Accidental Death of Rifleman Nussey

We recently were sent an 1870 newspaper clipping which reported on the tragic rifle range death of a QOR soldier which was unknown to us.

Rifleman George H. Nussey was born in Breton, Yorkshire, England in October 1846, son of Joseph Nussey and Sarah Holmes.

Its not know exactly when he immigrated to Canada however on 20 February 1869 he married Margaret Frear in Toronto. On 19 November 1869 they had a son George Henry Nussey.

According not the nominal roll in the regimental archives, Nussey joined the QOR on the 22nd October 1868 and was a member of No. 2 Company.

He was employed as a machinist with Messrs. Dickey & Neill.

On 15 April 1870, a tragic accident occurred during a No. 2 Company range day at the Garrison Common, when Nussey was shot in the head after fellow rifleman Arthur Gascoigne* accidentally discharged his Snider-Enfield.

The 23 year old Nussey died almost immediately and was buried in Necropolis Cemetery Plot Q58 TT 1/2.

The Regimental Order of 16 April 1870 stated:

“The Regiment will parade on Sunday the 17th inst at 2:30 pm on the corner of Queen St and Denison Ave for the purpose of attending the funeral of the late Private Geo Nussey who was accidentally shot on the 15th inst while at target practice.”

*Gascoigne, who was understandably distraught, was arrested at the scene, however we have found no record as to what subsequently took place, such as a coroner’s inquest or a criminal trial to indicate his fate. Over two years later, the Regimental Orders of 18 May 1872 (page 212) indicate that Gascoigne was struck off strength having “left the limits.”

Newly Digitized Regimental Orders

Recently museum board member Tristan Strathy flagged for us that a Canadian book seller had recently sold three Queen’s Own Rifles Regimental Order Books. These three books would fill the final gaps in our 19th century collections of orders:

We quickly identified the purchaser as the Brock University Archives and Special Collections. After reaching out to the Brock Archivist David Sharron, he very kindly agreed to allow us to digitize these items in their digitization lab using their equipment.

Deputy Curator Shaun Kelly spent a day at the Brock Archive figuring out how to use their equipment and taking all the required images. In the following days Brock shared the images with us and Shaun then undertook cropping over 200 images because two of the volumes had been stitched together. With that completed I was able to take the images for each volume and create a pdf file and add relevant bookmarks to make them easier to use for research purposes.

With the final documents completed, we uploaded them to our museum website’s Archives page where they are included with other volumes from our collection that we had already digitized. And finally, we sent copies of the finalized pdf documents back to Brock University so they can add them to their own online collection of digitized documents.

These three volumes of regimental orders (along with those in our collection) are filled with both the mundane and the fascinating records of the regiment’s life – lists those taken on strength and those struck off strength; promotions and weekly duty personnel lists; announcements of special parades or range exercises; and a whole variety of other information.

One particular piece of historical trivia, involved the notice that, as of 19 October 1864, the Battalion drills would now be held on Wednesday evenings instead of Tuesdays. Serving and former members of the regiment will appreciate that after doing so in various drill halls and armouries for over 157 years, the regiment still trains on Wednesday evenings!

Two-seater Ace: Andrew Edward McKeever, DSO, MC, DFC

Canadian pilot and his observer took on 8 enemy aircraft in one dogfight

By Rod Henderson
(Reprinted with permission from “The Maple Leaf”, magazine of the Central Ontario Branch Western Front Association, Volume 38, Fall 2020 issue.)

Major Andrew McKeever, DSO, MC

Major Andrew E. McKeever, the “King of the two-seaters” sits at 10th in the ranking of Canadian aces of the Great War with 31 aerial victories. McKeever was born on 21 August 1894 in Listowel, Ontario. He attended Central Technical School in Toronto and was working as a bank teller at the outbreak of war.

McKeever joined the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, a Toronto militia unit, in October 1915. Some biographies mistakenly indicate that McKeever went overseas and served in France as an infantryman. In fact, he remained in Canada and joined the Royal Flying Corps from Canada in November 1916, sailing for England on the 25th. On 5 December he was appointed to the rank of probationary Second Lieutenant.

His aviation training began in January 1917 at the School for Military Aeronautics at Oxford, England. He received flying instruction at Northolt and graduated as a pilot at Hounslow in late April. On 28 May 1917 he was posted to Number 11 Squadron as they were transitioning from the Royal Aircraft Factory FE2b to the Bristol F2b (image above). This aircraft was typically armed with a forward-firing .303 Vickers machine gun. The F2b carried an observer/gunner in a rear-facing seat immediately behind the pilot. The observer’s position was armed with one or two Lewis guns. This aircraft gained the nickname “Brisfit”.

McKeever with officers of No. 1 & 2 Fighting Squadron, Canadian Air Force, Upper Heyford, Oxon / Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/PA-006023

McKeever’s first victories came less than a month after he joined 11 Sqn. On 26 June he shot down two Albatros D.Vs while flying with Second Lieutenant E. Oake as his observer. This was followed by a three-kill day on 7 July, making him an ace.

McKeever was awarded the Military Cross on 17 September 1917. The citation notes a day in which he single-handedly attacked eight enemy aircraft and the fact that he had downed eight aircraft in a period of three weeks. He steadily racked up more victories over the summer and autumn, scoring three-kill days on 5 August, 28 September and 31 October. His observers accounted for 11 kills with Second Lieutenant Leslie Powell picking up eight of them. McKeever’s squadron-mates nicknamed him “Hawkeye” for his ability to spot enemy aircraft. He was promoted to Captain in late October.

McKeever in flying gear

His most distinguished day came on 30 November 1917 with Powell as his observer. That morning McKeever, volunteered for a reconnaissance mission 60 miles from his aerodrome that would take him six miles behind German lines. He took off in a pouring rain with low cloud cover. The sky cleared enough near his target that he was able to complete his observation mission. As he was turning for home, a large explosion caught his attention. A German ammunition dump had exploded and, after flying closer, he could see large numbers of German soldiers trying to get the situation under control. He decided “that it would be a good stunt to fly around close to the ground and sprinkle a few belts of bullets” at them to take “all the heart out of the poor Hun”. As he turned to tell Powell of his next move McKeever noticed four German planes at about 100 yards from his right wing and five more behind him, effectively blocking his escape back to Allied lines.

McKeever made an instant decision to fight. He quickly turned his plane toward the closer group of four, nearly colliding with one while firing his machine gun at it. The German plane went down in flames and McKeever had a clear shot at the next Albatross D.V. Again he fired and the second enemy aircraft went down. At the same time, Powell unleashed his Lewis gun and put a third enemy plane out of action. This exchange of fire happened in no more than 90 seconds and there were three German airplanes falling to the ground simultaneously. The fourth plane of the group broke away and joined the original group of five.

Against all logic, McKeever did not try to escape but instead flew farther into German territory. He turned to face his pursuers and brought down another with a quick burst as he passed through their formation. Powell also accounted for his second kill of the day during this pass. McKeever looked back at Powell to see why had not continued firing his Lewis gun. The expression on Powell’s face told McKeever that Powell’s machine gun was out of action. McKeever turned his Bristol back toward the Germans only to find that his own machine gun was also inoperable. German fire came at the RFC plane from several directions. McKeever decided on a ruse; he flopped his aircraft onto its side and it dropped toward the ground, appearing that he been hit and was falling out of control. The Germans fell for McKeever’s trick and they did not fire again or follow him down. McKeever recovered his aircraft about 20 feet from the ground and remained low, following a road and using trees as cover. Once he was confident that the Germans had left the area he turned for home, avoiding enemy ground fire as he passed over their positions. He arrived safely at his aerodrome with four more victories to his name. McKeever was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for this action.

Major A.E. McKeever, Canadian Air Force, Upper Heyford. OC No. 1 Fighting Squadron / Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada PA-006026

These would prove to be McKeever’s final kills of the war. His last aerial mission was in the first week of December and he was posted to England in January 1918 where he worked as an instructor for the remainder of the war. His total of 31 victories made him the leading two-seater ace of the First World War. He received the bar to the Military Cross on 18 March 1918.

In August 1918, the Canadian government authorized the formation of the Canadian Air Force, made up of Canadians serving in the Royal Air Force. McKeever was promoted to Major and placed in command of Number 1 Squadron in January 1919. The CAF was disbanded again in early 1920.

McKeever’s secondment to the Canadian Air Force ended on 16 August 1919 and he left the military on 28 August. He returned to Listowel before taking his new job as the general manager of the Mineola, New York airfield. On 3 September he was injured in an automobile accident. The injury did not heal properly and he was moved to Toronto to have a broken bone reset. Complications set in and he passed away on 25 December 1919. [He is buried in Fairview Cemetery, Listowel, Perth County, Ontario.]

Curator’s Note: McKeever wasn’t the only QOR to take to the skies – see Percy Hampton’s profile.

Against The Odds

by Master Corporal Mark Kusi-Appiah

The Patrol Pathfinder (PPF) is a legendary course run by the Canadian Advanced Army Warfare Centre, where mythical bush creatures crawl out from underground and attend as candidates. Those who pass would be reclaimed as commando gods at their home units. This was the mindset I had when I first heard about the Patrol Pathfinder Course.

I did my research and found a Truth Duty Valour episode on YouTube, and instantly I was hooked on the pathfinder’s history and the challenges of the course; needless to say, I also admired the badge: a winged torch.

As I scrolled through different articles, I discovered many that said that it would be impossible for a Reservist to attend and actually pass; the two most prominent reasons being obtaining the prerequisites required for PPF as well as accruing the required time in the Canadian Forces. However, years later I found myself rapidly ticking off those prerequisites and collecting relevant experience by going on my Basic Reconnaissance Course and patrol competitions such as the Canadian patrol concentration in CFB Wainwright.

At last, in 2018, I was given my first opportunity to attend the course. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it far due to a condition I suffered during a ruck march called rhabdomyolysis, a condition whereby your body is overworked to the point where your muscle starts to eat itself for energy, which can cause kidney damage. This also put me in the hospital for a couple of days and eventually I was ‘return to unit’ with a ‘breathe only’ chit.

Fortunately, I had made a great impression on the staff before exiting the course, and all remembered me as that guy who “thundered in just 200 metres from the end.” I was given the okay to come back on the next course, which also gave me a year to train and focus on when that rhabdomyolysis comes back around.

During my year of prep, I accumulated over 150 kilometres of rucking and was able to attend pre-pathfinder training with the 3rd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment (3 RCR). From there I arrived back on course in mid-August 2019.

The PPF course is about three months long. You practice every insertion and extraction technique available to the Canadian Armed Forces, from the Fast Rope Insertion Extraction System (FRIES) all the way to floating on and off a submarine. You are also required to deliver immersive, clear, and concise orders while coordinating with multiple assets and commanders under stress. One of the perks about this course is that it takes you all over Canada.

Our course of 20 candidates started with a physical fitness evaluation by Personnel Support Programs and the drawing of multiple blood samples by Defence Research and Development Canada scientists as part of the research they were conducting on the candidates. Throughout the three-month-long course, the candidates’ blood was periodically drawn for data collection.

The first week included a 20-kilometre ruck march with about 80 pounds of gear (before water and rations) and had to be completed in under four hours and 30 minutes. Then candidates underwent multiple days of navigation practice, water drills, and skills assessments. Only seven passed the navigation test on the first go. Unfortunately, those who didn’t pass had to retry again, with some having to do the test multiple times consecutively. Due to the environment and injury rate, by the end of that gruelling week only 13 were left on the course.

Candidates then commenced a week of theory classes and orders before returning to the field to conduct standard operating procedure (SOP) training, watermanship, and PPF operations. This is where we learned the majority of how to operate as a pathfinder. To my surprise, we actually called in real jumps and beachheads that week. Unfortunately, two more candidates were injured, leaving only 11.

Before going on the course, I began working on strengthening my mental resilience and attained a different mindset after reading the book, Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds, by David Goggins, an ultra-marathon runner and former U.S. Navy Seal. He mentioned that during his hell week he would set small goals and keep his optimism up. Thinking like this helped me get through the increasingly tough times, and also had the side effect of raising the morale of those around me. It seemed like whatever obstacles or challenges came our way, we would simply say, “Roger that,” and continue on. As a result, we created a solid team that helped each other through hard times, which is essential for a course of this nature.

However, there were many times where you had to push through on your own. The ability to understand that the pain and exhaustion were amplified in my mind and that my body can overcome, is what kept me going. Finding ways to claim a bit of your normal lifestyle helped, too. I found my norm with a bag of gummy worms that my girlfriend gave me. Those reminded me of the times when I crave them during long road trips, and that I could never leave a gas station without purchasing a bag. That humanized my mental state.

Training continued with a very well-orchestrated SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) course. We then had a full weekend to recover before we were off to Vancouver Island for 10 days to conduct the water phase of the course. From there we worked with Fleet Diving Unit (FDU), Naval Tactical Operations Group (NTOG), 406 Squadron (and their new CH-148 Cyclones), and a Royal Canadian Navy unit at CFB Esquimalt. We also got a tour of a frigate ship and a submarine. During our time there, we boarded an Orca-class patrol ship and based our missions in the Pacific Ocean, returning to the ship once finished.

After we got back to Ontario, we had a couple of days off before moving to Quebec for the last three weeks of the course. On our drive to Quebec we stopped in Petawawa to train with 427 Squadron to conduct FRIES training.

At CFB Valcartier, Que., we had a Helicopter Insertion Master package with 430 Squadron and also practiced building a rope bridge using candidates who were either Advanced Mountain Operations or Basic Mountain Operations qualified.

From there, the last two weeks were spent in and around the Quebec City area, conducting missions both in wooded areas and urban settings, which greatly challenged our thinking dynamics.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t a clean finish towards the end of my course. I was sent to a progress review board (PRB) after failing my last assessment and I was force-rested for 24 hours — of which I probably slept 22 of them. I was given one last chance to pass as a result of the PRB. Thankfully, a day later, after completing my final mission on the Le Massif ski hill in Charlevoix, I was debriefed and sustained an effective score on the aforementioned assessment, thus successfully completing PPF. This brought a wave of different emotions through me — after all, I was one of less than five Reservists to have ever passed this course.

In the end, nine candidates passed PPF with a victory mission and torch ceremony conducted at the Citadel in Quebec City.

This success made it clear that the old stigma of Reservists not being good enough is false, and that I have opened the possibility of challenging PPF in the thoughts of potential candidates back at my home unit. One of my ultimate goals from this experience is to hopefully have left the sentiment in the minds of others that, “If Cpl Kusi — the guy who forgot his T-shirt on his first parade night — can do it, so can I.”

Nothing is gained without great labour.

This article was originally published in the 2020 edition of The Rifleman, a publication of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada.

Bill McAndrew: Part V

Bill McAndrew joined the army at age 17, was commissioned the following year and served the next eleven years as an infantry officer in Canada, Korea, Germany and Ghana. On leaving the army, a high school dropout, he attended Glendon College, York University as a mature student and gained his doctorate at the University of British Columbia. McAndrew taught at the University of Maine at Orono and directed that university’s Canadian Studies programme before joining the Directorate of History in Ottawa from which he retired in 1996. His particular interest has been in the battlefield behaviour of soldiers.

This is Part V of an excerpt from an article which originally appeared in Canadian Military History, Autumn 2013 issue and is reprinted with permission of the author. 

If you missed them, you can still read Part I,   Part IIPart III and Part IV.

Part V – Leaving the Army, Back to School, and Directorate of History

Glendon was a fortuitous choice with small classes and an eclectic inter-disciplinary array of courses. Open access to a library was sheer luxury. I was somewhat an anomaly among my decade-younger fellow students coming from a culture where short hair assumed an unlikely importance to one where its opposite was similarly overemphasized. This was the sixties, after all. Having learned later about RCMP recruitment of informers of supposedly radical ideas in universities I imagine that some students viewed me skeptically. Ironically, other than culturally, I was likely more radical than most of them. My only army connection happened when I invited General Guy Simonds to speak to our weekly residence lecture group. He graciously agreed and told us about the pressures of command, especially during the sea approach to Sicily when as divisional commander he had had to modify his landing plans as updated intelligence trickled in.

I had to adjust to university life in other ways as well. All incoming students had to present a book review on arrival. I was blown away with an A+ mark but then was taken down a peg or six with my next one, a C-. My problem was that I didn’t know what made for the difference until a very understanding John Conway, who had lost a hand in the Liri Valley with the Seaforths, kindly explained the vagaries of academic writing. I did well over the next four years, was on the short list for Woodrow Wilson and Commonwealth fellowships as well as an H.R. MacMillan for UBC which I chose for my doctorate, in which I tried to explain the political and economic contexts of why Canada did not have a New Deal like that of Franklin Roosevelt down south in response to the Great Depression. I completed it a couple of years later while teaching at the University of Maine in Orono and running the university’s Canadian Studies programme.

UMO was a broadening experience. I made a goal of persuading at least one student that there really was life beyond Houlton. I’m unsure if I succeeded but my Canadian history classes were full of students wanting to learn how to get north to escape the Vietnam draft, another long hair issue. It was an exciting time with Vietnam, Watergate, the civil rights movement, and after six years, and promotion to a tenured position it seemed only right either to change citizenship and become actively involved or return to Canada. When I was offered a job in Ottawa with the Directorate of History at NDHQ I took it. It was another huge, life-changing decision.

I had done no academic studies in military history so had to learn an altogether new field. My first task at the directorate was fact checking and other basic tasks for the first volume of the RCAF official history, on the First World War, then researching and writing draft narratives on the RCAF’s development in the years between the wars. These were concerned primarily with policy and the introduction of aviation to the endless expanse of Canada.

My main interest, however, was the army whose idiosyncratic ways were more familiar. There was another, more personal, aspect. I had not been in combat and couldn’t help wondering if battles actually went like training exercises, straight as an arrow from start to successful finish. Like all young officers, I expect, I also wondered how I would have reacted and behaved under fire. I have a sense that I would have not survived, because of some reckless act, if a sensible sergeant-major was not around to save me from lack of discretion.

The author with some Second World War veterans on a battlefield staff ride in Normandy in the 1980s. Here the group poses in front of the Churchill AVRE on Juno Beach: (l. to r.) unknown, Jamie Stewart (19th Field Regiment), Lockie Fulton (Royal Winnipeg Rifles), McAndrew, Sydney Radley-Walters (Sherbrooke Fusiliers), Hans Siegel (12th SS Panzer Division), Peter Kremer, Alan Darch.

Opportunities to explore the conduct of operations, historically, came about by happenstance. With a colleague, Ben Greenhous, I got interested in the extraordinary military career of Major-General Bert Hoffmeister who had landed in Sicily in 1943 as a battalion commander and eight months later commanded 5th Canadian Armoured Division. A projected book didn’t materialize, fortunately, as I was able to pass that on to Doug Delaney who produced his excellent biography. However, we did persuade the then army commander, Charlie Belzile, my old regimental mate, who was recreating a divisional structure in the army, to take several of his senior commanders and staff officers to Italy to refight the Canadian Corps battle of the Gothic Line. Hoffmeister and three of his former commanders walked us through the battle on the ground.

Re-fighting the Gothic Line with Army Staff College student. Lieutenant-General Henri Tellier seated at the right.

One thing led to another and over the next several years I was uncommonly fortunate to have been able to refight Canadian battles in Italy and North-West Europe with students of the Army Staff College, the Canadian staffs at CENTAG/4ATAF and soldiers in other units. Having both Canadian and German veterans along to guide and inform us lent an incomparable dimension to those battlefield studies.

