ruth Yelf. Ruth and I became very good friends and the Yelf home was to me my home away from home, which I enjoyed very much.
I wasn't happy in "D" Company, so I asked to be paraded to see Cpt. Mathews who was C.O. of "D" Company. My reason was to request a transfer to Support Company. His answer was "No" because my record showed I was doing a very good job as a Corporal and Section Leader. I thought about this for a time and decided what I was going to do. On the 13th of March ‘44 we were on a route march and tactical exercises. I led my section straight forward through open ground and over hills, not around, exposing my section to the enemy. On return to billets I was notified that I was on charge, which got me face to face with Cpt. Mathews again. He read the riot act to me and asked me what I had to say. I asked him if I could speak man to man and he said "Yes". I told him I was very displeased with the conduct of the Sgt. Major, the Quartermaster Sergeant and himself. The Captain asked me to explain so I told him the Sgt. Major and Quartermaster appeared to me to be going out of their way to find reasons to lay charges against my section members. I told him I was trained to look after soldiers in my charge and this is what I was doing, within my ability. I therefore stated the Capt., I felt, was doing an injustice by agreeing with the Sgt. Major and Quartermaster. In fact I told him I disagreed with the tactics of the three above-mentioned personnel. I then requested a reversion from Corporal to Private and that a transfer to Support Company be granted. The reply was "So be it" as quick as he could possible say. Within the hour my request came out in routine orders.
I stayed the night there and next morning I was taken by lorie to Support Company. There I was attached to No. 2 Anti Tank Gun (6 pounder) Capt. "Bobbie" Tye was the C.O. of the Anti Tank Platoon with Lt. Anthony Compton-Lundie as 2 I.C. (Second in Command). L/Sgt. Chuck Adams was my gun Sgt. As time went on I got aquainted with the majority of the Platoon members and found they were a good group to be with. Soon we moved to our marshalling area which was a tent village. Here we made final preparations for "D" day. This was close to Winchester. Here we camped until the order came to board boats in Southhampton. These boats were more of a flat bottomed scow. They proved their worth, as off-shore they would drop anchor and then ram themselves onto the beach when the whole front end was a ramp that dropped down to give us a dry landing. Then they would haul on the cable connected to the anchor and pull themselves off the beach. Finally, the order came and the tremendous armada set sail for France early on the morning of June 6, 1944. By mid-day the channel was loaded with ships and boats of all sizes and descriptions.
I was delayed landing, as I was considered unnecessary at the main onslaught. I arrived on the beach shortly after noon to see Sgt. Chuck Dunn gathering us strays and directing us to the places we had to go to catch up with our units. The Winnipeg Rifles and Regina Rifles were in forward positions while the Can. Scotts were in the rear position. These three regiments plus various attachments made up the Seventh Brigade of the 3rd Division which wore a French grey field patch on the shoulder of our tunics. Our D Day objective was to cut and hold a Caen-Bayeaux railway crossing at Puto en Beson. Later the Germans counter attacked and nearly wiped out the Winnipeg Rifles. I counted 18 members of the Winnipegs as they marched back through our ranks.
Our Colonel, Freddie Cabledu didn't wait for any orders, he formed up our Regiment and in two hours we recaptured the position the Winnipegs were knocked out from. Later the Germans counter attacked the Regina and the Can. Scotts, as I understood, with four divisions. We were able to hold our ground. I noticed Sgt. Hall, of the 3 inch Mortar Platoon, standing on a burning German vehicle, directing fire on German columns of troops, who were marching five abreast, to reinforce their comrades. Sgt. Hall had done a tremendous job to help save our position. I spoke with Lt. Tony Compton Lundie and Capt. Bobby Tye later about preparing a citation for Sgt. Hall. They told me they couldn't write up a citation as they hadn't witnessed this action. Damn, I was sure mad for awhile because these actions need to be recognized.
The country side between the beach and Puto en Beson was very much in ruins. From the bombing of aircraft, shell fire and mortar fire from our armada, it looked like a freshly plowed field. We stayed and held the fort for awhile at Puto en Beson. One afternoon when things were quiet our gun crew were sitting around taking things easy, when our sergeant, Chuck Adams, said to me "Arnold, I always knew you had a yellow streak - just look at your arm." On observing, I saw a yellowish streak the size of a pencil from my wrist to my elbow. On examining my tunic, I found a square hole in the elbow. A bullet, on passing through woven cloth, leaves a square hole, so we knew then that a bullet was the culprit.
