Garth Rankin Wilkins was born and raised in Mankota, 150 kilometres from Swift Current.
Wilkins, 96, is a World War II veteran who enlisted on December 1st, 1942.
Wilkins recounted his days of being in the war to his kids.
On December 1, 1942, Wilkins went into Regina by train to enlist in the Army. Everyone was drafted for the service - you could volunteer or not. Wilkins stayed in Regina for basic training, which took six weeks. After that, he took a course that enabled him to teach basic training and taught two courses after that. Basic training involved the use of firearms and lots of physical training and conditions [120 paces/minute]. After teaching the courses, Wilkins was then allocated to the armoured corp as a tank driver [trained at Camp Borden for three to four months].
Wilkins went overseas on the Isle de France in February of 1944. They landed at Greenock, Scotland and then travelled to a town near Aldershot, England. There he lived in a barracks and biked to his job a security job at E Group [headquaters for armoured reinforcement]. He was then transferred to the infantry and went to Brighton, England to take a motor mechanics and driving course. This was taken at Cannes Garage, which had a contract to train army personnel. While there, he at Sanfords [a private home] at 61 Clarence Square. Wilkins remembers their pet turtle that had the run of the house. From there he went to Worcestershire, England for apprenticeship work in a shop that rebuilt army trucks. He had only spent about three weeks there when he went to a draft unit in the Midlands [Between England and Scotland].
There he stayed in Sherwood Forest for two or three weeks and slept on the floors of the Nottingham Castle for one or two nights [he saw the tree that Robin Hood got his arrows from]. He and his unit were sent to Normandy and landed there at 1300 hours [1 p.m.] on September 13, 1944. While there they were on loan to the army service corp in the of communication [from base to the front line]. They transferred equipment from the beachhead [Normandy] to the front line [Belguim]. Wilkins did this for six weeks, and in that time made six trips. When the Port of Antwerp [Belguim] was taken over by the British, it shortened the line of communication. When the manpower was no longer needed there, Wilkins was allocated to the Argyle, and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada, [Hamilton, Ontartio], and was sent to the front line. They were in static position along the Maas River in Holland during the winter for two or three months.
Wilkins tells the story of when they were stationed there, he spotted a German half-track [vehicle with the track in back and wheels in front] on the dyke and decided he would like the batteries and light out of it, as they had no lights. He had no trouble getting the lights from his side but was shot at twice getting the ones from the other side. He hauled them back on the sleigh and hooked them up. Because of Wilkins' effort, they were the only camp with lights.
The next action he saw on Siegfreid Line [at Wasal, Clive, and Hockwald Forest]. They slept in the open. They were crossing 500 to 600 yards of an open area when someone started shooting at Wilkins. He ran until he was out of breath, then hit the ground and played possum. The sniper thought he had got him and there were no more shots fired.
Another time Wilkins recalls they came upon one of their own tanks that hauled a flamethrower - it had been hit by an "88" [an 88mm gun that Germans used on their tanks]. The flamethrower had started a fire in a nearby barn. The civilians had fled their home and left supper on the table. The soldiers sat down to boiled potatoes, boiled eggs, and stewed cherries.
The following evening Wilkins was injured. Shrapnel went through two of his fingers and into his arm. He was treated at a first aid station in Germany and then taken to a hospital in France. He spent two months in various hospitals. Wilkins was still in the hospital when the war ended on May 8, 1945.
When he got out of the hospital, he went to reinforcement [where the different units draw from the numbers of men] in Gent, Belguim. The soldiers were given the choice of which unit they wished to return home with. Wilkins chose the Regina Rifles. From Gent, he went to Utecht, Holland with the Rifles. While there he worked at a wet canteen [bar] for two or three months. He also took a Business Arithmetic course while there. They sailed for home from Liverpool, England. They had Christmas Dinner on Queen Elizabeth. 20,000 troops landed in New York, and Rankin landed in Regina on December 31, 1945. A total of 1,126 days. He was released from the army in February.
Swift Current Online used the story of Wilkins, by permission of his kids, himself and his family.