‘I wanted adventure’: Manitoba veteran reflects on his time serving in WWII

A 97-year-old Manitoba veteran is looking back on his time during the Second World War when he bravely fought for the freedom we have today.

Robert Bullen joined the army in 1942 at the age of 17. He said the idea to enlist came to him when he was walking home from work and passed by the recruitment office.

“I went in and I applied to enlist into the army, and they asked me if I was 18 and I told them I was. I was a few months short of 18,” he said in an interview with CTV Morning Live on Thursday.

Bullen said his birthday is in May, but he told the recruitment office it was in March, so they’d think he was 18.

From there, he was accepted into the army and went into training. Bullen said he started out at the Fort Osborne Barracks, and then went for basic training at an army base at the University of Manitoba campus.

“We used to do ground action and things like that. We used to go on route marches and have skirmishes and stuff like that,” Bullen explained.

After that, he went to Camp Borden, a Canadian armoured training unit, and trained for a couple months.

Bullen said at the time he didn’t think too much about what he was doing.

“I guess I wanted adventure or whatever it was,” he said.

Bullen said he was held up from going overseas due to his age, but once he was old enough he was sent to England. After D-Day, he was shipped as reinforcement for the Grenadier Guards, who were already in action in Europe.

“I joined the regiment in about the middle of August 1944,” he said.

During his time in the army, Bullen travelled across several countries in a tank, and spotted his future wife for the first time in a photo.

Bullen explained that while the war was still going on, one of his friend’s named Dave Knight got a letter from back home with a picture of his sisters.

“I kind of spotted one that I thought looked pretty sharp,” he said. “When we came home, we went out and celebrated when we got discharged from the army, and [Dave] took me home with him.”

Bullen said he got to know the sister he spotted in the photo, and they ended up getting married and having children.

Remembrance Day takes place on Friday. A list of ceremonies can be found online. 

-With files from CTV’s Rachel Lagace.

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