Why is it so important we remember on Remembrance Day?
Lest we forget. We think we won’t but all too often we do.
We fall into the trap, telling ourselves we’ll remember. But we won’t—life gets busy and details are forgotten. I can barely remember what I had for dinner last night. It’s for this reason I’m writing my Dad’s history so we will never forget the details. And maybe you’ll learn something new too. Did you know there were Boy Soldiers enlisted in the World War II?
If you’ve ever talked with my Dad, you know he loves the military. Why? Because he’s a vet. This was news to me until recently. I knew he’d enlisted as a boy soldier (underage) and trained but the war ended before Dad could get over to Europe or the Pacific. That’s all I knew.
My Mom told me the story and these are mostly her words (with a little editing.)
Dad’s Soldier Story, 1944-45
Dad trained with the Canadian Technical Training Corp which allowed underage boys to enlist. They were trained in basic military and speciality trades the army had need for.
Their Motto: “They served to learn, they learned to serve”
They were called Boy Soldiers because underage boys were allowed to join the service but they could not go overseas until they turned eighteen.
A friend of Dad’s mentioned the opportunity to enlist when he was home on leave; Dad could join up even if he was seventeen.
In September of 1944, Dad and another friend took the train to the London, Ontario, Recruiting station on Dundas St. which was for all the services—Army, Air force and Navy. There, they were given forms to fill out; they also had to get their school marks, their teacher’s and parent’s signatures. These forms were mailed back into the Recruiting Office.
Mid October my Dad got word, along with a train ticket, to report to London. His friend didn’t pass, for medical reasons. Dad boarded the train, alone, and rode to London where he was met by Army trucks—his ride to Wolseley Barracks.
Let me just pause here. As a mother of a sixteen year old, I can’t even imagine letting my son go off to enlist, with the possibility of them leaving to go to war. Mothers, fathers and families were so brave as they let their loved ones go.
Once at the barracks he was registered, documents were checked and he was assigned a barrack and a bunk.
Gordon Arnott became a Boy Soldier, on November 2, 1944. His pay was 70 cents a day. Over the next days their pictures were taken, and he was issued equipment, uniforms, regimental number, identification card and dog tags. They participated in drills on the Parade square.
After he was settled in and all the administration completed, Dad was given a 48 hour pass to go home. At that point he was assigned to Hamilton for his basic training. He stayed there until May 1945, becoming a Private in February at $1.30 a day.
After that, Dad was assigned to Woodstock for training as a truck driver for six weeks in mid-May. The war in Europe had just ended but there was still fighting in the Pacific.
At the end of June, Dad was sent back to Hamilton. The Army was asking for volunteers for the war in the Pacific but he was still not eighteen so he couldn’t go. Then the war in the Pacific ended on August 1945. Dad had just finally turned eighteen but he was sent back to Wolseley Barracks in London for discharge. He was sent back to where he’d enlisted. On August 18th, 1045, Gordon Arnott’s discharge came through. He has never forgotten this time in his life and would not change one day for the memorable experience.
His love for history, especially the World Wars and military aircraft remains. He spent countless hours assembling models of all kinds of military planes in our basement.
My Father has instilled in each of his seven children, a respect for military personnel and their families. He has reminded us over the years of Canada’s bravery in fighting alongside our Allies. I choke up every time I sit at a Remembrance Day service or see a vet. He gave us a love of our proud Canadian military heritage. Thank you Dad.
Lest we forget.
**this is a personal recollection. Any mistakes are my own.