Sitting in his motorized chair, Albert Wells wheels his way through the lobby of Mission’s Chartwell Cedarbrooke retirement residence on his way to the bistro.
With Remembrance Day a week away, the 101-year-old veteran of the Second World War spoke to The Record about his experience.
Wells was in his mid-20s when he enlisted in 1942.
“What happened was three of my friends had joined the army and they sent them overseas to Hong Kong. Unfortunately, the Japanese took over and they were all killed,” he said.
“When they got killed, I got so upset about it that I went right out and signed up. That was my main reason for joining.”
Because of his experience in mining, Wells became a member of the 6th Field Company of Royal Canadian Engineers.
He said they wanted him to go to officers’ training, but he declined and remained a private.
“I knew the basics of war is based on people who go to the front line all the time. So I was afraid if I got to be an officer I might get put into headquarters or something like that and I wouldn’t be up there with my buddies.”
Wells was serving with the 6th when they landed on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day in 1944.
From there they moved through France, along the coast and made steady progress until they reached Holland.
He said they had to stay in Holland for some time before they managed to carry on – at a slow pace of fighting – until they reached Germany on May 8.
“We were immediately sent back to Holland,” he said, as the Germans had surrendered.
Because of the huge number of soldiers being sent home, Wells said he had to wait in Holland for six months before he could find transport.
“We fell in love with the Dutch people. For quite a while I corresponded with people there who were so nice and helpful. We had a nice connection there.”
Last year, Wells became a Knight of the National Order of the Legion of Honour. He received this title from the Government of the Republic of France for his service during the war.
During last year’s ceremony, held in Mission, Wells said he wasn’t sure why he was receiving this highly esteemed award. He joked that they may have “pulled his name from a hat.”
But the truth is, his service is still remembered.
Remembrance Day is Nov.11.