World War II Vet shares memories
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.
Grade two students lined up to shake Mr. Taylor’s hand after the Remembrance Ceremony.
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.