Dominion Institute Podcast
Hear Canadian veterans describe their wartime experiences first-hand.
Through the Dominion Institute Podcast, you will have the chance to hear
from those who have shaped Canada. As part of the Memory Project Digital Archive, the
Dominion Institute has collected numerous first-hand accounts that will now be available
through the podcast. The podcasts will be updated regularly, and will feature excerpts
from the over 1000 interviews recorded by the Dominion Institute.
The Dominion Institute will periodically showcase podcasts of Memory
Project speakers telling their compelling stories. Among the speakers you will hear
include veterans Stanley Grizzle, Grant McRae, Gordon Bannerman, Alex Polowin and Dan
Matthews. Subscribe to the Dominion Institute Podcast to hear these and many more
Douglas Hubert Franks. I was with the 393 Battery, 99th Field Regiment and the British 2nd Division.
We landed in India after making an eight-week trip from England because we couldn’t go through the Suez Canal as it was plugged with sunken ships. So, we had to go down, first to Sierra Leone. We laid off 5 miles because it was beyond the wing span of the mosquitoes. And that was known as the white man’s grave because of malaria. From there we went to Cape Town. And base camp in Bombay was a place called Amanagir.
When the Japanese pushed through into the Arakhan, we were the chosen brigade to go down. We were to land on the island as assault troops. And the order came down it was too dangerous to make an assault on sea, so we had to go down by land. The guns we had, by the way, were what they call, Peace Guns or Screw Guns. There was eighteen parts. You could take them apart and mount them on to mules’ backs for going up mountains. We had them because they were smaller than the field gun and they were more of a Howitzer that just lobbed over the top of the hill. A very accurate gun but they’re very short range.
We moved south. And a place called Makilla was a very hot spot. I was on guard this night and we always put a wire, twenty-thirty feet ahead of slit trenching and, for some reason the Japanese got wise at this wire… “Over here, Johnny. Over here.” In good English. You’d think it was British troops that were there… just to draw your attention. They got over this wire… ’cause you used to hang tin cans or something on there so, if it touched it, it warned you that there was someone there… other… it was tall enough that animals could get underneath it, but, humans couldn’t. They got close enough and we noticed it was them, we had orders and they said, “You never fire when you’re on guard… until you see the whites of their eyes.” Well that’s a little bit close in the night time. Anyway, they attacked and there were several of them. The fellow next to me was shot. He had three bullets. One through each side of his helmet, one through his head. This Japanese officer struck at me with a sword and shot off my helmet down and severed my shoulder. And from there I was flown out and that was the last I seen. And I was flown back to England and they fixed my shoulder up and got it back. And, as my unit was still out in the Far East, I was put into a Grenadier Guard unit who were mobilized then and in a tank unit. I was a driver of what they call a crab Sherman tank that has a flail on front for setting off mines.
We went over to D-Day on the second day and we got through and went all the way up until, finally, the Germans surrendered.
My name is Dorothy Butler. My maiden name was Owen. I was on continuous naval duty with the WRENS during the Korean combat. And I was stationed in Cornwallis and I was stationed in Stadacona in Halifax and I was at Naden on training and I was in Shearwater where I finished my time. While I was on inquiry desk at Statacona Hospital, was when they had a steam pipe burst in the dockyard, and two men were hit with the pressure of the steam. One man died at the time. The other man survived and was taken to Stadacona Hospital. And while I was …they took me up to see him, which was horrendous, but I also had to take his wife to the padre and on the way over she said to me, “Will he be able to see?” He lived for eight hours that way and finally passed away. But I said to her, I didn’t know what to say to her, you know…said anything to her, none of the nurses had mentioned anything. And I thought she should be prepared for the worst, so this was handled there.
At Shearwater, I was the only WREN in the hospital there, and it was my duty to go out on, if a WREN was out on a job somewhere out in the boondocks and took sick, they would fly me out in a helicopter to pick her up and bring her back. I also delivered a baby for someone, one of the servicemen’s/the officer’s wives, which shocked me and made be decide I didn’t want to have any children. But I changed my mind. But at Naden, we were trained to take the place of a doctor the same as the men were trained because when they were on ships, there wasn’t a doctor available. They had to be able to read the symptoms and act on them and even perform minor operations if necessary. So we were trained to take their place when they left for sea. That was our main object.