Later we moved up to Rots across the valley from Carpiquet air field. We placed our gun, pointing at the air field then found a house, which was partly blown away. There was enough of it left to give us shelter so there we camped. One morning at dawn I spotted a flash every now and then in a church steeple which was partially blown away. I watched this for awhile but then our relief for guard duty came and I said that one of them could go back to sleep for a while as I wanted to watch this flash. We usually stood guard on our gun, two at a time. I continued to watch this flash and finally decided that this flash had to be a mirror in the hand of a German. The flashes were irregular, which gave me the idea of somebody sending a message. Also, following the series of flashes the mortars of the Germans, which we called Moaning Minnies, would be fired into our lines. Finally I drew a sight with my rifle and fired. I never saw anymore flashes so decided to forget the situation. Later some intelligence people questioned me about there being a dead German soldier lying on the ground below the church steeple. I told them my story and they said that I got him square between the eyes. They also asked if I knew it was more than a thousand yards away. Eventually the airport was taken and we headed for Caen. While approaching Cussy we got pinned down for a while by a German 88 mm field gun. Finally the gun was knocked out allowing us to move into Cussy and clear it out. We moved on from here and got to Caen but our entry was delayed by rubble so we had to wait for this to be cleared. This being done, we moved through Caen to the airport and camped there for awhile. I believe this was where we got the Germans on the run to Falaise. We stopped on high ground above Falaise. The day light was fading but we had some light from burning hay stacks.
I think it was the next morning two of our Anti Tank Guns were ordered forward. It seemed we were about ½ mile in front of our front line. There were a few trees in a fence corner just above a coulee. This was thought a good escape route for German armour, etc. so we were to guard the top end of said coulee. We were ordered to dig in first and get some protection. We had dug a four foot trench, one shovel full deep when artillery shells started dropping on us. We lay in our shallow trenches with our legs on top of the ground, while the shelling went on. Frank Barton, who was in charge of the gun told us to get out. George Scheuman, who was our carrier driver and I went over to carry Barton to the carrier. I lifted his upper body and I saw beneath him a huge amount of blood. I told George to move on, so we went to Frank Blair, who we found in the same condition.
On to Moise Canada (a Cree Indian), who was absolutely limp. By this time the barrage had stopped so we loaded Canada in our carrier. I unhooked the gun, I'm not sure why, and sped back to Company headquarters where we were greeted by Sgt. Knute Johnston. He gave us some fresh tea and I proceeded to tell the story. Sgt. Johnston noticed blood on George Schewman's boot. On investigating, George had a hole in the calf of his leg, so I put a field dressing on it and he was taken by jeep for medical attention. After this I started crying and shaking, so I was taken to our medical station and left standing in a slit trench. Eventually the M.O. came along, questioned me and examined me. I was not wounded but I was shook up. I was put on a lorry for Chateau Beauregard, north of Caen. This was an army rest camp.
After spending two nights there, I requested that the Camp Commander send me back to my unit because the Germans dive bombed us all through the night. I told the Camp Commander I felt safer in the front lines than in his rest camp. In three days I walked to our gun position and Chuck Adams wanted to know what I was doing there. I told him my story and that was that. Ted Ramshaw and Fred Brydges had filled Barton & Blair's position. From here we seemed to do a lot of travelling. This was when we got the German Army on the run. We were supposed to cross the Seine River at Rouen but instead we crossed at Elbeuf. We were detained for a while before crossing the river. At this time we were told that a German officer had tossed his P38 pistol in a ditch supposedly in our position. The search was on and shortly I found it in a ditch of water about a foot deep. We were camped beside an American tank regiment and the word soon spread. That evening I was greeted by a member of this tank regiment. He wanted a P38 in the worst way. He offered me a 7.65 caliber pistol plus cash, just name my price. Considering this P38 was large in size, it had been in the water for some time and had a somewhat complicated mechanism as well as being 38mm caliber. I then decided the 7.65 pistol would suit me fine as it was small and would use 32 caliber ammo, which would be easier to acquire back home. We made an even trade and I slipped it into my inside tunic pocket, where it fit perfectly. This 7.65 was always in my tunic pocket for evermore.
