Enlisted at 16, Salive was left for dead in Holland but survived to fight again

The year was 1942 and Norm Salive was 16 years old.

Norm Salive and his wife Lorraine hold the book

The year was 1942 and Norm Salive was 16 years old.

At 16, he was too young to sign up for the armed forces, too young that is, unless he took it upon himself to make a couple of changes to his birth certificate.

Salive, comfortably seated in an easy chair in the cozy living room his wife, Lorraine, has already started to decorate for Christmas, smiles, as he allows his mind to drift back through the years.

“Me and this other fellow, we were working together and he said ‘I’m going to go and join up’. I’m going too,”

I said. I knew I was too young, but I knew a way around that.

“I kind of changed the dates on my birth certificate,” he admitted with a smile. “When I showed it to them they looked at it and let me through.”

And so at an age when he was barely old enough to get a driver’s license, the young man nonchalantly signed his name to a document that led to an unseen future where courage and fear lived side by side and some men lived, but many did not.

Salive like so many other young men who had enlisted, was eager and ready to face whatever unchartered territories may lay before them.

He was sent to London, Ontario where he embarked on training and was issued a uniform.

His first job lasted all summer and involved driving brand new army trucks full of enlisted troops to wherever they needed to go.

From London, Salive was transferred to Camp Borden, Ontario where his experience as a driver was soon noticed.

“An officer asked me if I liked driving and I said I did and so they showed me how to drive a Bren Gun Carrier, (the most widely used of all armoured fighting vehicles during World War II).

Before he knew it, Salive found himself an instructor, training other men how to drive the Bren Gun Carrier.

He was then transferred to Camp Dundurn in Saskatchewan. (The A27 Canadian Armoured Corps Training Centre (A27 CACTC) was moved to Camp Dundurn from Camp Borden on January 28, 1942)

After some time there he was sent back to Camp Borden and from there he was shipped overseas.

Once they were overseas, the regiment he was with dissolved, and he joined the Calgary Highlanders.

He recalled one instance where the young men were left on their own and came upon a Bren Gun Carrier.

“There was a big pile of Gerry cans around and they had some gas left in them, so we filled it up and I jumped on it, cranked it over and it started.

Salive smiled at the memory.

“We were driving around the country in this thing and the RCMP were chasing us. They finally took it away from us.”

But the young men’s fun ended all too soon and before long they found themselves heading to the front lines in Belgium and Holland.

The Canadian soldiers found the people in Holland were starving.

He recalled being asked by a Dutch man to shoot his horse so the meat could be used for food.

He did it, and later, hungry, but grateful Dutch people came to get a portion of the meat.

Salive received a concussion from a bomb explosion while fighting in the dykes of Holland.

His regiment had left him for dead and moved on and when he regained consciousness he was laying in a ditch and had no idea which way his troop had gone, but, somehow managed to find them.

It was, however, a harrowing experience and one that will remain etched in his memory forever.

Salive recalled the battle where he was wounded in the hand.

“It was in the dykes. The Germans all sat in there. They had been in there quite a while. Another regiment came to take over our positions and we went to a resting area to get clean clothes. But the other regiment was bombed right out. It was an awful mess. And then someone said ‘sorry boys, you gotta go back up’. We really got it then.”

Despite being wounded in the hand, Salive rescued a buddy who was standing out in the open with one leg wounded. I picked him up and put him on my shoulder,” he said.

When Salive took his buddy to first aid he was taken away in an ambulance and Salive himself received needed medical attention.

“We both went to the hospital and I never saw him after that,” he said.

It wasn’t until many years later that Salive’s daughter found his name on the Internet.

“My daughter knew the guy’s name and she came across his grandson’s name on the Internet.”

“We hadn’t seen each other since I saved his life. We got hold of him and had a reunion. It was great to see him again.”

Salive returned from the war when he was 20 years old. He married and he and his wife had five children, five grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

The couple has returned to Holland twice; once in 1995 and again in 2010. Both times, the experience was heartwarming.

“The little kids are overwhelming. They come to the soldiers and say thank you. They treat you like gold.”

Salive speaks of his experiences in the war in a matter of fact way.

“You had to do what you had to do,” he said with a shrug.

But, his wife Lorraine said he hardly talked about the war for the first 25 years they were married.

“I think it was hard for him. But, I think all he lived through has made him a better person.”

Just Posted

Sylvan Lake pooches could soon see access to the lake

Town staff is investigating possible locations for dog access to the water

PHOTOS: Sylvan Lake bantam Lions fall at provincial semi-finals

The Lions faced the Edmotnon Mustangs in the semi-finals, Nov. 10

PHOTOS: Sylvan Lake PeeWee B Lakers win gold at home tournament

Both the PeeWee B and C Lakers hosted a home tournament, Nov. 9-11.

Sylvan Lake student reaches nationals in quiz competition

Annika Angelstad van Elmpt competed with Manitoba in the Pony Club National Quiz competition

PHOTOS: Sylvan Lakers shop at kcs fundraiser

The Seasons Givings market was held Nov. 10 as a fundrasier for kcs Association

First Nation marks ‘milestone’ land deal at Alberta ceremony

Lubicon Lake First Nation Chief Billy-Joe Laboucan signed treaty last month

UPDATE: Red Deer RCMP arrest man involved in fatal hit and run

RCMP flew to Nipawin, Sask. to arrest Tosh Vertraeten

What now for Calgary, Canada and Olympic Games after 2026 rejection?

Calgary, along with the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C., made Canada a player in the international sport community

Naked man arrested for impaired driving

The man allegedly fled the scene of a collision wearing only a sheet. Plus other Ponoka RCMP briefs

Sex-misconduct survey excludes vulnerable military members: Survivors’ group

But It’s Just 700 says recent research has shown young military members and those on training are among those most at risk for sexual violence

Many child killers have been placed in Indigenous healing lodges according to stats

As of mid-September, there were 11 offenders in healing lodges who had been convicted of first- or second-degree murder of a minor

Expect no quick end to Canada-wide cannabis shortages, producers warn

Provinces including British Columbia, Alberta have all reported varying degrees of shortages

Canada Post strike having ‘critical’ impact on retailers, eBay tells PM

Canada Post says it is now facing an unprecedented backlog of shipments, largely as a result of strikes

NASA wants Canadian boots on the moon as first step in deep space exploration

The U.S. is seeking broad international support for the next-generation space station to send into orbit a in 2021

Most Read