Local veteran reminisces days in military service

After serving in several areas overseas during the Second World War, an air force veteran returned to his family farm near Wetaskiwin

Greene remained in service until he was 22

After serving in several areas overseas during the Second World War, an air force veteran returned to his family farm near Wetaskiwin before moving to Ponoka to live his life outside the service.

Hugh Greene joined the Royal Canadian Air Force when he was 19-years-old and remained in the service until he was 22, receiving his discharge in 1946.

Greene says he would have joined sooner but his father had just purchased a large farm and needed the extra help.

“One thing, it was the thing to do. Most of the people I went to school with were joining or had already joined,” said Greene.

He says it wasn’t strong feelings of patriotism that prompted him to do so; those feelings came later. “The longer you’re there, I think the more patriotic I became.”

Greene attended basic training where he learned to march, salute, properly wear the uniform, shine shoes and polish his brass buttons. Next came Emergency Wartime Training Program in Vancouver and then Initial Training School (ITS) in Edmonton.

In the three months Greene spent in ITS, he learned the aspects of training for an air force crew, including aircraft recognition, Morse code and how to dismantle and reassemble a machine gun.

“Unfortunately I didn’t get to attain my wish to go further with air crew.” While Greene remained in the air force, he was sent to a selection for ground crew and eventually ended up in the position of motor transport driver.

“I drove all kinds of equipment, big trucks, busses,” he said. Greene’s duties also included driving the commanding officer around.

Before being shipped overseas, Greene had never been out of the country, except for his migration to Canada as a small boy.

Along with spending some time in England, he served a year in Germany dismantling German aircrafts. “They were unused. They’d never been in the air.”

“My job in transportation was to drive people out onto the field,” he added.

The area Greene was working in was near Hanover, and he was stationed in Celle. He remained in Germany until May 1946.

Afterwards Greene was transported to Top Cliff, Yorkshire in England for repatriation and after 30 days leave travelled to Winnipeg for his discharge.

“After being away over there, by the time I got home, I was one of the last to arrive in Wetaskiwin.”

“I was asked a number of times to reenlist but I decided the thing to do was take my discharge,” he added.

Six months out of the air force Greene was once again asked to reenlist, this time by a friend. “I said no, I’m not ready for that Jim.”

Later that fall Greene was enticed to return to service. He missed those he’d lived and served with. “We were like one family. The temptation was strong but I got over it.”

Looking back, Greene says it’s the places he went and the areas he served that remain prominent in his mind. He remembers seeing the damage done to England by German airships as well as the devastation in Germany.

“I was more or less shocked seeing the destruction of the big cities that we, the Royal Air Force, inflicted on the enemy.”

While overseas Greene was also able to see his grandparents, who lived in Ireland. He hadn’t seen them since he was a young child. “That was something that wouldn’t have happened if I had not joined the service.”

“I enjoyed my time in the service. I never doubted my time there,” he added.