Soon we were across the Seine, stopping on the other side for a short time then on the road again. Finally we stopped at Sangate, which is south of Calais. Here we camped for a while as the infantry attacked Calais. Here we guarded enemy prisoners until they could be transported to prison camps. One evening the Allies bombed Calais. The Americans bombed with Dakotas flying at low level, while the British flew at higher levels. The sight was something to behold. It appeared like swarms of bees. Many aircraft were hit, large holes in the wings where the motors should be. I watched these planes complete their mission and then turn back for England. I believe most of them made it home, many with less engines than they came with. This bombing continued for 1 ½ to 2 hours. After that the infantry were able to perform their duties and shortly captured Calais. Every one was glad to know that General Kurt Myer was captured. Our division had faced him and his division since D Day. He was a very cold blooded person, and I understand he personally shot a lot of our boys who had been taken prisoner.
On the go again, we stopped at Breskens, Belgium, which is on the West Schelde on the south side of the Walcheren Islands. This was another place the Anti Tank were left out of battle (LOB). There was a windmill there so I climbed to the top with binoculars in hand and watched the battle of the Walcheren. We arrived at the Leopold Canal the first part of October but didn't cross with the infantry. Later No. 1 gun section was sent over where B Company headquarters was located. At dusk on the second day the two guns were ordered out with myself in command. I had the drivers warm up their carriers to full temperature before leaving. B Company headquarters was located at the bridge in a building called the Apre Fluri (Flower Meadeau).
The least noise in this area caused the Germans to mortar the bridge. I listened for some time to see how regular this happened and decided to have a try. I told my two drivers to get their carriers into second gear and stay there. The signal was hand up to stop and down to pour on the gas. We made it safely across between barrages. I reported the situation, etc. to Company headquarters. From there we took our two guns and parked them in a small open area. While we were across the Leopold, B Company was bringing in prisoners to B Co. HQ. There they were searched and pocket contents tossed on a blanket on the floor. B Co. personnel retrieved what they wanted and I picked up what coins there were.
The two carrier drivers and myself headed for a pub as this was Oct. 7, my birthday, and I had a great coat pocket full of coins to celebrate with. The other members of No. 1 Section stayed with B Co. HQ. That night Frenchy and I made our bed on the carrier tarp and folded the end over our heads. We woke up the next morning in a pool of water as it had rained hard during the night and we were soaking wet. We never caught colds, as we had the protection inside of us.
A Polish division was made up of prisoners of war, captured from the enemy. My understanding of this is: Polish prisoners captured by the Germans and freed by the Allies requested to be formed into a division to fight with the Allies against Germany. My memory fails me as to where or when we relieved them on a very dark night, I think it was 2 A.M. We traded positions and then I and another one of our crew stood first watch on our anti tank gun.
All was quiet, when I heard a faint sound, which slowly grew louder. I challenged whatever it was making the sound and discovered it was a Polish Lieutenant. He had returned to tell us that they had captured six Panzer tanks from the Germans. These tanks were apparently roaming around in No Mans' Land and he said to please not fire on them. My, what a story to learn about in the dark of night. I asked how this fete had come about. A Polish soldier would hide in a bush or other cover. As the Panzer tank passed his hiding place he climbed on the back of the tank, grenade in hand and threatened the tank commander and his crew, who gave up quite readily as by this time they were getting very war weary. Six tries and six tanks captured without a skirmish.
Leaving Breskens, we travelled through Antwerp and into Holland. I remember Breda, Tilbourg, Hertogenbosch and Hygnegen. This was early December, I believe. Soon we were in the front lines where we heard there were a lot of pigs around and about. Our crew decided we should try our luck. Watkins, our DR (Dispatch Rider) borrowed my rifle and went on a hunt. He spotted a pig walking down a furrow, so he shot it. Then all hell broke loose from the enemy lines and we weren't able to do anything about the pig that night. The next morning Frenchie and I took a short piece of rope with us and went searching for the pig, as things were quiet then. We spotted the pig and went from shell hole to shell hole to get to the pig. This was in No Mans' Land. The pig had dropped on the unplowed ground with its head in the furrow and there was a large pool of blood. We tied the tope around one hind leg and around my rifle. We were close enough to the German lines to hear the rattle of mess tins, otherwise all was quiet. Frenchie and I travelled back in the same manner as we came, from shell hole to shell hole. Arriving back to our position, we hoisted the pig up and hung him by his hind feet in an evergreen tree. On dressing the pig out, we discovered the pig had bled very well. Here we had about one hundred and fifty pounds of fresh pork on hand and what to do with it. Finally we shipped some back to Platoon Headquarters and to other guns and line companies beside us.
