The war in Europe was over, but the war in
the Pacific was still going on. It must have been about the middle of June
when some of our men , those that had volunteered to go to the Pacific,
started to leave the regiment to go home for a thirty day leave, then start
training for jungle warfare.. Most of them made no bones about gambling
on the war being over before they would become involved in it. As events
transpired. they had gambled and won. My own attitude, and many of us were
of a like mind was- we had volunteered once. If our politicians didn't
have the guts, or what ever it took to send Canadian soldiers where they
were needed, then I wasn't volunteering to to something I had already volunteered
to do. When we were sworn in when we joined up we were in until the cessation
I was appointed to the position of transport
sergeant about this time It was a titular position as far as I was concerned.
Our transport corporal was a very efficient N.C.O., and I tried to stay
out of his hair and let him do his job. I rode a motorcycle as part of
my duties - the nature of which I was never entirely certain.
It was July of 1945 that my mother
wrote to inform me that my dad was having very serious health problems
and had to have an operation. My presence was required at home. Harvest
time was approaching. Brother Leonard was thirteen years of age; the load
was more that a lad of his years was expected to carry. As it happened,
he did far more than he should have. He eventually suffered for it.
I approached my C.O. with my problem.
He informed me that he required a letter from my dad's doctor stating
the condition of my dad's health before he could recommend my release to
go home. He said once the letter was in his hand he could expedite my return
In the meantime, my mother had been talking
to Tom Henry, the post master at Argyle, a World War 1 veteran and a member
of the Canadian Legion. He told her that if he were to take the letter
from the doctor, and work through the Legion, they would have me home in
no time. I never heard any more about the letter. I suppose it had been
swallowed up in the blizzard of paper somewhere at Army headquarters.
Leonard, by a lot of physical effort on
his part, and some help from the neighbours, managed to get the harvest
in - while I was over in Holland playing soldier. I was disgusted with
Tom Henry for his well intentioned, but fruitless meddling. To say nothing
about the bad light I imagine this must have put me in with my commanding
officer. I felt that the whole affair made it look like I was trying to
"work" my way home. The matter was never brought up again.
In the summer and early autumn, we were stationed
in the town of Oldenzaal. While we were there we laid in a supply of firewood
which we hauled from an area just over the Dutch-German border. There had
been a Canadian Forestry Corps sawmill setup there, and there was
a good supply of slab wood to be had for the taking. The reason for our
stockpiling firewood was that it was still not certain when we might get
home, and we were preparing for a cold winter if we were still in Holland.
In October (1945) we moved from Oldezaal
to Amersfoort. We were billeted in a Dutch cavalry barracks there.
All ranks including Corporals, had their sleeping quarters in the main
barrack building, while senior N.C.O.'s and commissioned officers were
billeted in the surrounding buildings which had been part of the barrack
While we were stationed there the Manitoba
Dragoons had forty German military personnel staying in the barracks.
They were explosive experts who were drawn from the Army, Airforce and
Kriegsmarine, to neutralize the various minefields which the Germans had
laid while they were retreating. The Manitoba Dragoons were responsible
for their rations, quarters and discipline. The British Army's Corps of
Engineers would pick them up each morning and take them out to the area
that they would be employed at, and bring them back at the end of the day.
At this time I was appointed as the Regimental
Police Sergeant, and made responsible for these people while they were
not directly under the command of the British engineers. I had to answer
to our Commanding Officer and the Regimental Sergeant Major, and no one
One morning while I was marching
the Germans out to their transport. Sergeant-Major Jack Lambert accosted
me in the hallway of the barracks and told me to order one of the Germans,
who was wearing a hat badge, to remove it at once. I pointed out to Lambert
that the hat badge was a part of the soldiers uniform, and as such, he
was required to wear it. Lambert did a lot of shouting and blustering.
I told him to "butt out," and told him I was responsible to the C.O. and
the R.S.M., and any complaints he had, he was to take up with the aforementioned
officers. I never heard any more about the subject of prisoner's hat badges.
Lambert hardly spoke to me after that.
He had been awarded th Military Medal
during the campaign. I don't know whether he was pushy by nature, or whether
the decoration had gone to his head. We had several other men in the outfit
who had received the decoration; I never heard that they tried to throw
their weight around.
I had one other experience where I had
people trying to interfere with the way I handled the Germans who were
under my supervision. A young Dutch lad, perhaps fourteen or fifteen years
of age, hung around our barrack area. He would sometimes do odd jobs around
the regimental area. He sometimes helped out in the kitchen. He was pretty
mouthy and a real smart aleck. Some one had given him one of our castoff
uniforms with the insignia removed. He was a real pain in the butt.
During the evenings the Germans would
sing. They were a well organised choir. I would suppose that some of them
had studied music as they were a delight to listen to. One evening I went
up to the top floor of the barracks, where they were quartered, to better
hear them sing. I would stand out in the corridor to listen to them. Their
senior officer, a Kriegsmarine Lieutenant, saw me standing out there and
out to pass the time of day with me. He spoke English. I calculated his
age to be around forty-five or fifty - at that point in our young lives
we perceived him as being ready for the wheel chair brigade.
