Category Archives: Regular Force

They Called me “Crusher”

A Tank Meets a QOR 3/4 Ton Truck

The following story was written by Dave Sproule and published in the Strathcona Association newsletter in December 1996. It is reprinted here with his permission. Dave has an interesting if sad connection to the QOR as two of his uncles were killed in WWI while serving with the 3rd Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force.

As a twenty year old second-lieutenant in the COTC at the University of British Columbia I was delighted when I received notice that I would be posted to the Strathconas for 3rd phase training/ It was 1958 and the Regiment was still garrisoned in Currie Barracks although Sarcee would officially open later that summer. I was assigned to A Squadron which according to Danny McLeod’s motto meant, “Always Able Active and Aggressive.” I arrived off the train early in May and after a quick beer and a meal in the mess found myself in the Sarcee training area in the middle of the night. I believe as call-sign 4C. The Squadron was doing work-up training for Wainwright. I remember hearing the coyotes howling for the first time that night and watching the sunrise over Calgary as we practiced our lager drills over and over until we got it right.

The Regiment made all of us COTC officers feel at home for the summer as we were allowed to wear Strathcona regalia and encouraged to participate in all activities. We didn’t need convincing. I learned later that other COTC types went to other regiments and didn’t experience the same warm reception that was accorded us. There were six of us altogether, Brian Harvey from Saskatoon, Don Heine from Vernon, Sam Yoshida from Hamilton, Dave Redgwell and Alex Prysiasniuk from Winnipeg and myself. We were assigned two per squadron.

When we went to Wainwright, Danny McLeod made Brian and me troop leaders as he lost one subby to Brigade and Jim Ellard went off to RMC on the Long Course. I was entrusted with Two Troop. My call-signs were ‘A’ Sgt Rowland, ‘B’ Sgt Wheeler and ‘C’ was Cpl Thody. Other in the Squadron at the time were Lorne Glenndinning (BC), Chris Bashford (2i/c), Bob Gross (1st Troop), Rod Tomlinson (3rd Troop), and Brian Harvey had 4th Troop. Barry Robison of the KOCRs kept drifting in and out. I believe that Sgt Getz was acting/SSM. A Squadron was to work with the 2Bn QOR of C and to play enemy force so that we had endless troop and sub-unit exercises up and down the training area.

I will never forget one night after a final Battalion/Squadron exercise before the GOC’s exercise when a significant event in my life occurred. My tank was the lead c/s in a three troop column moving tactically and without any lights, along the tank track that paralleled Grey Route I believe it was. We were going to meet our echelon near Hart Hill and then go into harbour. As Snoopy would imagine in “Peanuts” – “it was a dark and stormy night when suddenly…” I encountered a Queen’s Own ¾ ton truck bogged down in a depression in the tank track. My driver and I discovered it at the same time when we heard the crunch of steel on steel. It was superfluous to shout driver halt but I imagine that I did. Our tank came to rest somewhere around the fire-wall of the ¾. The rest went something like this:

“Hello niner this is two, I have just run over a truck.”
The reply was something like, “unknown c/s say again” or “Two from niner was anybody hurt?”
Two, I don’t know yet.”
“Niner, well get the bloody hell down there and find out.”
“Two roger out.”

You can picture the scene – 0300 hrs darker than hell, my crew and I assessing what we had just done. My first thought was that I had just mangled a section of ‘C’ Company, QORs finest until I heard moaning from within the cab. You may recall that ¾ ton trucks were proto APCs while the infantry waited for the Bobcats. (As it turned out the Bobcat never was manufactured and the Government bought the American M113 instead but not until the late ‘60s.) We pried the door off with a crowbar and hauled the driver out and as it turned out, he was the driver for the CSM of ‘C’ Company and when he got bogged down, the CSM went off in another vehicle leaving him to await recovery. The mush of the N0.26 radio set in his ear had put him to sleep and he had lain down on the seat. Fortunately he was not seriously hurt sustaining a cut to his head. The impact had knocked him onto the floor and the back of the cab crumpled over him and provided some protection. My brief career flashed before my eyes that night as I was certain that I would be on the next train to Vancouver but that didn’t happen.

