“D” Looks Back on Job Well
Done; Hardships, Fun, Hard
Work and a Great Deal to See
Landed in Normandy in July, 1944, Then Until the End of Hostilities Helped in Chase Against Germans; Kept 14th Division Supplied with Reinforcements and Tanks
By Major W.B. Brodie
Commanding “D” Division, Elgin Regiment
A record of over 4,000 reinforcement personnel posted forward to armoured units, plus more than 800 armoured fighting vehicles, including tanks of various types, self propelled guns, flame throwers and armoured personnel carriers, is something for the members of ”D” Squadron, 25th Canadian Armoured Delivery Regiment, to look back on with pride in a job well done. Add to this the hardships, fun and hard work involved, plus the experience of seeing a lot of country and people in traveling from the coast of Normandy through France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. Altogether, enough happenings to give members of this squadron plenty to reminisce over in the years to come.
In giving a resume of the part played by “D” Squadron in the 9 months from the time the squadron landed in Normandy in July, 1944 to the end of hostilities in Europe in May, 1945, shortage of space and lack of access to official records limits the number of details that can be included.
“D” Squadron, allotted by Lt.-Col. G.C. Stewart, Officer Commanding the 25th Canadian Armoured Delivery Regiment, to supply the needs of the armoured units of the 4th Canadian Armoured Division in regards to reinforcement tanks and men, landed on the Normandy beaches on 26 July, 1944, and its first assembly area was near the village of Cussy. The Abbey of Ardennes, mentioned quite frequently in the recent trail of the Nazi general Kurt Meyer, was part of the squadron area at that time. A stay of eight days there was spent quite profitably in getting acclimatized and used to the sound of gunfire. Armoured units of 4 Division were then gradually being committed to action and the call for replacements as not large.
FULL QUOTA OF TANKS
At this time, the squadron had its full quota of both tanks and reinforcement personnel. These were soon needed, for the Falaise action was just developing and the losses there were numerous. Squadron personnel were quite happy that Jerry had left behind a lot of well-dug slit trenches and this saved us a lot of heavy work with pick and shovel.
The squadron moved from the Cussy site to the other side of Caen and had barely arrived in the new area when the call came for tanks and men to be sent forward. By nightfall 22 fully crewed tanks had been forwarded to one unit and this was followed the next day by 16 more to the same unit. Replacements arrived from “E” Squadron during the night and the first taste of working night and day was encountered. The weather was quite hot and it was in this area that the squadron had its first experience with dead cattle. They had been killed in the fighting a few days earlier and no one had had the time to bury or burn them. There were many and varied comments on the odors!
A problem met here was dealt with very efficiently by Major P.S. Campbell, then squadron second-in-command, and S.Q.M.S. Ted Langley of St. Thomas and his brother, S.Q.M.S. Bert Langley, of Chatham. Crews from tanks knocked out in battle were arriving back in the squadron area needing practically everything in the way of kit. Some men only wore boots, socks and trousers when picked up. It was inspiring to see the way the lads were keen to take another crack at Jerry when they were issued with a new outfit and given another tank.
PACK, MOVE, UNPACK
Following the American breakthrough and the closing of the Falaise Gap, the 4th Division joined in the chase of the fleeing Germans. It was just a case of packing, moving, unpacking, etc., for more than three weeks with never a stay of more than three days in one location and sometimes less than 24 hours. This was a real testing time for the drivers of vehicles and they all did well. Driving conditions were bad in the daytime with clouds of dust, damaged roads and endless numbers of vehicles but at night it was much worse and vehicles were only allowed to use blackout lights. Cpl. T.R. Salter of Stratford, was in charge of the squadron drivers and they included: George Rowe and Morley Beales of St. Thomas; Bill Haining, Woodstock; G. Steffenson, Monominto, Man[itoba]; “Nig” Butler of Kingsville; Norm Moore and Johnny Brown, of London, Ont. and Joe Truckle, of Brantford.
Squadron motorcyclists did exceptionally good work in liaison, messages and controlling convoys on the move. D.R.’s included: Tprs. N.C. Lamb, Wallaceburg; R.S. Arnold, Toronto; E.A. Garner, Alberta; L.M. Hess, Stratford, and R.F. Cunningham, Markham, Ont.
Successive moves took the squadron over the Seine near Rouen, across the Somme near Abbeville and over the Belgium border near the town of St. Omer. It was at St. Omer that the first buzz-bomb sites were encountered and the squadron had the satisfaction of salvaging a few serviceable storage batteries among the debris. These were later hooked up to improvised lighting systems in some tents.
It should be mentioned here that all the squadron locations were in fields or meadows and at times it was a difficult task for the advance parties of the squadron to find suitable areas for both tanks and men. The recce parties certainly earned their pay.
