Biggs, Stanley

Queen’s Own Rifles D-Day veteran Captain Stan Biggs QC, LSM, completed his memoirs – “As Luck Would Have It in War and Peace. Memoirs 1913 -2007”.

Stan was born in Toronto in 1913 and was called to the Bar in 1939, then immediately enlisted in the army.

During the Second World War, on D-Day-2, then-Lieutenant Biggs was tasked by the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Jock Spragge, to choose a small group of men who, once safely ashore, would accompany Biggs and a Sherman tank from the Fort Garry Horse in an effort to capture and occupy an enemy observation post over six miles in from Juno Beach in Normandy. The OP, over 250 feet above sea level, afforded a clear view in all directions, and posed a serious threat to ground troops making their way inland. By nightfall,  despite enemy opposition, it was “Mission Accomplished” with no loss of life.

Lieutenant Stan Biggs briefing Universal Carrier flamethrower crews of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, Vaucelles, France, 29 July 1944. (L-R on ground): Corporal H.A. Campbell, Riflemen W.T. Orton, W.K. Cousineau, L.G. Jones, K. White, and Lieutenant Biggs. (L-R on Carrier): Riflemen H.H. Pennell, W. Starostic, C. Tippet, and Sergeant E. Rothwell. Vaucelles, France – July 29, 1944. Grant, Donald I., Photographer

Lieutenant Biggs’ introduction to the battle for Northwest Europe that day was followed by the bloody, day-by day fighting in enemy-occupied territory which ended for him almost three months later. On August 30, 1944 he took a bullet through his upper right leg in action at Elbeuf in France. “Luckiest day of my life,” he recalls. “I could have been killed.” Many of the Riflemen with whom he had trained in Britain had already met that fate or been seriously wounded.  By war’s end, 16 of his fellow QOR officers had been killed as well as 11 members of his Bren gun platoon.

While his wound was a “through and through,” the bullet missing nerve, artery and bone on its way in and out (so no souvenir), it was serious enough that Stan’s fighting war was over. After treatment in the Canadian military hospital at the centuries old French town of Bayeux, he was transferred to a British hospital.

Before returning to Canada however, as a member of the legal profession, he was pressed into service by the Canadian Army, and by the British justice system, through his friendship with a High Court judge whose family had hosted him at their home during his convalescence. For over a year he provided what he describes as “Legal services in Uniform.” In 1945, the war in Europe now over, he was honoured by being “attached to Chambers” in the case of the trials for treason of “Lord Haw-Haw” and being responsible for doing extensive research for the prosecution. Haw-Haw was the nickname of William Joyce, who broadcast from occupied Europe and Germany during WW 2, mocking the efforts of the Allies to defeat the Nazis and belittling their victories as minor setbacks of no consequence to the Germans.

He was convicted of treason and hanged in England in 1946. “I was sitting about five feet from Joyce in the dock. I was right there when he was found guilty of treason by the jury … and sentenced by the judge to be hanged until dead,” Biggs remembers.

After the war, he successfully developed his law practice back in Toronto following the footsteps of his father and grandfather. For over 50 years, he continued practising the law he loved. In 1995, Stan received the Law Society Medal for distinguished service from the Law Society of Upper Canada.

Meanwhile, he was also busy with his growing family as well as becoming involved in his community: in professional associations; as a school trustee; and as honorary solicitor for several prominent charitable organizations. He was a keen golfer and squash player. Stan also was an early environmentalist, starting in the late 1940s to re-forest land northwest of Toronto, eventually planting over 150,000 trees.

Stan died 8 June 2008.

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"In Pace Paratus – In Peace Prepared"

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