At a smoker in the QOR field mess the following night and before the big exercise, I was invited to cut a cake which had a pastry tank pushing a pastry ¾ ton truck down into the icing. For the rest of the summer, I responded to the nickname “Crusher” and occasionally in some mess or other since that time some smiling face with greying hair will call from across the room “Hey Crusher over here” and I immediately transported back to that time and place. The Provost Platoon (Military Police) towed the truck to a prominent place in the training area and put up a warning sign about safe driving. My tank really did a number on that vehicle.

The remainder of the summer was relatively uneventful as I remember it although like most of you have experienced, there were many pleasant evening in the field swapping stories over a cold beer served from the back of the canteen truck and Danny even let Brian Harvey and I get to Calgary via the laundry truck, to take in the Calgary Stampede.

The camaraderie and warmth that the Regiment extended to me that summer solidified my career choice and after university experienced similar moments of pleasure in the field as a troop leader and squadron commander and occasionally terror on some night move from here to there.

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

Reg Force Reminiscences: “THE GLORIOUS TWO BN”

by Major Ronald R. Lilley, CD

This article was the second of two found in our collection. The date or purpose for which is was written is unknown. The first article can be found here. Lilley left the Loyal Edmonton Regiment to join the 1st Battalion QOR in March 1954.

In ‘62 I returned to Regimental duty and once again was posted to a unit which had just returned from Germany – the Second Battalion, led by its gravel voiced Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Dan Osborne.

On a bright sunny spring day I found myself in command of one of the battalion’s 100 man guards, paying homage to the General Officer Commanding Western Command. I had spent most of the night writing up a bn exercise and consequently was more dazed than usual. The guard was approaching the yellow marker and I shouted out the cautionary words, “No. 2 guard will advance” (the guard number is immaterial to the event). All would have been perfect except that the executive words of command “Left, Turn” followed in rapid order. That was the day I introduced the new drill movement “left foot over right foot”, a major drill not previously practised to my knowledge. I had missed the marker by not less than 15 paces or 100 miles whichever was closer on that eventful day. The movement was carried out in the best Rifles tradition and by the time we reached the saluting base flag the guard was lined up with the lead coy. After the parade and at the dispersal area I called CSM George Stolzenberg (I believe it was Stolzenberg) forward, congratulated the guard on its excellence in the face of adversity and bought a libation to prove I was serious. Never before had I witnessed such steadiness and I only hope my successors never have the same nerve shattering experience.

The glorious day finally came when I took over command of B Coy in the Fall of 62. Captain Larry Diebel, at my instigation, started all rank Coy Mess Dinners. Sgt “The Bandit” Friedt the Officers’ Mess Sgt, and a member of B Coy, provided the candelabra, silver and wine glasses. We developed a mess dinner procedure with appropriate toasts, etc. They were very popular, as could be attested to by the attendance (smiles and attendance were both compulsory). The dress standard set for the first dinner was based on a tie and shirt. We did not alter the dress standard but with each succeeding dinner it was interesting to note the increase in subdued tone ties, blazers and sports coats and the vast improvement in the rifleman’s walking out dress.

The Coy went through its usual pre-Exercise Snow Chinthe drills during the Christmas holidays and learned to live outdoors in the cold and pull toboggans over simulated snow (gravel and grass). 2/Lt Dave Montgomery and Sgt Bill Hamburgh’s platoon learned to live with frogs and cope with soggy tent floors during an unseasonable warm spell in Wainwright prior to the exercise beginning. During the work-up training and on the actual exercise CSM Noble wee a tower of strength and on numerous occasions placed the fear of the hereafter on any idle rifleman or NCOs.

On my return from a course in England 10 days prior to leaving for Wainwright, I met the new CO, LCol Ed Price (expected). Capt Diebel, CSM Noble and many familiar NCOs and men were serving elsewhere in the bn (unexpected). The Coy’s training pace in Wainwright of a mile to two-mile run before breakfast, section tactics every morning, platoon tactics every afternoon and coy tactics every evening was slowed down when B Coy was honoured by being selected to enter the Forced March Competition on July first. This honour was duly passed on to 2/Lt Dave Montgomery and Sgt Jewel.

