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From the Coal Mine to the War Front

Heroes Remember

From the Coal Mine to the War Front

Then come into town, I quit working in Foothills and then come to Edmonton and I worked in a coal mine we call Red Hot Coal Company in Edmonton. The ceilings were about three, four feet high practically walk on your hands and knees to get around. I did like that and come home from work one day and told the guys that I quit. And that was it, and went to the Prince of Wales Armouries and signed on the dotted line. Interviewer: What did you know about the Canadian Army when you enlisted? Not too much, not too much. I knew they were a fighting force. Interviewer: How old were you when you enlisted? Eighteen, just about nineteen, I turned nineteen shortly after. I enlisted in February, I think it was the 14th, 1944 and I turned nineteen on March the 4th, 1944. Interviewer: Looking back on it now Mr. Letendre, why did you enlist? I really don't know to be honest with you and I guess I maybe wanted some excitement, explore, you know travel, whatever you want to call it I guess. And most of all I think, I look back now on all the boys from my hometown - Metis boys, white boys all joined up. And Metis boys there were 17. And oddly enough only one got killed. So I guess it was my turn to join I guess and go. But we all went in the service, every one of us. Interviewer: By then you knew that casualties were heavy, the fighting in Italy had been going on for over a year? Yeah, I didn't really pay that much attention about how many casualties were, were happening or anything else. The boys that were in the service were still all alive and everything else you know so. I guess even when I was in the service I didn't worry about being a casualty.

Mr. Letendre recalls leaving work in an Alberta coal mine and enlisting in the Canadian Army.

Hugh Victor Letendre

Mr. Letendre was born on March 4, 1925 in the small hamlet of Lac Ste-Anne, Alberta. As a Métis, he grew up speaking Cree, French and English. He came from a large family with one brother and eight sisters. His father was a trapper and did a lot of commercial fishing. Mr. Letendre learned how to hunt and fish from his father.

When he was 11 years old he became the janitor for the one-room school that he also attended as a student. He would sweep the floors, make the fire in the morning, and haul water and coal. For all that, he was paid $4.00 a month which he gave back to his family because they had very little money at the time.

He enlisted at the age of 18 and served during the Second World War as a rifleman with the Calgary Highlanders. His overseas deployment included time serving in the Normandy Campaign after D-Day. After the war he became a leader of Canada's Aboriginal Veterans Association.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Hugh Victor Letendre
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Calgary Highlanders

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