Some veterans of that battle with others members of the tour group near Rimini in May 1991: (l. to r.) Lieutenant-General Bill Milroy, Colonel Tom De Faye, Amedeo Montemaggi, Contessa Guerrini-Maraldi, Oberst Gerhard Muhm, Count Guerrini-Marabaldi, Lieutenant-General Henri Tellier, Bill McAndrew, Brigadier-General Ted Brown, Colonel Serge Labbé.

Many unforgettable moments come to mind. One was a fine spring morning at the Assoro castle in central Sicily when Strome Galloway recited Siegfried Sassoon’s poem “The General,” an appropriate comment, he thought, on the battle he had fought below in the valley forty years earlier:

‘Good-morning; good morning!’ the General said
When we met him last week on our way to the line.
Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of ‘em dead
and we’re cursing his staff for incompetent swine.
‘He’s a cheery old card,’ grunted Harry to Jack
As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.
But he did for them both by his plan of attack.

Major-General George Kitching poses with Meyer in front of the Tiger tank at Vimoutiers, France.

There were others: one dodging traffic on the Caen-Falaise road with George Kitching and Hubert Meyer, old enemies, as they positioned their Totalize tanks; another at Villa Belvedere on San Fortunato with Henri Tellier, Bill Milroy, Ted Brown, Hunter Dunn, and Gerhard Muhm as they talked with Contessa Guerrini-Maraldi who as a young girl had watched their battle at the Villa; yet another walking the trail where John Dougan led his company to infiltrate beyond San Fortunato, blowing a Tiger tank on the way. There was the Belgian resistance leader, Eugene Colson, who described how his fighters seized the Antwerp docks before the Germans could blow them; Johnnie Johnson on commanding Canadians in Normandy; Lockie Fulton, Jamie Stewart, and Rad Walters detail their unique experiences on D-Day; Denis Whitaker on Dieppe’s White beach and Ron Beal on Blue. What a privilege it was to have shared such company.

Talking to them and other veterans, and trying to write about battles at Ortona, the Liri Valley, Verrières Ridge and the rest impressed me upon me the sheer impossibility of describing any military engagement adequately. They can be told on so many levels and in all of them uncountable personal realities intrude on historians trying to participate vicariously in them. There is history and there is historical writing: national narratives, official accounts, personal descriptions, memoirs, fiction, all attempting to approach some version of the truth. Some, of course, are more reliable than others. As E.B. White has cautioned, “All writing is slanted. Writers can’t be perpendicular but they should aspire to be upright.” Some historical writers approach the vertical more closely than others, but even they can go only so far in their depictions of combat.

The author (left) poses with Hubert Meyer (centre – 12th SS) and Syd Radley-Walters (right – Sherbrooke Fusiliers) in front of the Tiger tank at Vimoutiers, France.

The dimension that especially caught my interest was the human, the personal experiences of soldiers. How did they actually behave in battle as opposed to how we think they should have behaved? I recall one veteran company commander standing at the foot of a hill that had been his objective many years earlier saying that he had started at the bottom with seventy-five men and at the top he had twenty. When I checked, the company had taken fifteen casualties. Where were the other forty? What did they do? Where did they go? What happened to them? I began to explore some of the possibilities.

A fortuitous opportunity came when, around the same time, some army units and formations became interested in soldierly behaviour. Brigade in Lahr asked the directorate to have someone develop a presentation to a brigade study week on the topic of battle exhaustion. Soon after the Army Staff College made a similar request. I involved myself and this led me to some intensely interesting explorations in Second World War documents that hadn’t been opened since being deposited at its end: medical records and war diaries of unusual units like No. 2 Canadian Exhaustion Unit and No. 1 Non-Effective Transit Depot, as well as files of military police units, detention barracks and others. They revealed a wide range of soldierly behaviour not usually found in official or regimental histories, in the process shaking my naïve assumptions to the core.

They persuaded me that morale was the core of military effectiveness, hardly a new discovery but one frequently taken for granted both by commanders and historians. The Napoleonic aphorism that the moral is to the material as three is to one is cited more frequently than observed. Moreover, generalized statements on collective morale, especially those from higher headquarters remote from front line soldiers, can often be taken with a few kilos of salt. Was it really so, as a corps commander stated, that his worn out, badly bruised units were keen to get back into action? Morale can vary randomly, daily, hourly depending on timing and circumstances. It also became clear from questionnaires that junior officers completed and from lessons learned reports that morale was directly affected by how soldiers were deployed in battle, that is, their tactical doctrine. Many commented on how top-down plans would be given units to implement, often too late for battle procedures and when the few properly briefed officers became casualties movement stopped. They noted how too often too few troops would be sent to attack too strong a position, how attacks were invariably directed against the enemy’s strongest positions rather than outflanking or bypassing them, and that higher commanders insisted that a circle on a map be occupied despite it being an enemy registered target that could be dominated from nearby. This way of conducting operations inevitably produced soldiery verse:

Let’s throw in another battalion
The Brigadier cried with glee
Let’s throw in another battalion
or maybe two or three
We’ve got the money, we’ve got the time
Another battalion won’t cost us a dime
Let’s throw in another battalion
or maybe the old LAD.

The search for the origins and assumptions of this way of war, tactical doctrine, and its relationship to how soldiers reacted to the stress of battle, is a timeless theme. Beyond ever-changing theories of attrition and manoeuvre, operational art and supposed Revolutions in Military Affairs, are soldiers. Although technologies have materially changed over the years, soldiers haven’t: their bodies bleed and their minds break like those of their fathers and grandfathers. The human factor remains central, even in this day when the sole strategic problem has to be climate change, all other political and military dimensions being just messy operational and tactical distractions. If we lose the basis of our human existence, air and water, other concerns fade away.

What can I conclude from this long, varied and fortunate life that has seen the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, the sixties, globalism, the Internet era, the Canadian transformation, and climate change? Above all is the need for a thinking education in the humanities. This need not be at a university, after all there are countless educated fools and many wise illiterates, but we ignore the experience of the ages at our collective peril. A thinking education can reveal the arrogance of the categorical, demonstrate the insight of nuance, and stimulate a healthy skepticism of ideologues of whatever stripe; political, economic, religious, philosophical, whatever. It can provide an escape from the necessarily limited bonds of individual experience to peer into the vastness of human diversity over time and in space and provide understanding of how the other guy thought and lived, thinks and lives. A thinking education can, should, must lead one to penetrate the cant and doublespeak of much discourse, question the premises and assumptions of any assertion and assess its veracity accordingly. This especially applies to those who want to send others to war.

Bill McAndrew: Part IV

Bill McAndrew joined the army at age 17, was commissioned the following year and served the next eleven years as an infantry officer in Canada, Korea, Germany and Ghana. On leaving the army, a high school dropout, he attended Glendon College, York University as a mature student and gained his doctorate at the University of British Columbia. McAndrew taught at the University of Maine at Orono and directed that university’s Canadian Studies programme before joining the Directorate of History in Ottawa from which he retired in 1996. His particular interest has been in the battlefield behaviour of soldiers.

This is Part IV of an excerpt from an article which originally appeared in Canadian Military History, Autumn 2013 issue and is reprinted with permission of the author. 

If you missed them, you can still read Part I,   Part II, and Part III.

Part IV – Ghana

Bill McAndrews in summer whites while in Ghana.

In 1960 I returned to Canada, now a captain, in luxury aboard the liner SS Homeric, off-loaded my new Porsche at Quebec, and drove to our battalion station in Calgary. One evening the following summer I was duty officer at Brigade Headquarters in Wainwright when a signal came in listing the names of officers who were being posted to a training team that was to be sent to Ghana and was delighted to see my name. We proceeded immediately to Camp Borden for briefing and orientation and left shortly after for Accra.

Most of the team stayed in Accra at the military academy or army headquarters. Four of us continued on to Kumasi in the Ashanti rain forest to the Ghana Armed Forces Training Centre where we found that we were replacing a 20-30 man British unit that had been recalled for political reasons. The Army had evolved from the Gold Coast Regiment and the Royal West African Frontier Force with British officers and with independence was becoming Ghanaian. Most of its officers trained in Britain and the Soviet Union until the academy was able to graduate sufficient numbers. It was a commonplace that the former came back socialists the latter capitalists. That was a touchy point. Ghana was the first of the British African colonies to gain its independence and the course of its politics was watched with interest in the midst of the Cold War. Its nationalism and anti-colonialism were too easily seen as socialist, communist, and anti-West.

To me, at least, in the Kumasi weeds, this was a somewhat esoteric matter. We had been briefed on the background but by people who had no experience, little knowledge and less empathy for a country newly emerging from a colonial past. My concerns on the ground were more mundane and immediate, training the very willing soldiers we had. I was first the School’s weapons training officer and then commanded two different companies. It was engaging, challenging and rewarding work. The day began soon after the tropical dawn, with breaks for breakfast and lunch, a siesta to escape the heat and then back for a couple of evening hours. The training was basic; more interesting were the soldiers. Each day was different and we were left delightfully on our own to find our way. Our Ghanaian CO gave us full leeway and Canadian headquarters in Accra was too detached especially as the telephones seldom worked. Ghanaians found our informality a bit unusual at first but became used to it and we got along well. I was truly honoured when on leaving the unit, my soldiers enstooled me as a sub chief of one of the clans in a formal traditional ceremony that included drinking several tots of distilled palm wine known accurately as “kill ‘em quick.”

Tribal, clan and religious differences played a large part and there were marked differences between them, from the sub-Sahara north to the Atlantic south. As a company commander I had delegated authority to conduct summary trials for various infractions. When my company sergeant major marched in an alleged offender I had on my desk a Bible, a Koran, and a bayonet (for others) for swearing oaths but plausible stories were rare. My Muslim Imam was unfailingly helpful in sorting out conflicting tales.

One of my extra jobs, we all had several, was recruiting officer for the Ghana Armed Forces. Demand was high for limited spaces in the army and we kept records of all who applied whom we called in order as training space allowed. After a quiet period of several months I was startled to read in the Ghana Times one Sunday morning that Army Headquarters in Accra had announced that full scale recruiting was to open the next day. My staff of three dusted off our files of applications but they were quickly made redundant when on Monday morning between 3,000 and 5,000 eager would-be recruits turned up all trying at once to get through a small access gate in a strong metal fence. Several were injured in the crush and we had to summon three police platoons to restore order while processing around 1,000 in a few days. In the midst of the chaos an MP marched up a group who, he informed me, were from the president’s village and were to be given priority. I declined and sent them to join the mob. A couple of hours later my CO called me to his office for an explanation as he was to fly immediately to Accra and explain this apparent insubordination personally to the president. I tried to persuade him to let me take the hit; I could only be sent home but he had a career in his army. To his lasting credit he refused, said I had done the right thing not to give preference, and that he would back me up. It was an admirable display of moral courage and I can only hope that his career didn’t suffer.

There was time for limited travel around the country, to Accra, Cape Coast, Tamale, over to the Ivory Coast and I managed one lengthier trip, an attempt to reach Timbuktoo. I loaded up my VW Beetle with tinned food and beer and headed north for Ouagadougu, in what then was Upper Volta, then east across the Niger River on a raft to Niamey in Niger. Perhaps fortunately the roads beyond through Mali were closed because that drive needed more substantial transport as I found out on returning through game reserves in Dahomey and Togo where car repairs were not easily arranged.

I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time but I was growing uneasy with the gap between what I was told to believe and what I was experiencing. An earlier experience while in Germany had caused me to question some of my assumptions. I was on a NATO air transport supply course at Old Sarum – where we tried to move troops and supplies around the world matching infrastructure, aircraft ranges and capacities, fuel supplies and other useful factors without losing too many airplanes. At a mess dinner I was seated beside a British Army gunner lieutenant-colonel who in the course of conversation remarked that he was a Labour Party supporter. I was shocked, completely taken aback. My woefully restricted political awareness, finely channelled as it was by Cold War truths, assumed that Labour Party meant socialist, ergo communist, ergo the enemy we were gallantly resisting in NATO. He seemed such a pleasant, reasonable chap and far out-ranked me. It occurred to me that perhaps my political and ideological blinkers were a tad tight and caused me to begin thinking at least slightly about those given premises, a process that is on-going half a century on.

Ghana was certainly demonstrating a diversity of experience well beyond my limited horizons and caused me to question the premises underlying much of the received wisdom in the recommended readings for young officers. Bernard Fall’s Street without Joy on Vietnam and Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 on war were powerful movers. I began to feel a need to put them and other random readings – Greene, Waugh, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Camus, Lewis, Thoreau, Conrad, Sassoon and others – in context so I wrote to several universities asking if they would consider a thirty- year-old high school dropout. A few replied including Glendon College at the new York University which accepted me as a mature student.

Bill McAndrew writing the Staff College exam while in Ghana.

Leaving the army wasn’t an easy decision. I had just gained the second highest marks in that year’s Staff College entrance exams (it amuses me now that my lowest mark was in military history, I assume because I raised some questions of that year’s text, Montgomery’s Normandy to the Baltic) and my Canadian commander, Roger Schjelderup, recommended me for the coming two-year staff course. But it seemed the right time; too many unanswered questions had pierced the institutional bubble that gave the army its internal logic, so I cut the cord and enrolled at Glendon in the fall of 1963.

Part V – Leaving the Army, Back to School, and Directorate of History

Bill McAndrew: Part III

Bill McAndrew joined the army at age 17, was commissioned the following year and served the next eleven years as an infantry officer in Canada, Korea, Germany and Ghana. On leaving the army, a high school dropout, he attended Glendon College, York University as a mature student and gained his doctorate at the University of British Columbia. McAndrew taught at the University of Maine at Orono and directed that university’s Canadian Studies programme before joining the Directorate of History in Ottawa from which he retired in 1996. His particular interest has been in the battlefield behaviour of soldiers.

This is Part III of an excerpt from an article which originally appeared in Canadian Military History, Autumn 2013 issue and is reprinted with permission of the author. 

If you missed them, you can still read Part I  and Part II.

Part III – Returning to Canada, Preparing for Egypt, and off to Germany

We were three weeks returning to Seattle on an elderly American trooper and on to Gordon Head, now the site of the University of Victoria. After a leave I took a demonstration platoon to the School of Infantry at Camp Borden, and in the fall of 1955 was posted to our Regimental Depot, first in Edmonton then Calgary. Soon after it was back to Camp Borden for a course on Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Warfare, a basic introduction to that complex topic – fifteen minutes being allotted to the theory and practice of nuclear physics. While there the Suez Canal war broke out when the UK, France and Israel attacked Egypt to depose President Nasser who had nationalized the canal. Lester Pearson, at the United Nations in New York, hammered out the concept of a UN peace keeping force to separate the attackers and the attacked. This was sufficiently controversial to provoke a fist fight in the Mess between those who approved of Canadians being involved in a UN mission and those who thought the country should have said “Ready, Aye Ready” to support the Brits. Our 1st Battalion in Calgary was designated as the main Canadian component and a message went out for all QOR officers who were away from their units to return immediately. I was called from class, told to pack up, handed an airline ticket to Calgary, and given a staff car to get me to Toronto. We had to rush, with a police escort part of the way, but they held the aircraft for me. It was a bit of a fraud as I was with our Depot not the battalion that was going and my job then was to wangle a posting to the battalion. Luckily a newly married subaltern in the unit didn’t want to go and I got his spot.

The RCAF flew us to Halifax in slow C119s where we were to board HMCS Magnificent for the voyage. “Maggie” was undergoing major refit to accommodate us so we were housed across the street in HMCS Stadacona. There wasn’t much for us to do while waiting except some marching around and physical training, until we were put on 24 hours notice to move and paraded, very proudly, through the streets of Halifax amidst applauding crowds. The day’s notice extended to two, then more before word came that we would not be going after all. Two reasons were floated about in the press. One was that the Egyptians understandingly objected to our name, Queen’s Own, having just been invaded by soldiers of the same queen. The other was that the UN force being raised had enough infantry and needed logistical, communications and other support units. I had an occasion not long afterwards to meet Mr. Pearson who assured me that it was the latter. What to do with us? For some reason the RCAF couldn’t fly us back and as Christmas was approaching trains were fully booked. We busied ourselves as we could, drinking duty free gin on Maggie, scuba diving with the navy in the less than pristine harbour and visiting a hospitable Olands brewery that welcomed the troops. The train that eventually materialized was an ancient steam engine with arrows sticking out from its last trip west. We got as far as Moncton the first day where the crew stopped to rebuild the engine fire. En route we were shunted off tracks to make way for passenger trains, freights, cows and anything else moving.

1957 Currie Barracks – Lt Bill McAndrew (c) and Major Fred Swan (r)

That summer I managed a posting back to my old battalion, the 2nd, that was leaving for Germany. Arriving in Dusseldorf was a shock. In 1957 much of the city was still in desolate ruins from allied bombing, and I carried the emotional baggage of growing up in wartime when all Germans were the bad guys. We were picked up at the airport by the battalion we were replacing, 1 PPCLI, and driven to our camp near Hemer a couple of hours away. The Canadian Brigade was spread over quite a distance – Soest, Werl, Hemer, Iserlohn – and our camp, Fort McLeod, was adjacent to another, Fort Prince of Wales, where the artillery regiment lived. We had good facilities; a rink, gym, squash courts, sports field, and officers, sergeants, corporals’ and mens’ messes. The troop quarters were basic barrack rooms, sergeants and junior officers had private rooms with common ablution facilities. I wish I knew then what I do now. I didn’t realize that the area had a fervent Nazi past, where several notable SS formations had been raised. Werl had a prison where a number of war criminals were still incarcerated. One, Kurt Meyer, who had spent prison time in Dorchester in New Brunswick before being returned to Werl, had been released not long before. One day I walked into the Mess with Danny Osborne, our battalion second-in-command, where a German was holding forth. It was Kurt Meyer who then was the sales representative of a brewery and sold beer to the Mess. The last time Danny had seen Meyer was when he had escorted him at his war crimes trial.

Most of this went right over my head at the time and it was an opportunity lost. Much later I got to know Meyer’s chief of staff, Hubert Meyer, who participated in several battlefield studies. An incarnation or so later, in my Clio phase, the Ottawa Citizen carried a review I wrote of Tony Foster’s dual biography of Kurt Meyer and Tony’s father, Harry who had fought each other in Normandy and who was on the court-martial that sentenced Meyer to death. I commented in the review that Meyer was the only German sentenced to death by a Canadian tribunal. A few days later I received a telephone call from a former RCAF legal officer who informed me that I was wrong. He had been involved in two or three Canadian war crimes trials that gave death sentences to Germans convicted of killing downed RCAF airmen. It was a good lesson to me of the hazards of being overly categorical. Few historical events are not heavily nuanced.

The ambience of the Germany at that time was distinctly old world. Village gasthofs were out of the 19th century. One Iserlohn café had an afternoon string quartet, male of course and in tails, in this time of Elvis. Waiters barely tolerated us and patrons were distinctly cool to our casual presence. We represented the war’s victors and our informality clashed with the general reserve. Moreover our relative wealth, at 4.20 marks to the dollar, could cause understandable resentment.

My job as intelligence officer was to learn about our operational commitments, locate our battle positions and prepare maps for the CO, Rod Mckay. We had two battle positions, the first on the Weser River to the east and the second on the Rhine west bank at Koln. The Patricia commander, Tom DeFaye, who became a dear friend in my Clio phase, took Rod on a recce of the positions with me along to carry the maps. It was more than slightly farcical. Security regulations said that we had to wear civilian clothes but as we traveled in a jeep and a staff car, and carried map boards and binoculars, our cover would hardly have fooled the most incompetent Smiley. It was here that I first developed doubts of the competence of those who had devised these operational commitments. We were supposed to delay a Soviet crossing of the Weser, which at that time could be waded with barely damp feet, until someone delivered a tactical nuclear weapon which, of course, would have taken us out as well as them. We didn’t have weapons with sufficient range to hit the river effectively from our battle positions and couldn’t delay anyone. It didn’t take a military genius to notice that some emperor had no clothes. As we were there supposedly as a deterrence and to wave the flag in the bigger NATO scheme of things it occurred to me that posting a senior civil servant on the border, perhaps a deputy minister or two, as a high ranking hostage would have been a more economical and equally efficient deterrent.

