Tag Archives: WWII

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.

The QOR’s Final Days of WWII

Written by Assistant Curator, Sergeant Graham Humphrey, CD.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We will Remember them.
In Pace Paratus

Turning in Rifles at the end of hostilities – June 1945
Arriving Home, Monarch of Bermuda, Halifax Dec 17, 1945
1st Battalion QOR walking out of the north side of Union Station on arriving back in Toronto
Captain Jack Pond arriving home after the war greeting his daughter.

QOR WWII War Diaries Now Completely Online

Our museum is extremely lucky in having original copies (i.e. one of three copies made when then were first typed) of the World War II war diaries for what would become the 1st Battalion, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada (CASF).

These documents provide a wealth of information about the regiment’s participation and progress throughout the war – from the efforts to form the battalion in June 1940, through duties in Newfoundland, training in New Brunswick and England, the successful but devastating landing on D-Day, the continued fight through Europe, to finally to the German surrender on 8 May 1945.

We are also very lucky to have most of the Routine Orders issued during the war and while often administrative in nature, they help to fill in some of the gaps left by the war diaries – particularly in regards to personnel postings and casualties within the battalion.

Unfortunately the original documents are fragile and not particularly user friendly as there is no way to easily search through them.  So in order to protect them, and at the same time make them more accessible, we have undertake to transcribe and post on our website all these war diaries. We’ve also scanned all of the routine orders and posted them into the war diaries at the appropriate places.

And if that wasn’t enough, we added maps to help illustrate where the battalion was at various times and where it was headed, and inserted photos from our collection into the appropriate location in the timelines. These photos add some amazing sense of place and time. Lastly we added links to more detailed profiles on our website for many of the key soldiers mentioned in the diaries by name.

Now when I say we, I really mean one of our curatorial assistants, Sgt Graham Humphrey and more recently, with the help of Kate Becker. Graham and Kate have spent literally hundreds of hours on this project over the past three and a half years – scanning, transcribing, creating maps, and inserting photos. The result though is a spectacular resource that serves to both protect our archival documents while sharing them with the world.  Even without any official announcements, these page have been viewed over 16,000 times to date.

And the importance of making this information available today is even more critical as fewer and fewer WWII soldiers are left to share their stories first hand.

Bravo Zulu to Graham and Kate on their outstanding work to see this project through to the end, and I strongly encourage you to take some time read through this important story of some of our regiment’s finest hours:

Regimental Museum acquires medals of Lt Col Stephen Lett, DSO

Thanks to the tremendous generosity of several members of the Regimental family, the museum has recently been able to acquire the medals of Lieutenant Colonel Stephen McLeod Lett, DSO who commanded the 1st Battalion, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada in Europe from 25 August 1944 to 30 November 1945.

Lett was invested in the Distinguished Service Order at Buckingham Palace 4 July 1945 in recognition of a personal reconnaissance on 20 September 1944 while planning for an attack on Fort de la Creche.

He was awarded the Bronze Lion (Holland) 22 December 1945 for his leadership and initiative leading The Queen’s Own Rifles and at times the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade. He was also Mentioned in Despatches, 9 March 1946.

We’ll be creating a more detailed profile on Lt Col Lett in the coming weeks but its worth noting that he had served in The Queen’s Own Rifles prior to the Second World War. He also came from a somewhat military family as his father had served in both the Boer War and the First World War with the Canadian Field Artillery, and his grandfather Dr. Stephen Lett, had served in the artillery with the Volunteer Militia and was on Active Service at Port Colborne, Welland and Fort Erie during the Fenian Invasion of 1866.

Lieutenant Colonel Stephen McLeod Lett, DSO
Lieutenant Colonel Stephen McLeod Lett, DSO

 

Rolph Jackson artifacts return to Normandy for Colonel-in-Chief visit

As Colonel in Chief of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, The Duchess of Cornwall met veterans and serving members of the regiment on Thursday June 5 and toured the Juno Beach Centre.

At Juno Beach Centre, 5 June 2014 from L to R: the Prime Minister's wife Lauren Harper, Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall, and Lieutenant Colonel John Fotheringham, CD
At Juno Beach Centre, 5 June 2014 from L to R: the Prime Minister’s wife Lauren Harper, Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall, and Lieutenant Colonel John Fotheringham, CD

Former QOR Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel John Fotheringham is a Director of the Juno Beach Centre and recently passed on a request from them. They asked if it might be possible for us to make available some artifacts that related to D-Day and the Queen’s Own that the Duchess could see during her visit.

We checked around our collection and decided that items which had belonged to Lance Corporal Rolph Jackson might fit the bill. They had to be fairly small and easy for John to pack in his luggage when he headed to Normandy so we settled on six items.