During and between these moves, deliveries of tanks and men, as and when available, had to be made to forward units. A stay of ten days at Staden in early September gave all ranks a chance for a bit of rest and also the first opportunity to get acquainted with the Belgian people. They were very friendly and were anxious to barter tomatoes and eggs for chocolate, soap or cigarettes. Staden is located not far from Ypres and visits were paid to areas prominent in World War I.
INTO ANTWERP AREA
From Staden, “D” Squadron moved to an area near Brugges for a stay of more than three weeks, then made the long jump to the Antwerp area. This gave squadron personnel a chance in their off-duty hours to see this large port. However, about this time Jerry started dropping his V-2 rockets in the Antwerp area and there were a few close calls.
With the coming of cooler weather, some of the amateur inventors in the squadron were working on improvising stoves for heating the tents. Varied were the results with some being more noted for smoke than heat, Sgt. “Trapper” McGregor of Union fashioned an oil-burner that drew caustic comments from his bleary eyed (from smoke) tent mates.
The Netherlands border was crossed near Bergen-Op-Zoom and the next squadron area was near Tilburg for a stay of six weeks to past the Christmas and New Years’ period. The squadron personnel made many friends among the Dutch people. First night in the Tilburg area was marred by a fire in the quarter stores in one of the sheds occupied by stores and kitchen but valiant work by all ranks kept the loss down.
The squadron mechanical staff was kept busy and had an important job in seeing that vehicles were in as good a mechanical condition as possible. This work was supervised by Sgt. W.E. (Curly) Moore, of Strathroy, and his staff consisting of Sgt. McGregor, Union; Sgt. Sanderson, Kenora; Cpl. W.C. Young, Kincardine; L.-Cpl. Edwards, L.-Cpl. Glen Miles, Norwich; and Tprs. Quinn, of Ottawa, K.C. Williams of Goderich and O.A. Zepik of Toronto. Sgt. T.J. (Tojo) Ovens, of Cobourg, was in charge of armament and Sgmn. Heikkila, of Ravensworth, Ont. Was responsible for keeping the wireless sets in good working order. The above group were later assisted in their work by a small detachment of technicians on attachment from 4th Armoured Division Workshops
From Tilburg the squadron moved to S’Hertogenbosch and from there took a long hop to the Reichwald Forest in Germany. Next move was to Calcar area where the squadron remained until moved back to Tilburg area for a rest in preparation for the attack across the Rhine.
FIRST INTO GERMANY?
There was plenty of friendly rivalry between C and D Squadrons as to which was the first to enter Germany. D Squadron have the honour of being the first squadron of the regiment to move into Germany complete and also going the furthest distance but C Squadron was first across the Rhine. Incidentally, D Squadron showed the C Squadron lads how to play softball too!
After crossing the Rhine, D Squadron moved by various stages to Meppen and thence to Oldenburg, where they were when hostilities ended in May.
During this nine months period the health of the squadron was quite good with nothing more serious than a wave of dysentery with its customary unpleasantness, and a few colds. L.-Cpl. Jim Bowle, of St. Thomas, the squadron medical orderly, was adept at giving first aid and saw to it that all ranks received inoculations when due. Two other important jobs in the squadron, postal and water duties were well looked after. L.Cpl. N. Mitchell, of Montreal, kept the troops happy with plenty of mail and Tprs. G.A. McCulloch, of Owen Sound, and Morley Beales, of St. Thomas, made certain of a good supply of pure water all the time.
In the cooking and handing food D Squadron was well served. Cpl. Stan Kennedy, of Clinton, Ont. Was in charge of the kitchen staff which included: Ptes. M.F. Gray, Lyndhurst; G.L. and M.R. Hill of Tiger Hill, Sask.; J.M. Riggs, Steveston, B.C. and S.J. Middelton. They really could turn out ‘melt in your mouth’ pie crust and delicious doughnuts. J.J. Meider, of Wosley, Sask., looked after sanitary duties and Tpr. J.W. Robins, of Woodstock, was the equipment repairer or ‘Jack of all trades’. Technical stores were in charge of Sgt. F.G. Ralph, of Norwich, and Tpr. W.C. Cardiff, of Blyth, and any electrical troubles were capably taken care of by Tprs. R.C. Shorten, of London, Ont. and W.T. Mells, of Woodstock.
Squadron headquarters group consisted of S.S.M. Pat Sanford, of Kingsville, with S.-Sgt. R.F. Scott, of Windsor, Cpl. R.H. Adlington, of St. Thomas and Tpr. W.E. Beattie, of Winnipeg, Man., capably handling the enormous amount of clerical work necessary. Capt. (now Major) F.R. Greene was with the squadron all the way and at the war’s end was acting as second-in-command and in charge of administration.