Veteran Stories:
Alfred Monnin

Army

  • Mr. Alfred Monnin on May 27, 2010 in Portage-la-Prairie.

    Historica Canada
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"I would go to the division, which was higher up, to retrieve messages or orders which I then had to distribute to the other regiments."

Transcript

I fought with the Canadian forces in that area. My parents were from Switzerland; my father arrived from Switzerland in 1905. I was a reinforcement officer. I was trained for the infantry but could be attached or sent to any regiment. That’s how I ended up with the 4th [Canadian] Infantry Brigade. I was never with any one regiment. I was a liaison officer with the 4th Brigade for the rest of the war. We were quite close to Strasbourg, near the German, Belgian and Dutch borders. I would go from the brigade to the regiments bearing or bringing back messages. I would go to the division, which was higher up, to retrieve messages or orders which I then had to distribute to the other regiments. It was strictly liaison work. I never had any men under my command. I was part of a regiment, the 4th Brigade, which was made up of Anglophones from Toronto. They knew that I spoke French. They told me that I would be the one to make contact with the French civilians, if there were any. Our predecessors had evacuated all of the French civilians. It’s painful to say, but some French civilians cooperated with the Germans. Others were sympathetic to our cause. But some French people were not very cooperative with the Canadian army or the Allies. We had instructions not to interact with them. Sometimes we would sleep outdoors, that happened pretty regularly. It wasn’t the end of the world but it wasn’t very pleasant. You had to sleep in a these little trenches they called ‘slit trenches’ that were not very big, and only about two feet deep. It was very humid in there at night. My wife Denise stayed in Manitoba the whole time. She worked all throughout the war. We corresponded but it was very difficult. It was slow. I would write to her about once a week. She wrote to me as well. My mother or father would also write me at least once a week. Sometimes, I would receive three, four or five letters all at once since the delivery wasn’t very reliable. I don’t know how my letters got home, but I think they received them pretty quickly. We weren’t allowed to say where we were or to say which regiment or brigade we were with; anything that could have given information to the Germans had they intercepted our mail. I was told that if we wrote of something prohibited, it was heavily censured. It was crossed out with a big black marker. I don’t know since I never saw any of the letters. Denise wrote to me once a week so I always received her news. It all happened so quickly; I got back to Canada and then all of a sudden, I had completed three years of law school. At the time, a law degree took four years of studies. If I had followed the regular schedule, I would have had to have waited from January to September. But they let me register in January. They told me to find a way to catch up on what I had missed during the previous session. They gave me a lot of books. I took the exam in the month of April or the beginning of May and was called to the bar.
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