My main memories of our time in Germany, aside from the wonderful travel and cultural experiences, were training and sports. The battalion was always on an exercise, cleaning up after it , or preparing for the next. Sennelager, Hohne, Putlos and other locations became familiar and there were always new areas to explore. We did well, I think, with what we had but the aura of unreality persisted. Our equipment was lamentable, the most striking example being to pretend that our three-quarter ton vehicles were armoured personnel carriers. It was assumed that tactical nuclear weapons were just another weapon like the rest. This was, of course, before Chernobyl wakened at least a few minds, but it was evident to most anyone that they weren’t and that exploding nuclear weapons on a fluid battlefield would harm us and the German population we were supposed to be defending as much as the bad guys. We were all targets.

Sports were big in our lives. Jim Mitchell, who coached the basketball team in Victoria, said off-hand that we were going to be winners and we made it happen; the Canadian Brigade title, then the British Army of the Rhine, and finally the British Army championship. One summer I got involved in a team to participate in a NATO Olympic Military Pentathalon in Athens. There was a distance swim, a long cross-country run, rifle shooting, and a couple of other military-oriented events. Unfortunately the Pentathalon was cancelled but we were left with solid swimming and cross-country teams. I ended up swimmer-coach of the swimming team, training for a time in the Möhnesee dam, of Dambusters fame, for a NATO long distance race in the Meuse River in Belgium. We placed third, pretty well considering we were up against Olympic swimmers from both the US and France. Our cross-country team also won the Brigade championship. I had a harrowing time, losing consciousness a few hundred metres from the finishing gate which I somehow stumbled through to complete the team’s finish and woke up in hospital luckily with no ill effects.

Part IV – Ghana

Bill McAndrew: Part II

Bill McAndrew joined the army at age 17, was commissioned the following year and served the next eleven years as an infantry officer in Canada, Korea, Germany and Ghana. On leaving the army, a high school dropout, he attended Glendon College, York University as a mature student and gained his doctorate at the University of British Columbia. McAndrew taught at the University of Maine at Orono and directed that university’s Canadian Studies programme before joining the Directorate of History in Ottawa from which he retired in 1996. His particular interest has been in the battlefield behaviour of soldiers.

This is Part II of an excerpt from an article which originally appeared in Canadian Military History, Autumn 2013 issue and is reprinted with permission of the author. 

If you missed Part I you can read it here.

Joining the 2nd Canadian Rifles and The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada in Korea

I duly went back to Camp Borden for the last training phase, was commissioned as a second lieutenant and posted to the 2nd Canadian Rifle Battalion. The unit was a new one, formed during that massive expansion of the Army for Korea and the NATO commitment in Europe. From a peacetime brigade the army expanded in a year or so to five brigades of fifteen battalions. The 1st Rifles went to Hannover in Germany in 1951 and the 2nd was meant to relieve them in due course. It formed in Valcartier in the summer of 1952 and moved to Ipperwash in western Ontario in the autumn where I joined it. The battalion was made up of companies from several militia units: “A” Company from the Victoria Rifles from Montreal, “B” the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, “C” the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, “D” the Regina Rifles, and Support Company the Queens Own Rifles of Canada from Toronto. The CO was Bill Matthews who had been awarded two Military Crosses while serving with the Canadian Scottish in Europe. I went to “A” Company commanded by Bob Firlotte, a veteran of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion. Our CSM was a small, tough Montrealer from Pointe St. Charles, Jake Burton, a wonderful guide to a young bugger like me and the other platoon commanders, Ian Gilmour and Ted Ball. Ted introduced me to the wonders of Stan Kenton who was pretty far out in those days. In the unit, two subalterns, the only two university graduates, were lieutenants, the rest of us second lieutenants. A few were married, the families living nearby, but most of us lived in quarters. There were two cars among us.

There were some real characters among the lot. One was fond of sliced onions covered with black pepper and strolling through the hallway of our H-hut quarters firing his 9-mm pistol at the lights. We ducked. Vip Vipond had an unfortunate habit of falling to sleep before putting out his cigarette, a habit that later killed him. Robbie Robinson was a fine woodsman, a Second War vet who had not been overseas likely because he was such a superb survival instructor. He showed me how to fry eggs on a shovel, among other useful things. Another Robbie, Mark 2, was a likeable guy and a natural Pioneer Platoon commander. Later he was mayor of Petticodiac, New Brunswick. Howie Traynor, Derrick Bamford, and Neil Anderson were buddies in “B” Company under Tom MacDonald, a former Hamilton cop with a big heart, a sense of humour and a Military Medal. Boom Marsaw later became an evangelical minister, John Saunders was a former sailor, Ron Werry an imaginative instructor, and Bill Crew held the record of most sneezes after taking the obligatory snuff at mess dinners. Paul Zmean, Charlie Belzile, and I hung around a lot together. Jack Hanley, from OCS arrived, also Johnny Moad another ex NCO Con Bissett, from out west, later transferred to the RCN’s Fleet Air Arm and killed himself flying a Banshee into the ground. They were all solid companions.

A second lieutenant in those days made $150. a month, with room and board, the same salary as half a century before at the time of the Boer War. The Mess was the centre of our social lives and mess bills were the first and biggest claim on our limited finances. Bill Matthews insisted on having a formal dinner every Friday, no matter where we happened to be at the time, and this ensured there was little money left. We single guys didn’t mind as we were having a grand time but how those who were married managed is a mystery. We received an issue of work clothing and kit and got a small initial clothing allowance which gave us a start for dress uniforms. The price in those days for dress greens was $47.50, with a $15.00 deposit. For the rest we arranged credit with a tailor and that was the next priority charge on our five daily dollars.

Ipperwash was chaotic as the battalion was just getting organized, and our company was made up of recruits, so we were doing basic training. The training schedule went through Saturday mornings and on Sundays there was almost always a church parade in the nearby towns where the battalion was led by the bugles and Deucehorn, our Great Dane regimental mascot who invariably chose to throw up or exercise his bowels enroute. Far distant Army Headquarters decreed that the low level of education standards had to be raised so on two nights a week this high school drop-out taught arithmetic and English barely half a page ahead of my less than enthusiastic soldier students. I was also sports officer and organized inter-company competitions in volleyball, basketball and other sports, hugely assisted by Harry Warren, an ex-British Army physical training instructor who carried in his pocket a copy of Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams, and Denny Stahl, then a corporal soon to be sergeant. Tuesdays and Thursdays were doubling days when all ranks had to double everywhere when outdoors and we did a lot of PT rifle exercises using our Lee Enfield .303s as props. They were very effective, both for arm strength and for getting to know our rifles.

Routine was from six in the morning six days a week, with two evenings educational instruction, at least one other on officer training, and every Friday was a Mess Dinner. Pay nights were lively. The wet canteen was always a scene of, to understate, boisterous activity. It was an educational experience for an eighteen year old like me to be duty officer and responsible for ensuring that damage was limited. One had to tread carefully through beer laden minefields. Another delicate time on duty was one morning when the civilian cooks who were on contract for food preparation slept in after a hard night. When the troops arrived for breakfast nothing was ready and they were understandably displeased. The duty sergeant that morning, fortunately, was Al Stevenson, a former lineman with the Montreal Alouettes, who hustled the cooks out of bed expeditiously. I boiled eggs and Al and I helped serve breakfast when it eventually appeared.

The battalion was initially slated to relieve the 1st Rifle Battalion in Hannover but this was changed and now we were to replace my old unit, 3RCR, in Korea. In the spring of 1953 we headed back to Wainwright to train at the company and battalion levels, which we couldn’t do at Ipperwash. Enroute we went by train to Ottawa where we paraded with other units on Parliament Hill for the Queen’s coronation. In those days troop trains could be lively. Troops always managed to stow drink in their kit and sometimes booze got out of hand. Tighter and tighter restrictions followed to keep the trains from being wrecked but soldiers quickly found ways to get around them. We junior officers had to inspect everyone beforehand, including ensuring that water bottles contained only water. Initiative and ingenuity invariably won out. A tied condom filled with rum topped with a bit of water foxed the most conscientious taster.

Three COTC cadets joined the battalion that summer for their summer training. All did moderately well in life. Charlie Belzile became commander of the Army; Lonnie Holland is a very successful investment manager. Lonnie tells me that the third, Robert Mundell, whom I don’t recall directly, was awarded the Nobel Prize for economics.

Training continued when we returned to Ipperwash and towards the end of the year I was told I would be part of the unit advance party for Korea, first to Vancouver for final medical checks then to Tokyo via the the Aleutians and next day to Seoul in a USAF Globemaster, more commonly, Crashmaster, where the RCR met us.

Korea was not a pleasant place at that time. Seoul was almost totally destroyed. The road north was not much more than a track with thick dust that made anyone unrecognizable after a kilometre or so. The smell of human feces that Korean farmers used for fertilizer enveloped us. The few small towns and villages on the way, Uijongbu comes to mind, had ramshackle dwellings cobbled together from flattened tins. Hills were formidable, but seemed familiar; whoever chose the area of the Jasper training camp had done well. The RCR battalion was based north of the Imjin River just south of the DMZ [demilitarized zone] that had been established at the Armistice. Companies were scattered around in tented camps sited below battle positions in the hills.

Colonel Campbell was very gracious in remembering me from my previous time with the unit and said he had tried, unsuccessfully, to have me back. I was “A” Company’s representative on the advance party and worked with my RCR counterpart to prepare quarters, stores and all and, as sports officer, saw what the RCR was doing for sports and recreation. One event that stayed with me was checking out the divisional detention barracks near Seoul. The Canadian Provost Corps ran that foreboding place. Prisoners lived a more than spartan life on the premise that it had to be sufficiently unpleasant so soldiers wouldn’t willingly choose it over the front lines. The solitary cell was carved into a hillside with a barred heavy door; winters were cold, summers hot. I later had a New Zealand driver who spent a month in detention and he seriously commented that he would go north to the other side rather than return for another sentence.

Each battalion in the Canadian brigade had around 125 Korean Army soldiers, KATCOMS, attached to it. The RCR had scattered them throughout their rifle companies but when we met the unit on its arrival by ship at Inchon Bill Matthews had decided to concentrate them all in one company in which I was to have a platoon. Commanding Koreans was an educational experience. Nick Fritz was my platoon sergeant and we also had a Korean sergeant to pass along our gestured instructions to the troops. The first morning when I spoke to one soldier about his kit the Korean sergeant stepped up and punched him in the face. Nick and I looked at each other wondering what we had got ourselves into; clearly we had much to learn about the culture of the Korean Army. Things smoothed out in time and we got along pretty well. The soldiers could conveniently use our linguistic inadequacies to ignore whatever they chose, but they were good in the field and knew the countryside around.

The actual shooting war in Korea had ended the previous summer with the Armistice that still prevails uneasily more than half a century later. The battalion was part of the 25th Canadian Infantry Brigade which, in turn, was part of the 1st Commonwealth Division. One of the other brigades was British, the other had Australian and British battalions. There were also New Zealand gunners, Indian medical units, and others. The division reported in turn to the US Army’s I Corps and Eighth Army. Our division’s task was to secure a large sector of our side of the demilitarized line. 25 Brigade was the divisional screen while the other brigades manned fixed defences in the Kansas Line. Our battalion task was to patrol the DMZ. Each rifle company in turn spent a week in the line sending nightly reconnaissance patrols to intercept line crossers and anyone else. It was a very effective patrol school, a good way to learn that dangerous trade.

Besides patrolling we spent our time training. The battalion had not completed unit level training before arriving so we did platoon, company and battalion exercises pretty much continuously. In retrospect we were fortunate that the shooting war was in remission as active operations would have been disastrous, another Hong Kong. The constant turnover of soldiers in the months before leaving Canada never allowed our battalion to complete the company and unit training that would have prepared us adequately for operations.

Within a week of the battalion’s arrival we were in the middle of our weekly dinner when the CO got a phone message with the code word SCRAM. This was an exercise triggered without notice by Eighth Army for all formations and units to man their main defensive positions. We never knew for sure whether the SCRAM was an exercise or the real thing, but the drill was the same; gather the troops, issue ammunition and head for our designated positions in the hills. Fortunately we never did have to fight off a real attack.

That summer I was sent to Brigade Headquarters, commanded by Jean-Victor Allard, as a liaison officer. This was one of a few outside jobs for junior officers. Neil Anderson went on one at around the same time, as an observer with a USAF squadron, and was killed when his airplane crashed a few months later. I was there just a few weeks when I was sent on to Divisional Headquarters as the Canadian LO.

The COMWEL Div Hq was a unique organization. The commander was British, initially Major-General Horatio Murray, and his chief staff officer was a Canadian, Mike Dare, my old CO at OCS. Under him were two majors, a Canadian intelligence officer and a British operations officer, Peter Willcocks. Peter had three captains; an Australian, Mac Grant, a New Zealander, Max Tebbutt, and a Canadian, Chuck Spencer. Finally were three LOs; a Brit, George Whittaker, an Australian, Alec Reynolds, and me. This was likely the last of the old British Commonwealth military organizations and a fine one that worked seamlessly, at least so it seemed to me looking from the bottom up.

When I learned that I would be moving, the first thing I did was consult the military staff bible of the time, Staff Duties in the Field. It was a very useful publication with all matter of sound advice and good sense. I wanted to find out what an LO was supposed to do and was taken aback to read that an LO should be an older, experienced officer who knew his way around people and affairs. I was barely twenty and looked perhaps sixteen. This may have led to an unspectacular start in my new job. A SCRAM alert came in and Peter went round the Ops Room telling us which brigade to inform. I assumed that I should phone the Canadians and did so but missed his instruction to alert the Australians. My mistake was noticed quickly when General Murray got a call from the brigadier who was asking why all the transport had arrived in his area. The transport unit had been informed but not the brigade. I thought that I would be packing my kitbag but instead Peter quietly suggested that I pay closer attention to what I was instructed to do. It was a fine lesson.

My main job was liaison with the 1st US Marine Division deployed to our left, to the west. I would take dispatches over to them regularly and bring others back. It was an amusing experience as they seemed not quite to know what to do with this uniformed kid who represented himself as the Comwel divisional commander’s personal representative. They were much more seriously minded, at least formally so, than us, wearing helmets all the time and expecting the war to break out next minute.

We LOs did regular shifts as duty officer manning the Divisional Operations Room. For routine work the chief clerk, a British warrant officer, a kindly and efficient man with a twinkle in his eye, patiently guided me through the intricacies of the staff system, moving files to the right people, filtering the important from the trivial. The Brits had a simple but efficient system before computers. A new letter would come on the file, all the correspondence held together by a string at the upper left corner, to explain its context. I would draft a response or channel it appropriately and the chief did his best to keep me from harming the war effort and myself.

The duty officer also manned the divisional radio network and kept the logs. Radio traffic was a challenge. It was hard to imagine that allegedly we all spoke the same language. With a Cockney, a Yorkshireman, a Scotsman, an Irishman, a Quebecois, an Australian and several others competing for dialect space the radio network could be a shambles, confusing to the point of unworkable. I imagine that Chinese radio intercept units listening to incessant “say again all after” transmissions were as baffled as we were.

Something new came up daily. One day it was a flap when one of the observation posts reported hearing tanks across the DMZ. I asked for confirmation from others OPs and alerted Peter Wilcocks who brought Mike Dare quickly to the Operations Room. He was particularly interested in any report of ominous tank movement but fortunately it was a false alarm. Another day a USAF lieutenant appeared in a radio jeep to conduct a close air support exercise, and I took him out in the mountains. He got radio contact with as yet unseen airplanes, asked me to throw out a smoke grenade and, sure enough, four fighters appeared overhead that he directed to the target area. Fortunately they hit the right hill not ours. It was a striking exercise in joint operations: a Canadian soldier in the Commonwealth Division, going up channels to an American Army Corps and Army, and an American airman calling in US Marine Corps fighters flying off a US Navy aircraft carrier.

The Officers’ Mess at the headquarters was British run and the meals were somewhat of a comedown from the unit where we had lavish US Army rations. In those days British catering was less than inspiring. The cooks did their best with what they had, but there was just so much one could do with custard powder which was on at least two daily meals. I scrounged welcome Canadian supplies. On one memorable occasion I was in Seoul and my New Zealand driver and I had milkshakes at a US Army PX. It was a treat that I can still taste.

I got over to Japan on two R and R (rest and recuperation) breaks. One day out of the blue a signal came in for me – from my Dad, who was on his way to Japan on a RCN ship, asking if I could get over to meet him. Peter Willcocks insisted I go, and I didn’t need much encouragement. I asked one of the artillery pilots at the headquarters to fly me to Seoul where I could catch a flight to Japan with an Australian Air Force courier. His artillery observation unit flew light single-engine, two-seat Austers. We got off alright and were still climbing to get over Kamaksan, the largest mountain between us and Seoul, when the pilot turned around and shouted that our engine had lost oil pressure and was likely to seize up, so back we went and landed just before the oil ran dry. He picked out another airplane and off we went this time without mishap. Out of the Auster and into the Aussie Dakota, an old twin-engine Dakota that had seen considerable service. We were half an hour into the flight when one propeller malfunctioned so back we went for repairs. Next morning we got away and made it to the Australian base at Iwakuni on the inland sea between the main Island and Shikoku not far from Hiroshima.

I’ll never forget the incredible difference between it and Korea. I arrived absolutely filthy, covered in Korean dirt that was impossible to get rid of. Occasionally we could shower in Korea at the Mobile Laundry and Bath Unit: drop dirty uniforms, walk into a communal shower that sometimes had water, and then pick up clean clothes. After an hour’s return jeep drive on dirt tracks with an inch of dust the shower was a distant memory and the clothes as dirty as before. Iwakuni was on a beautiful bay and the countryside unimaginably fresh, green and clean. I got a room at the Mess, a Japanese orderly took my grimy clothes away, and I had the first real shower in months. An hour later he brought back a uniform that I barely recognized, clean, starched, like new. A beer on the deck looking over the gorgeous scenery was a magical moment.

Next morning I caught a ferry over the inland bay for an hour or so to Kure. The ride was full of wonder, a traditional Japanese painting of water, mists shielding mountains and gentle trees. So peaceful. I took a train to Tokyo next day and met my Dad. We had a nice reunion and spent the day together looking around the city before he had to leave to get to his ship in Yokahama. I stayed in the city for a couple of days and, among other things, heard the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra play Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto. Then I caught a train going somewhere south, got off in a town whose name and location I don’t remember, possibly around Hamamatsu, where I stayed for the last few days of my leave. Somehow I found a place to stay, wore a Kimono and slippers the whole time, bowed a lot, attended the communal baths, ate something somewhere, and didn’t meet anyone who spoke English while there. It was a most interesting interlude.

After I got back I was shot at for the first and only time. I had to take messages and instructions to units in the east of the country, on training exercises at Nightmare Range. Enroute my driver and I were stopped by a Korean soldier manning a road block at the entrance of a long bridge. He waved his carbine at us while talking in Korean which we didn’t understand, became heated so we took off over the bridge and he started shooting. We ducked and floored the elderly jeep. Fortunately he was a bad shot.

