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The War Begins - Too Young To Enlist

Heroes Remember

The War Begins - Too Young To Enlist

Well I think it made me at that time, it made me feel sorry that I wasn't older because my father and my grandfather had been in the military and I felt that I wanted to do something for our country. And so I was real anxious to get into the service of some sort. Interviewer: You indicated that your father joined the Seaforth Highlanders regiment here in Vancouver. Yes. Interviewer: How old a man would he have been roughly then? Thirty-eight...he would be about thirty-eight. Yeah. Interviewer: Do you remember your reaction when you realized that your father was going to join the army? No, it wasn't, I didn't have much of a reaction because I didn't see him that much. You know, and we didn't have the close father-son relationship that families today enjoy. They were too busy trying to eke out an existence. Yeah. Interviewer: Eventually you turned sixteen and you had decided that you were going to lie about your age and join the service. That's exactly right. Yeah. Interviewer: Why were you so determined to enter? I just had that strong loyalty to the country and I felt that, you know, I wanted to do my part. You know, I just, it was almost a fever, yeah that I wanted to get in there and do my part. Yeah. Interviewer: Mr. McLean, why did you choose the Royal Canadian Navy? Well I'd seen the, with limited observations what the army were doing and I can recall my father coming back from Vernon, having been up there two months in that heat completely exhausted from pounding the square and I thought, well that's not for me. And I knew nothing about airplanes but I had gone one summer, when I was a boy I had gone one summer on a tugboat, and I enjoyed that. Yeah, I was on the Commodore, motor vessel Commodore owned by Preston Man. We were hauling logs from the north, just for the summer. So I felt that was the life for me. Yeah. Interviewer: You were aware at that time of the terrible losses in the North Atlantic? Oh yes. Yeah. I certainly was. I had a friend, older friend who was in the North Atlantic at that time and I was aware of the dangers, but you always figure that it isn't going to happen to you.

Mr. McLean talks about his reaction when Canada declared war on Germany in September, 1939. He goes on to talk about enlisting in the Royal Canadian Navy shortly after his 16th birthday, lying about his age to do so.

George Henry Foster McLean

Mr. McLean's father came to Canada from Scotland. He was a cooper by trade and was a member of the Royal Navy during the First World War. Mr. McLean was born in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan and has two brothers and two sisters. He was second born, with one older sister born in Scotland. He received his education in the Vancouver school system. He enlisted in the Royal Canadian Navy just after his 16th birthday. He then spent five months in militia training before receiving a call-up to active service effective in May, 1942. Mr. McLean served in North Africa, Malta, Italy and was part of the D-Day raid at Omaha Beach.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
George Henry Foster McLean
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Leading Hand

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