"I think we all sensed this was a difficult mission. Events later proved to be a mission impossible"
My name is Major (Retired) Ivan D. Burch. My combat participation during World War II was relatively short but not uneventful.
I had a liking for military life at an early age. While attending Victoria College in 1942, I was a member of the Reserve Army 3rd Battalion Canadian Scottish. June, '43 I joined the Active Force. By June, '44 I had completed all my infantry training and was a Corporal instructor in the Infantry Training Centre in Calgary, Alberta.
As the Canadian Army, at that time, was fighting in northwest Europe, it seemed like there was a strong possibility of an early end to hostilities, so I relinquished my rank and requested overseas service. And as a private soldier I arrived in England in mid-October, '44. And I quickly moved to Belgium landing in Oostende on November the 6th. As a reinforcement infantry soldier and moving up to the front, I had no guarantee as to where I would be sent. There were, in fact, 25 different Canadian infantry regiments in northwest Europe at the time, all in desperate need of trained reinforcements. I, nevertheless, made it known at every opportunity that I wished to join the 1st Battalion Canadian Scottish Regiment, my sister battalion from my former reserve service. And on November the 16th, I finally arrived at the rear echelon of the Canadian Scottish Regiment, which was part of the 7th Brigade of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division.
At the time, the regiment was located in Nijmegen, Holland, where we spent most of the winter in static warfare. The only real excitement came from incoming German artillery and rocket fire. And from patrolling. One patrol, the guys in front ran into a minefield and one of my friends was killed and another died of wounds while a prisoner of war. It's scary and upsetting losing men, even though you've only been with these people for a limited period of time, maybe a few weeks, you quickly melded and became part of the group.
In early February, '45, along with the rest of the Allied Forces, we started to push towards the Rhine River. There were many small battles as we moved, in many cases in amphibian vehicles, from Nijmegen through the flat, colder country, which the Germans had flooded. We passed through Kleve and on the 15th the battalion took up a position at Hesterfeld(?). The enemy counter-attacked and pounded the unit with heavy artillery, rocket fire, mortar fire, almost continuously for two nights and a day. It was a real horror show. On the morning of the 19th, C Company was ordered to attack and clear out enemy positions on the edge of the Morlen Wood, to our front. The boggy ground ruled out any close support by tanks. And the Regina Rifle Regiment on our left had been battling for three days to clear the same area without success.
I think we all sensed this was a difficult mission. Events later proved to be a mission impossible. Turned out as we were facing elite German paratroops, who were heavily dug in, apparently unbeknown to Allied intelligence. As we moved down the ridge under intense enemy fire with mortars and machine guns, I looked back to find that I was the only one standing and one of my friends was yelling, "Burch. Get down." I was almost bomb happy at this stage. But I did lay down in a shallow trench, I pulled my helmet over my face and tried to keep my mind focused. I suddenly remembered my Sunday school days and was thinking of John 3:16. That's a quotation in the Bible that says, "For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten son. That whoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life." I kept saying this over and over 'til I glanced up and there was a German paratrooper with a Schmeisser machine gun pointed at me about six feet away saying "Raus!" I had no alternative but to put up my arms and as I looked around I saw that the Germans were around us and my brother soldiers were surrendering. So we put up our arms and we were escorted off the field.