(For a fuller account see page 79 of the 1963 Powder Horn edition). It is now old hat that Dave’s pl won. But I’ll never forget the look of surprise on Brigadier Macdonald’s face when Dave’s pl doubled on in full battle order, then broke into quick time, advanced, halted and presented arms to the Bde Commander. This was not part of the usual ceremony but was added to show what stern stuff we riflemen are made of. In marching off Sgt Jewell’s order to the platoon was: “Run over them lads, if they don’t get out of the way!” He of course was referring to the spectators. At a suitable distance from the spectators, the plantoon was photographed with their trophy. This platoon also returned several pieces of equipment dropped by 2 PPCLI which were turned over to that unit’s CO by Colonel Ed Price.

We were soon concentrated as a Company and training started again in earnest. Dave Montgomery’s scalded feet required that I employ him as the OC of the Special Weapons elements attached to the Coy and in this capacity he assisted the Company Operations Officer, Capt Harry Williams-Freeman in the Command Post. Staff Sgt Don Wilson, as CSM, provided the spark which kept the Coy HQ on its toes. He did a tremendous job of organizing a very successful coy all ranks bash during our last days in the battalion bivouac area. Greased poles, bucking horses (45 gallon oil drums), log chopping and sawing contests were all entered into with great gusto. Cpl Miller, the Coy cook, outdid himself in providing deluxe hamburgers and Staff Lottridge ensured that an abundance of beer and soft drinks were always available. One LdSH(RC) [Lord Strathcona’s Horse] trooper was heard to say, “what a party!” “Why can’t our blank, blank squadron get organized?” A gunner from D Battery replied, “When you’re part of B Company who blank, blank cares?” and with that they rejoined the mob at the camp fire to sing their hearts out.

He operated a Company multiple radio net, an experiment which was reluctantly bIessed by the CO. It was an excellent training device and section commanders soon learned the worth of their radio, as can be testified to by LCpl Standen, whose radio ceased operating during a Brigade exercise. He claimed he knew nothing about the overall progress being made by the Company and consequently had no idea what to expect next. He felt that he and his section were completely insulated until they were committed to action by the Platoon Commander.

1964 saw the emergence of a cross country ski team, equipped with modified army skis which hampered any chances they had to win, and a Down Hill team that struck gold, or should I say silver plate, in their first Western Command Championship. Many will remember that the 1964 Exercise Snow Chinthe was almost cancelled because of the conflict with General Rockingham’s Western Command Ski Championship. In those days, channels of communication with all superior HQs were well established and woe to any individual who tried to short circuit the system. Unfortunately, Superior Headquarters did not always follow the established channels. I had been ordered to establish and direct the Command Ski Off and at one stage found myself working for General Rockingham, Brigadier Macdonald and LCol Price on conflicting requirements. As is not too unusual, the General won and my other tasks were deferred to after duty hours. Capt Dick Graham’s experience provided the necessary continuity in organizing the meet so that I could get some coy work done during normal working hours.

During the 1964 Bde Commanders Conference I was called to one side by Colonel Ed Price and told I was posted to the RCS of I [Royal Canadian School of Infantry] and would become DC Tactics Division. Once again, it was time to say farewell to Regimental life.

Reg Force Reminiscences: “WUN BUN DAZE”

by Major Ronald R. Lilley, CD

This article was the first of two found in our collection. The date or purpose for which is was written is unknown. The second article will be posted in two week. Lilley left the Loyal Edmonton Regiment to join the 1st Battalion QOR in March 1954.

Back in the Spring of 54 (1954), not 1854, as many of my more recent associates would claim, the formation of 1 QOR of C was in progress at Currie Barracks, Calgary. Major C.P. McPherson (CP), acting by authority of Lieutenant-Colonel John Delamere’s absence, was the Supreme Commander of a handful of riflemen, NCOs, WOs and officers. The term “motley” may be an unkind term to use in describing this crew, but motley it was. The Adjutant, Captain Frank Moad and RSM Rusty Rowbotham completed the Bn HQ triumvirate. Lieutenant Fred Sargent (the QM) and I, at the time of my reporting in, were the only two First Lieutenants. Our association increased in size when Lieutenants Lloyd Cornett, Herb Pitts and Bob Munson reported for duty. At that time the PPCLI still reigned supreme in the permanent Mess on the hill while the LdSH (RC) were located adjacent to them in the temporary wartime buildings. Our Mess was located in an old Air Force H-Hut located adjacent to the Northeast corner of the parade square.

