"He had a radio in his jeep and I was picking up the map, I heard some guy say, the war is over."
My dad said he would drive us up after I convinced him I should join and we went around the drill hall in Regina and we saw these signs, and I saw Regina Rifle Regiment. I said, look, dad, they’re recruiting, it looks like it. He says, yeah, you don’t want to join those guys, they’re beetle crushers. I said, what’s a beetle crusher? He says, infantry. He was artillery in the First World War. And so he said, come on, I want you to join the air force. So we went over to the air force and they weren’t recruiting that day, so then he spotted another sign that was the [Royal Canadian Army] Service Corps and they were out to lunch; and by this time, we had circled around the hall and back to Regina Rifles. And in the office was Major Scott Calder. He saw my dad; and he said, hey, Fred. And so when he said that and went out to talk to my dad, who he had known during World War I, Teaser [Eric] Ashton, Roy Lix and I sneaked into the office and were signed up before he could do anything about it.
First of all, the battalion didn’t go to England until September 1941. And then we, I was with them training in England until 1943. And then I was returned to Canada to go for officers training at Brockville. I graduated in February 1944 in the rank of second lieutenant, promoted to lieutenant in August, and returned to England in December 1944; and rejoined my battalion in April 1945 in the rank of lieutenant.
I can remember reading the casualty list on D-Day and seeing the guys I’d joined up with on the list; and I felt like I had deserted them, you know, that I should have been there helping them. And so it’s like if your brothers and sisters were in trouble, you’d want to be there to help them, so I had exactly the same feeling.
I think I joined them just after they left Emden [Germany]. And we were fighting holding troops. They were not heavy enemy resistance, but they were delaying troops. And so we kept on the move, you know, we’d have the battle and take over their position and then the next day, we were on the move again. So we finally wound up at Leer, one of the places I remember, but we advanced from there to another town I can’t think of, but at any rate, the night before the war ended, we had to do an attack on the U-boat [German submarine] yards in Northern Germany. And while the CO [commanding officer] was preparing his notes for that, he asked me to go get a map out of his jeep; and well, he had a radio in his jeep and I was picking up the map, I heard some guy say, the war is over.
And so I went back, it was Major Bob Orr commanding because Colonel Gregory was away and I went back and told him. I said, I just heard the war is over. So he got on the phone to brigade and they said, yeah, but keep it quiet, it’s not firm yet, so just have the troops stay on guard and nothing else. And so he said to me, don’t tell the company commanders about this and he had them in for O-Group [Order Group] that evening and my friend, Captain Buzz Keating who passed away a couple of years ago, was commanding 'C' Company and he was given the job to attack these fortifications and that, would have been a nasty thing.
Anyway, Major Orr gave the O-Group and everybody sitting there, and suddenly said, well, that’s just for the record, the war is over. And they said to the quartermaster [in charge of distributing supplies and provisions], send a gallon of rum to all the companies and have one sent up here too. [laughs]
I was in part of this O-Group and there was a dead silence; and then the guys just shook hands with each other and said, congratulations for making it. And then Major Orr’s batman [aide], who was a youngster from Regina, fluent in German and English, and a jack of all trades, we were in a farmhouse, and he saw a pig, so he slaughtered a pig; and so we had rum and fresh pork for breakfast. [laughs] So that was a night I remember, that’s all I remember about that night. I guess I had too many rums! [laughs]
Most of my experience was the tail end of the war and after the war. That’s when we really got busy with the administration, you know, getting the boys sorted out. Some wanted to stay with the battalion and go home with it, although those that had been overseas for four years had a priority to go home. The wounded, those who had been wounded would have a priority to go home. And they had a priority to go back if they volunteered for the Pacific and those that arrived late in the war were transferred to the 4th Battalion Reginas [Regina Rifle Regiment] in the occupation force [Canadian Army Occupation Force].
After the war, we gave them a leave for England or anywhere they wanted to go, as much as we could, but we still had to maintain a certain number with the battalion just in case something started up again. And then we tried to find some sports outlets, so with the Dutch people we arranged for tennis and parties if we could -dances and stuff like that, you know, to keep them entertained. And the Dutch had, I think, what they called a health spa in Arnhem; and they could go there once a week and for 50 cents, you could have a hot tub and a rubdown. And so we made sure they did the circuit. And then there was a lot of parading too which they hated, of course. [laughs] But we had to, we did a couple of guards of honour, we did a royal guard for Queen Wilhelmina [of the Netherlands], and we did an honour guard for Field Marshal [Sir Bernard] Montgomery while we were there and that took weeks of practice, of course. So those are the kind of things we were involved in.