Bill McAndrew on a visit to the 38th Parallel in Korea.

In the autumn of 1954 the Commonwealth military commitment to Korea was scaled back, the division to a brigade and the Canadian brigade to one battalion, ours. I was still at the headquarters and we had a new commander, Brigadier Geoffrey Musson. Our first task was moving to a new location to free up our present one for the Koreans. Our new ground was at the base of Gloster Hill where the British Gloucestershire Regiment had been very very badly beat up in a big Chinese assault a year or so before. Looking for something in our files one day I came across an interrogation report that the Glosters’ adjutant, Tony Farrar Hockley, made when he was repatriated as a POW. It was a fascinating document, so I borrowed, it, climbed the hill and used it as a guide to the battle. It was still fresh, positions that the report described in detail dotted with slit trenches and debris. I didn’t realize it then but it was my first battlefield study of which I did many more in later life.

Brigadier Musson was a kindly and tolerant man as I learned. I was still going back and forth with the Marines on our left and got to know their commander’s ADC (later he won a lot of money on a popular American television programme, The $64,000 Question that was subsequently found to have been rigged). Through him their commander invited Brigadier Musson over to watch a football game. With draftees, the Americans had a league on a high level university level. They sent a helicopter over to pick up Musson and I drove over in a staff car for the return trip. I misbehaved at a following reception, drank far too much and was loaded into the back of the car, the general in front with the driver. I assumed next morning that I was finished but Brigadier Musson only seemed highly amused when he asked after my health.

Early in December I returned to the battalion. By then we were camped out in what had been the Brigade Recreation Centre without much to do. We were due to go home early in the year, but the date was repeatedly delayed until March. In the meantime we did a bit of training and sports and packed up equipment. Our quarters had been upgraded from tents to quonset huts, six of us to a building in rooms partitioned with plywood. One night I wakened to the smell of smoke and found the hallway engulfed in flames. I went out through the window, the last to get out and barely before the building went up. Vip Vipond didn’t make it and we found his burned rib cage next morning. It was an odd feeling when the reality of the situation hit home at daylight. I had got away with just a few minutes to spare wearing the bottoms of my pajamas and those, along with my dog tags found in the ashes, were my sole and only possessions in the world. Back to basics. Very strange.

Part III – Return to Canada, Preparing for Egypt, and off to Germany

Pilot by Profession, Soldier by Heart

by Captain Steven R. Harrison, CD (Ret’d). Steve served with the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada from 1971-1980, and then the Canadian Airforce from 1980-2013. He was awarded the Air Staff Commander’s Commendation in Afghanistan, and the SAR Commander’s Commendation while in Jamaica. 

I was born and raised in Scarborough, Ontario. I grew up in Highland Creek (east end of Scarborough). All of those raised in the sixties around that area were called ‘creekers’. It was your typical childhood of school and other activities such as fishing in the Rouge River or going on our bicycles through an area that had signs posted ‘future site for the Toronto Zoo’.

My father always told me his stories of being an air cadet in downtown Toronto and attending parades such as Remembrance Day at Old City Hall and the Warriors Day parade at the CNE. As early as I can remember I was wearing a uniform of some type: Cubs, Scouts, and Air Cadets.

631 Squadron Air Cadets on Eglinton Avenue (near Birchmount) was the squadron that inspired me the most. At the time it was considered the largest squadron in the country. The squadron has so many activities going on: band, drill team, target shooting, summer camp and glider camp at Mountainview (near 8 Wing Trenton). Rifle target practice and flying were my most exciting events. Using the .303 converted 22 calibre rifle, I could hit the center of the target every time with little effort, but when it came to flying it felt like I was born to be in the cockpit of an aircraft. The little glider was not what I would consider to be the equivalent of ‘Roger Ramjet’ but in my mind I was.

I was promoted through the ranks to Flight Sergeant and had finally reached my 17th birthday when a friend at Westhill Collegiate High School (Morningside Avenue) named Tom Fury (some of you will recognize this name) approached me to join the Army Reserve. I didn’t know much about the reserve but after hearing some of his stories I decided to give it a try. So off to Moss Park Armouries (from Westhill) we went.

The building was huge and full of activity: orders being given (especially from this tall guy with a big groomed mustache and wearing a uniform that had creases that would cut you and boots that looked like mirrors), platoon sections moving in response, everyone using this completely strange rifle with a big box thing hanging below it and everyone wearing these strange army fatigues… wow, what a time warp of the senses.

The next week I decided to join the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada at Moss Park (and not that other unit across the floor that wore some kind of dress, good unit I am sure but not my cup-of-tea).

Training started almost immediately. Thank god for my cadet drill training but never-the-less, it was faster drill then I was prepared for, way faster…

After being issued my uniforms and equipment, then they had us march down to the weapons lock up to be issued a rifle. When the MCpl recorded the serial number and had me sign for it, he handed me this weird weapon which I later learned was the FNC1A1. A 7.62 calibre, gas operated, semi-automatic rifle.

I didn’t even know how to properly carry it, assemble or disassemble it. The person assigned with ensuring I had all the knowledge needed for the FN was taught by WO Jerry Senetchko. He was the rifleman of riflemen. He was a crack shot and an excellent example of a Canadian soldier that I wanted to follow. To be honest, in my early days with him, he put the fear of god in me at so many levels that I would rather have been shot by the enemy then fear the wrath that would come down upon me from him if I screwed up. That being said, I later found out that there was someone even worse: that person was CSM Eric Simundson. The CSM was a man who commanded utmost respect and would not let a single error pass. He was absolutely confident on all matters of military life especially when it came to his regiment, the QOR. All members of the regiment would ‘tighten up’ when he was nearby.

One range weekend at the Niagara-on-the-Lake military rifle range, we had just finished a late afternoon shoot. While surrounded by other fellow riflemen, the CSM shouted “Harrison, clean my rifle’. I sharply retrieved his rifle and got straight to work. While everyone watched, I went to tap the butt of the rifle to assist with the opening of the rifle when what do you hear, but a loud ‘cuuurrrrackkkk’ as his rifle stock split right up the middle to the receiver and fell in two pieces. There was a deathly pause broken by “Steve, it was pleasure knowing you, for you are about to die’.

There are many members of the Queen’s Own that have had a major influence on my life but the individuals that I must mention are; Brian Budden, Ralph Schoenig, Harry McCabe and Rob Chan. They have always been strong leaders and have always provided the necessary guidance to us to be good soldiers.

In the summer of 1973, we attended summer training in Petawawa. Many regiments were represented, and good training was received. For the final exercise the QOR were advancing towards the RCR (enemy). We were supported by artillery and air support (specifically CF-5 Freedom Fighters). On a low pass, I was waist deep with my FN over my head in some swamp water when the aircraft came over rather low and fast. I thought at that moment I wish I was in cockpit flying rather than being in a swamp, cold and wet…maybe someday.

The QOR later proved to be the best regiment that summer and we went on to win the Coffin Trophy. It was a great honour to be part of that.

The Queen’s Own has an outstanding history as Canada’s oldest regiment. The regiment has participated in and has been awarded several battle honours through the years to include the Boar War, many WWI and WWII engagements such as Vimy, Passchendaele, Normandy Landing and Calais. They also included recent participation in Afghanistan. One battle honour that caught the attention of CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) was that of the North-West Rebellion in 1885 at Cut Knife Hill. Mr. Pierre Burton wrote a book called “The National Dream” about building a railway across Canada. The book became an eight-part television series.

Re-enacting the North West Field Force

The Queen’s Own Rifles was approached and asked if they would participate in the series illustrating the movement of troops through Canada’s north to the battle site. Now as a member of the QOR’s Regimental Pioneers and Skirmishers, I was able to be involved with the filming (a budding star sort-of-speak). During one of the several sequences of filming, there was a scene where we were conducting close order drill inside the old CBC complex. The stage was set for a realistic training environment with snow falling and temperatures below zero Celsius. The director at the time, approach RSM Eric Simundson and asked if he could ‘dress up’ a soldier for doing something wrong during the drill. Well, I was catching the sling of my Snider Enfield rifle. So, I became the target of his wrath once more. Even when he was acting, he would put the fear of god into you. Filming the movie was a great experience and a close representation of what the regiment endured back 1885.

Many of the members of the regiment, myself included, were police officers or firemen for Toronto and surrounding areas. I was enrolled into the Metropolitan Toronto Police Force in 1974 and later resigned in 1979. During those years, I was assigned to 55 division located in the Beaches area of Toronto. Being a police officer in Toronto during those years was exciting to say the least. An officer could find himself involved in many various activities such as undercover work, uniformed patrol, walking a beat on the Danforth, or simply directing traffic at the CNE Princess Gates during the summer. Often, the schedule would conflict with parade night with QOR, so I had to balance my QOR training with my police schedule.

One fateful weekend I decided to help instruct our newest members of the regiment during an exercise north of Toronto. We took several vehicles and various weapons with us for the training. One of the old transport trucks (deuce and a half) had some reported issues with steering but was found to be serviceable. After the training was complete, we headed back to Toronto on the Sunday afternoon. I sat in the back of this truck with the recruits. I was sitting on the right side by the tailgate as we drove south bound in the middle lane of the Don Valley Parkway just north of Bloor St. Located on the same side of the truck but leaning in the corner near the cab was Rifleman R.N. Gurung. He was trying to catch some much-needed sleep after a hard weekend. Suddenly, the vehicle seemed to turn out of control to the right at highway speed, crossing the shoulder lane and slammed into the guard rail. The rail was the only thing stopping the huge truck from falling 20 plus feet into the valley below. We continued to bounce along the rail. The combination of the truck height and the slope of the soft shoulder caused the right-side bench to sit over the guard rail with a significant angle. I am now looking at all recruits and ordering them on the floor of the truck as we continued south over the rail. In the flash of a second, a straight standing lamp post hit and tore through the right side. At that instance, I was looking at Rifleman Gurung when he fell onto the floor, thinking for a moment that he was responding to my order. The truck finally came to a stop just south of Bloor St. My next order was telling everyone to exit the truck and rally off the highway just north of where we stopped. Everyone exited promptly but there was Rifleman Gurung lying motionless on the floor. I immediately went to the emergency call box and stated “listen carefully, I am a police office located on the DVP just south of Bloor, I need an ambulance RIGHT NOW …. “. It seemed that the entire city exploded with the sounds of sirens. An ambulance quickly arrived on the scene and subsequently rushed Gurung to St Michaels hospital on Queen Street. A point of note is that the first police officer to arrive was one Larry Hicks (I believe he was a MCpl in the QOR at that time). Later, at Rifleman Gurung’s funeral, I met his parents and only then realized that his father was a Parking Control Officer at 54 Division that I worked with often. I was filled with sadness for his family that day.

During my days with the Police Force, I was able to save a bit of money and decided to drive to Oshawa Airport to take a ‘familiarization flight’ in a Cessna 172. A tall, well dressed Newfoundlander with a small set of civilian pilot wings approached me asking me if he could help. I stated that I did some glider flying when I was a young cadet and that I wanted to pursue my interest in flying and maybe getting my private licence. Before I could change my mind, we were in the aircraft climbing towards Port Perry. Once at level flight, he carefully allowed me to have control for some very gentle turns, climbs and descents. The flight seemed to have lasted only 10 minutes but it probably lasted over an hour. I was hooked and decide to commit to getting my licence and that he (Roger Eastman) would be my instructor. After that, every opportunity I had, I was at the Oshawa Flying Club learning how to fly as fast as my savings would allow. After a year of working hard, I was now a licenced pilot.

The police force was starting to be an issue with them taking most of my time off for court, extra duties and such. One good thing that came from the police force was my wife. I had a driver stopped on east bound Queen St E near Kingston Rd. After releasing the driver, my partner and I began to walk back to the car. The next thing we see is a white car pulling in behind us. Because the police lights were still on, she thought it was a spot check. On that cool September night, the police jacket I was wearing popped a button that went through her window, straight into her top and disappeared out of site for obvious reasons. She looked at me and I stated that I couldn’t have planned it better. A year later we married, and she has been with me all these years.

One night on patrol, my partner and I were working the ‘gun car’. The car is equipped with additional equipment and some extra firepower to handle adverse situations. We received a call to quickly respond to the Benlamond Hotel and Bar on Kingston Rd for a man caring a gun. I was first into the bar. Based on the description given on the radio, I identified the person in amongst 20+ near a pool table. Besides the description, he was the only man in the bar pointing a .44 at me (who would have thought…). My partner was close behind me. I froze, did NOT reach for my gun as it was in a locked covered cross draw holster (he had the draw on me already). I stated that “son, you are in trouble but not the real trouble if you decide to shoot me” at which point my partner exposed the 12-gauge shot gun from behind his leg. After what seemed to be forever, he placed the gun on the pool table and we then arrested him. It wasn’t until that moment that I noticed that the room was completely empty. The 20+ people headed for whatever cover they could find. My focus was on the end of his barrel. I don’t know why, but a .44 looks like the business end of a howitzer during times like these.

After finally going to court on this case, he was given only a few months in jail when he should have received several years. I saw him on the Danforth not much long after he was released. I was so upset that I decided the police force was not for me due to the lack of support by the court system for such cases and decided to release. A fellow police officer asked me what I was going to do for work, I had no idea. He asked “Steve, don’t you have a pilot licence? “. “Did you know the Canadian Forces are looking for pilots right now? “. I promptly walked into 4900 Yonge Street Recruiting. After several months of testing and evaluation I was given a two week notice to get my butt out to Chilliwack, BC to begin basic officer training and to be enrolled and employed as a pilot if I passed all jet training in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

I found basic training to be relatively easy due to my background with the QOR. During one class about various weapons, Sergeant Marsh (drill sergeant) pulled two recruits from the class to perform a strip and re-assemble of the FN…blind folded.  As the class watched in disbelief, I remember methodically breaking down the weapon and re-assemble as quickly as possible. I heard on person say “gee, I cant do it that fast in daylight “.

I finally arrived in Moose Jaw to commence jet training. The training was exciting, and I took to flying jets as if it was meant to be. On completion of pilot training, they determine what aircraft you are best suited for based on flying ability and academics. As a result of being the oldest at 27 on course, and had some life experiences already behind me, they felt I was best suited to fly the CP-140 Aurora Anti-Submarine Aircraft. This aircraft is a 4-engine monster full of computers and sensors that are used to search for hostile submarines, search and rescue as well as fisheries and Canadian coastline patrols.

My first official posting as a 1st Officer on Auroras was to Comox, BC. It was great tour and we found our fair share of soviet submarines and other activities off of Canada’s western coastline. After a short five (5) years I was now in charge of a crew and an aircraft commander.

However, the military loves to post people. I asked the career manager if they could post me to fighters before I was too old (certainly a young man’s game). They decided that it would be better if I went back to Moose Jaw to instructor new pilots on the CT-114 Tutor (same aircraft used by the Snowbirds today).

Moose Jaw proved to be a good three (3) year posting but I still felt the need to fly fighters. Once again, the career manager stepped in but this time he had a compromise that I might be interested in: not fighters but something very close. I was to be selected as Canada’s representative to the United States Airforce to teach their qualified pilots to be instructors in San Antonio Texas. The USAF flews a supersonic trainer called a T-38 Talon (seen in the movie Apollo 13). The T-38 Talon and the CF-5a Freedom Fighter are built on the same airframe but are painted and configured differently for the role that they are to fill. The T-38 was also painted with ‘U.S. AIR FORCE’ on both sides.

In order to achieve this, I was sent to Cold Lake, AB to learn how to fly the CF-5 fighter before going south. It only took about one week of ground training and four (4) flights in the jet with instructor before I was sent up flying solo in a single seat CF-5a equipped with all the bomb rails, nose gun and air-to-air refueling probe on the front. Here I was, 17 years later, in a CF-5a at about 20000 feet and moving at 350 knots (about 320 mph) when I suddenly remembered my days in the swamp looking upward. It was that moment when I realized I had filled my dream despite the 3500 hours I had already gained on many aircraft before then. This was the one moment that meant everything to me.

I reported to 560 Squadron “Chargin’ Cheetahs” at Randolph AFB, Texas. I relieved the Canadian who was currently in position and quickly became a member of the squadron. Other countries were also represented there including the UK one of which was a Flight Lieutenant, named Stuart Reid (who later returned to the UK to fly their memorial Lancaster Bomber).

I was in 560 Sqn during the height of Desert Storm. During one flight over the state of Texas, Air Traffic Control had stated that the ground war for Desert Storm had started. My student and I returned to Randolph for a full stop landing. As I pulled up to my assigned parking position, I noticed that there was a Humvee with two well-armed Marines. I was still strapped into my ejection seat while the engines were winding down and my canopy was coming up when they approached my left side. “Sir, are you Captain Harrison of the Canadian Airforce?”. “Yes” “well you are to come with us!” “Why, am I under arrest?”, “No, on the contrary, we have had a bomb threat because of the war and we are here to protect you because of your foreign diplomatic status here”. “Well, what about my student?” “No” they responded “he can walk. “

Needless to say, it was a great tour and I returned to Canada. I continued to fly in various aircraft gaining much experience along the way.

One such experience was being assigned to a twelve (12) man team for a ‘Risk Analysis’ study. They needed people from various trades, and I was to fill the fixed-wing pilot position. The study was to analyse the risk that was endured by trades during operations around the world. During this twelve (12) month study, we would participate and perform the key trades in all three (3) elements: Navy, Army, Air. During this time, I was able to fire artillery (155 m), lay mines with engineers, take part in a fighting patrol with the RCR, command a destroyer (under the watchful eye of the real commander), fly F-18s, fly the CP-140 Aurora (again) and also go to Bosnia.

While I was in Bosnia, I was designated as “Defence Personal Special Security (DPSS)” which required an escort by two members of the PPCLI. I had my own 9mm while on patrol, but they had C7s and C9s. One night the Warrant Officer stated that we were going to a town that had been destroyed during the war but was still occupied. The night before, a small Canadian Patrol was ‘bullied’ by some tough guys in a small bar located near the town. We pulled up to the front of the bar and the escort Warrant Officer got out of the LAV. Unknown to him, I also got out of the LAV and followed inside only to see several people enjoying some beer, but specifically 3-5 members of the local mafia at this one table with their AK-47s leaned against the wall. It was deep inside the bar when the WO noticed I was there. He paused but a second but continued to the table, spoke to them in a deep tone saying we are Canadians and we don’t frighten easy. He banged the table with his hip, sending beer everywhere. I thought “OMG, a gun fight , here we go”. But nothing. We returned to the vehicle. Once inside the LAV, he unloaded on me in anger. “What the hell did you think you were doing?” I replied “I cannot evaluate the risk unless I am also exposed to the same risk, besides, I am a former Toronto Police Officer and a former member of the Queen’s Own….don’t piss me off”. We were now close friends.

I have often wondered what career success I would have had if I had stayed with the army rather than the air force. Through all my day, the QOR has always been the basis of my military life. This was the constant composure I carried with me when later years I was deployed to Afghanistan (Nov 2009 – Oct 2020). I filled the role at the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) as J3 Aviation (J3AVN) (Air Operations to the Battle Commander in Kandahar) and I was also double hatted as the Tactical Aviation Lessons Learned Officer (TALLO). Many of you who were deployed to Afghanistan know very well the daily threats and dangers while we carried out our duties. We were only a moment away from harms’ way. Many of us returned to our families without injury. Unfortunately, many of our countrymen and women did not have such luck. As I sat in the TOC, many a moment of calm was interrupted by a 9-liner message or TIC (Troops in Contact). As Air Ops, we were responsible for all Canadian fixed-wing and helicopter air assets for air support to allied ground troops in our district. On a daily basis, we sent CH-147 Chinooks and CH-146 Griffons towards the FOBs (Forward Operating Bases) for transport, operations, supply however when a TIC or 9-liner came in, everything becomes very serious.

