A HARLEY DAVIDSON MAN!
I was born 29 May 1921 in Inverness, Cape Breton Island and moved to Truro when I was ten years old. I was an only child. My Dad, who lived until he was 90 years of age, was an inspector for the dairy board and my Mom, who lived to be 102 years of age, worked at Stanfield's for 43 years. I left school in grade 6, not because I had to but because I wanted to. Even before I had my license I bought an old truck for $150.00. I hauled wood and picked up milk for Borden's in Stewiacke and delivered it to Truro.
When I turned nineteen I went to Halifax on my own and joined the Army. Again, I wanted to. It was a great way to earn $1.20 a day. Beech Grove Inn in Prince Edward Island is where I was sent to do Basic Training. Then I was sent to Borden for trades training. I was with the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps where I drove trucks and did mechanic work.
After trades training, I was put on a train to New York and from there I boarded the boat SCOTLAND with approximately 12,000 other men headed for England. The only problem was that they didn't tell me where I was going! And to top that, I was seasick every second of every minute of every day until that boat landed. The boat, which was full of Chinese labourers, landed in Portsmouth, England and from there I was send to Aldershot for more training.
Five of us were sent to London where we drove double decker buses as part of our training. From there I was put on another boat AMERICAN. When we were just off the Rock of Gibraltar the Germans air raided and our boat was hit. The Captain told us to be ready to go overboard prior to the torpedoes hitting us. I remember putting on a life jacket and about 100 of us jumped overboard. I was picked up by a small boat and put ashore on Algiers where I spent the next seven days and from there I boarded a D-Douglas aircraft that took me to Palermo, Sicily. From there I was up in Katania where we pushed the Germans over into Italy and from there pushed them clean back into Havana.
The worst we had was in Ortona where we lost approximately 2,800 young soldiers. Many were buried there and I remember that we covered the dead in blankets, which covered their head with their feet showing. You see the Italians stole the boots right off the dead soldier's feet.
One time I was driving an ambulance to a hospital in Revana with four wounded Canadian soldiers aboard. On the return trip I got stopped by the Military Police and they told me not to go over five miles per hour because if the Germans saw the dust they'd shell us. Well we got shelled all right. It blew the back right off the ambulance, there was nothing left. I was shell shocked and ended up with shrapnel in my left knee and right shoulder. I was transported to an American medical tent where I think I spent at least one day and then a Canadian ambulance took me back to my unit.
Then onto France. On the way I was hitch hiking and got picked up by an Artillery outfit. We stopped at an English outfit for supper and I decided to go for a beer. And who did I come across but two guys from home, both friends of mine, Bert MacLaren and Claude Totten. So off to the beer tent we go, about a mile down the road. We were the first three Canadians to arrive at the beer tent where there were about twenty Englishmen. And then Bert announced, “We can lick any GD Englishman here!” I think all twenty of them came towards us at the same time and we took off running and they never caught us!
From there I went back to my own outfit and our next stop was in Marseilles where we then proceeded to Bel Gerr Holland. One day, when the war was over, I was going down the road on my Harley to deliver some security papers. After delivery, I headed back and man was it dark out. Of course I was going too fast, when all at once I saw a dark spot and I hit something with a bang. I did two or three somersaults in the air and I think I landed standing up. The only injury I got was a cut finger. You see the Germans had shot a bomb on the road. I guess I just wasn't meant to die!
I then spent three or four months in Amsterdam transporting elderly people to the hospital in ambulances to the Queen Wilamina Hospital. After that I was transported from the border of France by boat to England, this time on the Queen Elizabeth, and I was sick again for the entire voyage. We landed in New York where we took a train to Truro. It was 1946 and my Mom and Dad and a few friends came to meet and greet me home. My kit was stolen so I arrived with nothing! I was discharged immediately end of demobilization.
For many years I was in the trucking business and lived at the racetrack. I owned many horses and was a sulky driver since 1958. I had 99 wins and when I turned 70 years old I had to stop because the racetrack will not insure anyone after they turn 70.
I'm a member of Colchester N.S. Branch No. 26 Royal Canadian Legion and my hobbies include fishing, horse racing and going for drives.