At this position the regiments of the Third Div. were positioned one behind the other. This meant one regiment would be No. 1 position, another regiment would be behind in No. 2 position and further back, which was in Nymegen, was third position, which was a rest position. We stayed in this manner for the rest of December. It so happened that we were in rest position for Christmas. We were issued an ounce of rum per person per day and we had saved our issue up until we had about three quarters of a gallon by Christmas Eve.
The Dutch people were very nice to us and they billeted us in their homes. One family had removed all furnishings from their living room and that was our gun crew's billet. About 7:30 Christmas eve we gathered in their dining room to a table with a lace table cloth and a kettle of hot water and our jug of rum. The home owner joined us, and was very appreciative. After the rum was gone we retired for the night. The next day we had Christmas dinner, turkey and all the trimmings, fresh fruit and candies. Each soldier was put in charge of a boy or girl to look after as they were invited to be our guest for Christmas. Most of these children were pre-school age, so they had never seen such a spread. We gave these children candy and fruit to take home to their parents. The Dutch people were exceptionally nice to us.
Shortly, I was notified that I was to go on B.L.A. (British Liberation Army) leave to England for two weeks, starting January 1, 1945. After seven months in the front lines I was really excited. I spent three days in London and then spent the rest of my leave on the Isle of Wight with the Yelfs. In the evening of Jan. 2, ‘45, I went to a girlfriend's office Christmas party in London and I was treated royally there. I was the only Canadian soldier there, in about three hundred people. Arriving back to the Can. Scots. on Jan. 14, ‘45, I was informed to gather my kit and catch the ration truck for Ghent, Belgium, to go through reboard and reallocation. The truck had already left so I had to stay until the next morning.
While I was on leave fourteen parcels had arrived and two great coat pockets full of letters had arrived. I kept the most pertinent items for myself and gave the rest of the parcels' ingredients to Chuck Adams to divide among the gun crew. I suggested that if the gun crew wanted to do the first six hours guard duty that I would do the last six until 7 A.M. This met with their approval. We were standing guard beside a tall smoke stack on the edge of the Waal River. The Germans were known to be coming up the river in submarines, so we were to watch for such maneuvers.
About 9 A.M. I said my farewells and then on the truck for Ghent, Belgium to the Canadian Base Reinforcement Group. Soon I was sent to the #2 Canadian General Hospital where I spent three weeks. I had caught cold in my back and my urinary canal became infected. Back to CBRG again, I was on excused duty, which after some time I became bored, with laying around doing nothing so I volunteered to Dental Corps. I lazed around here for ten days or so when they sent me to #2 Gen. Hospital to become Orderly in the Dental Clinic. Here I became their x-ray technician, and helped the dentist when they needed me, to sew up broken jaws and the like. I also helped the lab sgt. to make false teeth and partials. I found this to be very interesting.
Shortly after surrender of the German army on May 4, 1945, I was sent to 5 Company of the Dental Corps in Utrect, Holland. All we did there was to make the vehicles clean and shiny for the Victory Parade on June 6, 1945. I became acquainted with Grant McLeod, from Moose Jaw and we soon paired up together. 5 Company Dental Corps, when they were in Emerick, Germany, discovered a cache of gin. The Sgt. Major talked to the C.O. about loading a spare lorry with it and ration it out to its members. The C.O. okayed the idea, if it was pure and to be rationed at one pint per week. Grant and I saved our previous week's ration, that gave us a 25 oz. bottle apiece on June 6, ‘45. Grant and I we re on K.P. that evening so we decided to start on one bottle while we cleaned up the mess tent. Fatigue over and one bottle gone. We went to our tents to clean up and change clothes, while we killed the other bottle. Preparations completed, we went down town to see what was happening. There was to be a Victory dance starting at nine P.M. Grant and I held an "O-groupe and decided we need more refreshment so went to a café, found a bootlegger, and bought a bottle from him, which cost us $150.00 Canadian. We went behind the café and gulped this booze down. Now to the rail station to see what was happening, as a crowd of people were gathered there. Grant met up with a couple of females that he was acquainted with and dated them up for the dance. He introduced them to me but I felt they were too friendly, so I took off and boarded a carriage drawn by four black horses. I asked the driver to take me to the exhibition grounds, where we were camped. The driver would go a distance and then turn off the road. I tried to argue but couldn't get anywhere so I showed him a 20 guilder bill, which changed his mind.