In most cases, TICs and 9-liners involved ground forces in the battle area during operations, however on one day that all changed.

On 05 August 2010, we had scheduled a typical three (3) ship of helos to move through the battle space to the various FOBs dropping off troops, supplies and water. This particular flight was comprised of one CH-147 Chinook and two escort CH-146 Griffons. The CH-147 was being flown by Captain Feilding while one of the escort CH-146 Griffons was being flown by our very own wing commander, Col Drouin.

As they were approaching a FOB and were in somewhat of a vulnerable state of flight (low, heavy, slow) they were engaged by enemy forces and subsequently received sufficient damage creating an onboard fire. Captain Fielding (later commended and decorated for his immediate actions) managed to land the aircraft quickly thereby saving the lives of all those on board.

[Note: Then QOR Corporal Chris Hinds was a door gunner on the Chinook helicopter that was forced to land and was mentioned in dispatches for his efforts in evacuating the burning chopper.]

The TOC was informed of the TIC and 9-liner which caused us to immediately scramble additional escort helicopter aircraft for air support. The United States Airforce CASEVAC and MEDEVAC H-60 helicopters were also scrambled to support and render assistance to the injured. The TOC further directed that the local FOB deploy their Quick Reaction Team (QRT) ground forces to support and secure the area from a possible continued enemy contact.

Upon return, Col Drouin approach Captain Dan Belanger (CF-18 pilot working as Flight Safety) and myself and told us to tac up with our gear and go to the crash site via CH-146 Griffon to capture information, analysis and lessons learned. He further stated that we were going in hot, standby for close contact. Before we could depart, the QRT stated all was secured and further support was no longer needed at this time.

Throughout the tour, such contacts (both air and ground events) would result in unwanted deaths of our troops. It always followed by the late parade ceremony with us on parade and saluting the fallen as they were ceremoniously carried in a Canadian Flag draped coffin followed by a lone piper onto a C-130 Hercules or a CC-177 Globemaster for their final ride home.

On one such occasion we were dismissed and were returning to the base, I turned and saw the proud and easily identifiable maple leaf of a Queen’s Own Rifles cap badge. I made it a point of introducing myself as current air force member but definitely a former member of the Queen’s Own. We had a great meeting and were immediately brothers-in-arms. I asked if he knew Captain Andrew (Andy) Sarossy. He stated that if fact he was on the same rotation but was in Kabul. It would have been great to have seen him again, especially in theatre, but it was not to happen. Andy and I went to Reforger 5 in Germany together in 1973. Great memories.

Our wing rotation was noted as being the largest and most flexible air wing in recent times while employed in an area of operations. To capture those experiences and lessons learned, I wrote a book called “Project Laminar Strike“ for Post Op Athena (ISBN 978-1-100-54041-2) which was commissioned by the Canadian Forces Aerospace Warfare Center (CFAWC Trenton). This was an opportunity to capture the input and experiences of everyone who served in the Air Wing during that roto.

While on the ‘Road-to-High-Readiness’ for Afghanistan, we conducted many high-level meetings to ensure we were ready to go. One objective was to try to engage all capabilities of the Airforce: transport, fighters, helicopters, unmanned airborne vehicles (UAVs), etc.

One capability that was talked about but not engaged was Search and Rescue in a combat SAR role as the USAF did during TICs and 9-liners. The observation was recorded but never acted upon.

I soon returned to Canada to now work with 1 Canadian Air Division in Search and Rescue as a staff officer for systems and readiness. This position required knowledge of all aspects in aviation both fixed-wing and helicopters. It also required sound knowledge in all policies and procedures that would maintain sound response capability in all regions of the country. It was now June of 2011 when A3 SAR Lieutenant-Colonel Lalonde approached me asking about my experience in Afghanistan and my connection with helicopters. He determined that it was sufficient enough for the task that needed my somewhat reasonable skill sets. However, since I had just returned from a lengthy tour in Afghanistan, we needed General level authorization for me to be deployed again within a year after my return overseas. He instructed that we would be heading to Ottawa (from Winnipeg) to attend a high-level meeting in CEFCOM (Canadian Expeditionary Force Command).

The task was to support LCol Lalonde as Air Operations officer in Canada’s support to Jamaica during the upcoming hurricane season. Jamaica had reported that the entire helicopter force operated by the Jamaican Defence Force (JDF) was grounded for various reasons. To support, we ordered an Antonov 128 cargo plane and loaded up three (3) CH-146 SAR helicopters for transport from Trenton to Kingston Jamaica for immediate employment. I directed that the helicopters be drawn from SAR Squadrons as they are yellow, where army helos are camouflage green. In Jamaica, the JDV supports the police during drug raids etc. and are fired upon often. We raised a force of 65 members of various ground trades and aircrew to fly on Air Canada to Kingston for a four-month deployment (tough life I know but someone had to do it, why not us…).

Once down there, my briefing to all of the staff aircrew was that we would use the term “SAFIRE” (Surface to Air Fire) (as we referred to it in Afghanistan) if they were engaged for some reason. They were instructed to break contact and clear the area as they can’t stay and fight anyway then land safely to check for damage or injury before returning to base. Thank god we never had to use this procedure.

Once we were declared IOC (Initial Operation Capable) we were task to our first incident, a boy in Montego Bay with life threatening injuries. SAR deployed to Montego to stabilize him then return him to the Kingston hospital. We continued to various country wide support roles of SAR and humanity while we waited for the inevitable hurricanes to arrive, but they never came. Not a single hurricane hit Jamaica or its surrounding territories during our stay. The word quickly went out to the Jamaican Government to request the Canadians during future hurricane seasons to keep them away. During our deployment in Jamaica, Canada and her Search and Rescue capabilities were still responsible for rescuing and saving 31 lives. Our deployment was later awarded the SAR Mynarski Trophy for our actions.

I soon retired from the Canadian Forces after a combined 42 years of service with the Queen’s Own Rifles and the air force.

As recent as 27 Oct 2020, I was returning from Winnipeg via Highway 11 through Latchford Ontario when my cell phone email sounded. It was retired Regimental Sergeant Major Rob Chan asking me if I would be interested in writing this article to reflect on my continued connection with QOR and how my path has crossed so many on similar circumstances through my career. Only a few kilometers later did I realize that I was in Sergeant Audrey Cosens VC hometown and crossing the large bridge dedicated to such an outstanding individual. The connection and bond with the QOR will never break for me.

I continue to look back on my years of service, and have come to know many incredible people, soldiers, aircrew and leaders in my day. One thing that stands absolute, the military has been the foundation of my life and what I stand for: country before self, family is always first, and respect those you have served with for their sacrifice.

It is with honour that I can call you all my brothers.

Weapons of The QOR

Watch our museum Weapons Officer Rob Grieve presents some of the weapons that The Queen’s Own Rifles have used throughout their history.

Please also take a moment to subscribe to our Museum’s YouTube channel if you have not already done so!

The Evolution of the Rifleman’s Uniform 1860-1900’s

Thanks to the hard work of our museum volunteer team and despite pandemic restrictions, the museum has produced this short video on the evolution of our uniform over much of our history.

In particular our thanks to:

  • Sergeant Graham Humphrey
  • Colin Sedgewick-Pinn
  • Steven Hu
  • Steven Ye
  • Anne Fraser

Bill McAndrew: Part I

Bill McAndrew joined the army at age 17, was commissioned the following year and served the next eleven years as an infantry officer in Canada, Korea, Germany and Ghana. On leaving the army, a high school dropout, he attended Glendon College, York University as a mature student and gained his doctorate at the University of British Columbia. McAndrew taught at the University of Maine at Orono and directed that university’s Canadian Studies programme before joining the Directorate of History in Ottawa from which he retired in 1996. His particular interest has been in the battlefield behaviour of soldiers.

This is an excerpt of an article which originally appeared in Canadian Military History, Autumn 2013 issue and is reprinted with permission of the author. 

Joining the Army

I joined the army in October 1951. My motivation was not unusual, I expect, in those days. I spent my adolescence in wartime Halifax and Charlottetown where I had been an army cadet and both a reserve soldier and sailor. But the primary drive was need; there were few opportunities for a high school drop-out on the Island short of Toronto factories or the military. Besides the Korean war was on and adventure loomed.

So after a summer as a sailor, and a voyage on HMCS Swansea to
Britain at the time of the Festival of Britain, I made my way across Canada and was lucky when I went into Vancouver’s No. 11 Personnel Depot. The recruiting sergeant, Smokey Smith whose Victoria Cross ribbon was unmistakable, asked me if I wanted to go to Officer Candidate School [OCS] . I didn’t know what that entailed but said sure and assured him that I was eighteen, really seventeen, and had grade 12, which I hadn’t. He completed the paperwork, I was sworn in and in a few days was off by train for Camp Borden. Many years later I learned the cause of the casual recruiting; each depot had a monthly OCS quota to fill and at the end of October No. 11 needed bodies.

The train took me to Toronto,  then a local went north to Angus near Camp Borden and knee deep in snow. A truck met the train and dropped me and the small cardboard suitcase holding my worldly possessions at the Orderly Room where my army career began with a bang. Sergeants pounced and I was on a non-stop run for several days until the course started. Run to the quartermaster stores, run to quarters, run to meals, run to nowhere and back again.

The training programme to produce a second lieutenant was two months at OCS, three months at a corps school, three months with a regular army unit as an understudy, and a final three months back at the corps school. The initial OCS phase was to select out – the failure rate was around 70 percent – and gauge suitability. For me it was also basic army training that most of the others had not only completed but instructed. The tenor was to push us as far as possible, physically, psychologically, emotionally, to see how we reacted and if we persevered. There was only one other direct entry young guy like myself in the course the rest being veteran NCOs going for a commission. Failures could be voluntary, for example, an RCR {Royal Canadian Regiment] warrant officer who left because he preferred being a company sergeant major to a second lieutenant platoon commander, or by decree as when the other direct entry wasn’t there one morning.

I managed to survive. My roommate was Jack Hanley an RCR sergeant and tough veteran who adopted me and guided me through bad patches. It helped that I had hunted deer and rabbits and birds as a kid so was familiar with weapons and the woods. Several group leadership exercises that seemed pointless were duly noted by strange officers with notepads. For the rest I just did what seemed needed. One obstacle course I recall had three tunnels running off a covered hole in the ground. You dropped in, were told to find a way out, and the hole was covered. Two of the holes led nowhere. The third arced downhill into water that rose the further you went. There was light further on but the last few metres to the outlet were almost completely under water. I reckoned that they wouldn’t want to fish out a corpse so kept going. I imagine its purpose was to test for claustrophobia.

We were in the midst of drill training for our passing out parade towards the end of December when I was told to report to the CO’s office. This was scary as he was a godlike figure totally remote from my experience. The RSM, Mickey Austin who wore a MC ribbon from his time with the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, marched me in and the CO, Mike Dare, asked about my age and education. I told him the truth, fortunately, as he had a background check on his desk. He gave me two choices: be discharged, or revert back to the next course when I would be eighteen and of age. The thought of repeating the course was not exactly welcome but the alternative of being turned loose in the middle of a very rough winter was even less so. So I chose to repeat the course and he gave me a few days leave over Christmas.

My new roommate, Pat Paterson, had fought in Normandy with the Sherbrooke Regiment. During a Staff College battlefield study in Normandy a few incarnations later one of the veterans on the study, Syd Radley Walters, told me that Pat had commanded a Firefly 17-pounder gun Sherman tank in his squadron near Cintheaux on the road between Caen and Falaise on the morning of 8 August 1944. This was at the end of the first phase of Operation Totalize when four German Tiger tanks counter-attacked. All four were destroyed, one of which was commanded by the German ace, Michael Wittman, who earlier had single-handedly stopped a British Armoured Brigade. One claimant for the hit was a rocket-firing Typhoon, and another a British tank squadron on the east side of the road, but Rad was convinced that it was Patterson who got him.

The second course went more easily than the first. My birthday duly came, I graduated soon after and moved down the road to the School of Infantry. Why infantry I now wonder. I was strangely influenced by Charles McDonald’s, Company Commander, his memoir of the awful operations in the Huertrgan Forest and an account that should have driven anyone but a naive romantic to a safer job. In any case that two month course was a snap compared to OCS. We learned minor tactics, fired a variety of weapons, threw grenades, choked on gas, drove several types of vehicles including bren gun carriers which we jumped over high embankments making sure to keep the tracks moving quickly to ease the drops. In early May I was posted to 3 RCR in Wainwright where it was preparing to go to Korea.

Wainwright was at that time very basic, a few buildings and lots of bush. The battalion was trying to organize itself despite the chaos at that time that left hundreds of recruits unaccounted for, some coming in and leaving at will after getting clothing and a few meals. I was supposed to understudy an experienced officer but there were none around so I got my own platoon of brand new recruits. Soon after getting kitted out we joined the rest of the battalion for a lengthy exercise in the bush starting with a twenty mile march. With no NCO’s I had a Second War vet among them act as platoon sergeant. It was a rough beginning for unconditioned troops with new boots but we survived to reach a lake out there somewhere where I had the platoon strip and marched them into the water for a swim.

We scrambled through the summer, me learning an awful lot from the innumerable mistakes I was bound to make. We made one long compass march across trackless country towards another lake that felt like a real accomplishment when we made it within a couple of hundred yards of our aiming point. The CO, Ken Campbell, visited and must have been highly relieved that this novice had not killed someone or become hopelessly lost. That night we bivouacked on the shore and were awakened by a yowling that turned out to be a band of coyotes running through us. Later in the summer we went up to Jasper where a training camp had been set up in hills and mountains that resembled those in Korea. It was a valuable experience in preparing us for moving with full kit through the rough terrain we did find in Korea.

It was, for me, a productive time. I’m not as sure for the platoon. They were in the 3 RCR company that fought the last unit action in Korea when they were hit one night by a large Chinese attack. Several were killed, more wounded and others taken prisoner. I can’t help wondering about the training for which I had been responsible.

Part II – Joining the 2nd Canadian Rifles and The Queen’s Own Rifles.

Virtutis Gloria Merces – Glory, The Reward of Virtue

by guest author Capt. B. E. Taylor, CD, MA (Ret’d)

Note that this was originally written as a university course paper and consequently follows a fairly rigid referencing protocol.  

William Kimber. Hart House and Soldiers’ Tower. May 15, 2009. Accessed June 16, 2020.

War memorials are meant to commemorate the sacrifices that have preceded their erection.  Particularly for those commemorating the dead of the Great War, they address “some of the complex issues of victimhood and bereavement.[1]  “Glory, the reward of virtue” is a translation of the Latin inscription on a carillon bell in the University of Toronto’s Soldiers’ Tower, which commemorates the university’s war dead,[2]  and suggests a linkage between sacrifice and redemption.


The bells in Soldiers Tower, University of Toronto.

Soldiers’ Tower is evidence that government (at all its levels) and the state are not, nor should they be, the only sources of memory and mourning.  The human sacrifices of war “should never be collapsed into a set of stories formed by or about the state,” and the erection of local and private war memorials helps to bring a local context to the lesions brought by total war.[3]

Other examples in Toronto of such non-public monuments include the war memorials of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada and the 48th Highlanders of Canada.  Both units perpetuate overseas battalions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

15th Battalion CEF (perpetuated by the 48th) marching out of Germany on the road between Esbach and Bensberg, 8 January, 1919

3rd (Toronto) Battalion, largely drawn from the Queen’s Own Rifles, crossing the border into Germany on 4 December 1918.

The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada Memorials

Under the chairmanship of Sir Henry Pellatt, the Q.O.R. Ex-Members’ Association was formed October 1, 1916 on his initiative with the primary purpose of sending food and clothing to men of the QOR battalions overseas who had become prisoners-of-war.  It fell dormant after the war but was revived March 8, 1922 with Major General W. D. Otter acting as Chairman, and by March 1923 a Memorial Building Fund had been established.  A decision was made to construct a monument in Queen’s Park instead of erecting a building. That was logical, as the regiment was headquartered just down the street at the University Avenue (Toronto) Armoury located between Armoury and Queen Streets.

University Avenue Armouries

Later still, with the approval of the Rector and Wardens of St. Paul’s Anglican Church, 227 Bloor St. East, it was decided that a regimental memorial would be built at St. Paul’s, the Regimental Church.[4]  That conveniently obviated the need to find a site for a suitable monument, particularly given that the 48th Highlanders already had a monument in Queen’s Park.

The regiment also perpetuates the 3rd, 83rd, 95th, 166th, 198th, and 255th Battalions, Canadian Expeditionary Force.

Financing was handled by The Queen’s Own Rifles Memorial Association, a special body created early in 1928 with Brigadier-General J. G. Langton as its President.  The most publicly visible part of the memorial, a Cross of Remembrance, was unveiled and dedicated by the Rector of St. Paul’s, a former regimental chaplain, on October 18, 1931[5].

In its churchyard setting the widely recognizable regimental Cross of Sacrifice speaks for itself as a memorial to those who fought and died during the Great War (and subsequent actions).[6]  The memorial cross is modelled after the Cross of Sacrifice designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield for the Imperial War Graves Commission (now Commonwealth War Graves Commission) in 1918 that is a part of Commonwealth war cemeteries containing 40 or more graves.  The Cross is the most imitated symbol used on Commonwealth memorials[7] .

Base of the QOR Cross of Sacrifice.

Like the original, the QOR cross has a bronze longsword, blade down, mounted on the front of the cross and sits atop an octagonal base.  The Latin cross represents the faith of the majority of the dead and the sword indicates the military nature of the monument.[8]  The Cross is constructed on granite, with reproductions of the regimental and battalion badges on the base and the battle honours from two world wars[9] represented on the plinth and sub-base[10].

A Book of Sacrifice listing members of the regiment who have been killed on service is kept at the Regimental Church, St. Paul’s Anglican.

Inside the church is a small chapel to the rear of the main chancel (west side), dedicated on March 13, 1932.  A carved alabaster table stands on a granite platform (Plate 8) with a glass-topped bronze casket containing the Book of Remembrance atop it.  The names of all QOR soldiers who lost their lives in their country’s service from the Fenian Raid of 1866 to the Korean War are inscribed in the Book.[11]

At each church service at which the regiment is on parade a special party of officers and non-commissioned officers escorts the book to the front of the church.  It is presented to the Commanding Officer, who hands it to the Rector, and it is placed on the alter during the service.  The book is returned to its place of honour at the conclusion of the service.[12]

There being no colours because the QOR is a Rifle Regiment, the Book of Remembrance is the symbol of the regiment’s honour and the memory of “Fallen Comrades,”[13] held by the Church wardens for safekeeping.  Parading the book before the regiment shows the Wardens have fulfilled their trust and that the care of the book and honour are in the hands of all ranks of the regiment.  The Commanding Officer’s handling of the book symbolizes his personal responsibility and its return to the Wardens symbolizes their acceptance of responsibility for safekeeping.[14]

48th Highlanders of Canada Memorials

As with the Queen’s Own memorial, a general aversion toward war prevalent in the 1920s and early 1930s influenced the design of the 48th Highlanders monument and neither is suggestive of a spirit of militarism.  Their inspiration was clearly mourning the dead rather than celebrating military achievements.  Neither mimics Victorian battle monuments nor relies on images from archaic allegory.[15]

The 48th Highlanders perpetuate the 15th, the 92nd and 134th reinforcement battalions, CEF, and the equivalent of two more battalions sent as companies to other units.

