KAMLOOPS — The First Canadian Parachute Battalion operated be between 1942 and the end of the Second World War in 1945, never failing a mission. But, many were lost along the way.
One of the survivors, 95-year-old Gilbert Young now lives in Kamloops.
At 18 years of age, Young walked into an army recruiting office in Sudbury, Ont., determined to follow his friends into combat.
During basic training Young was recruited to be a paratrooper in the First Canadian Parachute Battalion.
Before he could begin his training — he was sent overseas.
"We got on the Queen Elizabeth and away we went to England," Young said.
"There was over 20,000 in that boat. If the Germans could have sunk that boat they would have gotten a pretty good haul there."
Once in England, Young began his training. His first few jumps were from a hot air balloon.
"Well, you're kind of nervous," he said. "You look down there and it’s a long way down there. And then, when you jump from a plane it’s different again ... but you always say to yourself, ‘if another guy can do it, I can do it.'"
Young carried that attitude with his as he dropped into Normandy on June 6, 1944, a day often referred to as D-Day.
"They said ''C' Company — part of 'C' Company, is going to be pathfinders. Now, you pathfinders, you're going to be jumping out of a plane called Albemarle,'" Young said.
They jumped at night, and only a fraction of 'C' Company landed in the drop zone.
Young was among the small force that trudged on toward the enemy Garrison. But as the men approached, they were showered with bullets.
"Traces were flying, and bullets were flying all over the place," Young said. "And we weren't full strength, you see. We were supposed to be about 25 or 30 and there was only about 10 to 12 of us."
While in France, Young was shot, but it wasn't a bullet that took him out of the war, it was a motorcycle ride in Germany that sent him home in a body cast in 1945.
"I said I'll try that motorcycle, I never rode a motorcycle in my life," Young recalled. "Started her up and away we went ... and when I was coming, making a curve, that bloody thing, I never rode a motorcycle in my life, anyway I made a turn and it upset me, and it came right over top of me and threw me into the ditch."
With a broken femur, Young was sent back to Toronto, where he was recovering in hospital when the war ended.
Through it all, he never lost his sense of humour.
"I was laughing about it then, there's no use in crying," he said. "They'd say, 'boy, you've got a good sense of humour.' And one nurse said, 'you know, that's the way you should have it. You see these guys over here, they're moaning and groaning, and they're all saying, 'I'm going to die.' They shouldn't look at it that way, you should look at it positive, say, you're not going to kill me today.' And that's the way I was all the time."
Young complains that his memory is failing him, but he still remembers the names and faces of the comrades who didn't survive, and he thinks of them often.
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