“Tea” was an informal “parade” where the CO determined the progress made on the state of the union and made or rescinded his various pronounce­ments, such as “ALL officers will wear moustaches.” Parties “spontaneous or otherwise” always ended up with “Grease the Tube”. After every shot, the Mess Secretary, while he was capable of doing so, gathered up and placed in an appropriately labelled bag, mainsprings, crystals, cog wheels, etc., of the individual’s wristwatch. The equivalent of a Timex was soon worn by all officers, and issue watches were in great demand.

Inevitably, Wainwright was upon us and Major Don Creighton became acting 2IC, relinquishing the command of HQ Coy to Lieutenant Lilly. The Coy was in the best shape possible considering the paucity of equip­ment and personnel. At the time, I was corresponding with Captain “Honest John” Mitchell, who was the Sigs Officer designate. “Honest John” took over his platoon several weeks after we were in Wainwright and it he had been prone to heart seizures we would have lost him on day two of his service with the unit. CO’s briefings were held daily, with the officers assembled around a campfire pit. Young 2/Lt Mike Newell ([later] Deputy Commander 12 RBC – Valcartier) commanding one of the sp wpns pls, was scorched by the CO’s wrath when, after receiving a direct order for events to take place the following day, he said: “I won’t do it.” Mike was suffering from an abscessed tooth, as I recall, and had a dental appoint­ment for the next day. CP’s fury provided an unexpected anaesthetic. Incidentally, Mike did have the tooth extracted and not by CP.

My turn came at the end of one of the Bde exercises. The Bn was granted 24 hours in the built-up area for R&R. I had checked over the officers’ quarters and had allocated the rooms by placing the officer’s name on the appropriate door. Unfortunately for me, I had to return to the Men’s area because their quarters allocation had been halved and I had to make up a new plan. In my absence the Straths advance party over­ruled our representatives and re-allocated the CO’s suite and most of the choice rooms to their CO and officers. On my return to the Officers’ Mess I felt righteous indignation for the treatment to which I was subjected.

By this time, we had all learned to keep our mouths shut and not to raise the subject of our undoing until another officer fell into the excreta, or for at least 48 hours. My saviour had already been earmarked by fate, Lt Ivor MacLeod by name. Those were the days of “NO shortages.” A smouldering mattress heaved from a second storey window (still open) was discovered the next day by CP. Poor Ivor had fallen asleep with a lit cigarette; feeling extremely warm, he had taken the aforementioned action which caused the inevitable chain reaction.

That same summer, then, in an effort to increase the mobility, started the first post-war experiment which eventually led to the procuring of the M113A1 APC. 2/Lt Spike Vanier, with a fleet of tired bren gun carriers, streaked around the training area on a preconceived battle plan. Experiments the next summer included transporting troops in 3/4 ton trucks and trailers. We must have been blessed by either CP or the Almighty, because we never lost a man.

Individual training began once again after the leave period and we were soon introduced to a new Capt Adjutant in the personage of George Hall. George, the nemesis of CP, was noted for using his Christian name on part one orders, green tinted glasses, a moustache and his wife Bunty. George and Bunty were also noted for their after-duty escapades. George continually tried to widen the entrance to Currie Barracks, was usually successful, much to the chagrin of the Garrison Commander. Bunty became infamous at a Strath Mess Dinner involving CP, Kurt Greenleaf (CO LdSH (RC) and General Vokes (GOC Western Command) . I eventually replaced George as adjutant and Lloyd Cornett in time replaced me . By accident or design, all the adjutants (Frank Moad, myself and Lloyd Cornett) with the exception of George Hall, were to meet Rod MacKay, the former Bn 2IC, in Vietnam.