One night while I was at Shearwater, I was on nights, and there were two of us on duty, and the other petty officer was having his stand-down time, he was asleep, and I heard the backdoor open and I thought it was the ambulance driver, and I looked up from sitting in the office and here was this kid standing there with blood from his hairline right down to his waistline bleeding. He ended up going through the windshield and he walked all the way from the Eastern Passage Road up into the hospital. I had to get my PO up out of bed and we ended up stitching him, I don’t know, I can’t remember how many stitches we put in his face. But thank God he was left with hardly any scarring. But these were things that you did, and you went ahead and did them. You didn’t think twice.
The 11th of May ‘42, Bill Bowman and I, graduates in civil engineering, Manitoba, left by CPR to Gordon Head. Took twelve weeks of basic Army training as GUPPY MK13s. Gordon Head, which is Victoria, followed by twelve more weeks engineering training at A6 CETC, Chilliwack. Was married on the 15th of November ‘42. Went overseas on the 15th of July ‘43, and then more engineering training. I guess I was just lucky to be singled out from 6th Field as a supernumerary to make the briefing models for the Juno Beach landing for 3rd Div.
I was in reinforcement from the beginning until the day Paris fell, when I got a platoon in C Company, 2nd Battalion at Carpiquet, and was with that platoon until the end of the war. I was bridge building, mine field, road repair. Mine clearing was the most dangerous. You used a metal detector. Once you got the pattern, it was rather simple. You had to be careful. You’d get the pattern of the mines that were laid by the Germans and you would unearth the mines. But bridge building was the more exciting.
After the war, it was a few months before we left Holland and back to Aldershot, and another couple of months before we came home. I arrived home on Hallowe’en night when my son was almost two years old.
My name is Bob Linton. I was in the Royal Corps of Signals and I sailed most of the war with the 50th Northumbrian Division.
We started in France in 1940, we got away from Dunkirk, came back to Britain, did some south coast defence, and we were shipped out to the Middle East. We were building up to the Alamein. We eventually got back behind the Alamein Line, pretty badly battered I must admit. We’d already lost one brigade, and there weren’t enough reinforcements in Cairo to get the division back up to strength. However, we were eventually brought up to strength, and we went back in the Alamein Line, on the southernmost end, beside the Qataran Depression. When the big attack came, our brigade was pulled out of the line and taken north to take part in the punchout. Did that and then we were rested a little bit, while the glory boys rode out after the Germans. Then they hit a snag at a place called Mareth, a heavily reinforced line that the Germans had built up in the borders with … and Tunisia. And so we had to go back and help them out again. We fought in the Battle of Mareth, and then moved forward to … Akarit.
At that time, I was seconded to the Green Howard Brigade and we went in under attack with the Gurka Regiment. This was a … attack. But it didn’t end it that way. We rolled from there forward to Enfidaville and were just preparing for the final battle for the capture of Tunis when we were pulled out of the line and sent way back down the Suez Canal to the Bitter Lakes, to be trained for invasion and it was rather annoying that most of the people in Britain had been training for an invasion for four years, but we got about five minutes.
There was a naval officer came along, looked us over and said, “Well, that ship is a landing ship, that one is a landing craft infantry,” and so on down the line. And they said, “Well, that’s it. Now you know all about it.” And he took off. So we went back to Alexandria and our trucks and equipment had all been waterproofed and we shipped aboard an LST and sailed us up through the Med to just west of Tripoli, and we waited there for the attack on Sicily. And we landed at the southeastern tip and worked our way up the east coast of Sicily, where eventually we got through and took the Catania Airfield, and we worked our way up the east coast again to Tiramina. When we got to Tiramina, the German Army had blown all the bridges around the foot of Mount Etna. We had to sit there or mount another invasion to get past it. But in the meantime, the Canadians and the Americans had come round the western side of Mount Etna and so it wasn’t necessary for us to go any further. So we moved forward to Messina and we sat there and they said, “Oh, you’ve got to hand your equipment in.” And we’d heard that tale before. We knew exactly what it meant. It meant that we were going to be moved to some other place.
We eventually got on board a troopship and we were told by one of their petty officers and he had no idea where we were going, but he said, “When you get to the cape at the southwest corner of Sicily,” he says, “If you take a left turn you’re going to Burma. If you take a right turn you’re going to Britain.”