A regimental memorial designed by Capt. Eric W. Haldenby[16] was unveiled by Governor-General Baron Byng at the Armistice Day parade in 1923.  The granite column which marks the deaths of 61 officers and 1,406 non-commissioned officers and men of the regiment, was funded by friends, members, and former members and raised during the previous summer. Unlike reliance on an almost universal form for Great War monuments (the Cross of Sacrifice), the 48th Highlanders memorial tried for an aesthetic that would combine a geometric abstraction and a figurative realism (Plate 9).  The obelisk was also an accepted part of the funerary sculpture lexicon.[17]

The South African War Memorial, built in 1910 in remembrance of Canadian participation in the Boer War, stands in the centre of University Avenue just north of Queen Street West in Toronto. The designer, Walter Seymour Allward, is perhaps best known for his Vimy Memorial in France.

The 48th Highlanders monument stands at the north end, or head, of Queen’s Park and looks up Avenue Road.[18]  That location was ideal because like the Queen’s Own, the 48th Highlanders were located in the University Avenue Armoury to the south.  The boulevard opposite the armoury already had several monuments, including the Sons of England Roll of Honour, also unveiled in 1923,[19] and the South African (Boer War) Memorial at the Queen Street intersection[20].

Inscription on 48th Highlanders Monument in Queen’s Park

The 48th memorial site in Queen’s Park was selected because it would be viewed by all south-bound traffic on Queen’s Park Circle as the roadway splits around the park.  The monument has replicas of the Regimental crest carved on each side.  These bear the words “15th Canadian Battalion,” “134 Overseas,” and “92 Overseas” on the south, east, and west sides, respectively.  A carving of a Christian Cross of Sacrifice tops each side.

Some of the 48th Highlanders First World War Battle Honours on the Memorial Monument

An inscription on the (north) face reads: “DILEAS GU BRATH 1914-­1918 To the glorious memory of those who died and to the undying honour of those who served—this is erected by their Regiment—the 48th Highlanders of Canada”[21] (Plate 11). A scabbarded sword is also carved into the stone.  Just as with the QOR Cross of Sacrifice, the 48th Highlanders’ battle honours are inscribed around the monument’s faces[22].

Unlike the Queen’s Own Rifles’ memorial, the 48th Highlanders’ tribute to its fallen is divided between the public monument and a separate accolade in its regimental church elsewhere.  Having split twice over issues in the Church of Scotland and relocating the congregation, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian remained the core of the Town of York’s first Church of Scotland congregation and has been the Highlanders’ regimental church since their founding in 1891.

St. Andrew’s follows the “reformed/ Presbyterian tradition”[23] in worship, of which chapels or shrines like those at St. Paul’s Anglican are not a big part.  Consequently, the regiment’s other memorial at the regimental church is a communion table in the chancel, dedicated on November 11, 1934.  The sergeants of the regiment donated the table in memory of their fallen comrades in World War I and it is now a memorial to the fallen in two world wars and used at every celebration of Holy Communion.

An oak communion table, the gift of the sergeants of the regiment, was dedicated on Remembrance Day, November 11, 1934 by Rev. Dr. Stuart Parker, chaplain of the regiment and minister of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, the regimental church of the 48th Highlanders of Canada.

The oaken table was created by Dr. John A. Pearson,[24] a St. Andrew’s congregant.  There are abutments, about six inches lower, at the ends of the table, and each has an oak top with a plate of glass set into a (lockable) hinged frame.  An inner shelf is approximately 10 inches below the glass on each side, on which lie records.  Like the Queen’s Own Rifles, the 48th Highlanders have a Book of Remembrance.

The right-hand abutment of the communion table contains 25 loose leaf pages listing the names and ranks of 1,818 48th Highlanders dead from the two world wars.  Two pages, with about 120 names in block script, show when the book is open.  The left-hand abutment contains the title page and dedication of the Book of Remembrance on parchment .  The regimental crest and St. Paul’s words “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day and having done all to stand” are carved on the left table abutment.


First World War memorials such as those of the Queen’s Own Rifles and the 48th Highlanders were built in an age of meaninglessness stemming from the recent war and serve to mark the value of individuals.  They are not primarily “grand architectural monuments” (Plate 15) but continue a practice in countries of the Empire and Commonwealth of commemorating their role in 20th century conflicts, but without necessarily a sense of the waste and futility of war.[25]  They stand as evidence that mourners in the postwar period would not have favoured memorial aesthetics that were pure abstraction.  In a sense, they mark for us “a sense that everything is over and done with, that something long since begun is now complete.”[26]

An example of the “grand architectural monument” style favoured for many pre-First World War monuments. Another Walter Allward design, this monument on the University of Toronto campus honours nine Queen’s Own Rifles members, including three University of Toronto students, who fell at the Battle of Ridgeway in June 1866. It was sponsored and paid for by Toronto citizens, and dedicated on 1 July 1870.


Barnard, William T. The Queen’s Own Rifles 1860-1960. Don Mills: Ontario Publishing Company Limited, 1960.

“Battle Honours of the Canadian Army – The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada.” The Regimental Rogue. Accessed June 8, 2020.

Beattie, Kim. 48th Highlanders of Canada 1891­-1928. Toronto: 48th Highlanders of Canada, 1932.

“Book of Remembrance,” The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada Regimental Museum and Archives. Accessed June 8, 2020. 

“Books of Remembrance 1,” Accessed June 8, 2020.

Bradbeer, Janice. “Once Upon A City: Creating Toronto’s Skyline.” Toronto Star, March 24, 2016.

“Canadian Volunteer Memorial.” The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada Regimental Museum and Archives. Accessed June 16, 2020.

Charlebois, Marc. “A Skirmisher from The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada at the Cross of Sacrifice.” Accessed June 16, 2020.

“Communion Table St. Andrew’s Church.” Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation. Accessed June 17, 2020.

“Cross of Sacrifice.” Accessed June 17, 2020.

“Cross of Sacrifice.” Wikipedia. Accessed June 7, 2020.

Farrugia, Peter. “A Small Truce in a Big War: The Historial de La Grande Guerre and the Interplay of History and Memory.” Canadian Military History 22, no. 2, (Spring 2013): 63-76.

“Forever Faithful.” Accessed June 17, 2020.

Gough, Paul. “Canada, Conflict and Commemoration: An Appraisal of the New Canadian War Memorial in Green Park, London, and a Reflection on the Official Patronage of Canadian War Art.” Canadian Military History 5, no. 1, (Spring 1996): 26-34.

“Haldenby, Eric Wilson.” University of Toronto Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering. Accessed June 16, 2020.

“Historic Toronto,” Accessed June 8, 2020.

“John A. Pearson.” Accessed June 8, 2020.

Kimber, William. “Hart House and Soldiers’ Tower.” Accessed June 16, 2020.

Laye, Tim. “Toronto – 48th Highlanders.” Ontario War Memorials. Accessed May 11, 2020.

Nora, Pierre. “General Introduction: Between Memory and History” in Realms of Memory vol. I trans. Arthur Goldhammer, New York: Columbia University Press, 1992.

Pierce, John. “Constructing Memory: The Vimy Memorial.” Canadian Military History 1, no. 1 (1992): 3-5.

“Queen’s Own Rifles Association.” Accessed June 8, 2020.

“Regiment Info.” Canadian Armed Forces. Accessed June 8, 2020. 

“St. Andrew’s Church (Toronto). Sensagent Corporation. Accessed June 8, 2020.

“Soldiers’ Tower Carillon Inscriptions.” University of Toronto. Accessed May 11, 2020.

“Sons of England Memorial.” Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation. Accessed June 8, 2020.

“South African War Memorial (Toronto).” Wikipedia. Accessed June 17, 2020.

Strachan, Hew. 2013. The First World War. New York: Penguin Books.

“The 48th Highlanders Monument Queens Park.” Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation. Accessed June 8, 2020.

“Weekly Services, St. Andrew’s Church.” Accessed June 8, 2020.

Winter, Jay. “The Generation of Memory: Reflections on the ‘Memory Boom’ in Contemporary Historical Studies.” Canadian Military History 10, no. 3, (2001): 57-66.

“48th Highlanders of Canada An Infantry Regiment of Canada’s Primary Reserves.” Canadian Armed Forces. Accessed June 16, 2020.


[1] Jay Winter, “The Generation of Memory: Reflections on the ‘Memory Boom’ in Contemporary Historical Studies.” Canadian Military History 10, no. 3, (2001): 58.

[2] Bell VIII commemorates Lt. James E. Robertson, BA, Ll.B.  Virtutis Gloria Merces is the motto of Clan Robertson (Donnachaidh).

[3] Winter, “Generation of Memory,” 58-59.

[4] The Queen’s Own Rifles was formerly a multi-battalion regular-force regiment, with troops based as far away as Work Point Barracks, Victoria B.C. (now part of CFB Esquimalt).  The regimental depot was in Calgary.

[5] Queen’s Own Rifles Association,

[6] Peter Farrugia, “A Small Truce in a Big War: The Historial de La Grande Guerre and the Interplay of History and Memory.” Canadian Military History 22, no. 2, (Spring 2013): 4.

[7] “Cross of Sacrifice,” Wikipedia, accessed June 7, 2020,

[8] “Cross of Sacrifice,”, accessed June 17, 2020,

[9] As with other Rifle Regiments, a regimental colour is not carried, with the battle honours being painted on regimental drums instead. It was announced on May 9, 2014 that the QOR has subsequently been awarded the “Afghanistan” battle honour because of the numbers of its members that had served in South-West Asia. Battle Honours of the Canadian Army – The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, accessed June 8, 2020,

[10] QORA

[11] Ibid.

[12] “Book of Remembrance,” The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada Regimental Museum and Archives, accessed June 8, 2020, 2019/08/book-of-remembrance.jpg

[13] A traditional toast to Fallen Comrades is given at formal military dinners.

[14] William T. Barnard, The Queen’s Own Rifles 1860-1960 (Don Mills: Ontario Publishing Company Limited, 1960), 133.

[15] John Pierce, “Constructing Memory: The Vimy Memorial.” Canadian Military History 1, no. 1, (1992): 3-4.
Paul Gough, “Canada, Conflict and Commemoration: An Appraisal of the New Canadian War Memorial in Green Park, London, and a Reflection on the Official Patronage of Canadian War Art.” Canadian Military History 5, no. 1, (Spring 1996): 30.

[16] His architectural firm, Mathers and Haldenby (1921-1991), also designed the Toronto head office buildings of Imperial Oil, Bank of Nova Scotia, and The Globe and Mail.
“Haldenby, Eric Wilson,” University of Toronto Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, accessed June 16, 2020,

[17] Kim Beattie, 48th Highlanders of Canada 1891­-1928, (Toronto: 48th Highlanders of Canada, 1932), 425.
Gough, “Canada, Conflict and Commemoration,” 7-8.

[18] Beattie, 48th Highlanders, 425.

[19] “Sons of England Memorial,” Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation, accessed June 8, 2020,

[20] “Historic Toronto,”, accessed June 8, 2020,

[21] Beattie, 426,
“The 48th Highlanders Monument Queens Park,” Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation, accessed June 8, 2020,

[22] After WW II 10 battle honours were added in honour of 351 dead from that conflict.  Like the Queen’s Own Rifles, the 48th Highlanders have subsequently been awarded a battle honour for Afghanistan.
“Battle Honours of the Canadian Army – The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada,” accessed June 8, 2020,
“The 48th Highlanders Monument Queens Park,” Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation, accessed June 8, 2020,

[23] “St. Andrew’s Church (Toronto),” Sensagent Corporation, accessed June 8, 2002,
“Weekly Services, St. Andrew’s Church,”, accessed June 8, 2020,
“48th Highlanders of Canada An Infantry Regiment of Canada’s Primary Reserves,” Canadian Armed Forces, accessed June 16, 2020,
“Weekly Services, St. Andrew’s Church,”

[24] An architect, his other works included several buildings on the University of Toronto campus, the College Wing of Toronto General Hospital, and the “new” Centre Block on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill.
Janice Bradbeer, “Once Upon A City: Creating Toronto’s Skyline,” Toronto Star, March 24, 1016.
“John A. Pearson,”, accessed June 8, 2020,

[25] Hew Strachan, The First World War. (New York: Penguin Books, 2013) 337.

[26] Farrugia, “A Small Truce,” 63
Gough, 33,
Pierre Nora. “General Introduction: Between Memory and History” in Realms of Memory vol. I trans. Arthur Goldhammer, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1992): 1, cited by Farrugia, 2.

Permission is hereby granted to the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada to, with proper acknowledgement, use the following, in whole or in part, for any purpose whatsoever.

The quest for Jack Kavanagh’s last resting place

The amazing story of the identification of an emblematic and bold Canadian soldier whose last resting place was lost for 75 years.

By Francis Bleeker (© FLG Bleeker)


Lieut. Gen. Mart de Kruif speaks about Canadian sacrifices, Canadian War Museum, photo F Bleeker, 4 May 2017

In May 1992 I was seconded to the Dutch 41 Light Brigade in Germany for a major exercise. My new boss was Major Mart de Kruif, a Dutch Grenadier Guards officer, in charge of G3, the Operations section. I was his liaison officer for the duration of the exercise. Exciting times, just after the fall of the Berlin Wall. After my immigration to Canada in 1998 we continue to meet at regimental events. In 2008 he takes command of Regional Command South in Afghanistan and for a whole year works with numerous Canadian staff officers.

Grave of unknown soldier, Steenderen, photo by F Bleeker 2017

Fast forward again and in 2017 now Lieutenant General de Kruif shares a panel with LGen Marc Lessard at the Canadian War Museum to talk about Canadian-Dutch co-operation in Afghanistan and the close ties between the two countries. He then talks about the heroism and the sacrifice of Canadians during the liberation of The Netherlands from the Germans in 1945 and how soldiers of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada are commemorated in Rha, a village close to his home in the Eastern part of The Netherlands. One of them does not have a grave and is remembered on a wall at the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek. In nearby Steenderen there is a grave of an unknown soldier. Local amateur historians think they know who he is: Lieutenant John Gordon Kavanagh of The Queen’s Own Rifles. General Mart recites what is engraved on the monument in Rha: ‘Dying for freedom is not the worst that could happen, being forgotten is.’ Afterwards I agree to delve into this story, do more research, and see what I can come up with.

Who was Jack Kavanagh?

Jack Kavanagh (Photo by permission J.G. Young)

John Gordon Kavanagh, ‘Jack’ to family and friends, was born in Toronto on 20 October 1921, the son of John and Cora Kavanagh. He was the youngest of four children. His brothers and sister were a lot older, the difference with his sister was 13 years, 19 years with his oldest brother. His father was a handyman at Eaton’s and died when Jack was only seven years old. Jack grows up on Sandford Avenue and after 4 years of high school at Riverdale Collegiate, he finds a job in the athletics department at T. Eaton Co Ltd making $18 a week.

On the 10th September 1939 Canada declares war on the German Reich independently from the British Empire. Jack joins The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada (QOR) only eight days after Canada’s declaration of war a month shy of the required age of 18. He may have fudged his date of birth by three months to get in as the date has to be amended in his paperwork later on. Initially The Queen’s Own train in ‘mufti’ because of a shortage of uniforms.

When the unit is mobilized in June 1940 he transfers from the non-permanent active militia to the regular force (CASF) and takes the oath to ‘be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty’. The regiment trains in Toronto before moving to the Dominion of Newfoundland for more training. Jack is part of the regimental boxing team and they win the Divisional Boxing Tournament in May 1941.

Finally in July 1941 The Queen’s Own cross the Atlantic by ship to Scotland where training and live fire exercises resume. The battalion moves to Southern England, first Aldershot then Pippingford Park, Sussex, south-west of London. The QOR boxing team, including Jack, is doing well again and wins the brigade and subsequently the divisional championship. The battalion keeps moving around Southern England in 1942 for training and exercises and during the fall Jack receives several reprimands and forfeitures of pay for short unauthorized absences.

Wedding Jack Kavanagh and Emily Jean Haddleton, 12 June 1943, London. (photo by permission J.G. Young)

History does not tell but it is very likely that these absences had something to do with a lady interest. Now a corporal Jack has to apply a second time to marry Emily Jean Haddleton as the first application had gone missing. Jean, who is a Red Cross nurse, grew up around the corner from Jack’s home in Toronto. He was probably frustrated by the two-month bureaucratic delay so he adds a cheeky note stating that ‘proposed wife is a member of the Canadian Red Cross Corps and has been granted permission to marry by her Commandant’, so get on with it! The wedding takes place in Kensington, London, on 12th June 1943 with comrades in arms and Red Cross nurses attending.

After that it is back to more exercises until 7th October when Jack, now an Acting Sergeant, is sent back to Canada for officer training at the Officer Training Centre in Brockville, Ontario. We can only guess how Cadet Kavanagh must have felt when the invasion in Normandy started and he heard the reports of the severe losses that The Queen’s Own incurred.

Jack is commissioned and reports for duty in England on 28 December 1944. He is ready to rejoin his unit, but disaster strikes and on 25 January 1945 he is hospitalized with pneumonia. After 11 days in hospital he discharges himself but continues to kick his heels until he is fed up waiting. He takes off without orders and makes his own way to The Queen’s Own who are in Germany just across the Dutch border. It takes some representations from the commanding officer of The Queen’s Own and the brigade commander to paper over this infraction but on 18 March Jack finally has his platoon in B Company.

Jack and his sister Mabel. (photo by permission J.G. Young)

The QOR had just come through another period of heavy fighting and heavy losses against a vicious, relentless enemy that included hand to hand combat where even the ‘rifleman’s swords’ (bayonets) were used. When Jack rejoins the QOR they are recuperating briefly in the Reichswald in home-made huts and underground shelters. On 23 March he writes an upbeat letter to his sister Mabel affectionately joking about his batman ’just a kid of 19’ and sends his love to ‘the gals at the big store’ (Eaton’s). It is to be his last letter. Coincidentally Mabel sends him an Easter card on the same day.

24 March and the QORs are on the move again as part of Operation PLUNDER. By 2 April they are back in The Netherlands, they cross the Oude Ijssel river and are getting a taste of liberating the jubilant Dutch population. On 5 April B Company is tasked to capture the hamlet of Pipelure, near Rha. The enemy had used forced labour to dig deep trenches and construct tank traps. The terrain is muddy and the trenches waterlogged. In those horrendous circumstances, without cover and supporting fire, Kavanagh advances with two platoons in the late afternoon and runs in to heavy mortar and small arms fire and is pinned down. During that action Jack is killed, it is said by a Panzerfaust, an anti-tank weapon. Four others die in the same action. The reserve platoon is now deployed to allow platoons 11 and 12 to withdraw. In the dwindling light The Queen’s Own have to fight hand to hand with the enemy before they can retire taking their wounded but leaving five dead, including Jack, behind.

Mabel’s Easter card is returned to her, the envelope is stamped ‘REPORTED DECEASED’ in capitals…


Ring presented by T.Eaton Ltd (photo by permission J.G. Young)

Jack’s wife Jean and his family are advised of his death. But all they are told is that he was ‘for official purposes presumed killed in action’ in Western Europe and that his body was not recovered. He is honoured on the Memorial Wall at the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek. T. Eaton Ltd. gives the family a gold ring engraved with his name in memory of their employee. Jack’s name is also included on the large bronze tablet that contains all the names of the 263 Eaton employees who sacrificed their lives. The impressive memorial has found a home at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.

The City of Toronto presents the family with a framed scroll and a votive lamp. Both the recognition by Eaton’s and Toronto are a testament of the support that employers and local government gave to soldiers and their families.