He told me his legs bothered him a good
deal, and that he often walked up and down the hallway in the evenings
to exercise them. I walked up and down with him, and we chatted as we walked.
I pulled my cigarettes out of my pocket and I lit one. I noticed that he
was watching me. I asked him if he smoked. He replied that he did - when
smokes were available. I had a spare pack in my pocket which I gave
him. As I handed him the cigarettes, this mouthy Dutch kid came around
the corner He started in on me for giving the Germans cigarettes.
_ "You give the German cigarettes-you don't give me cigarettes." I told
him to bugger off. He went away grumbling.
The next morning while I was in
the transport office, which was at the top of the stairs in one of the
out buildings in the area, this Dutch kid showed up. I was busy filling
out a work order to take my motorcycle out when this kid started yelling
about me giving Germans cigarettes. I made a quick move toward him as I
once more told him to bugger off. This time I was mad. He moved toward
the stairs to get out of my way. I kicked him in the ass, and he fell down
the stairs. He got up and started badmouthing me again. I grabbed him by
the collar and told him if I ever caught him in the area again I would
kill him. We never saw him again. It was a rather brutal way of handling
a problem, but the boy didn't know when he was well off.
One of my friends whom I shall never forget
was Sergeant Johnny Spence. Johnny was an Ojibway Indian. He had won the
Military Medal during the campaign in France. One evening when we were
both occupied with some duty or other, we were a bit late in getting over
to the sergeant's mess. We were rather surprised when we entered the mess,
that every body seemed to be drunker than hoot owls, and some of the people
were dancing on the tables. As we entered, we stopped and almost did a
"double take". At which time Johnny exclaimed, "Holy mackerel, I thought
I was the Indian around here!" I still chuckle when I think of Johnny and
the remark he made at that time.
Around the end of November 1945, preparation
got underway to get the remainder of the Manitoba Dragoons back home to
Canada. We were moved from Amersfoort to a staging camp at Nijmegan. We
were there for a couple of nights at which time we were transported to
the port of Ostend. We arrived in Ostend a day or two before we would board
the boat which would take us to England. Sgt. Glenn Riddell and I had permission
to travel to Den Haan that evening. This was only a twenty minute ride
by tram from Ostend. Glenn was engaged to a girl in Den Haan, Lena's mother
and father owned a small resort hotel there. I had met the family a few
months before, when Glenn and I had traveled there for a weekend. These
people wined and dined us royally that evening. They opened their best
bottle of champagne - we all toasted the future and a safe journey home.
A few days later,after we arrived in England
Glenn started getting cold feet. He spoke to me about his feelings,saying
he was very undecided, and probably confused as well, about marrying Lena.
He finally did write to her, and broke their engagement. I received a letter
from a close friend of Lena's some weeks later. She told me that Lena was
completely devastated and heartbroken. I believe at that time, I
could identify and sympathize with Lena's feelings. I have been told lately
(1990s) that Lena never married. She apparently went to work for De Boors
and became very well off financially.
We were finally loaded on the channel
boat I mentioned earlier There were a large number of British troops on
board as well. While we were still in Holland my bow gunner, Trooper Gerald
Chicken, had found a mongrel pup somewhere which he was trying to take
home with him, to Lacrosse,Wisconsin.. The British had a very strict quarantine
law concerning animals entering the country. Some of the aforementioned
British troops who were on board, became aware of Gerald's dog, and reported
that the Canadians had a dog in their possession, and were trying to sneak
it through the country without following the quarantine procedure. As the
quarantine period was quite lengthy, Chicken decided to take a chance
and hide the pup in his haversack.
One of the ship's officers announced on
the P.A. system, that a dog had been observed in the possession of
one of the Canadians on board. There would be dire consequences if the
dog were not surrendered at once and quarantine arrangements made.
A group of us accompanied Chicken as he
moved about the ship in the event that there might be a confrontation.
As we stepped out through a hatchway onto the deck at one point , we encountered
one of the ships officers who stepped aside to let us pass. The dog in
Chicken's haversack chose that very moment to let out a "bow-wow-wow"
just as we passed him. All of us who where following chicken then let out
a "bow-wow-wow." He looked at us- we could almost read his mind.
He probably thought that we had lost what little sense Canadians
were supposed to have.
Chicken and his dog arrived safely back
in Canada, and eventually back to Lacrosse, Wisconsin. We corresponded
briefly after we returned to our respective homes. The last letter
I received from him was when he was in Tokyo, serving as a Second Lieutenant
in the American Army.
There was another announcement made while
we were on the boat. We were reminded that it was illegal to bring firearms
with us while entering the U.K. We were to throw such prohibited
articles overboard and there would be nothing more said. Our reaction to
this directive was :"Bugger them !" I believe that almost every Dragoon
on board had a pistol in his kitbag - we didn't throw anything overboard.
I brought a Luger pistol home and gave it to my younger brother, Leonard.
It was all legally registered. Leonard had it in his possession until about
1996 at which time he gave to Douglas, who now has it in his possesion
, legally stored and registered.
We will continue with more of George’s Memories in
the July Issue