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Canadian Water Rats

Heroes Remember

We were in the wet so long that period of time that they called us, our group, the Canadian water rats. That’s been documented in books. And, anyways, one of our boys said, “I have good news for us!” A group of us were together doing something or other. He said, “I found a barn with fresh straw in it, nice and dry, a good place for us to get in out of the rain for a change.” Great. So we all headed for this building, got into the building. My uniform was riding britches, high boots and jacket and shirt. So, I took the shirt off, made a pillow out of it. I can relive this to this very day. I had my arms, hands behind my head and I was talking to one of the guys on either side of me. And I felt something cold and very undesirable touch my bare skin. I knew the second it touched what it was. It was a rat. The building was full of rats and the rats in Germany were living in these bodies everywhere. So about the same time as the rat touched me, one of the other young fellows yelled out, “Rats!” and they all vacated the building. But this fellow, I didn’t make a move because I was a little worried about getting a bite out of the side. I kept still and he wiggled across my chest or stomach and down into the other side and that was it. I was out of there too. That was one of my worst experiences of war, I can honestly say, one of the worst feelings I ever had.

Mr. Downe, along with a group of other men, finds a dry place to sleep after a long spell of wet weather.

Russell Downe

Russell Downe was born on February 26, 1924 in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. He joined the army when he was just seventeen, following in the footsteps of his two brothers, Edward and Robert, who were already overseas. His training took place at Niagara-on-the-Lake. Mr. Downe worked as a motorcycle dispatch rider for most of the war where he was responsible for delivering urgent messages.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
January 1, 2000
Person Interviewed:
Russell Downe
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Dispatch Rider

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