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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.