World War II Vet shares mem­o­ries

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier, Stanstead

The Stanstead Le­gion holds sev­eral Re­mem­brance cer­e­monies ev­ery year at this time, and one mem­ber who has been present at most of those cer­e­monies since he moved back to his home­town almost thirty years ago is World War II Veteran Don­ald

Tay­lor. Fol­low­ing last Fri­day’s Re­mem­brance Cer­e­mony at Stanstead’s Sun­ny­side El­e­men­tary School, of which Mr. Tay­lor was an in­vited guest, he sat down with the Stanstead Jour­nal to share the vivid mem­o­ries of his wartime ex­pe­ri­ence, go­ing back sev­enty-five years.

“I was nine­teen years old when I signed up. All my bud­dies were join­ing the Army, so I joined the Air Force!” said Mr. Tay­lor with a lit­tle smile. “I had a thing for fly­ing,” he added.

Mr. Tay­lor re­mem­bers go­ing to Mon­treal to en­list, then get­ting the phone-call one week later which sent him to Toronto for six months of ba­sic train­ing at the Toronto Coli­seum. “From there I was posted to Dauphin, Man­i­toba, to the No. 10 Ser­vice Fly­ing Train­ing School, where all the pi­lots trained. We didn’t have much choice; they told us where to go after our ba­sic train­ing. When I was there, I did ev­ery­thing from dig­ging ditches to wash­ing dishes, and op­er­at­ing heavy equip­ment like bull­doz­ers and back­hoes,” ex­plained the ninety-three year old Veteran. “I also worked in Air Traf­fic Con­trol and would set up run­ways with the oil torches. When the wind would change, we’d have to move all those torches to a dif­fer­ent run­way. I did that for four years,” ex­plained Mr. Tay­lor.

Hav­ing ap­plied for an over­seas post­ing, Mr. Tay­lor was sent next to New­found­land, although it wasn’t ex­actly what he had meant by “over­seas”. “I was sent to Gan­der. New­found­land was gov­erned by Eng­land at the time, not yet part of Canada. Peo­ple were driv-

ing on the left side of the road!”

In 1940, Gan­der had the big­gest air­port on Earth, and as the most east­erly air­port in North Amer­ica, it played a piv­otal role dur­ing the war with its ‘Ferry Com­mand’, fer­ry­ing thou­sands of planes from the United States to Bri­tain. Gan­der also pro­vided the great­est range for the pa­trolling planes over the western At­lantic. The Gan­der Air Base, when Mr. Tay­lor ar­rived there, was a very busy place.

“I op­er­ated heavy equip­ment in New­found­land at the Gan­der air base. We built run­ways, plowed run­ways and built roads. I was there for about a year,” com­mented Mr. Tay­lor.

After the war ended in 1945, Mr. Tay­lor re­mained with the Cana­dian Air force for another six years, go­ing from a post­ing at the Tren­ton Air Base, in On­tario, to one in Daw­son Creek, Bri­tish Colom­bia, with the Land­line Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Unit. “By then I had gone back to be­ing an elec­tri­cian so I worked as a line­man and I’d drive the ra­tions truck up the Alaska High­way. There were com­mu­ni­ca­tion sta­tions all along that high­way up to the Alaskan bor­der.”

After his dis­charge from the Cana­dian Air Force, it’s not sur­pris­ing that Mr. Tay­lor later joined the Re­serves, after all, you could say he’s part of a ‘mil­i­tary’ fam­ily. “My dad and my un­cles were all in World War I. My mother was a nurse in World War I; she was Ir­ish. That’s how she and my fa­ther met.”

In the Re­serves, Mr. Tay­lor was in charge of a cadet corps and he also was a Drill Sergeant. “When you’re a Drill Sergeant, all you have to do is look mean,” he joked.

The Sec­ond World War took Don­ald Tay­lor away from his home in Beebe when he was nine­teen years old, and he didn’t move back un­til after he re­tired, in 1984. “Like Moses, it took me forty years to get home,” said the rather fit nona­ge­nar­ian who still ‘cuts a fine fig­ure’ in his sev­enty-five year-old Cana­dian Air Force uni­form.

Asked how he keeps so ‘young’, Mr. Tay­lor ad­mit­ted that he keeps busy work­ing as a se­cu­rity guard across the bor­der.

While sit­ting out­side the mu­sic room at Sun­ny­side after the Re­mem­brance Cer­e­mony for the in­ter­view, Mr. Tay­lor was happy to be ap­proached by the stu­dents of the grade two class who all lined up to shake his hand and say thank-you. One young boy took Mr. Tay­lor’s hand then gave him a big, spon­ta­neous hug, as only a seven year-old can.

“I can count on one hand all the peo­ple left in Stanstead who were in the war. There are not many of us left,” com­mented Mr. Tay­lor when the in­ter­view was over.

Photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

Grade two stu­dents lined up to shake Mr. Tay­lor’s hand after the Re­mem­brance Cer­e­mony.

Photo Michael Everett

pho­tos Vic­to­ria Vanier

Don­ald Tay­lor, seen here with his wife Gail, still cuts a fine fig­ure in his Air Force uni­form.

Don­ald Tay­lor watches ap­prov­ingly as a young Sun­ny­side stu­dent places a wreath.

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