Canadian Guards Personal links to WW1 And WW2

Today no World War 1 veterans survive, and very few from World War 2. Our regiment upheld the traditions they built, and itself had many WW2 veterans on its rolls. Many members of our regimental family also belong to that wider military family, through the service and sacrifice of family members who served in those wars.

You are invited to send a brief e-mail note (webmaster@canadianguards.ca)mentioning the name, relationship (incl uncles, aunts, cousins, and in-laws), campaign(s), branch of the armed forces of Canada, the Commonwealth or an Allied nation. These will be published on this page over a period of time on a space-available basis in the order they were received.

In that way the memory of those family members, and the memory of our regiment as part of that long history of service and sacrifice will be further strengthened. (S B)

My grandparents immigrated to southeastern Saskatchewan from the German community in Wisconsin at the turn of the twentieth century, taking advantage of the CPR’s offer of land to those willing to pioneer along the railway’s right of way.  By the end of the First World War they had a daughter and six sons, one of whom was born with a withered arm, all of whom were equally at home in English and German, although wartime resentment restricted the use of German to the homestead.


My father left home at 16 in the depths of the Great Depression, taking his eighth-grade education to the coal mines on the US border in southern Saskatchewan.  At the outbreak of WWII three of his brothers joined the Regina Rifles whose three battalions were deployed to the east and west on coastal defence and as reinforcement sources for the overseas 1st Battalion.  The homestead was left in the hands of my grandparents, their daughter and the one-armed uncle when the youngest brother joined the Canadian Provost Corps.  He was posted to No. 2 Company C Pro C but so late that he never left Canada.  None of my uncles ever spoke of their wartime service and only recently have we obtained the heavily redacted service record of the middle brother, Albert.  By reading between the lines that haven’t been blacked out it is apparent that he was frequently employed as an interpreter or translator for prisoner interrogation.  At the end of the war all of my uncles were demobilized and used their benefits from the veterans land act to expand the homestead, buy their own farms and acquire the machinery necessary to make prairie farming profitable.


My father, on the other hand, was subjected to C.D. Howe’s national resources mobilization act which determined that coal mining was an industry essential to the war effort.  Despite his fitness for service, he was repeatedly turned away from the army, navy and air force recruiting stations when he told them where he worked.  He remained resentful until the day he died, particularly at the ‘shirker’ label that was hung on him despite his best efforts to join up.


Tony Kall, my father-in-law, was an RCAF flight sergeant tail gunner on a Lancaster bomber during WWII.  He parachuted from his aircraft when it was shot down over Berlin and spent the last 18 months of the war as a POW before being liberated by the US Army.

Al Ditter

This is the story of the vagaries of war and Gordon William Martin, the brother I didn’t know I had.


My father was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, landed at Pier 1 in Halifax as a ‘Bernardo Boy’ in 1906, then went to a family in Winnipeg (the Gordons I speculate).   He joined the Canadian army in 1915 and spent three years as a gunner – he was too much of a s**t disturber to be promoted -- in WWI.  According to the documents we’ve seen he was married in England in 1919 but it’s unclear if he knew he had a son; it’s probable he did, but until I got the call from a genealogist in 2008 (when both my parents were dead) no-one had any inkling of this chapter of his life.


We were aware of my father’s profound dislike of anything military from his World War One experience but he never said a negative word about my future choice to join army cadets, the militia or the regular army.  However, it became a little clearer when the genealogist related that his WWI experiences included 30 nightmarish days in the Aldershot, England detention barracks -- including a punishment of being strung up by his appendages for hours at a time – for being convicted at his courts martial for drunkenness and absence without leave.  His reluctance to again don the uniform in September, 1939 is thus perhaps understandable.


Instead, he was in the Canadian merchant navy when his vessel, the Standard Oil of New Jersey tanker MV Joseph Seep was struck by an air-dropped anti-ship mine in Le Havre harbor at 0200hrs. on 25 May 1940.  His crewmates, all Montrealers, got off the ship before it sank, were taken to England by French fishermen and crewed another ship back to Canada.  Other ships and crews were not so lucky, got trapped in the harbor and were likely captured by the Germans whose other elements were battling the British Highland Division rearguard for the Dunkirk evacuation.  As standard practice, Standard oil circumvented international law for non -belligerent nations, which the US was at that time, by recruiting foreign crews and registering their ships under foreign nations.  The Seep flew the Panamanian flag and had an all Canadian crew.