After two more incidents like this we arrived at the exhibition grounds. By this time it had cost me sixty guilders which was about sixty dollars Canadian. From there I walked to my tent and flopped on my cot and passed out. I was supposed to do guard duty at 11 P.M. but they were unable to wake me. I woke up at 7 A.M., proceeded to the latrine where I met the orderly room clerk. He told me the Sgt. Major wanted to see me and that he was in bad humour. After breakfast I presented myself and received my lecture. He then mellowed and told me he wasn't about to soil my clean record at this late stage. I told him that I thought he was a real man and that I would like to shake his hand.
In a few days I arrived in Ostend, Holland, the first stage of my return home. While waiting for a ship to take me to England, a chap by the name of Rothwell and I played cribbage to pass the time. I held three 29 hands and he held two. On board ship, a freighter with a hold full of soldiers left Ostend for Tilbury, England, east of London on the Thames River. We hadn't gone far when we were in a storm. The North Sea is quite famous for its storms. The Captain soon ordered the holds battened down as most of the soldiers became sea sick. As I wasn't sick, I was permitted to be in the wheel house with the Captain. By this time the Chief Engineer, the Captain and myself were the only ones on board who weren't sick. The Captain directed me to keep a pot of tea on the brew, don't dump the old leaves, just add fresh for each pot. My job was to keep the Captain's cup full as well as the Chief Engineer's. Man, was that sea rough! The Captain told me the ship normally sailed at 28 knots. My opinion was that it was doing 24 knots up and down and 4 knots forward. We arrived in Tilbury late in the afternoon, boarded a train for Aldershot, where we arrived late at night. As the soldiers came up out of the holds they were very pale and green around the gills. However after a few hours on terra firma they soon regained their composure. We marched up the main street of Aldershot, slipping and sliding on broken glass. The reason was that the merchants had been short-changing the Canadians stationed there, as the English pound took awhile to learn about, so the boys smashed windows on every cheaters' store.
I eventually wound up in Bramshop Camp, not far from Aldershot. Here veterans were leaving for Canada and more coming in but I seemed to be a fixture so I made some enquiries and discovered my papers were only partly available. I thought about this most of that night and decided to stay in the hut the next day to be confronted with the Orderly Officer. The officer wanted to know what the problem was, so I told him about the flow of other veterans in and out of camp and that I seemed to be a fixture. I also said how long I had been there and that if the powers that be couldn't do anything for me, I wouldn't do anything for them. I also reminded him of the riot in the first war when the rioters burned the camp down, and I suggested he look out the back windows and view the evidence. This might have got them thinking because before long I was notified for draft for Canada.
While I was at Bramshot Camp I spent an afternoon at Aldershot at the dog races. A couple of fellows were going to show me how to play the races, but that didn't prove so good on their part, as I was the big winner. They thought they had to bet on a winner all the time, but I placed my dogs which gave me two chances to win. Anyhow, when all was over, I had a little more than $3000 Canadian in my pocket. It wasn't long until I boarded the Isle-de-France and headed for Canada. This boat had been used a lot as a troop carrier and it sure showed wear and tear wherever you looked. I think it was about seven days by the time we arrived in Halifax.
While on board ship the air force had the privilege of cashing in their English money. However, the army did not so, I cooked up a scheme. I asked an air force Sgt. if he would exchange some money for me and he said he would so I gave him my envelope and waited at the door at the far side of the mess hall. About twenty minutes later along came said Sgt. and my money. Ingenuity works if you're able to employ it. The Red Cross was there with hand outs and any assistance they could offer. The troops were loaded on board the train and the Transport Sgt. made his final inspection of the dock, where I was sitting on my kit bag on Pier 21, all by myself. I seemed to deflate as here I was, forgotten again. The Transport Sgt. asked me why I was sitting there. I told him I was waiting for my number to be called. We went to his temporary orderly room and checked on previous lists. Finally, we discovered I was supposed to be there at least a month previously. The Sgt. found me a seat on the train and told me to look up the Orderly Officer after we pulled out. This I did and told my story of woe. I also told him that my mother and father were to be in Swift Current to meet me and that pass or no pass or pay, I was getting off the train in Swift Current. I said the army has my address so they can write me. The Orderly Officer was very sympathetic and said he would do his best.