  1. Identity tags
  2. A French “invasion” 5 franc note
  3. A new testament
  4. A bundle of pay books
  5. A separate pay book
  6. A letter written to his girlfriend (and eventual wife) just before D-Day
Lance Corporal Rolph Jackson's New Testament
Lance Corporal Rolph Jackson’s New Testament
Last letter from Rolph Jackson to Olive Lipski before D-Day
Last letter from Rolph Jackson to Olive Lipski before D-Day
Rolph Jackson identity tags
Rolph Jackson identity tags
French 5 franc "invasion" notes from Rolph Jackson Collection
French 5 franc “invasion” notes from Rolph Jackson Collection
French 5 franc "invasion" notes from Rolph Jackson Collection
French 5 franc “invasion” notes from Rolph Jackson Collection
Inside of one of Rolph Jackson's pay books with a photo of Olive Lipski, who he would later marry.
Inside of one of Rolph Jackson’s pay books with a photo of Olive Lipski, who he would later marry.

D-Day Rifleman

Here is a visual of what a Rifleman would have looked like on D-Day.

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Field Service Marching Order with respirator slung. Gas cape rolled on Belt. Veil camouflage around neck. Shell dressing under netting of helmet. Emergency rations in hip pocket.

A.V. Battle dress will be worn, patches, (Canada & QOR), sewn on, when other collected.

The A.V. Battle dress will be worn for a minimum of 48 hrs, as soon as possible. If any effects on body are noticed, they will be reported immediately.

HAVERSACK

  • Mess tins
  • Holdall (towel, soap, razor, etc.)
  • Knife, fork and spoon
  • 24 hour rations
  • Cardigan
  • Beret
  • Boot laces
  • 4 x 2
  • Cigarettes
  • Pair of socks
  • Brown mug

LARGE PACK

  • Leather jerkin
  • Boots (anklets if required)
  • Cap comforter
  • Towel
  • Boot brush, dubbin & polish
  • Canvas shoes
  • Shirt, Angola
  • Boot laces
  • Drawers, Celular
  • Writing kit
  • Vest, Summer
  • 3 pairs socks
  • Housewife
  • Cigarettes
  • Greatcoat packed on outside of pack, held on by kicking straps

Other

  • Respirator of Assault marching personnel only attached to pack.
  • G-1018 blanket, folded as for kit layout rolled in ground sheet, strongly lied and properly labelled. (This makes a roll about 2 ½ feet long.)
  • All packs, Haversacks, Greatcoats (inside belt), ground sheet, to be marked with Rank, Name, Number and Coy mark.
  • Assault troops are all that land on “D” day.
  • 1 suit of denim to be collected at a later date.
  • Serge suit for all assault personnel, both riding & marching, less those with coys, will be turned in when notified to coy stores. They will be marked as laid down. They will be returned after “D” day.
  • Serge suit for those on follow up vehicles will be put in their Blanket rolls.

Here are some Pre Invasion photos from our Archives:

May 1944 - QOR Museum’s Photo
May 1944 – QOR Museum’s Photo
May 1944 - QOR Museum’s Photo
May 1944 – QOR Museum’s Photo
May 1944 - QOR Museum’s Photo
May 1944 – QOR Museum’s Photo
May 1944 - QOR Museum’s Photo
May 1944 – QOR Museum’s Photo
May 1944 - QOR Museum’s Photo
May 1944 – QOR Museum’s Photo
Pioneer Cpl 1944 - QOR Museum’s Photo
Pioneer Cpl 1944 – QOR Museum’s Photo

To see the War Diaries for Pre and Invasion visit the link below

https://qormuseum.org/history/timeline-1925-1949/the-second-world-war/war-diaries-1944/

Cheers,

MCpl Graham Humphrey

More 1945 QOR Baseball Photos

From our archives – more photos of the champion 1945 QOR Baseball Team:

1945 BB-8 1945 BB-7 1945 BB-6 1945 BB-5 1945 BB-4 1945 BB-3 1945 BB-2 1945 BB-1

Regimental Christmas Cards from the First and Second World War

As we approach another holiday season, we’re sharing some of the Regimental Christmas Cards that will be on a temporary exhibit at the Museum starting 1 December. This first series is primarily from the First World War with one from 1941. The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada perpetuate the 83rd, 166th and 198th Battalions represented below.

Fueling the Normandy Invasion

Every wonder how they get the jeeps and tanks and trucks fueled?

Sergeant Aubrey Cosens, VC

In Holland on the night of 25th-26th February 1945, the 1st Battalion, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada launched an attack on the hamlet of Mooshof, to capture ground which was considered essential for the development of future operations.

Sergeant Cosens’ platoon, with two tanks in support, attacked enemy strong points in three farm buildings, but were twice beaten back by fanatical enemy resistance and then fiercely counter-attacked, during which time the platoon suffered heavy casualties and the platoon commander was killed…

Sergeant Aubrey Cosens’ during the battle were recognized with the posthumous award of the Commonwealth’s highest award for valour, the Victoria Cross. Read more about Cosens and the full citation of this Victoria Cross here.

Read more here: The Regiment’s “Toughest Scrap” February 26, 1945  Actions on and around the 26 February, 1945 for which Sergeant Aubrey Cosens was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. Researched and written by former Queen’s Own Rifleman, Colonel (retired) William C. Ball.