My mother and father were engaged at the time and on his return she told him that was the end of the war for him if he intended to marry her.  They married in Montreal and both of them hired onto the Great Lakes ore carrier Fairmount for a year before moving to Halifax where dad found employment on a commercial vessel as the ship’s cook to see out the war.

It wasn’t until I was contacted by a Canadian genealogist, Danny Bouchard, in October, 2008 that I learned of the existence of Gordon Martin, my half-brother.


Gordon was born in England, 22 years before my own birth, and joined the Royal Army Service Corps at the start of WWII.  He was posted, as a private, to Singapore and was among the many soldiers captured when the city fell in 1941.  He was a POW of the occupying Japanese for four years and returned to England after he was liberated.  His fellow internees included a large Aussie contingent and in 1960 he emigrated to Australia with his wife and two children.  The call from the genealogist, making inquiries about our father for Gordon’s family in Australia, was the first I learned that I had a half sibling.  Gordon died in 1998 and all he had known about our father was his name and that he had been a Canadian Gunner.


Alas, he died before any of this was known and I never did get to speak with or meet the brother I never knew I had.  The picture was provided to me by his daughter, Pamela, and the quest for information was begun by her medal-collector son whose research led him to the genealogical search, without which our relationship would never have been known.  


The two photos, my brother Gordon and I, are taken at about the same age - 22.  I knew nothing about my father’s background at all until I was 20 and needed his birth certificate to join the Canadian Army. He knew enough details about his background to obtain his Irish birth certificate and I then learned his parents’ name and birthplace in Northern Ireland. In March 2015, I called Danny Bouchard, the genealogist, and asked if he could find out if my dad had any siblings and track any brothers and sisters he may have had. It turns out that my dad had eight brothers and sisters, none of whom are alive now, of course, but there is one first cousin I am currently trying to locate.  

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Vince Martin

This missive is a tribute to my father-in-law, Oswald Milner.

Ossy joined the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment on 11 Jan 1940. After basic training, he sailed for England that summer.

His Regiment, like all the others, underwent further battle training in England and Scotland, and he was with his regiment, when they took part in the invasion of Sicily, on 10 Jun 1943.

Just eleven days into the battle for Sicily, Ossy took part in one of the most daring and difficult missions of W.W.II, the scaling and capture of Assoro.

In this action, Ossy received his first wound, a bullet through his left groin area, from sniper fire, while attempting to replenish his platoon's water supply.

After being patched up and deemed healthy to return to action, Ossy was anxious to return to his unit buddies, which any infantryman can attest, had become his family away from family. He caught a ride on an RN Corvette from Tunis, (where he had been hospitalized), across to Salerno, then via supply convoy's, both British and American, thus reaching the forward echelon of 1st Canadian Division, where the fact was ignored he was from the Hasty-P's, and was sent to the West Nova Scotia Regiment as a replacement, arriving and TOS WNSR Nov 07/43

His next wounds came in an action on the night of 13 Dec 1943, in which his unit, (at this time, the West Nova Scotia Regiment), was on the approach to Ortona, in which Ossy was acting as stretcher bearer. His unit came under heavy mortar fire, and Ossy took shrapnel to his back and arms. He was evacuated to the Regimental Aid Post and the next morning, while waiting for medical attention, lying on a stretcher, the R.A.P. came under artillery fire and Ossy was wounded for the third time in the war, taking shrapnel to his arms, hands, back, legs and head.

After battle-field first-aid, he was finally admitted to # 90 General Hospital, on Gibraltar, on 16 Dec 1943, and the painful process of re-constructive surgery and re-habilitation was begun.

On 09 Nov 1944, as the first Canadian soldier to be repatriated under the "TRI-WOUND ACT" of 1944, he was S.O.S. Canadian Army (O/S) and embarked for Canada.  On 19 November, he arrived in Kingston, Ontario and was granted leave until 19 December. On 29 June 1945, Ossy was "S.O.S. on discharge.

MEDALS and AWARDS;

1939-45 STAR, ITALY STAR, DEFENCE MEDAL, CANADIAN VOLUNTEER SERVICE MEDAL-WITH BAR, WAR MEDAL (1939-45).

The Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment went on to win 31 Battle Honours... more than any other allied regiment in the Second World War!

Twenty-five years later, Ossy was at a swimming hole with some friends. He dove into the water, hit his head on a submerged object and broke his neck. During the healing and recuperation process at the hospital, he was informed that he would probably never walk again, unassisted.  Ossy would have none of that kind of talk... he set about teaching his legs and torso how to function once again and proved the doctors wrong. He would do only odd, light jobs after that, however, it was his unassisted body that was getting the job done!

On April 1st 2012, Ossy left this world and went to meet his God and to join his comrades who went before him, to The White Battalion.

Ossy was laid to rest in the Veterans section of Glenwood Cemetery, in Picton.

(April 19, 2015  Risteard).

For most of my life, my Uncle Lester was a young soldier who had died in a war long, long ago in a land far, far away.

We had never met; he died in the “war to end all wars”, and I was born 21½ years later… All my siblings and I knew of our uncle was an official portrait of him in uniform encased in one of those elliptical frames, so popular about 100 years ago,

A few years ago, I attained his military records from Ottawa, which gave me a somewhat more personal view of my Uncle’s life as a soldier. It was an exercise in family historical research, nothing else.

Then later, I began thinking about this guy Lester who had gone off to war.

Gradually, the war long, long ago and far, far away wasn’t so distant. We were blood relatives, a generation apart. He was my father’s brother. If he had survived I would have had dinner with him, walked with him, listened to his stories, maybe have been treated to a candy or two from his pockets, or a sundae at the ice-cream parlour. Perhaps, he would have had children; a cousin my age, who I might have shared who-knows-what, with. I began feeling I had to know more about him, about how and where he died.

Lester was born on 20 Sep 1894 in a small sea-side village, at that time known as "Pisarinco", later to be re-named "Lorneville".

Lester's early life was quite uneventful... having undergone a basic education level, and being employed in the logging industry, before taking employment as a "section hand" with the railway.

He lived with his parents and younger brother, Andrew, at New River, in Charlotte County, NB.

Lester enlisted in the Canadian Over-seas Expeditionary Force, on 03 Jan 1916. His "Attestation Paper" describes him as; "5ft., 7-3/4in. tall, light complexion, blue eyes and light brown hair".

After training with the 140th Battalion, he embarked on the "S.S. Corsican", out of Halifax, on 25 Sep 1916, arriving at Liverpool, England on 06 Oct 1916. He was taken on strength by the Royal Canadian Regiment on 02 Nov 1916.  Lester had made out his "Military Will" on 28 November 1916, leaving all his possessions to his mother.

The Regiment was withdrawn to the Vimy Sector in France, where my Uncle joined his new Regiment on Dec 11th 1916. On 31 Mar 1918 he was wounded in the left arm, but remained in the field.

Canal du Nord

The Canal du Nord was a canal that the French had been constructing prior to the war. In this action Lester was recommended for, and ultimately posthumously awarded the Military Medal for heroism, in attacking and destroying an enemy machine gun post.

Cambrai

The attack on Cambrai, a small French city, was a follow-through attack following the success enjoyed by the Canadian Corps in smashing the Canal du Nord line.

The casualties for The Regiment were 37 killed, 53 missing, and 204 wounded.

(The following is something I remember my Dad telling me, in my younger years;

Very early in the morning of September 30th, the 11th Field Ambulance Medics moved through the RCR lines, to take up strategic positions to assist wounded in the pending attack. Lester’s younger brother, Andrew, (my father), was part of that group which allowed Lester and Andrew to have a short and ultimately, their last conversation.)

817116 Sgt. L.L. Murray was killed in action on 30 Sep 1918, He was never identified among those who died in the forgoing battle, so does not have a recognized grave.

He is honored at the Canadian War Memorial, at Vimy Ridge, France where his name is engraved on the walls at the base of the towering monument, with 11,284 other Canadians who were buried in unmarked graves, and on page 476 of the "Book of Remembrance of the First World War". This page is displayed for public viewing in the Memorial Chamber of the Parliament of Canada, on October 10th each year.