The train started slowing down for Swift Current, when I felt a touch on my shoulder. I turned around and there in front of my face was a sheaf of papers in an envelope and an Orderly Officer with a broad smile on his face. I shook hands with him, thanked him sincerely and grabbed my kit. The train stopped and I was soon on the station platform greeting Mom and Dad. Boy, was Mom excited to see me. So was Dad. In fact his face was red with embarrassment but if you looked around so were most everybody else who were there meeting their sons, husbands and fathers. I asked Mum if she thought I could have a bath at the hotel as I felt very grimy. Mum went to the hotel desk and delivered my request. Soon there was a scurry and two maids appeared with an armful of towels, bathrobe, etc. After I was finished that tub was a terrible sight. I had a bath before I left England but you wouldn't know it. Anyhow, this tub was very dirty, but I sure felt a lot cleaner. I thanked the staff and they said they were very pleased to be of assistance. Back to the station and on the train heading west for Empress.
We arrived in Empress about 21:40, where Dave Lush, the Mayor, and a lot of people were standing on the platform. I stood on the steps of the coach for a minute or two. I guess while I was away overseas, all the young people had grown up. I think I was staring in amazement. Dave Lush had a strong voice and it was easy to hear his words of praise, etc. At last I was home now. I don't have to take orders, go on duty, etc. I'm going to have a month's holiday and that I did.
I reported to Calgary, Depot 13, which was Mewata Armories on August 10. I stayed there for some time, marking time. Finally, I decided on a long week end pass. Laura Russel, Irene Ferguson, Newel Russel and myself drove to Banff for the weekend. I'm sorry, long weekend. I arrived back to Mewata in time to answer Monday night roll call as that was my ally. Two days passed and I was hauled off parade and put on charge. The Sgt. Major escorted me to his orderly room where he presented me with the charge. I read the charge and told him his charge didn't hold water. He was very indignant about it. By this time our voices were getting rather loud when the C.O. stepped out of his office and asked what all the noise was about. I told him the Sgt. Major had charged me with being AWOL. I said my name was on Monday night's roll call and this being Thursday, the Sgt. Major's charge was null and void because he hadn't served it within 48 hours. The C.O. had some words for the Sgt. Major and then sent me on my way. I think when I went out of the orderly room I had quite a smirk on my face and a good feeling inside.
A while after that I got very tired waiting for my discharge, especially when most of the boys were gone in a few days. I got to thinking, so on Saturday morning I hung around the hut until I saw Brigadier Harvey and his group coming down the lane. With my tunic unfastened, my headress in my epaulette and a cigarette in my mouth, I placed myself cross-legged in the doorway, my hands in my pockets and leaning on the door jam. The Orderly Sgt. shouted at me, but I ignored them. Brigadier Harvey waved his cane in front of them and stepped up to me. He inquired what my problem was, so I told him the story about my records being lost since last June. He seemed to understand my situation and told me to be in his orderly room by 11:30 a.m. At 11:30 he told me he was sending me home until they could gather my records and would that be satisfactory. I said it would and I collected the pay I was due, then back to Brigadier Harvey. He handed me an extended pass and apologized for the misfortune. I would be notified when to return for my pass and I thanked and saluted him and then shook hands. I was home that night.
Since writing this story I have remembered a close incident that happened in July or August of 1944. A Dispatch Rider by the name of Scott, who I became friendly with in England, appeared. We were so glad to see each other that we hugged and then we stood each with an arm on each other's shoulder and compared notes. All of a sudden Scott fell to the ground, as he had been hit with 20 mm ac ammunition, blowing his legs off at the knees. I immediately tried to stop the bleeding. As luck would have it, a stretcher bearer was quite close so he took over. Scott was sent back to hospital and I never saw or heard of him again until 1962 when I attended a Regimental Reunion in Nanaimo at No. 10 Canadian Legion. He was in a wheel chair and both legs were off at the knees.