My name is Edward Bernston, but I go by Bud in my family, and all the folks in the military that know me. I was raised in a small farm community out in Saskatchewan, and back in about 1955, I noticed an advertisement that said, “Join the Air Force, become a pilot, go to university and get paid fifty dollars a month, all at the same time,” and I thought that was one hell of a deal, so I inquired and found out it was the regular Officer Training Program that they had at that time. I applied for it, and went in to see if I was going to be selected. Out of about three thousand applicants, only six hundred were selected that year, so I was told, “You’re great to be a pilot, but you’re not going to go to university,” and I sort of declined the offer. But when things got cold that fall, I thought maybe I could smoke through a few months of working in an office, or pounding a parade square – whatever I was going to do until the weather warmed up and I could go back to working on the farm or the oil rigs out on the prairies.
They took me in. Didn’t make me a pilot, but made me a navigator to begin with, flying in the back of CF-100s and then Voodoos. I finally got to be selected for a pilot in 1967, and continued that until I was released in ‘93 and joined the Reserves, and ran the cadet gliding school in Atlantic provinces for the next ten years after that. So my few months to get away from the cold weather in the prairies spun out into a career of almost forty-seven years, of being a back-seater in all-weather interceptors, being a front-seater in fighters like the F5 and the 104. Lots of staff jobs, and a total of fourteen years spent in various flying and staff jobs in Europe and all over Canada. So the little prairie boy from Saskatchewan had a pretty long and extensive career.
My name is Don Allen. I served with the 1st Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment in Korea. I started my career in July of 1951. I joined the Army at Halifax. I was sent to Wainwright, from Wainwright to Petawawa, where I joined the 1st Battalion, Airborne, and shipped to Korea in August of 1952.
During my time in Korea, I was with “B” Company of the 1st Battalion. We were on Hill 355. We also were on Hill 227, and that was referred to as ‘The Hook’. That particular position… the Marines actually had the position before we took it over, and they had lost four of their men on a little bridge that was far down into the valley, and they wanted to recover the bodies. On that particular night, myself and a fellow from Newfoundland were sent out to get as close to the bridge as possible to make sure there was no enemy there, and the Americans wanted to recover those bodies. However, that did not happen, as there was also a sniper who was active in the area. We got down as far as we could and we came under fire, and had to retreat back.
Following Korea with the 1st Battalion, I was returned a month before the 1st Battalion came home. During that time, when I was on leave, I was sent to 2nd Battalion, RCR, which was also airborne, and at that time in the fall I was sent with the 2nd Battalion to Germany with the NATO forces for two years. Following that, I was sent to Egypt with the United Nations Emergency Force, which was very interesting, and at times one could consider it somewhat dangerous as well. I spent a total of twelve years in the military.
My name is Mary Duchesnay. I was born in Québec City in 1920.
In 1939 I passed the civil servants examination for bilingual shorthand and typing, and stayed home to help my mother. Then I was called by National Defence - the naval control in Québec City - and I started to work there, thinking I’d be a stenographer, but no, they immediately taught me to code and de-code messages. After a few months there, we were called - all civil personnel - to join the Wrens if we wanted to and have a chance to continue that work, which pleased me very much. It was so unusual.
I joined the Wrens in June 1943, and went to Gault - which is called Cambridge now - in Ontario, and after a month’s training I was sent to HMCS St. Hyacinthe to the first school in coding and de-coding in the commonwealth. We were twenty-three girls, and we all passed.
I did that work for the duration of the war and even afterwards. But if I joined, it was not only because we felt there was a terrible thing going on. And my brother, who was not even seventeen, had enlisted in 1939, so he was already in. And I’m the daughter of a man… my dad, who joined the Canadian Army - the Princess Patricia’s - in 1914, and so we are kind of involved when we think people are in danger.
I learned to better my English writing and speaking in the navy and also made wonderful friends. It was a great experience.
My name is George Waters, and I was living in Winnipeg in the early spring on 1941 when I decided to volunteer to join the Air Force. But in the fall on 1942, I was told I was going to be posted in the early part of 1943 to 113 RCAF Anti-Submarine Squadron at Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, for operational experience before being sent overseas to Britain. It was at Yarmouth that I had the experience of sharing a room with a Sergeant navigator who told me, as he was getting ready to join the four-person crew to go out over the Atlantic looking for submarines, that he did not trust the pilot of the aircraft, because the pilot was overconfident of his abilities. But he went and got on the plane. And I watched the Hudson Bomber aircraft start to take off, and before the pilot had the required speed to become airborne, he started to lift the aircraft off the runway, and he crashed on the right side of the runway. If he had crashed on the left side, he would have probably hit us who were standing in the hangar.
