Tag Archives: WWII

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’ actions sixty-seven years ago 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.