Marshall Chow

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This North Battleford, Saskatchewan native volunteered for service in Europe where he served for 4 years as a wireless operator. « View Transcript

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Ramona Mar (Interviewer)

The high school photo of teenager Marshall Chow of Elk Point, Alberta shows that he was the only Asian in his class of 13 students. Racial discrimination was, happily, not a part of Marshall's life. Like his fellow students, Marshall toyed with attending university until world events affected even the smallest towns on the prairies.

Marshall Chow (Interviewee)

Well in in high school I was following the ah start of the war, Second World War, and I listened to all the losses we have at the ah Atlantic Ocean, our tonnage, all the shipping and it didn't look too good for us. I thought, well, they could go over and conquer England, then come over and conquer Canada and the States after.

Well, the feeling I guess, everybody's joining up you know so it didn't feel very much different. I mean I guess we went we went to adventure and then of course, then we worried about the Germans could overrun us, you know, so and that way it's kind of patriotism, I guess, if you call it that your risk, willing to risk your life for that, for freedom and and justice.

Ramona

Unlike the experience of his fellow Chinese-Canadians on the west coast, the enlistment office in Alberta didn't bat an eye when Marshall signed up in 1941. Given a choice of duties, Marshall chose radio and wireless thinking that he would at least learn a trade while in service. Basic training began in Camrose, followed by stints in Edmonton, Calgary and Kingston. Before long, the prairie boy was crammed into the hold of the Louis Pasteur in Halifax bound for England.

Marshall

Well I got seasick (laughs). One day I got seasick and that. While we were eating, the dish was sliding from one end of the table to the other and then it comes back (laughs). Very very rough. Very rough ah sea, the Atlantic. Worse than the Pacific.

We were crowded like rats in there. A ship will hold fifteen thousand troops and we were way down in the bottom and and I didn't like to sleep in the hammock which is curved. You sleep in that, you won't be able to walk straight next day so I slept under the table there, the dining dining table. It was straight, it's a little more comfortable.

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Ramona

Once in England, Marshall continued his wireless training with the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals. Communications he learned, was a key job but it put the operators at risk.

Marshall

Then they could get us to send messages back to the infantry of whatever message they want to send, so communication is the most important, I think, because that's the nerve center of of the war. If you don't have communication, you can't fight a war. You don't know where you are or where your troops are, or where to attack and all that, so they try to um - not so much in England, but in the theatre of war, they try to bomb all the communications so they come to bomb us quite often sometimes.

Ramona

Your job in communications was so vital during the war. Did you feel that, you know, you guys were more vulnerable for attack?

Marshall

Oh yeah, oh yeah, we were bombed. The ah, I remember, in the in the Arne River, not far from Caen. Caen is only five miles from the beachhead and ah we were held up there for quite a while and the Germans used to come over with their planes, light up the whole sky, put down flares, you know, as bright as this, and we would of course have to, when they come to bomb, we have to dive for the slit trenches, dive in the slit trenches about three feet high. It accompanies about two or three people but I remember very well that time, well, when you look up in the sky, it's all lit up like this. You think, "well the pilot cannot see you." And you think,"neither can they drop the bomb in there," and I remember one occasion one of the guys behind me was, his knee, his leg was trembling like this, I could feel the vibration. We laughed aferwards.

Ramona

Marshall spent the bulk of the war until VE day on the continent. Destined to be a life-long learner, Marshall remembers well, going on Leave. Whether he donned his skates in Scotland or made friends with the locals, he did it all proudly in his Canadian uniform.

Marshall

Oh sure, I got pictures of all my girlfriends I don't want to show you (laughs). I can show it to you if you want to see it. (You have to have some fun) Oh yeah. Of course we have to have fun, make the best of it too, you know.

Ramona

Thankful at war's end, Marshall was grateful to return to Alberta after his 4 years away.

Marshall

Oh it was this beautiful feeling. When ah, when our train arrive in Edmonton four o'clock in the morning, four o'clock in the morning! I said, "Oh boy we're I'm going back to that old restaurant I used to on Jasper Avenue, have my bacon and eggs". That was a big treat. Oh yeah. Bacon and eggs.

Ramona

Do you feel thanked enough? Do you think Canadians are are grateful for what you've done?

Marshall

Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I think so yesterday I met a guy. He said, "Thank you for fighting for us". I get emotion.

Ramona

Do you commemorate Remembrance day and participate? (um hum). How important is it for Canadians to tell you, "Thank you"?

Marshall

Very important. We don't get that much appreciation. Only few recognize it, express it.

Ramona

I thank you.

Did you Know?

Did you know that when Marshall Chow returned from four years on the continent, his first craving was for bacon and eggs?

Copyright to Produce

Copyright / Permission to Reproduce

Interviewee: Marshall Chow

Duration: 6:40

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