After a sojourn in Vietnam, I returned to the unit in Sep 56 and after a relatively short but peaceful existence. “Rapid Step” was upon the unit in its full fury. I was relegated to be OC Rear Party and missed out on all the fun in Halifax, much to my dismay but to the eternal joy of my wife. Rehearsals for the Feu de Joie were held on the RCAF tarmac at Lincoln Park. This always caused a minor problem because the Air Force stenos had tender ears and objected profusely to their Station Commander about the air pollution which followed the unit in the form of a blue haze. Needless to say that RSM Rusty Rowbotham was the main contributor with minor contributions being made by various CSMs. Officers received sword drill from CSM Ken MacLeod in Scott Hall. We in those days carried the famous Wilkinson Sword made in Japan. Trying to balance it was like holding a 6-pounder Atk gun in the vertical position by the muzzle. Young Ken using the best techniques of instruction of that day, continued to practise us in sword drill by numbers and by numerous demonstrations to inculcate the finer points in our rather erratic movements. In due course, we were able to do the whole drill. Wishing to sharpen us up, he prepared to give us one more demonstration using his own words of command. “Draw Swords”, shouted CSM MacLeod, and with a flourish, his hand went through the motions. To his dismay and to our amusement, the blade never left the scabbard and momentarily basket, sword knot and handle were held in a gloved hand with the blade parallel to the ground, elbow at the side, then in slow motion the basket, complete with knot, did a barrel roll to the concrete floor. Sword drill was suspended for the rest of that day in a gale of laughter.

Wainwright 57 saw the unit in bivouac at Border Lake and once again I was casting covetous glances at our mates in our rifle coys and at those officers in the rifle coys of the ad hoc bn formed under Major Ron Wilkinson, our Bn 21C. We went through the various rounds of inspections of the HQ Coy Bivouac area. On one occasion, LCol Chuck Lithgow accompanied by the Comd MO and Food Services Officer, commented on the completeness of amenities in our area and jokingly said “Where’s your deep freeze?” To his amazement, I said to Staff “Zump the Pump” Zumprelle, “Show them our deep freeze.” Zump showed them our ice cream cooler suitably concealed in a bush near the kitchen.

The next summer saw us located in the Westgate area. That was the summer I learned to tactically employ helicopters. My most important task, brought on by the introduction of helicopters, was to race around the whole bn area ensuring that crapper lids were closed. The Bde Commander, Brigadier Wrinch, had a fetish for hovering over bivouac areas and peering into open crappers.

The incident I remember best and will undoubtedly be reported on more adequately by others, involved the OC and 2IC of a rifle coy which shall remain nameless. On a dark and probably stormy night the 21C Capt John Probyn (1 had to use a web belt on the old grouch to make him human when he was adjutant) was returning from a recce of a coy crossing site. The coy was to launch an attack across the Battle River. Time being of the essence, the coy Comd Major Hank Elliot had decided to move the coy forward. In ground mist obscured depression, the 2IC and Coy Comd encountered each other and locked radiators.

Pte McAteer, the outstanding batman in the unit, was ordered during an emergency move of HQ Coy to look after our stock of ammunition (blank of course) by CSM George Collings. While establishing our new position the CSM yelled several times for McAteer to bring forward the ammuni­tion for redistribution. McAteer had disposed of the ammo by burying it in the old location.

History of the Lance Corporal Rank in The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada

The practices throughout the history of the Regiment come and go, and over time you see reference to “Lance” rank but only used in the Regiment as an Acting Corporal. During the Second World War you see the use of Lance Corporal on parade states and promotion list but you will not see a photo of the wearing of a one chevron on the uniforms of any QOR Rifleman. Simply they just wore the rank of Corporal since it is an Acting Corporal rank in a Rifle Regiment. Below is a write up of a Memo that was written for the Regiment in 1942 but rewritten in 1954.



This book contains quite a lengthy and comprehensive article entitled “The Lancespessade and the History of Lance Rank” in the British Army, and covers a period of several hundred years, giving quotations from many authoritative sources on the subject.