In The Netherlands…

Granite monument dedicated to QOR soldiers, Rha (by permission T. Vanderplas)

The people in the Eastern part of The Netherlands honour the fallen for their freedom every spring a month before the rest of the country as they were liberated earlier. Villagers in Steenderen have been

putting flowers at the war graves in the General Cemetery on 6 April for decades. The cemetery contains the graves of 9 RAF, RCAF and Polish aircrew that crashed in the area during the war at different dates. The date on the 10th headstone, that of the unknown soldier, states 16 April 1945, thereby adding to the confusion.

In 2001 the villagers of nearby Rha erect a little monument in a remembrance garden in honour of 8 members of The Queen’s Own Rifles who fell there on 5 and 6 April 1945. Jack Kavanagh is listed among his comrades.

2017 my research begins

After volunteering to do more research in May 2017 I started by writing to a brigadier general at Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC). I ask the brigadier general where I can find John Gordon Kavanagh’s dental records and he refers me to another director general at VAC and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), Canadian Agency [1]. General Mart de Kruif had already mentioned that he had the Dutch War Grave Service standing by to assist in an exhumation. If we can match the dental records with the remains in the grave of the unknown soldier in Steenderen we will have a solution. DNA would be another option – if only we could locate any relatives. Others have gone before us though and failed to find members of Jack’s family.

Jack Kavanagh’s Silver Cross. (by permission JG Young)

I am in close contact with the Dutch defence attache and work with a good friend who is a Queen’s Own. The CWGC, Canadian Agency, gets back to me and confirms that Lt JG Kavanagh was killed by an anti tank weapon and that there are conflicting stories whether there was enough left to recover or that his remains were never recovered. I am told to prepare myself for a ‘very high burden of proof to be met before exhumation can be considered.’ He does not want to discourage me, but he has seen many cases where the identity of ‘unknowns’ have been confirmed, but even more unsuccessful attempts. His grim message is loud and clear…

In a reply to my update to General Mart and Colonel Christa, the defence attache, I receive Dutch material from a Dutch local historian, Karl Lusink. It is remarkable that some of his notes date back to 1984 when he tried to find out more from the farmer who owned the field in Rha where Jack fell. Unfortunately, the farmer has moved away to a nursing home and does not respond to letters. More importantly Karl provides me copies of official correspondence between the mayor of Steenderen and the Dutch Ministry of War: in November 1947 the mayor claimed expenses for the exhumation of remains on the land of farmer Garritsen at Pipelure on 10 April 1947, two years after the operation. Some personal items including a Canadian beret were also recovered.

Veterans Affairs Canada gets back to me with two more documents: a headstone change request and a document written by a Dutch-Canadian, Rev. Henkdrik Dykman, from Guelph. Both documents provide additional information about the other four soldiers who died in that location at the same time. The QOR War Diary is very clear about the number of soldiers that were killed in Rha: five. Four, riflemen Aiken, Crawford, McKenna and Woodruff are accounted for. They were buried in temporary graves at a neighbouring farm in Rha, according to said headstone change request. There is a photograph of the four temporary graves with the correct date on the crosses, 5 April 1945. I find that some dates used by various officials do not always match those in the War Diary, but these do. The four riflemen were re-interred in Holten Canadian War Cemetery in April 1946. Who can the remains in Steenderen belong to if not Jack Kavanagh? Karl Lusink sends more Dutch material from 1947 regarding a misunderstanding on the part of the Dutch War Ministry that the unknown soldier is English but which is quickly corrected by the mayor who replies that Steenderen was liberated by Canadians and the remains therefore cannot be English. It is now October 2017 and there is a new Dutch defence attache to brief. Colonel Christa has retired but continues to follow developments from The Netherlands.

Late November I receive another email from the CWGC Canadian Agency offering me to show Jack’s dental records but reaffirming what I had been advised before: the CWGC does not exhume for the sole purpose of identification. It also mentions that the location of Jack’s death is known but not if his remains were recovered. My QOR friend sends me a paper about relevant International Human Rights Law on war dead. This can get complicated.

Christmas 2017 I spend in The Netherlands and I take the opportunity to visit the location where Jack fell. It is a bleak field, flat with far horizons, next to farmer Garritsen’s farmhouse that has been turned into a bed and breakfast. It will have been different in 1945 but it is still flat with no natural cover. It would have been an infantryman’s nightmare.

Pipelure, location of Jack’s death, (photo F. Bleeker 2017)

Over the following months I conduct more research but have less time as I am in a new job. All the while I am encouraged by a few friends and some senior officers whom I meet and bend their ears at the Army Officers Mess, Ottawa, for the traditional Friday lunch. I search and find more information about Jack and his family, much of which is available online: census records, the War Diary, various books and literature. I start writing my paper and limit myself to what is essential for the identification and I include my translation of the Dutch official correspondence. A good friend who is a historian offers to review it.

In May 2018 I am copied on another email from the CWGC reiterating the non-exhumation policy and attaching the email that was sent to me before. General Mart and a Dutch documentary producer had requested guidance for DNA testing. The policy has not changed so it is declined. Coincidentally my paper is finished, and I submit it to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission as I believe that is has the circumstantial evidence that will tip the balance. Days later my paper is given a reference number, ID Case No. 428. If successful, the CWGC will arrange for a new headstone but I am asked to exercise patience. I know that general Mart would like to turn a change of headstone into a major event in 2020 when the Dutch celebrate the 75th anniversary of their liberation. I inform Karl Lusink of recent developments.

Mabel Young’s Easter Card. (by permission JG Young)

In July 2018 I meet the Dutch documentary producers in the suitably solemn ambiance of the library of the Royal Canadian Military Institute in Toronto. Bart Nijpels, Ton Vanderplas and I compare notes and agree to work together. I send them documents that they did not have, and they send me an obituary of Isabel, daughter of Jack’s brother Robert, who had died in 2011. J.G. Kavanagh’s nephew Jack and family are mentioned as is their hometown Keswick. Ton spends a fruitless day there knocking on doors. My QOR friend and I start our own search and he finds that the contact person for Isabel died in 2016, another dead end. For months we scour the internet for the nephew, Jack Young, unfortunately not a unique name.

Kavanagh’s next of kin found

In November I meet a CAF major who tells me about his ambition to become a private investigator. ‘I have just the job for you!’ I say. He comes up trumps! Within days he writes to me with the contact details of a John ‘Jack’ Young. I am anxious as I dial the number and a man answers and I ask if he is indeed the nephew of John Gordon Kavanagh. When he confirms that I blurt out ’I have been looking for you!’. Coincidentally the documentary makers have found the family as well. Over the next few months we are in close contact with the family and we exchange information about their uncle. I provide them information and advice for their trip to The Netherlands as they have been invited by Bart and Ton. When I finally meet Jack Young and his wife they show an abundance of mementos of their uncle whom they never met.

General Mart, the Dutch Embassy, the Canadian Embassy in The Netherlands, and others are all keenly waiting for the next steps, 2020 is now a year away. A friend, a recently retired general, has an ‘innocuous’ chat at my request with the Directorate of History & Heritage of the Department of National Defence in Ottawa. DHH however immediately recognizes the case: without more information this case does not ‘pass the bar’. In my contacts with general Mart I raise the possibility of a QOR representation supported and complemented by our Limburgse Jagers (Rifles) Regiment at the commemoration – provided all goes well. We meet late January 2019 in The Netherlands to discuss progress and next steps.

Thrilled the Young family travels to The Netherlands in April at the invitation of the documentary makers, Ton and Bart, and visit the monument in Rha and the grave of the unknown soldier in Steenderen. It is an emotional pilgrimage as I can make out from the many messages that they send me. I put them in touch with a dear friend of mine who is a clergyman living near Steenderen and he organizes a special service for the family on the Sunday. The family is deeply touched by the attention of the locals and the fact that they have been caring for the monuments and graves for so many years.

‘The case has merit’

In May 2019 a full year after I had submitted my research paper the CWGC advises us that ‘the documentation from the local archives included in the submissions has provided an essential link between the field grave from which the casualty was exhumed and his reburial at Steenderen as well as showing the origin of the discrepancy in the date of death. Therefore, we believe that the case has merit and have forwarded the case to the Canadian Armed Forces for their review.’ The case has merit, BINGO! Once again we are asked to exercise patience. Time is running though; if we want to organize an event in April 2020, we need a determination as soon as possible. I talk or email with people and officials in my network to see what we can do to expedite the process. I also keep in touch with the Young family, Kavanagh’s next of kin and we become friends. We attend a military appreciation game of the Belleville Senators together.

Come October I am advised that the Casualty Identification Review Board (CIRB) will meet in November and I am asked to provide contact details of Kavanagh’s next of kin. In December 2019 I am told: the CIRB did meet in November but the results have to go to the chain of command. On New Year’s Day 2020 I receive another email from General Mart asking for an update. I bug DHH and they assure me they are acutely aware of the general’s and the local community’s interest. We are now less than three months away from the 75th anniversary. I email a very senior officer at DND and I am told to be patient another week: the Army will notify the family first and I will hear promptly thereafter. And so it happens! On 24 January 2020 The Queen’s Own Rifles notify Jack Young that his uncle Lt. John G Kavanagh has been identified as the unknown soldier resting in Steenderen. I receive a call from DHH with the good news and find it quite emotional. In a call next day General Mart and I immediately start firming up our plans.

The unknown soldier identified

On Saturday, 26 January, the Commanding Officer of The Queen’s Own, his Regimental Sergeant Major and an assisting officer present themselves in uniform with medals at the home of Jack Young and his wife Debbie to notify them officially their uncle has been identified. I receive a call after they leave and Jack and Debbie are deeply impressed. They are on the loudspeaker in the car and my wife can hear how touched and relieved they are – she seems to have something in her eye. It is the culmination of years of work by many people on both sides of the Atlantic.

A suitable commemoration

We change gears immediately. I have teleconferences with General Mart, the commanding officer (CO) and his deputy of The Queen’s Own, the Canadian defence attache in The Hague, Colonel Christa and others. A plan is put together: there will be a commemoration on 5 and 6 April, six family members of Kavanagh will attend as well as ten Queen’s Own. We need to raise money and see what Veterans Affairs Canada will support. My clergyman friend has been invited to conduct the Sunday service on 5 April in the church beside the General Cemetery in Steenderen. It is like divine intervention, we can have a church service conducted by a dear friend who has been close to the story and himself the son of a resistance fighter.
The Queen’s Own Rifles are responsible for the organization of the 2020 Garrison Ball at the Liberty Grand in Toronto on 8 February. Despite the short notice the commanding officer includes a stirring announcement that one of their comrades – lost for 75 years – has now been identified. The assisting officer reads out Jack’s last letter to his sister Mabel. When the colonel publicly recognizes the Young family who are in attendance the hundreds of guests rise and give the family a standing ovation that lasts many minutes.

Lt J G Kavanagh’s new headstone. (by permission T. Vanderplas)

It is like having another day job. Calls and emails to Veterans Affairs result in the department taking care of Jack and Debbie’s travel expenses. More calls and emails and people are generously offering financial support. The Queen’s Own raise money and will send a delegation of ten soldiers. A contact at a military charity puts me in touch with Air Canada who graciously offers help with the tickets for Jack’s daughters, granddaughters and the ten Queen’s Own. Strangers and friends of friends are stepping up and contributing with money, referrals and advice, it is fantastic. The municipality, that Rha belongs to, will take care of the Youngs’ stay at Garritsen’s farm, now a bed and breakfast, where their Uncle Jack had died. The Limburgse Jagers regiment is providing accommodation and transport for The Queen’s Own. They will also send a contingent to complement the Canadian delegation at the commemorative ceremony. Christa has put together a minute by minute plan with military precision. General Mart has multiple meetings with the municipality, Christa, the Canadian attache in The Hague and my friend the clergyman. The Dutch branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch No. 5, is roped in and will send a colour party. The CWGC and the Canadian Government are pushing for the new headstone to be ready for the commemorations on 5 and 6 April. The documentary makers, Ton and Bart, are present and shoot footage when the new headstone is being engraved. The final chapter of Jack’s story will be filmed at Kavanagh’s grave on 5 and 6 April. Everything is in place just weeks before it will all happen!

On 13 March 2020, the Chief of Defence Staff issues a directive banning non-essential travel because of COVID-19: The Queen’s Own cannot go. Within days disappointed and frustrated we have to decide to postpone the commemoration indefinitely due to the Corona virus. Canada is in lockdown and The Netherlands follows shortly after. We will resurrect the plans the moment we can either later this year or on the 76th anniversary.


On 5 April my friend the clergyman organizes a moving little ceremony at the General Cemetery of Steenderen in honour of Lt J. G. ‘Jack’ Kavanagh under COVID-19 restrictions. It was captured on video and available on YouTube  . The children of farmer Garritsen visit the grave and lay flowers. Others lay flowers, what else than tulips, at all ten graves as locals have done for decades. General Mart also drops by to pay his respects.

Sadly, Ton and Bart had to finish their documentary without the closing chapter with the new headstone in place. It is a must watch though, and can be seen on Vimeo  for a small fee part of which will go to a Canadian military charity. The documentary is a worthy tribute to a young Canadian who is emblematic for his generation of young men and women who answered the call of their country to fight for the freedom of others on the far side of the world. 7600 of them died in The Netherlands.

Lest we forget…

[1] – Note the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is based in the UK and the CWGC, Canadian Agency in Ottawa.


By Cheryl Copson, QOR Museum Collections Officer. Cheryl has a BA in Archaeology from Boston University and a Masters in Museum Studies from the University of Toronto. When she’s not volunteering at our museum, she is a Collection Technician: Ancient Egypt, Ancient Near East and the Islamic World department at the Royal Ontario Museum.

Through this post, I will take you through some of the steps we take to properly care for, track, and make our collection accessible to the public.

First task – Numbering!

As a bit of a refresher from Part 1, once the legal title is transferred to the museum each gift is assigned a unique “accession number”. This is based on the year the gift came to the museum and what number gift it was for that year:

The first gift of 2020 = 2020.01

The 15th gift of 2020 = 2020.15

Then each object within that gift is assigned a unique “object number” based on its accession number. This forms a “tri-part” number:

The first object in the first gift of 2020 = 2020.01.001

The 15th object of the 15th gift of 2020 = 2020.15.015

Let’s get a bit crazier! If one object has two parts – say a pair of shoes – we go even further!

Shoe 1: 2020.01.001.1

Shoe 2: 2020.01.001.2

(Okay, that’s probably far enough!) We use these unique object numbers to easily track and maintain the vast collection. For those of you familiar with our collection you might also know that we have a “5-digit” numbering system….

In the past, the QOR Museum assigned a “5-digit” sequential number to objects. Example – the white “pith” helmet in our collection – Object Number:  01141. Each artefact still gets a unique number in this series however, unlike in the “tri-part” system it is not apparent when the artefact came into our collection or with what other material. We have been working hard to re-establish those connections, and where possible reassign a tri-part number.

01141 – “Pith” Helmet Link

Okay, let’s get cataloguing!

Once an object receives a number it is individually catalogued. This includes noting dates, previous owners, use, condition, dimensions, a detailed description, among other fields. We have many dedicated volunteers who catalogue the collection using paper forms like the one below.

Part of the Object Form used to catalogue material in the collection. From the PastPerfect database.

These forms are then entered into the database. Why not enter straight into the database? Well, currently only one person is able to work in the database at a time. While this creates a little extra work, it allows us to double check information as it is entered off the paper catalogue sheets and ensure it is entered into the database in a consistent manner. Consistency is key when trying to search for collections for researchers or for exhibit updates! The catalogued objects then go to our photographer, Anne, who captures them in detail. The artefact images are linked directly into our database along with being uploaded to our Flickr site. Once complete the objects are ready to be put away.

Where do the objects live?

A small portion of our incoming artefacts go immediately on display. On average, museums generally display about 10-15% of their collections. This is due to (you probably guessed it) space! For the 85-90% of objects not on display, it does not mean they are any less valuable or important. In many cases these objects may be too vulnerable to light to be brought out for extended times, are used to rotate into displays, or are duplicate examples of material already on display.

For artefacts not on display they go into storage. In a historic house that means…closets! In a few previous posts we have mentioned that our office is a former bathroom (also used for archive storage). Not surprisingly, the third floor of Casa Loma has many closet spaces. For us, these now serve as collection storage. Objects are organized based on type into several spaces – Uniform Closet, Photo Room, and the notorious Closet B! Each room has shelving or racking with a unique assigned location code. When an object is put away, this location code is recorded and inputted with the rest of the aretfact’s information into our database. Anytime an artefact is moved, the location code is updated to ensure that we always have an accurate picture of where our collections are.

Image of the shelves in our Closet B. These boxes hold fragile and oversized books.

How are artefacts stored?

The storage requirements for artefacts vary depending on many factors including their material, size, and fragility. Each artefact is assessed when it comes in and determinations are made about the best way to store it. Some standard storage methods we use are:

Uniforms – hung on padded hangers (to alleviate stress on their seams and reduces creasing), and then placed in individual Tyvek© garment bags to protect from dust, light and moisture.

Volunteer Meryn with a newly constructed padded hanger.

Books – smaller books have custom covers made for them. This reduces friction between books when removing them from storage and allows us to label the spine with important information (i.e. title and object number!). Larger or more fragile books are stored horizontally in book boxes (as seen above in our Closet B photo).

Custom book covers on shelf. Note the titles and Object Numbers on the side in pencil for easy identification!

Framed photos – placed upright on shelves (much like books would be stored) with partitions between them to ensure the backing on one frame does not damage an adjacent frame.

3D objects – placed in bags or bins to protect them from any dust and keep them organized.

What happens next?

More research! We are constantly revisiting collections to add additional information, upgrade storage, or refresh exhibits. Although many of our artefacts live in storage rooms, the QOR Museum has worked hard over the past several years to ensure much of our collection is available online. This is a good tool for researchers and family members looking for information and allows us to share our material worldwide. Many times we also receive information from the public through our website or social media on our artefacts or personnel pages. We welcome this wholeheartedly! As a volunteer-run museum, things can progress slowly sometimes – but we are always looking to grow and improve!

Fifty Years at Casa Loma

Today marks exactly fifty years since our Regimental Museum opened at Casa Loma under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel William T. Barnard, ED, CD (Ret’d) and with City of Toronto Mayor William Dennison cutting the ribbon.

Also present were Mrs Reginald Pellatt, widow of former Commanding Officer and Honorary Colonel,  Colonel Reg Pellatt, VD; the Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel John G.B. Strathy, CD; and then Honorary Colonel, Colonel C. O. Dalton DSO, KStJ, ED.

As many of your will know, the museum was originally established in 1957 at the Regimental Depot in Calgary. The Depot Adjutant, Captain Joe Schmidt was the first Curator and the museum was authorized by the Regimental Executive Committee to help train new recruits in the regiments history.  It was officially opened by Major General Chris Vokes, General Officer Commanding Western Command.

Major General Chris Vokes, CB, CBE, DSO, CD – General Officer Commanding Western Command – signs the guest book while officially opening the new QOR Regimental Museum at the Depot in Calgary, 1957.

Original QOR Regimental Museum at the Depot in Calgary.

However in the late ’60s the Depot was closed and a new location was found for the museum in the historic Casa Loma, built by Toronto financier and the Queen’s Own’s longest serving Commanding Officer, Major General Sir Henry Pellatt,CVO, DCL, VD.  After the First World War, Sir Henry has lost Casa Loma to the City of Toronto for back taxes. It would sit vacant before serving as a short lived hotel, and eventually be taken over by the Kiwanis Club which ran it as one of Toronto’s most iconic tourist attractions for 80 years.

