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The Last Hurrah - Turner Classic Movies
, - I joined the naval reserve in May 1943 at H.M.C.S. STAR in Hamilton along with two other friends. They were Joe Valliere and Dick Purdy. Joe was drafted to Prince Rupert on the west coast after basic training in STAR and Dick joined what was called Combined Operations. I never saw Dick again until I got discharged but I met Joe on the street in Plymouth, England and we sat on the curb and cried. We were so glad to see each other, it overwhelmed us. We had hitch hiked a ride on the Queen Elizabeth Way which by the way, you cannot do these days and arrived at the Naval Base known as H.M.C.S. Star where we were given a medical examination. The medical officer in charge told me I had an enlarged heart and they said I could not join. About a month later, they called me on the phone and asked me to come in for another medical review and when this medical officer saw me, he said my heart was OK for the size of me and they allowed me to join. The building was an old vinegar works alongside the train tracks near the train station and close to James St. in Hamilton. It has since been torn down and replaced with a larger base with a drill hail on the waterfront. We did our basic training such as marching and rifle drill at the new facilities on the water front. While there, we were asked if anyone had experience with playing in a band. I, along with others, signified that we had been with various bands and we were asked to form a band so that the recruits had something to help them march and keep in step. I had played the base drum in the 2/10th Dragoons reserve army and was asked to take charge of the band. There were about 23 of us at the time and our instruments were borrowed from the local sea cadets. We would march up the streets to Dundurn Castle and practice all day there. It was a place we could play our instruments and march without disturbing anyone. That lasted about three months and finally my draft notice was posted and I left for the coast by railroad. We travelled in antique railroad cars with plush seats and no berths and very little food. We did stop in Montreal for a few hours where we were able to get food and drink. More of the latter than we needed. Some had to be carried back to the train and were put on report by the shore patrol. I was lucky not to be one of them because the penalty was a few days of what was called No.11. That was running (at the double) with a rifle over your head around the parade square until you either completed it or dropped with exhaustion. It was not fun and there were even worse penalties but I won't get into that. I might add that I joined the navy because I had been a sea cadet in our local corps and I always dreamed of going to sea. Even to this day, I think I made the best choice of all the services. I have never regretted being in the navy. That said, I was one of the lucky people who survived without a scratch because many of them did not.
I feel this is the proper place for me to end
My great granny and gran would have known how his mother felt, dying so far from home but he was not on his own they made sure of that. Through a veterans magazine I put an ad in to see if anyone recalled him, thought it was a long shot after so long. I was contacted by a wonderful lady who told me her friend had seen my ad. The PO Stoker who made contact is Hugh Main, he was Stoker Leyland’s boss on the Owen Sound and told me of being in an Atlantic convoy, I guess early Aug 1944. Stoker Leyland had peritonitis and as they could not leave the convoy it took around five days to get him to Derry. He must have been put in the bed next to my great uncle who was being nursed by my great gran Charlotte Reid and her daughter my granny (who is standing) Evelyn Moss, nee Reid. This photo was a very sad one, taken following the Irish tradition when in mourning, just after the death of Billy Reid. A search was carried out for Stoker Leyland’s family but it has not been successful sadly. I would love to know if my great gran’s letters are still with someone and let them know that their loved one is still in at least one family’s thoughts.