You remember the good times, not the bad, says Arthur Inkpen. "You always look back on the good times you had," Shoal Harbour resident and Second World War veteran Arthur Inkpen recently told The Packet about his years of service.
Arthur Inkpen of the 59th Newfoundland Heavy Regiment looks back at his photo from when he first enlisted nearly 74 years ago. Inkpen remembers the time he spent with friends and leaves the bad stuff on the backburner in his mind.
"That's the only way you survived, if you dwell on the bad times you would be in the nuthouse, and I had no intention of going there," says Inkpen, who left his home in Burin to sign up. He remembers the day he enlisted. It was June 27, 1940. He was 19 years old. He made the trek to St. John's but a foul up in paperwork meant his birth certificate didn't arrive with him.
Because of the error, he had to spend close to a month at a boarding house at the top of Long's Hill. He would spend his days walking back and forth from the top of Long's Hill to the recruitment office on Water Street trying to get everything sorted out.
"At the end of the month they said well, you're going to have to do one thing or the other. Either join the militia, which had just been formed, or go home," recalls Inkpen.
So, he joined the 59th Newfoundland Heavy Regiment and spent the next few years' doing guard duty at the dockyard and on the water works. "It was just to keep us out of trouble more than anything else, and it was part of the training," says Inkpen. He spent some time doing gun training on Bell Island and was then called back to St. John's to sign up to go overseas.
Due to the confusion with his birth certificate, it was August, 1942, before he finally got his papers in order to go overseas. In October, 1942, he began using howitzer guns right at the height of the invasion scare, following the success of the German blitzkrieg in Belgium and France. He recalls how they would fire 300-pound shells with the guns as he did his training in Wales and other artillery ranges in Southern England.
Inkpen became very close to the other 200 people in his regiment; he says he looks back fondly on the others in his draft. He went to Normandy in July, 1944, and says it was pretty hairy at times but he survived. Inkpen recalls working as a dispatch rider in France. His job was to accompany the convoy if they were travelling in a group and direct traffic to make sure the convoy stayed together.
At one point he had to do the job with a broken ankle. He doesn't remember specifically how he broke his ankle, but he remembers leading several convoys with the injury.
"You had to make sure nobody got in between. We led the convoy behind the commander's vehicle," says Inkpen. "I wore out 15 motorcycles in about two and a half years. I don't know what happened to them."
Inkpen remembers one of his motorcycles meeting a particularly grisly end. He had been driving down a road in Kent, England, with the bike and it had been giving him trouble. The roads in Kent are really narrow and often have blind turns. He met a Churchill tank coming around a corner and had to bail. His bike was crushed but he got away unscathed.
Inkpen remembers the day the war ended. He was eight miles East of Hamburg, Germany. "It was just another day I suppose," says Inkpen. "I remember the quiet, it remains in the memory." A month before the war ended he had been hit by a piece of mortar in the leg. It was dressed in the field but would later become infected.
So, what Inkpen remembers most about the end of the war is ending up in a hospital in a military camp in England. After returning home from the war, Inkpen remained active in the Legion for many years. Negotiations to build the Clarenville Legion started in 1951 and there were very few veterans around except for those left over from World War One.
He ended being one of the original people to build the Legion. "We got $10,000 from the provincial command and a contractor put the windows doors and roof on it and we did the inside ourselves. We had to gyprock it and do everything and put the floors on it," says Inkpen.
There was very little work to be found in the area when the men got back from the war, Inkpen says. "There was 10,000 of us that came back from overseas and where the hell was the jobs supposed to come from?"
He decided to go to Hamilton, Ontario, and take a course in diesel mechanics, which was something new at the time.
Inkpen stayed busy over the years, he had a job with the province's department responsible for highways, worked in a sawmill, worked on a boat in Corner Brook and spent seven years in Labrador City. He even owned a Texaco station on the highway at Clarenville.
Inkpen remained active in the Clarenville Legion over the years; he served as president and vice-president at different times.
Inkpen hasn't been out for the parade the last few years, though he once served as parade marshal, he doesn't have the energy or enthusiasm to be out and about so late in the fall.
He still shows his medals with pride, especially his lifetime Legion membership of 65 years. But he doesn't haven't any gory stories to tell or traumas fresh in his mind; he says he let go of all those things years ago.
These days when the father of three, grandfather of seven and great-grandfather of four, looks back, he only looks back to remember his friends and the good times... (see more at: http://www.thepacket.ca/)