Arrangements were made with Kiwanis to occupy most of the third floor which needed considerable painting and plastering to make usable.  Museum objects were shipped from Calgary to Toronto, and new exhibits set up. And on June 7, 1970, the ribbon was cut and the museum officially opened.

Mayor Dennison cuts the ribbon at the foot of the stair case assisted by Lieutenant Colonel John Strathy.

Left to right: A future RSM and Major Harry McCabe (partially visible in WWII uniform), Honorary Colonel C.O. Dalton, his wife Helen, Mayor William Dennison, Mrs Reginald Pellatt, Lieutenant Colonel John Strathy, and Rifleman Johnny Bennett in period uniform at the present arms.

From left to right: Mayor Dennison, Mrs. Reginald Pellatt, LCol Barnard, and a young Sergeant Jerry Senetchko standing sharply to attention while the Curator tells about the Ensign McEachren Tunic.

Lieutenant Colonel John Strathy points out something of interest to his mother and father, retired Colonel of the Regiment J.G.K. Strathy.

Guest enjoying refreshments at the opening.

Of course a lot has changed since 1970. In 1988 LCol Barnard was succeeded as curator by his assistant, Captain Peter Simundson who would continue in the role for another 22 years.  On Peter’s retirement in 2012, Major John Stephens assumed the curator’s role.

LCol Barnard with then Colonel-in-Chief, HRH Princess Alexandra of Kent at a museum relaunch event in the 1980’s.

Changes of space allocations and upgrading exhibits, labels, and interpretive panels has continued over those past fifty years. In 2014 came a new operator as the Liberty Entertainment Group replaced the Kiwanis Club of Toronto, and a new relationship with The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada Trust that operates the museum on behalf of the Regiment.

Behind the scenes there was also continuous improvement in storage, cataloging and IT systems – and of course in more recent times, embracing the opportunities to reach a much wider audience through various social media platforms such as this website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Flickr.

Today we had hoped to host an event at the museum to celebrate this anniversary but of course the best laid plans “of mice and men” can be sabotaged by a viral pandemic. Despite that our museum team continues to work remotely as best we can on a variety of projects, and we look forward to celebrating this anniversary throughout the coming year when Casa Loma and our museum return in some fashion to a new normal.

For now though we want to thank all those in the Regimental family who have supported the museum over the past fifty years – through donations of objects, financial support, and their time and effort to get us where we are today!

And while you can’t visit the museum in person right now, we encourage you to browse through our online catalog – the random image option usually brings up some interesting objects!

QOR Regimental Museum Team 2020

In pace paratus!
Your museum team.

#casaloma #qormuseum #qorofc #fiftyyears #50years

Behind the Scenes: Acquisition and Accessioning Part I

“Acquisition and Accessioning: Taking legal ownership of objects, especially (but not always) to add to your long-term collection through the process of accessioning: the formal commitment by your governing body to care for objects over the long term.

In legal terms, acquisition involves a ‘transfer of title’ from the previous owner to you. [It] gives you proof of ownership, and it assigns a unique number that will link each object to the information you hold about it.

Accessioning has a very specific meaning: it brings with ethical responsibilities to preserve objects over the long term…”

Collections Trust UK

Many of you will be familiar with our physical exhibits at Casa Loma, and many more of you will be familiar with our social media posting on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and of course this website.  But much of what our volunteer team does is actually behind the scenes as we acquire, accession and catalogue new objects, and then either add to our exhibits or put them carefully into our collections storage so they will be safe and we know where to find them.

This post will explain our acquisition and accessioning process and Part II will explain what happens next.

Where do our objects come from?

Before we dive into the details, you might wonder where we acquire objects.  The vast majority are donated to the museum as gifts – from serving soldiers, veterans, and relatives of former QOR soldiers.  Occasionally they will also come from donors who have picked them up at flea markets and yard sales. From time to time we may actually purchase an item from E-Bay or online medal auction sites however our acquisition budget is extremely limited and so these are generally only very unique or rare items.

How do we decide what we want to accept?

Like most museums around the world, we have limited storage space and have to give careful consideration to what items we accept into our collection. Don’t get me wrong though – we are very grateful when people contact us with objects they think might we might want!  From time to time however we have to say “thanks but no thanks.”  This begs the question of how we reach those decisions.

First we have to consider the museum’s 1956 mandate:

to encourage the study of Canadian military history and in particular the history of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, to rescue from oblivion the memories of its members, to obtain and preserve narratives in print, manuscript or otherwise of their travels, adventures, labours and observations, to secure and preserve objects illustrative of the civil, literary and military history of the Regiment, and to maintain a museum and a library.”

The museum’s interest also includes the six First World War Canadian Expeditionary Force Battalions perpetuated by the Queen’s Own Rifles and soldiers who served in them.

So clearly we’re looking for items related in some way to the regiment itself (or its perpetuated battalions), or to any members who served in it.  And for the latter, these would generally be related to their service with the QOR.

There are exceptions to this. For example items that might illustrate a particular period during the regiment’s service which are not already in the collection.  Recently we acquired a WWII two-piece mess tin from another museum.  It was not connected any in way to the regiment or anyone who served in it but it was a common WWII object that we did not have in our collection. Another was a WWI Victory Bond Flag – again not specifically related to the QOR but certainly an important part of WWI history.

Once we’ve established that the object or objects might be relevant or useful, there are still some further considerations:

Is it legitimate?

Sometimes – particularly for sale on the internet – objects are represented as something they aren’t either intentionally or from ignorance.  Sometimes half-forgotten family lore just doesn’t quite fit the facts. Is this “19th century” cap badge really from the 19th century?  Does the condition of a medal ribbon and other “facts” seem reasonable?


For example a recent donor claimed a bugle (2019.08.001) had been played at the Battle of Ridgeway.  The bugle cord that came with it was clearly not 150+ years old but the engraving of “Captain Sherwood’s Company” made sense.  It also had the makers mark engraved on it and after some research we found that particular mark was only used for a five year period that spanned 1866.  None of this proved that it was actually played at the battle but it did confirm that it was from the correct time period and certainly could have been played, so we agreed to accept it.  We also need to have some assurance that the person donating the objects has the right to do so – in other words is actually the owner, or perhaps the executor of an estate.

How unique is it? 

QOR Silent Butler

Generally we only need so many of the same items in our collection.  When a wooden ash tray stand painted like a QOR soldier (2019.17.001) and used in the Sergeant’s mess was recently offered to us, it was a no brainer to say yes.  However unless it was in mint condition (see below) we aren’t going to accept any more copies of Chambers 1899 history of the regiment as we already have six.

How big is it? 

The practicalities of limited storage space unfortunately mean we just don’t have room to accept everything – and the larger the object, the more relevant this consideration.

What condition is it in?

Aside from storage limitations we also have a limited conservation budget so if something is in poor condition and may take considerable effort and expense to properly conserve and preserve it, then we certainly need to consider that carefully. If we already have examples of this artifact in our collection, we’ll also want to determine if the item being offered is in better or worse condition than those we already have.

Can we safely store this? 

Occasionally safe storage is also a consideration.  Live ammunition, or nitrate film – which has a tendency burst into flames under the wrong storage conditions – would be two examples.  We recently had to find a way to safely dispose of the contents of a WWII polish tin which had become corrosive (not to mention the strong odour!) and threatened damaging other objects; however we did manage to save the tin with its paper label.

Can this still be used by the regiment?

Officer's Crossbelt

Perhaps somewhat uniquely, our acquisition policy allows for the museum to send accoutrements in useable condition to the reserve battalion if they are needed.   The most common example of this would be sergeants’ and officers’ crossbelts which are expensive and hard to source these days. These would be acquired and accessioned but not catalogued in the next steps of our normal process.

We’re going to accept them – now what?

Once we’ve taken possession of the objects we’ve agreed to acquire, we enter the donor and donation information into our accession database and assign it a number.  The accession number 2020.02 would represent the second accession of 2020. An accession could be one item or hundreds of items as long as they are all being donated by the same person at the same time. An item (or object – I’m pretty much using the two interchangeably) could be a uniform piece, book, artwork, photograph, weapon, or collection of archival material such as correspondence or meeting minutes.

Once that’s done, our database allows us to quickly prepare a “Deed of Gift” which lists all the items, indicates that they person donating them is the legal owner, and legally transfers ownership (and copyright if held by the owner) to the Museum, to do with as it sees fit.  It is critically important establish this ownership for the future. Luckily now, much of our administration can be handled by email including sending thank you letters and deeds of gift to be signed.  Once the signed deed is returned to us, we scan it and upload to our database and also file the original copy in our office files.

The process for items that are purchased is almost identical except that the receipt is used to establish the museum’s ownership instead of the deed of gift.

The database also allows us to record the provenance or history of the ownership, as far as we know it. Provenance gives value to objects. For example a pair of WWII boots is valuable – but much more valuable if we know they belonged to Rifleman X who wore then on the D-Day landing and through to the end of the war.  Or to record family lore such as “grandfather said he got the epaulettes off a prisoner of war he was escorting from the trenches to the rear areas.”

The objects are now ready for cataloging and storage but our Collections Officer will explain that process in Part II.

What if we don’t want the items?

Sometimes items offered to us have no connection to our mandate or other use to us.  In that case we try our best to find and connect the donor with a more appropriate museum.

Sometimes some of items are of interest and some are not and so we can decide to accept some, all, or none.  An example is a donation of 10 antique rifles – several were relevant but three were not but it was an all or nothing donation. We accepted all but eventually would sell the three and use the funding to supplement our acquisition fund.  This was made known to the donor before making the donation and they were fine with this arrangement.

Sometimes we’ll accept donations for our education collection particularly when we might already have several in our museum collection.  These can be used or tried on (for example uniforms) by visitors or school groups – definitely not a recommended practice for items in the actual museum collection.

And if all else fails, we just have to say thank you for thinking of us, but no thanks.

What happens next?

Next comes the detailed cataloguing of each items in the accession, including labelling and photographing, and then finding safe and appropriate storage, which is recorded so we can find it again when we need it!  Our Collections Officer will describe this process in Part II of this blog series coming soon!

1910 Aldershot Officers’ Mess Visitors Book

1910 Officers’ Mess Visitors Book – QORM 00204

When then Colonel Henry Pellatt  took the Queen’s Own Rifles to Britain in 1910, their trip included a visit to Aldershot Garrison, the home of the British Army and its First Corps headquarters.  (Read more about the trip here.) At Aldershot, the officers of the regiment visited the Officers’ Mess, and were received by British officers including many senior and prominent ones.

To mark this special occasion, The QOR asked all attendees to sign a Visitors’ Book.  The visitors recorded in this book include members of the QOR as well as members of the British Army.

This Visitors’ Book is in the collection of the Queen’s Own Rifles Museum at Casa Loma.

Museum Board Chair Jim Lutz studied this book and tried to decipher the signatures of the various guests, some of whom were or became distinguished members of the British or Canadian armies.  Here are the names he was able to decipher and identify.  If you can identify other signatures, please write to the QOR Museum at .

Here is how Jim identified signatures:

I have listed signatures by their location in the photographic pdf file of the book:

  • The first number is the page in the pdf file, not the page in the book.
  • The letter “L” or “R” indicates the left or right page in the book.
  • The last number is the line on that page.

As an example, Mary Pellatt is 2/L/1 – that is, on the second pdf page, in the left-hand column, being the first name in that column.   

Signatures in the Visitors’ Book

2/L/1:  Lady Mary Pellatt – Sir Henry’s wife.

2/L/4:  Appears to be Maryanne Pellatt, one of Sir Henry’s sisters.

2/L/12, 2/L/13 & 2/L/14:  Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Peuchen’s wife Margaret, daughter Jessie (aged 16) and son Alan (aged 13) from Toronto – Arthur Peuchen was a successful businessman and QOR officer who was on the 1910 visit to Britain.  He was on the Titanic when it sunk in 1912 and became embroiled in accusations about his behaviour when the ship sank. By 1914 he commanded one of the two QOR battalions.  You can read more about him in the Dictionary for Canadian Biography.

3/L/1 – 3/L/6:  Officers from The Buffs, the QOR’s oldest affiliated regiments.

3/R/15:  Brigadier General Ivor Maxse, commanding the 1st Guards Brigade – one of the outstanding British generals of the Great War.  He served as a corps commander on the Western Front, and was known for his innovative and effective training methods.

4/R/8:  Lieutenant Lord Arthur Hay, 1st Battalion, Irish Guards, Blenheim Barracks (Aldershot) – Son of the Marquis of Tweeddale, killed in the Battle of the Aisne on September 14, 1914.  His Commonwealth War Graves marker reads “In such a death there is no sting, in such a grave, everlasting glory”.

6/L/10:  Brigadier General L.E. Kiggell, War Office – Lancelot Kiggell was Director of Staff Duties at the War Officer 1909-1913, Commandant of the Staff College from 1913-1915, and  Chief of General Staff to Field Marshall Haig 1915-1918.

7/L/16: Lieutenant General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien, Government House – a veteran of Isandlwana and the Second South African War, he served with distinction as commander of the British Second Army on the Western Front.  In 1910 he was General Officer Commanding the Aldershot Command.

7/R/16: Major General Sir Ivor Herbert, Canadian Militia – A British officer who had served as General Officer Commanding the Canadian Militia 1890-1895.  In 1910 he was a Member of Parliament and later raised to the peerage as Baron Treowen.

The QOR’s Final Days of WWII

Written by Assistant Curator, Sergeant Graham Humphrey, CD.

For The Queens Own Rifles of Canada, the end of the Second World War was drawing to a close exactly 75 years ago today. They had fought a ferocious enemy and kept up the fine traditions and demonstrated the Latin motto In Pace Paratus.

Their journey to war began at  University Armouries and Camp Borden. From there they traveled to Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, England, Scotland, Normandy, France, Belgium, The Netherlands and ended in Germany. They were led by three Commanding Officers (and a number of short term acting COs from time to time):

During the war 563 Queen’s Own Rifleman were killed in action and buried throughout Europe. Almost 900 were wounded, with some being wounded two or three times. Through out Hong Kong, Italy, and Northwest Europe 60 other QOR personnel lost their lives and we must never forget their sacrifice.  You can read all their names on our Virtual Wall of Honour.

QOR action May 4-5, 1945 – Click for a larger image.

On May 4th 1945 at 0100 hours Dog Company started to move from its position at Mittegrossefehn to continue the attack into Germany leading The Queen’s Own advance. Their only obstacles were blown bridges and road craters so they achieved their objective by 0200 hours. Baker Company began to pass through Dog Company at 0300 hours and renewed the thrust West and North into the city of Ostersander, Germany. The opposition was comprised of a couple of rear guards and Baker Company met their objective by 0600 hours while taking 14 enemy prisoners.

In the early afternoon of May 4th 1945 Charlie Company commenced its attack toward Holtrop, Germany. The objective of the Company was a crossroads. To get there the men had to advance through a terrain that consisted of agricultural fields with hedgerows set against a backdrop of an imposing forest. Charlie Company was met with fierce resistance during their advance. Their opposition included small arms as well as a 20mm Anti Aircraft gun. The consolidation occurred at 1500 hours, this resulted in three wounded while known enemy losses were of one killed. These last casualties were Riflemen T.H. Graham, A.W. Holdsworth, and A. Rosen.

Ivo Kuijkhoven, Sergeant Graham Humphrey and Jork Zijlstra at the crossroads in 2015 where the QOR ended their war.

With this the combat of the 1st Battalion Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada came to an end for the Second World War.  A German Lieutenant Colonel named Harms accompanied by the Burgomaster, traveled from the direction of Aurich. They approached Charlie Company’s lines under a flag of truce to negotiate the surrender of Aurich. At 2000 hours the Battalion learned of the unconditional surrender of all German forces facing the 21st Army Group in Northwest Germany, Holland, the Friesian Islands, Heligoland, Denmark and all ships of the German Navy adjacent to the German General Staff Headquarters. Ceasefire was to begin officially at 0800 hours the following morning, 5 May 1945.

Take a minute today to remember the sacrifices of generations of the past and never forget.

We will Remember them.
In Pace Paratus

Turning in Rifles at the end of hostilities – June 1945

Arriving Home, Monarch of Bermuda, Halifax Dec 17, 1945

1st Battalion QOR walking out of the north side of Union Station on arriving back in Toronto

Captain Jack Pond arriving home after the war greeting his daughter.

March/April Update

We wanted to take this opportunity to provide a brief update from our Museum Team during these rather unique circumstances.

Before we do that however, I think it’s important to step back for a moment to look at the bigger picture. While some of us are able to stay and work from home, many of our regimental family are front line workers who don’t have that luxury – fire fighters (a LOT of firefighters actually), EMS, doctors, nurses, and many others that work in businesses deemed “essential.” We know that many others have had their livelihoods disrupted as most businesses and services are forced to close. Many of our band members for example, have seen their civilian gigs shut down indefinitely. And many others have gone operational and are waiting to assignments to support the COVID-19 or other crises which may arise.

Our thoughts are certainly with them all.

QOR Recruit Tours

The Wednesday before Casa Loma was closed, we we’re very pleased to welcome 60 new recruits for a tour of our exhibits. The museum opened in 1957 in order to train new recruits to the QOR Depot in the history of their regiment, and while thousands of Casa Loma visitor get to learn about us each year, our primary purpose continues to be sharing our history with new members of the regimental family.

The recruits were divided into two groups, and were led through our third floor exhibits by the Curator, Major John Stephens (Ret’d) and Deputy Curator Chief Warrant Officer Shaun Kelly (Ret’d). The tour also included our exhibits in Sir Henry Pellatt’s dressing room which includes a photograph of a rather slim young Henry in athletic garb, taken after winning the North American Championship for the mile run.  Once again we were asked what his winning time was but once again we didn’t have an answer. Now however we do!  From Sir Henry Pellatt: The King of Casa Loma, a 1982 biography by Toronto writer Charlie Oreskovich:

“In 1879, at the age of 20, Pellatt ran the mile in New York, beating the U.S. champion and setting a world record at 4:42.4.”

This is just under a minute slower than the current world record. It should be noted however that at that time there was no actual international body to certify “world” records and while it may well have been a North American record, it appears according to Wikipedia, that there were certainly  runners in the United Kingdom beating that time in 1879…..for whatever that’s worth!

National Volunteer Week and the Work Goes On

Last week was National Volunteer week and so I would like to recognize our amazing team of volunteers.

On March 12th we held our last volunteer night at the castle, and in anticipation of Casa Loma’s closure, did our best to stabilize our exhibits and storage areas. Casa Loma closed a few days later until further notice.

Since that time we have continued to hold Thursday evening Zoom meetings with our volunteer team, many of whom have unfortunately, been laid off from their day jobs. Several continue to work on museum projects from home, including database updates (logging onto our computer remotely), clean up of our image collections, continuing updates to the historic timelines and other additions to the website, responding to research requests, creating resources to use at home, processing archive collections, designing promotional items, social media posting, etc.

We very much appreciate having such a dedicated team of volunteers who are willing to continue their support despite the challenges we’re all facing these days. At the same time its great to see their support and concern for their fellow team members!

And of course when the time comes, we are all looking forward to returning to the museum itself when it is safe to do so.

In Case You Missed It

Sunday 26 April 2020 was the 160th Anniversary of the formation of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada. Due to the COVID-19 situation, we were not of course able to hold our usual annual parade at Moss Park Armoury.  In lieu of that, we held a virtual parade through a YouTube event launch. Over 200 people were watching live and to date over 1,100 people have watch the video.  In case you’ve missed it, you can watch it below.

"In Pace Paratus – In Peace Prepared"

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