The following story was written by Nadia Anderson,
granddaughter of Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) veteran Alexander Shand.
"My Grandpa's War"
was twenty 20 years old when he was stationed in London,
England, on a balloon barrage squadron. The balloons went up
to 4,500 feet and were used to prevent low flying bombing...
He was posted to No. 34 Service
Flying Training School (SFTS) in Medicine Hat, which
trained pilots under the British Commonwealth Air Training
Plan (BCATP). Crossing the Atlantic from Scotland to Halifax took
nine days in convoy in stormy weather. It took another five
days by rail before he reached Medicine Hat. The city's
population was roughly 9,000, and the airmen were made very
welcome. Instead of marching out to the camp on arrival
at the CPR station, citizens provided private cars, taxis
and buses, something that would never have happened in Britain.
The camp was comfortable, especially with the natural gas
heating in winter, when the temperature could drop to 35°
below zero. Canadian food was much better than that in Britain,
and there was no fighting to worry about. Grandpa played
in the station's dance orchestra and concert party, which
sometimes travelled as far as Nelson, British Columbia to provide entertainment
and help with victory loan drives...
Grandpa worked for the Chief
Flying Instructor who took him up in an Oxford twin-engine
plane on a training flight and gave him a great view of
the prairie from the air. This was Grandpa's first flight.
During the three years Grandpa was at Medicine Hat, he joined
the city tennis club, took piano lessons and sang in a church
choir. He also paid his first visit to the United States, along
with two other airmen who had relatives in Spokane,
Grandpa was engaged to my grandma, Marion, before he sailed
back to Britain, unescorted, on the troopship "The
Louis Pasteur." In Scotland, he was stationed about
30 miles from his home and was able to play in a professional
dance orchestra and earn enough to pay his passage back
to Medicine Hat in 1946, after he was de-mobilized.
Prior to that, however, in July
1944, he was posted to India and sailed in a large convoy
from Liverpool to Bombay via the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean
Sea, the Suez Canal, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. He
was then posted to New Delhi, India, and headquarters
of the Southeast Asia Command... He was then posted to the new headquarters...at Kandy in Ceylon, where he worked in intelligence and then telecommunications, slept
in a hut made of cane from bamboo trees, sang with the
singers, played in the station dance orchestra and shook
hands with Lord Louis Mountbatten, the Supreme Allied Commander
in Southeast Asia. He also met Sir Guy Garrod, head of
Air Command, who was also a singer and invited Grandpa to
come up and play his grand piano, the only one in Ceylon,
whenever he wanted. Grandpa did just that.
Grandpa was then posted
to Burma, but this was cancelled because he was needed
in the orchestra. The war with Japan ended in August, 1945,
and he was repatriated to Britain, sailing on the "Queen
of Bermuda," following the same route he had taken on
his way to India. The postings in Britain were brief at Turnhouse, outside Edinburgh, and finally at Horsham St.
Faith, near Norwich. Again, he played in the station dance
orchestra until he was de-mobilized on March 7, 1946.
lost his brother when his minesweeper was lost in the English
Channel on his 24th birthday. Apart from that, however,
Grandpa felt that he had been very fortunate in so many
ways, especially in settling in Canada.