Canadian Armed Forces
John served with the 6th Canadian Armoured Corps, B Squadron known as the 1st Hussars. I received my call from the army in the summer of 1942, I was 21, but was exempt until the fall. I had been working up north near Wawa, Ontario running one of the machines that loaded pulp onto boats to be shipped to the US where they used it to make ammunition. Once the harbor froze over, I reported for duty in Toronto, then onto Sherbrooke, Quebec for basic training.
When we finished, they put us in a room and told us they needed tank men and radio operators. They asked if I was interested. I told them I didn’t know anything about Morse Code. They told me I didn’t have to, they wanted to know who could distinguish between the dits and dahs. I guess I could so I was picked and became a Canadian Armoured Corps Operator (CAC).
In the fall of 1943, John was shipped overseas. While in Europe, he and his regiment saw action in France, Germany and Holland.
I saw a lot of battles in Holland. We helped liberate the country. Thousands of men, women and children were dying because they had no food. Several days later, food supplies started to move through for the starving people. They were so happy and treated us well.
I also saw plenty of action in France, the most memorable coming just two weeks after we arrived. Closing the Falaise Pocket was a turning point in the war. The Allied armies had the German army surrounded. We were lined up in our tanks, loaded with ammo and fuel. We were told to go 12 miles per hour and not to stop unless we got knocked out or until we ran out of fuel. We were told to shoot out any buildings that looked like they might have snipers in them.
So much of the German Army was either captured or killed. Thousands of German prisoners surrendered their rifles and they were lying on the ground in a huge pile. Some prisoners were walking around. One young guy came up to me, he had a piece of black bread. He asked me to cut it in half for him, (all sharp items had been taken away from them), he wanted to share it with a friend.
When the war ended on May 7, 1945, I was at the airport in Wilhelmshaven, Germany getting ready to bomb the city the next morning. We were loading up our tanks with ammunition when someone came running and shouting: The war is over! The war is over!
My commanding officer came to me and said: “Hall you’re now on leave. A lorry will be here in an hour, get your things together, you’re going to London. I got to London the next evening. Anyone in uniform couldn’t buy a drink, people were shoving beers at everyone. It was quite the celebration.
When asked about his thoughts on the war, John said: I can’t say that I hated the enemy, except the top Nazi Officers who wanted to kill everyone. For the most part, those on the front lines were just young kids like us who were caught up in the same War that I was. I talked to prisoners, they all seemed to be nice guys. War is a foolish thing. There is nothing honourable about it. People killing people, there’s nothing to be honoured. I don’t think I would want to do it again, but I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it either.