By Carlie Connolly
Wilf Fairhurst was 17 when he joined the war, lying about his age to fight for Canada. His position was an anti-tank gunner as a layer. He started off in Medicine Hat for training school then went to Calgary, Hamilton, Petawawa, then overseas.
The one word he remembered thinking of the most back then was ‘fear’, a lot of fear. He said that when you’re in combat with so much noise and confusion, the fear is often times forgotten, you had to just fire off your gun and hope to hit the target. It was later on when the fear really set in.
Memories still surface, as he thought back to some of the worst ones.
“One of the scariest memories was when the American bombers bombed us. They were supposed to be bombing the Germans.”
In France, the RAF also bombed them as they were positioned in the wrong place, a mistake that cost hundreds of men their lives.
On Fairhurst’s gun team there were six people, the loaders, ammunition carriers and then him, one of the layers. They would pick out a target all while their target was shooting back at them.
He spent a lot of his time in England training. When he first arrived there, there were anti aircraft gunners shooting at German airplanes during the latter part of the battle of Britain.
As for the training he had to take part in, he said it was extremely rigid and a lot of work.
“We’d never seen an anti-aircraft gun until we got to England, we didn’t even know what one looked like. We had very long training on learning how to man the guns and fire them. We then took some special training in Ireland for about six weeks.”
When they came back to England, the men were assigned to gun sites as fighters came over, they would shoot at them. They shot at the German airplanes hoping to hit one.
“They were very hard to hit, but we did manage to bring a couple down,” he said.
Fairhurst left home at 17 and was away from his family for around five years. He was 21 when the war ended.
“When you volunteer to go to war, you just don’t come home till the war is finished.”
He remembers the happiest time… when the war was finally over
“We were just going to go back up and a Dutchman came along and said, the war is finished and we didn’t believe him. We just looked at each other and didn’t know what to say and shed a little tear. The war was over, we were very happy.”
They were a bit upset because as the rest of the world was celebrating the war being over, they had nowhere to go, and still had to help disarm the Germans before they too could celebrate.
When it was finally over, he was very elated.
“I’m quite happy I’m still alive. It was quite an experience, very scary.”
Fairhurst is also proud to live where he does, at home in Canada.
“There is no better country to live in than this one right here.”