The following are several quotations taken from the article:

“The term lance as a qualifying prefix to non-commissioned ranks, is peculiar to the British Army today, and is an interesting link with that period which the Military Organization of the Middle Ages was being transferred into that which, in its essentials, is still current: that is to say, with the end of the 15th, and the beginning of the 16th centuries. The word is derived from the italian lancia spezzata, literally a broken or shattered lance, Lance Corporal usually defined as the title of that rank which was granted to the lowest officer that “hath any commandment” and “signifies Deputie Corporal.”

“By the beginning of the 17th century, in England at least, the Lancespessade had become and Infantryman only, and almost exactly the equivalent of the Lance Corporal of present day.”

“Lance the Corporal of the Cavalry unit is to supply and do all duties of the Corporals and Lancespessades of the Foote.” The definition of a Lancespessade is given as “he that commands over ten soldiers, the lowest officer in a foot company.”

The article makes it quite clear that the rank of Lance Corporal was peculiar to the Infantry alone in the British Army, until long after the organization of Rifle Regiments, and it contains no reference to this rank ever having been introduced into Rifle Regiments.


These Regulations were originally issued in 1800, by Colonel Coote Manningham, who is usually referred to as the originator of rifle regiments, and has become the first Commanding Officer of the Rifle Corps, now the Rifle Brigade. They are reprinted in a book bearing the same title, published in 1890, with certain amendments added.

Article 11 dealing with the Formation of the Corps, in so far as it relates to Sergeants and Corporals states as follows:

“The four Sergeants are to command a half platoon or squad each. The senior Corporal of each company is to act as Sergeant in the first squad.

The four Corporals are to be divided to the four half platoons. One soldier of peculiar merit is to act in each company as Corporals, and to belong to the third squad.

The Acting Sergeant and Acting Corporal are to be the only non-commissioned officers transferable from squad to squad.

In every half platoon one soldier of merit will be selected and upon him the charge of the squad devolves in the absence of both non-commissioned officers of it. As from these four Chosen Men (As they are called) all Corporals and Acting Corporals are to be appointed, the best men alone are to be selected for this distinction.

The graduation of rank and responsibility, from the Colonel of the Regiment to the Chosen Man of a squad, has how been detailed, and on no instance to be varied by whatever officer may command it.”


These Standing Orders issued in 1911, make no mention of Lance rank, wither in the text or in the various sample forms of parade states, reports, etc., in the back of the book. Acting Corporals are shown.

Article 11 – Formation of the Regiment, section 18 states:

“Corporals and Acting Corporals are responsible to the Sergeants of their respective sections.”

A copy of the Standing orders referred to above was received by me from the O.C. The Rifle Brigade in 1925, and he states at that time that they were the last published Standing Orders, and that no material changes or amendments had been made since date of issue.


In several volumes of the above covering a period of from 1820 up to some time in the 1890’s. There are a number of parade states, casualty lists, awards of various kinds such as good conduct badges, marksmen’s badges, etc., I could not find in these volumes any reference to Lance rank, but Acting Corporals are mentioned.




Regimental Orders are complete from the first R.O. Issued in 1860 until the present date, and are on file in the records of the Regiment.

From the first R.O. Issued in April 26, 1860 until 1866, there is no mention of Lance rank in any form whatever. There were, however, appointments made as Acting Corporals.

R.O. May 19, 1865 states “The proper regulation chevrons for NCO’s of the QOR are as follows and will be worn on both arms:

For Corporals – 2 black stripes on a red ground.”

There is no mention of Lance Corporals, or the chevrons that they would wear.

In R.O. January 22, 1866, the promotion of a private to the rank of Lance Corporal appears for the first time. Further promotions to that rank appear in subsequent orders up to the year 1874, when they cease, and from that year on appointments to be Acting Corporals appear again, and continue to the present time. There has not been an appointment to Lance rank since 1874, a period of 68 years.

No R.O. Appears in 1865, 1866 or any subsequent year authorizing Lance rank, nor does any R.O. Appear in 1874 or subsequent years abolishing them.


The nominal rolls of all companies and units of the Regiment for the Annual Muster parade each year are complete from 1860 until the present time, and are on file in the records.

