Harris Wilkinson

Harris Wilkinson

Williams Lake veteran recalls the war

When he closes his eyes and thinks back to the Second World War Harris Wilkinson shakes his head.

When he closes his eyes and thinks back to the Second World War Harris Wilkinson shakes his head.

“It’s not a very healthy looking picture,” the 95-year-old Williams Lake veteran said. “Even today the world situation looks bad. I don’t know what to expect.”

As a private, Wilkinson served in Canada and Europe.

After he received a notice in 1942, telling him his services were required, he left Williams Lake and enlisted with the Canadian Army in Vernon on April 4.

He did basic training for two months and then took an electrical course in Calgary. Two weeks later he was sent to Edmonton to assemble fluorescent lamps for an Air Force airframe shop.

When the 22 Engineers were moved from Nanaimo to the Port Alberni Camp, Wilkinson was deployed there also.

“We were put to work building bridges and roadways to bring reinforcements to the infantry,” Wilkinson recalled.

It was March and they were in an area of Vancouver Island that received five to six feet of snow.

They were building a road from Port Alberni to the beach off Tofino when they found out the Japanese were planning to invade the Aleutian Islands.

Wilkinson was put on the draft for the Aleutians but the Japanese backed off before they left Canada.

During Christmas 1944, he was deployed to England.

“We were on a train riding east from Regina and it was Christmas,” Wilkinson said.

The troops were loaded in a boat on Jan. 22, 1954 and landed in Scotland.

“We docked the ship and came directly to England,” he recalled, saying the skies were consistently darkened with air craft. “You could hear them rumbling for hours on end.”

After two months of maneuver training, he was assigned to a quarter master store in Southern England.

“I’d get the boys’ shoes repaired, give them new socks and that kind of thing.”

He met lots of soldiers from Canada, although by the time he was placed at the store hostilities had ceased.

“The officers got silk or nylon underwear so I grabbed onto some for myself,” he grinned.

On July 9, 1945 he was sent to the Continent, and assigned to instruct an electrical course in Norg in the Netherlands.

“I was there for three months and then sent to Paris for a trip.”

He was never sent to the battle grounds and said he was happy about that.

His brother Allan enlisted and was stationed in Dawson Creek and Fort St. John deciphering foreign code, while his brother Steve went to Europe before hostilities had ceased.

While his family emerged safe from the war, many of the people he knew did not.

“A young lad I worked with cutting stove wood in Williams Lake died when the ship he was on sunk travelling overseas.”

These days Wilkinson is housebound and will not attend the Remembrance Day services in Williams Lake, however he was able to attend last year.

As if it was yesterday, he can remember when the war was over.

“I was at the QM store when we received the news.”

As one of the city’s oldest veterans, Wilkinson said he cannot complain.

“Veteran Affairs looks after me some,” he nodded.