My name is Charles H.G. McLean and I was born to Metis parents in Wainwright, Alberta on 4 December 1930. My father was a Metis Guide and he helped the CPR find their way through the Canadian Rockies (Rogers Pass). He was already 54 years old when I was born. I had six brothers and three sisters. My mother’s name was Marie Boudreau and although she had many different jobs, she mostly ad her hands full raising the family.
Because this was the depression era, we never had too much to eat. It was very hard for my parents to give us much until the start of World War II. It may seem strange to say a war helped us in the west, but it was the truth. My father was able to get a steady job and life improved greatly until my brothers started joining the service and my mother became a wreck. If some stranger came to the house or an unfamiliar letter arrived, it would frighten her badly. War hurts people left at home often as much as it hurts those in the military.
My schooling was mostly in a French school in St. Paul de Metis, Alberta. I tried my best to go as high as I could in school, but this was not possible as we had to buy our own books in those days. In order to do this I had to get jobs when I was out of school. I did make it to Grade 8 but I couldn’t get any kind of work to help me go for Grade 9 so I ended up getting any jobs I could to help at home. But I always wanted to get more education. That was how I came to join the Army. I was accepted into the Artillery on 21 January 1950 and posted to Picton, Ontario where I took my Basic and Core Training. This was before the start of the Korean War.
I had all my training done by then. In fact I was a Bombardier, going from camp to camp instructing Basic Training to new recruits from all different units. I was still doing this when the first unit of the Princess Patricia’s came back from Korea. I was chosen to give a Junior NCO course to these people. This made me feel awful as here I was with no medals and these boys wore Korean Medals. This made me eager to return to my unit and accept nothing, but a transfer to any unit going to Korea. I was finally posted to The Royal Canadian Horse Artillery in Camp Petawawa. After a very short time there I was on the USS MARINE LYNX, a troop ship that had half Americans and half Canadians. We were very crowded and it took us 21 days to go from Seattle, Washington to Sasebo, Japan where we were granted shore leave. We had our orders to be back aboard the ship by midnight. That stay in Japan is another story which will have to wait for another time.
We then sailed for Inchon Harbour, Korea. Off shore we boarded landing barges and went into the harbour. The uncertainty was very frightening, but everything was fine and we did our jobs. There were many times though that I wondered “What am I doing here?” We did get R&R for a week in Japan, which was quite a change from the rainy, muddy ground of Korea. We returned to Canada just before Christmas and they couldn’t have timed it better.
They had no idea where we were going next, so we were informed that we would receive a telegram at home, where we were sent on leave, advising us of our next posting. When my telegram arrived it advised me that my next posting was to Camp Debert, Nova Scotia and I can recall at that time saying “Where are they sending me now?” This was to be one of my best postings, as I met my first wife Elsie there and we were together for 33 years, adopting three boys.
I travelled to many camps in Canada. In 1960 to 1964 I was with the Canadian Brigade in Germany. When we came home we were posted to Winnipeg, Manitoba. In the Fall of 1964, with the infamous Paul Hellyer’s white paper I was given a medical discharge. I then returned to Nova Scotia which I now considered home.
I had the opportunity to go back into the Military, in the same rank and trades pay, but I was well set on civilian street and didn’t want to change it. After working at a variety of jobs I ended up as a Client Service Officer for Health and Welfare Canada. At this time in February 1989, I lost my first wife Elsie, after she had a heart attack. When I finally started going out again I was so fortunate to meet my present wife Ruby. We have been married for 15 years and we look forward to many more years together.
I am a 41 year, Life Member and Past President of Colchester N.S. Branch No. 26 Royal Canadian Legion and also a member of the Air Force Association. I was a Director for Children’s Aid and Family Services and was very active with the Canadian Housing Association. I was awarded the Queen’s Jubilee Medal by Mr. Bill Casey, MP for my volunteer work. I also have the UN & Canada Medal for service in Korea, the Special Service Medal, Peace Keeping Medal and the Canadian Forces Decoration.
My hobbies are mounting military medals, repairing old clocks and caning chairs. I would not change a single thing in my life and I would certainly serve my country again if I had my life to live over.