Sentimental Journey Continued

David Meakes February 28, 2018

August 25, 1945

Montreal, Quebec, Canada


No one could tell me where to sign up for a boat that transports horses, and I searched the docks, walking for over a day before I located the correct location. On the 26th, a Mr. Sylvester was just completing signing up a 40-man horse crew for the next horse boat, but by saying that I had grown up with horses and had crossed the Atlantic twice already, he added my name. The ship was the 5,240-ton Liberty ship named The Mexican and would leave by September 12.

When signing up, I had made friends with a guy named “Mac”. He was about 50 years of   age, a Montreal resident, seemed to know all the local angles, and was trying to get work a day at a time. The 13 days to ship departure seemed lost time, so I initially went with Mac trying to get work at the stockyards, the C. N. Railway, Canadian Packers, the Bus Depot and the ‘Brewery Mission’, all unlikely places to get work by the day.  I soon realized Mac was an alcoholic, so started preparing for the trip.

There was a lot of red tape such as permits, fingerprints, etc. But not prioritizing, I realized after a week that, as we were going to the Netherlands, I would need a passport very quickly. For that, I must first have the signature of a professional before submitting my passport application. My first attempt was Mr. Mason, a lawyer, at the Department of Veterans Affairs. He abruptly said “No!  I haven’t known you for two years, and no one else will either.” I felt rebuffed but street-smart Mac came to my rescue. My friend, Mac, took me first to see “Honest” Harry. He was a pawnbroker who acknowledged that his signature always bounced at the Ottawa passport office. My application then bounced to Mayor Camelien Houde of Montreal via his secretary Gasper, who said it wouldn’t work because everyone knew that Houde had been in jail for two years for advising French Québécois youths not to sign up for the military, while the authorities would soon know that I had been in the military.

I finally sent a telegram to my dad’s friend, Postmaster Jack Matley of Punnichy, Saskatchewan, who had known me since I was born. Carrying his return telegram, I took the train to Ottawa, arriving at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, September 7. I found the Secretary of External Affairs quickly, made the application, and was told I might have the passport by 5:00 p.m. Fantastically quick in today’s world! Well, it wasn’t possible then either. However, it was delivered by priority mail to Montreal on Monday, September 10.

The Mexican would be taking 670 horses to Holland. We were told that the estimated horse population in the Netherlands was about 50,000 in 1939. By 1945, it was only about 5,000, the balance having been taken by the Germans to replenish their artillery transport and eaten by the starving Dutch. Our horses were to feed the urgent needs of the Dutch population. The ship left the dock on September 12 and took most of four days to travel along the St. Lawrence River to the open sea.

For more stories of the follies of war, grab a copy of my book, Perspective: The Golden Rule. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

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    David Meakes

    David Meakes

    David Meakes is a Canadian-born World War II veteran. He is ninety-five years old and a retired podiatris... read more

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