Lester took part in the following battles in which the RCR were awarded “Battle Honours”:

Arras, 9 April~4 May 1917 - Vimy, 9~14 April 1917 - Hill 70, 15~25 August 1917

Ypres, 31 July~10 Nov 1917 – Passchendaele, 12 Oct 1917 and/or 26 Oct~10 Nov 1917

Amiens, 8~11 August 1918 - Arras, 26 August~3 September 1918 - Scarpe, 26~30 August 1918, Hindenburg Line, Battles of 12 Sept~9 Oct 1918 - Canal du Nord, 27 Sept~2 Oct 1918

NOTE:-

In May 2000, the remains of an unidentified Canadian soldier who died in the First World War were repatriated from France and were buried in a special tomb in front of the National War Memorial in Ottawa. Speaking for myself—and perhaps thousands of others in Canada—this gave a small bit of closure, knowing that maybe—just maybe, this could be my uncle… home at last. (April 7, 2015)  Ristead O’Muireadhaig

Because I'm a first-generation Canadian (parents British by adoption (paternal) and by birth (maternal), so my previous generation's service in both World Wars was British.

Paternal side: My dad Grigori, having been a conscript in Tsar Nicholas II's Sumsk Hussars, left Kiev for the UK because of pogroms, and in July '14 before hostilities, enlisted as 2lt in the British Army's 18th Hussars (Queen Mary's Own), becoming one of the early BEF "Old Contemptibles" from the start in August 1914. He was shell-shocked (concussion) in an engagement near Amiens during the BEF's "Race to the Sea" and was repatriated. In 1919 he served again on the Tallents Mission as captain interpreter/ negotiator with the Reds on the Polish-Lithuanian border. His brother Józef (my uncle) stayed in Russian Ukraine and fought for the White forces during the Red Revolution, then fled to Belgium.

 

In WW2 Józef was in the Belgian Resistance, was arrested by the Gestapo, tortured, and starved. He survived and was awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre. His son Joseph, my cousin, escaped to Australia and served in the Australian Army. In WW2 my elder brother was a D-Day boy (Recce Sgt, 14 Fd Coy RCE, attached to QOR of C), and earned the MM for action against Gen Kurt Meyer's SS at Caen. A second brother, Andrew, joined up in '44 (RCE) when he came of age (but didn't serve overseas until the Korean War).

Maternal side: My Brit uncle (my mother's brother Wilfrid), was killed on the third day of the Somme in 1916 - gas gangrene from a shell fragment leg wound. He was a Regular (Royal West Kent Regt) - Same RMA Sandhurst class (1908) as Montgomery, and was A/Bde Major when he was killed. Buried at Étaples. (I recently donated his papers to the RWK Museum, Maidstone, UK). In WW 2 a Brit cousin Peter, an RAF prewar regular (Wing Commander) in 1942 was (likely) shot down, in the North Sea. He and his crew survived but froze to death in a life raft, and floated up on the Danish Coast. They are buried at Trondheim in a beautifully kept cemetery.

My wife Kit's father Lewis also was in the British Army in World War 1, 16th Bn West Yorkshire Regiment, Egypt and France, 1915, and was repatriated (under age). His brother Walter (Kit's uncle), Durham Light Infantry, was a POW, shot trying to escape. (At least, that's what his captors claimed). In World War 2 Kit's brother was an RCAF Bombardier served on practice bombing ranges in the UK. His wife was in the CWAC, at the CGS MGen MacNaughton's Army HQ. Kit's brother-in-law served as a sgt in the Perth Regiment in the Italian campaign, including Ortona, then Holland and Germany.

All the above are deceased. Tempus fugit.      Stephen Brodsky (April 5, 2015)

My wife's uncle, James Leo Ross, was killed at Ypres in 1915, age 18 (barely)..he lied about his age  (Belleville newspaper referred to him as "Gunner Ross). He is buried in Belgium in Potijze Chateau Wood Cemetery. His father, James, signed up (RCR) on the death of his son and was wounded in 1918.

My uncle on my Mom's side, P J (Joe) Halloran was a bombadier on a Lanc in RAF 622 Sqn (he was RCAF and survived to return to Canada with a beautiful English bride).  His 3 brothers were also in the Forces.  My dad, R G (Ray) was also a Bombadier (the RCA kind) and served in the Army of Occupation.  Gerry Heffernan (April 5, 2015)