TRIBUTE TO A
VERY GOOD FRIEND

Eastbourne became our next home and there we prepared for the next big ocean cruise to Italy. Very early one morning Slatts awakened me with the statement, “I’ve got a big problem”. When I asked the nature of the problem Slatts told me when on his way to barracks, travelling at a very “moderate” rate of speed the Harley didn’t get around a very sharp corner, and was slightly damaged. When I asked how he felt he said his knee had a few scrapes. We then proceeded to go down and examine the Harley, and found the front fork badly warped, and it was not difficult to find several dents and scrapes. We moved the motor cycle to the MT garage, and with the aid of a good jack and chain, a sturdy crow bar and hammer the damage slowly disappeared. As dawn was breaking I left Slatts with a can of khaki paint and paint brush.

Except for a few dive bombers we enjoyed our Mediterranean cruise, and were shortly involved in active combat. Slatts was a very cool and dependable soldier in action, and very capably carried out his duties as a dispatch rider, or signaller, as the task demanded.

Early in l944 Slatts was badly wounded and spent sometime in hospital. While at the holding unit regaining his
health, he was recruited to the First Special Service Force. This unit was a combined “Canadian/American task force,” and was formed to clear the Rivera area from Cannes to Menton. Several other members of the Cape Breton Highlanders also served with the First Special Service Force, and in December 1944, with their task completed were returned to their respective units. Slatts was very surprised on his return to the platoon to see so many new faces.

In January 1945 we boarded LST’s at Pisa, Italy and joined the Northwest Europe campaign. When this task was completed we returned home to become civilians. With the outbreak of the Korean War in the early 1950’s, Slatts again answered the call to Arms, when he joined the Royal Canadian Artillery, and continued to serve until he retired as a career soldier.

At the end of July 2001, I received a phone call from George Burke, and was told that Slatts was very sick and had been admitted to hospital. The next morning I was very surprised and saddened to receive a call from Susan, telling me that her dad had passed away.

I guess our next meeting will take place at the Big Human Roundup, Ol’ Buddy; until then God bless.
~Walter J. Pate

A young Gilbert Slattery (2nd left on top row).

I first met Gilbert L. Slattery at Camp Borden,
Ontario July 1941, when we were both members of number one platoon (Signals) of the Cape Breton Highlanders. Slatts had shortly before that become a new member of theBattalion, and I was recuperating from a bad auto accidentat Seven Mile Bridge, South of Sydney, Nova Scotia.

A short time later the Highlanders were transferred to Debert, Nova Scotia, where we prepared for our “Government-paid ocean cruise” to England.

Maida barracks at Aldershot, became our new home for the next few months, where we were kept very busy.
Each day started by going through the assault course, before breakfast, daily route marches and/or river crossings in real cold water. One route march which is still hard to forget was a three day march from Aldershot to Bisley ranges. On arrival there Slatts and I were both detailed for guard duty, a short rest and the big shoot on the rifle ranges. Needless to say our shooting score on that trip did not make the record books. Next day we were again on the road developing new blisters, heading home to Aldershot.

Sheffield Park was our next place of residence in the
English countryside. Slatts had a brother Vic, who was stationed at Wimbledon, and we spent several weekends visiting with Vic. The British rail platform tickets were used for these trips, and with our very low pay scale we appreciated this way of travel. Our biggest obstacle was evading the British “red caps” at the London train station, and hopefully they learned a few tricks on C.B.H. prowess.

While stationed at Sheffield Park the battalion added a few brand-new Harley motorcycles to the transport list, and the two musketeers volunteered to take a short course, riding the Harleys. We successfully completed the course, and I was promoted shortly afterwards.