On these Muster Rolls Acting Corporals appear from 1860 until 1865 inclusive. In the years 1866 to 1874 Lance Corporals appear, and commencing with the year 1875 until the present time Acting Corporals are shown, but no Lance Corporals.


Regimental Standing Orders were issued only in the years 1862, 1872, 1880, 1883, and 1925. Copies of all these are on file in the records.

There is no mention in any of these Standing Orders of Lance rank, not even in those issued in 1872, a year in which some Lance Corporals existed in the Regiment. The lowest rank mentioned is that or Corporal, and the lowest rank badges provided for this is of Corporal.


  1. Lance rank originated in the Foot Regiments, later Infantry, of the British Army, and was peculiar to that branch of the service for several hundred years. During the 19th century it was adopted by some other red-coated regiments of other branches of the service, but not by Rifle Regiments.

  2. Lance rank was not in force in The Rifle Brigade in 1925, as will be seen by their Standing Orders issued in 1911, and the statement of the [Officer Commanding] that unit in 1925, and it is extremely unlikely that it now exists in that regiment.

  3. Lance rank was not in force in The King’s Royal Rifle Corps as will be seen from their chronicle up to the South African War.

  4. The Queen’s Own Rifles, when authorized as a rifle regiment, on organization in 1860, undoubtedly adopted the “Regulations for Rifle Corps” as was practised at the time by The Rifle Brigade and The King’s Royal Rifle Corps.

  5. The deviation from Regulations for Rifle Corps and the Standing orders of the Regiment, in The Queen’s Own Rifles from 1866 to 1874 is hard to account for now.

    It is possible that the Officer Commanding in 1866, through carelessness or otherwise, permitted this unauthorized deviation from the Regulations to creep in. It is quite clear, however, that he did not provide for the change in Regimental Orders, nor did he change the Standing Orders to provide for it.

    By 1872, another Officer Commanding was in command of the Regiment. He revised Standing Orders in 1872, but again no provision was made for Lance rank.

    By 1874, the late General Sir William Otter has assumed Command of the Regiment, and was, as is well known, a great stickler for regulations of the service and tradition. It is quite evident that it was he who abolished the unauthorized Lance rank in the Regiment no doubt to conform with the standing Orders of the Regiment which were based upon the “Regulations for Rifle Corps.”

    He did not issue an order abolishing Lance rank, probably because there had never been a regimental order authorizing it, but just let it fade out.

  6. With the exception, therefore, of the short period 1866-1874, when Lance rank was entirely unauthorized in The Queen’s Own Rifles, it has not existed in the Regiment. Nor has there been at any time during the Regiment’s 82 years of existence, and order authorizing it in the Regimental Standing orders.

  7. It is quite clear from the foregoing, that The Queen’s Own Rifles, in having Acting Corporals instead of lance Corporals, is following not only a Regimental custom, but a Rifle custom which was duly authorized on the organization of Rifle regiments in the British Service, and is still the practice in two of the best known Rifle regiments in the British Army.

I hope you enjoyed this article as it shows reflection into the history and traditions of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada and our sister regiment’s in England. Throughout my research and studying of photos of The Queen’s Own Rifles throughout the history I have only found one photo (pictured below) that shows the wearing of one chevron and this photo was taken when the Regiment was deployed to Korea in 1955. After the above article was written you will see in photos the addition of a QOR Collar Dog above the Corporal Chevron (pictured below) which would be the present “Master Corporal” or meaning the Section Commander.


MCpl Graham Humphrey


Seen here is an Acting Corporal during the Deployment to Korea in 1955
Seen here is an Acting Corporal during the Deployment to Korea in 1955 – QOR Museum Photo
Rifleman in line to call home - QOR Museum Photo
Rifleman in line to call home – QOR Museum Photo

QOR Regular Force Photo Albums

IMG_9383As we continue to catalog and photograph our collection, we’d like to share three photo albums of the QOR Regular Force Battalions:

The albums have been photographed by one of our regular volunteers, Capt (Ret) Larry Hicks.

If you can help us, we strongly encourage you to comment on a specific photo to identify dates, people, places, or occasions!