It’s Remembrance Day, today in Canada. When I lived in Ottawa, I spent a few November 11’s at the War Memorial. It was usually freezing cold, sometimes rainy and overcast, others sun shining bright in the cold air. We watched the wreaths laid, the children’s choir sing and royalty stand by government officials.
But the most awesome thing I witnessed? It was the parade of veterans along the street after the ceremony. Many were in their eighties and nineties, but they marched proudly while we clapped, cheered and cried.
Remembrance Day is important to me. I blame it on my Dad. He was in his forties when my twin sister and I were born, the youngest of eight. Both my parents remember the war. I always knew my Dad was in some kind of soldier regiment. His picture in his uniform hung on the wall, growing up. This year, I want to remember and write them down so I don’t forget. This is my Dad’s story.
My Dad joined the Canadian Technical Training Corp. Their motto: They served to learn, they learned to serve. The Canadian Technical Training Corp enabled seventeen year olds to join the service although they still couldn’t go overseas until age eighteen.
My Dad learned about the CTTC from a friend, who was home on leave. In September 1944, my Dad, along with another friend, took the train from Woodstock to the London (Ontario) Recruiting station which was located on Dundas Street. They recruited for Army, Air force and Navy. The boys were given forms to fill out. School marks, their teacher’s signature and their parents’ signatures were all needed. They returned home and filled out the forms, then mailed them back to the Recruiting Office.
In mid-October Dad received word, along with a train ticket, to report to London, Ontario. His friend did not pass for medical reasons. Dad had to continue this adventure on his own. When he got off the train in London, there were Army trucks waiting for the new recruits. They headed for Wolseley Barracks. They were checked in for medications, documentations, and assigned a barracks and a bunk.
On November 2, 1944, Gordon Arnott (my Dad) was sworn in as a Boy Soldier. He was seventeen years, three months old. He was paid 70 cents a day. Over the next few days mug shots were taken, he was issued equipment, uniforms, regimental number, identification card and dog tags. There were drills to take part in on the Parade Square. When this initial registration was complete, he was given a 48 hour pass to go home.
Upon returning after that forty-eight hour pass, he was drafted to Hamilton for his basic training and remained there until May 1945, becoming a Private in February. He was now paid $1.30 a day. In mid-May of 1945, he was drafted back to Woodstock for training as a truck driver for six weeks. The war in Europe had just ended but it continued on in the Pacific.
Dad was sent back to Hamilton at the end of June. They wanted volunteers for the war in the Pacific but Dad was still not 18. War with Japan ended in August 1945, just after his eighteenth birthday. He was sent back to Wolseley Barracks in London and was discharged on August 18, 1945. My Dad has never forgotten this time and would not change one day of this memorable experience.
He has read much over the years about both world wars that he could teach on the subject. He loved putting together models of war planes and they hung in our basement for years. My Dad is well into his eighties now but his respect and love for our military has never waned.
Remembrance Day, is a day to remember and thank those who fought for us in the past and present. Because of their sacrifice we can love, worship, educate and travel in freedom. Although my Dad didn’t get to go and fight because of his age, he still gave of himself. Willing and ready to go and fight for freedom. Thank you Dad.