MARCHING ON MOTHER’S DAY
Bob Grant recalls confidence of fellow recruits marching off to war
On Mother’s Day in 1940, Corner Brook was virtually shut down.
There weren’t exactly a lot of businesses back then, but nearly every man, woman and child dropped what they were doing to go bid farewell to a group of local men who were volunteering to go to war.
A train carrying would-be soldiers had made its way from central Newfoundland to pick up the contingent of fresh recruits from Corner Brook.
Bob Grant was among the 105 young men who gathered at the old badminton hall on West Street before marching down towards Main Street and over to the train station in Humbermouth.
The night before they departed, he and about 50 others who had been working at the Bowaters paper mill in Corner Brook, but who had decided to leave their work for the war front, enjoyed a fancy meal at the expense of their employer.
Grant would not come back home until 1946, having spent most of those years in between fighting with the 166 Newfoundland Field Regiment in North Africa and Italy until the war ended in 1945.
It was only this past week that Grant saw the film footage taken on May 12, 1940 — the day he and the others marched off to war from the comfort of safe Corner Brook.
While he is not seen in any of the footage, Grant recognized several of the faces in the video. He is one of the few men who marched that day who are still living.
He remembers well the great confidence he and his comrades had as they proudly strode off to the waiting train and bid their enthusiastic farewells to the huge crowd waving good-bye back at them.
“When we left Corner Brook, we figured we would be gone for one year and the war would be over as soon as we got over there,” said Grant, who turns 100 next June.
The reality of the situation never hit home until they were in Europe with the German army advancing in their direction. Even their weapons were not used to the theatre of war.
“We had guns that were never fired,” he recalled. “They were made in 1917, but they were never fired, and we had a rough, rough time getting ready to get into action.”
Of course, the day he left Corner Brook was Mother’s Day. Grant said, with his mother having had three brothers who went overseas before him and his father and two of his father’s brothers also having gone, seeing another young man in the family leaving was nothing new.
“She just told me to look after myself and to stay away from the girls over there,” he said.
Grant would lose his uncle, Doug Grant, in the war. He was killed in France in 1943 while Grant was serving in North Africa.
“When the officer came to the door, my mother just asked, ‘Which one was it?’” said Grant.
Second World War veteran Bob Grant of Corner Brook, who will be 100 years old next June, was among the recruits who made the historic march through downtown Corner Brook to a train in Humbermouth that was waiting to take them off to war on Mother’s Day in 1940.