By: Sgt Doug Ilnicki, 4 CDSB Det Toronto, Tech Svcs
With the celebrations for the 75th approaching fast, there has been much emphasis put on RCEME heritage and traditions. This year the Corps will return to the blue beret, which got me thinking about that those that were on the original parades back in 1944. Recently I had the chance to sit down with one the oldest Weapon Technicians and talk about his memories of the Corps of RCEME.
His story started like so many others of his generation, the war had been raging on for several years and he had been doing his part as best as he could at the time. He had taken a war emergency training class in New Brunswick and was working as a machinist. At the time he had three brothers fighting over in Italy when he decided that he wanted to join up and fight as well. Just two days after his 17th birthday, Thomas Allen Earl Thompson (CWO Retired) enlisted as a machinist and began his military career.
When he enlisted he had lied to the recruiter about his age saying that he was 19 years old which fooled everyone for the time being. Everything was going well for Tom, he completed his training and was set to deploy overseas when he went home for embarkation leave over the Christmas holidays. It seems that his sister did a little snooping through his stuff and found some paperwork showing he was to deploy overseas, which she quickly informed their father about. Somehow his age made its way to the military and the jig was up, his overseas adventures were grounded until he turned 19. Tom spent the rest of the war in Canada at the Base in Barriefield (CFB Kingston). It was there that on a cool spring morning in 1944 that he found himself out on parade, badging over from RCOC(E) to RCEME.
In 1946 Tom released from the military like countless others and tried to return to civilian life. 1949 rolled around and Tom felt the itch and re-enlisted where he remained active for 3 decades, finally retiring in 1979. During his second time round, he re-mustered from machinist to weapons tech, was posted across the country as well as spending some time in Germany. When I asked him about unification in the late 60’s he answered just as my grandfather did, with bitter hatred of it. He felt that it stripped the history and heritage of our great military and of course it killed our Craftsman. In 1969 he recalled being on parade for the 25th anniversary at 202 Workshop in Montreal. By the time the 50th rolled around he had been happily retired for over a decade but did attended the festivities in Borden. Since then he has often been at RCEME golf tournaments and attended various Corps functions. This spring he is planning on making the pilgrimage to Borden for the parade and to Ottawa for the combined RCEME Corps Mess Dinner from his home in Kitchener, Ontario and celebrating the 75th with his son CWO Dave Thompson (Wpns Tech).
When the parade happens on RCEME day this year and we change over to the blue berets, I hope that we can remember our heritage and think about those that have served in our corps. During our celebrations we should also take the time to converse with our Corps’ vets for when they are gone we will lose that history forever. Tom, I look forward to sitting down and hearing some more great stories this May.