4th Battalion, QOR, Canadian Army Occupation Force (CAOF)

Excerpted from Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, 1860-1960: One Hundred Years of Canada, by Lieutenant Colonel W. T. Barnard, ED, CD – 1960

On 1 June, 1945 a Canadian Army Occupation Force was created. Its official title was 3rd Canadian Infantry Division (CAOF). To help to avoid confusion it was laid down that all formations and units in the regular 3rd Division would put (CDA) – Canadian Army – after the designation. The occupation formations and units would use (CAOF).

Major-General C. Yokes CB, CBE, DSO was made G.O.C. of this division. The primary purpose was to enforce the decrees laid down for the government of the British zone of Germany. The decrees had their origin in Allied Military Government. The 2/7 Canadian Infantry Brigade to which the 4th Battalion QOR of C belonged was interesting in that, for the first time in the Canadian army, a rifle brigade was formed. The battalions of the brigade were The Queen’s Own Rifles, The Regina Rifle Regiment, and The Royal Winnipeg Rifles. The brigade was commanded by Brigadier T. G. Gibson DSO, a one-time Queen’s Own officer.

The command of the battalion was given to Lieutenant-Colonel J. N. Medhurst OBE, ED who, well before the war, had been in the regiment. Major W. J. Weir MBE, ED, became the 2nd in Command. At least two other officer volunteers came from the 1st Battalion. R. A. Gauthier and H. C. F. Elliot became Company Commanders in the rank of major. The battalion was formed from low-point men and volunteers. The former were in the majority. Men from every regiment in the Canadian Army arrived and had to be turned into riflemen. Usually, as soon as a man amassed enough points, he requested repatriation. Thus the turnover was very heavy. The prospect for the non-volunteer of endless parades and guards in Germany was not inviting. It can be seen that training, discipline and the maintenance of morale presented very special problems.

As the larger proportion of men transferred in knew nothing of rifle drill, customs and tradition a number of officers from the 1st Battalion were attached for short periods. At first the 4th Battalion was at Amersfoort. Then, on 8 July, the unit moved to Wiesede in Germany. From there, on 16 July, the move was made to Aurich which was to be the permanent headquarters of the 2/7 Brigade (CAOF). It was passing strange that the brigade should now be controlling the area in which the 8th Brigade had fought its last engagement.

All concerned worked hard on drill and general deportment. Certainly, despite the difficulties, the battalion was smart and well turned out. Now the routine work began. Patrols enforced the curfew order, decrees against black marketing, and checked the presence of people in areas outside their home districts. Searches were made for weapons and surprise sweeps of wooded areas made. Occasionally a display of force was arranged. This consisted, perhaps, of a battalion of marching 265 men, carriers, anti-tank guns and so on. The nearby East Frisian islands, particularly Nordemey and Borkum, also received attention.

Recreational, educational and rehabilitation programmes came into being and slowly gathered momentum. On 15 July, the non-fraternization order was partially lifted. Soon it became null and void and the fraulein were present at every dance. The troops soon realized that the refreshments were the chief attraction. Excellent canteens such as “The Black Buttons” were available and first-class shows — Canadian, British, French, German-were presented. The battalion also had its own “QOR Revue”. Leave was granted generously and, for a nominal sum, three days could be spent at Bad Harzburg. Here the men could stay at a first-class hotel, with every form of sport provided from skiing to horseback riding. All in all, it was not a bad life.

The usual inspections were held. The chief one was by Field Marshal Montgomery on 25 November. The guard of honour was commanded by Major W. J. Weir MBE, ED on that occasion and earned the Field Marshal’s praise. On 12 December Major Weir left the unit .and was succeeded by Major R. A. Gauthier. Then, on 25 December, Brigadier Gibson was transferred and Lieutenant-Colonel Medhurst acted as brigade commander. In turn Major Gauthier became the acting commander of the battalion.

Lieutenant-General Sir G. B. Horrocks CB, DSO visited the battalion and gave a splendid talk to the men. During October the battalion over-subscribed its War Bond quota. Christmas was observed with the usual formalities and, in accordance with Queen’s Own custom, a party was organized for local needy children. At Christmas each man received, as a gift, a QOR of C rifle-green wedge cap. For some unknown reason the Germans believed that this was a personal gift from Monty!

By 3 March, 1946, it was known that the CAOF would not be in existence much longer. Canteens started closing; vehicles were turned in. On 27 April, at a formal parade, all duties were handed over to The Royal Scots Fusiliers. The convoy for Delmenhurst, Germany, the first processing centre, left Aurich on 4 May. Embarkation took place on H.T. Clan Lamont at Cuxhaven on 8 May. Disembarkation came at Tilbury on 9 May. The unit proceeded to No. 4 Repatriation Depot, Witley Camp, England. At 1600 hrs, 10 May, 1946, the complete strength was struck off to the Depot. Officially the unit had ceased to exist.

Embarkation took place at Southampton on 14 June 1946. The unit disembarked at Halifax on 21 June and reached Toronto on 23 June. Here it was royally welcomed by the 2nd Battalion, QOR of C, before the final “Dismiss”.

"In Pace Paratus – In Peace Prepared"

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