The Hudson Bombers in those days carried four depth charges, and our planes were all painted white – pure white. But immediately it crashed. The fuel spread over the aircraft, and it went on fire so that the aircraft immediately went a brown colour. And at that same airport, the Royal Air Force were using Ventura unarmed aircraft that were painted camouflage to brown and green. Now, I can’t to this day believe happened was that the flying control people, seeing the aircraft that was now brown in colour, announced to the public address system and to the fire truck people, that it was an unarmed aircraft, with the result that the fire truck came right up close to the aircraft and started to pour water on the aircraft. Also, people from different parts of the airfield were running towards the crash site, so me and another chap were running across the airfield, shouting, “It’s an armed aircraft!!” There was a ditch close by where they had crashed, and when they heard us they jumped into the ditch, and immediately, two depth charges exploded. But unfortunately, the whole crew of four, including my roommate, and two firemen who had come up close, where all killed.
A lot of people don’t realize that a lot of the casualties in the war were accidents in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, and accidents overseas at different airfields.
My name is Ron Myers. I enlisted in the RCAF in 1951, and served until 1976 in the regular force, and I did five years with the Air Reserve after retirement.
During my service time, I served on four overseas postings, the first being with 4 Fighter Wing in Germany from 1955 to ‘57. My first United Nations posting was with the United Nations Emergency Force, Middle-East, with 115 Air Transport Unit in the Sinai Desert, near the village of Al Arish, Egypt. That was from 1961 to 1962, approximately a fourteen-month period. During that period, we flew DeHavilland aircraft, which was the standard otter at the time, plus the twin-engine Caribou. Our commitment was to do observations along the ADL, which spread from the Mediterranean down to the Gulf of Aqaba - the tip of the Sinai Peninsula -re-supplying Army and UN outposts along the ADL by air.
I returned to the Middle East again in 1975 - 1975-1976 - with the United Nations at a city called Ismailia. That was after - the period after the Yom Kippur War. During my service with the United Nations, especially with 115 Air Transport Unit, we had close contact with all the local residents and Bedouins, and it became clear that they were lacking medical care as far as the young children were concerned. Our flight surgeon committed three hours twice a week of his time to set up a medical clinic for the children, which we all supported and the accommodations were very sub-standard, so all of the airmen on their off-duty hours put in their time to build a building for him to have his little medical clinic in. This is just one of the few things that we did to help the local population, and especially the young children.
I went over to Korea when I was eighteen years old. I got there when I was nineteen years old. I was with the Baker Company, 3rd Battalion, the Royal Canadian Regiment, and we stayed there for one year. We left Seattle on the 1st of March and we got to Yokohama, Japan, around the 21st of March. We had a twenty-four hour pass in Yokohama, Japan, to get cleaned up, and then the next morning we left on small ships to go over to Korea. From there we mounted the trains as far as we could north with the rail heads, and then from there we mounted our vehicles and went up near where the front lines were, into our company position.
I remained there with the 3rd Battalion until they had the ceasefire on the 27th of July 1953, and then we became peacekeepers after that. What we did mostly from then on, we were just in the defensive positions and did patrolling at night. After the ceasefire we built what they call the ‘demarcation line’. We put up constantine’s of wire. I worked on the one that was called the Kansas Line. After the demarcation lines were built up between us and the enemy lines they mounted outposts, and we used to go and man the outposts at night, and stay there all night long for observation. After the ceasefire we lived in tents for the remainder of the time. We did mostly training to keep us occupied until the time we came home, which was in the end of March or the 1st of April 1954.
When we came home there was nobody to greet us at all. We got off the ship, they put us on a train, gave us our passes and sixty days’ leave, and that was the end of that. As it was, nowadays you see somebody come home from somewhere and everyone is there to greet them – the Governor General, the Prime Minister. When we came home from Korea there was nobody there to greet us at all. I guess that’s why they call in The Forgotten War, but now they’re starting to give us recognition. When I came back from Korea we had two medals: the United Nations and the Korean Medal. After that we got the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal, we got the Peacekeeping Medal, and that took us some twenty years to get after the Korean War. But they’re beginning to recognize us veterans more and more as time goes by.