Legion photograph taken in 2009. A copy of this hangs in Mr. Avory's Legion.Ernest Avory
Certificate of transfer to the Army Reserve, May 20, 1946.Ernest Avory
Ernest Avory after joining the British Territorial Army, 1939. He was part of the 117 Field Regiment, 256 Field Battery.Ernest Avory
Ernest Avory in Europe. Date and location unknown.Ernest Avory
Ernest Avory was sent to France as a replacement in 1944, where he was placed with the 69th West Riding Field Regiment, from Leeds, Yorkshire.Ernest Avory
"They said to me, Ernie, if you get out of this, immigrate to Canada, get a job and you’ll get everything you wanted."
It was the last four weeks of being a gunner in 117 Field Regiment before the invasion [of Normandy, June 6, 1944]. I went to France as a replacement soldier and eventually, I was put into the 69th (West Riding) Field Regiment [Royal Artillery], a unit from Leeds, Yorkshire. The only badge we were allowed to wear was [the divisional badge of the West Riding Division, which depicted] a polar bear. Lots of places we went where we landed didn’t have names on them; we often did not know where we were. In France I remember, Amiens, Louvain, Cambrai, Mons and in Belgium, Gent and Antwerp. In Antwerp, I was put in hospital for three days with massive fibrositis But a German rocket, V2 [long-range ballistic missile], landed on a cinema in Antwerp and unfortunately, it killed over 400 people and injured many more and I was taken out of hospital and sent back to my unit.
We went through Gent, Turnhout, Grave [Netherlands]. There were seven bridges at Grave. How we got across the bridge without ‘Jerry’ [the enemy] blowing them, I don’t know. But we ended up in Nijmegen on the River Waal, German tanks still firing on Nijmegen at the bridge and …into town.
Our division was put with the Canadians to bolster their artillery. [At Oosterbeek, in the Netherlands] I was up in our observation post one night, we were in the basement of the house that had its upper floors blown off when a Tiger tank fired at us but missed. It was only at night when they moved up, fired some rounds and then retreated again. It was lucky for us, though; we went down each morning and about 20 feet from the house where we were, you could see where their rounds had ricocheted on the ground and carried on. The tanks were fitted with 88s [88-millimetre cannons], a very high muzzle velocity, very powerful.
The starving Netherlanders were eating tulip bulbs; we were sending food up to them and this was the last infiltration the tanks would do because the war was ended. We’d blast into Arnhem and onto Utrecht. Food supplies were sent up in convoys to feed the starving Netherlanders, so with the fighting finished, we advanced over the Rhine at Cologne. It wasn’t over a bridge by the way, it was on boats, and up the Rhine and when we got to Cologne, the cathedral was sandbagged halfway up. And up the Rhine we went to Osnabrück and onto Dortmund.
Our job now was to feed and guard 10,000 displaced persons who the Germans used as slave labour to help assemble their war production. They came from France, Italy, Poland, Russia, Hungary, Slovakia and Yugoslavia. If they escaped and went into Dortmund to riot, the Germans would sound the air raid sirens and we would go down there of course and pick them up and return them to their camps. We fed them and kept them in. They eventually were sent back to their own country and at long last, after that, we arrived back in France at Calais for our return trip across the [English] Channel to Dover. And the next day to Woolwich Arsenal artillery depot where we received our discharge from the Army, 20th of [April], 1939 to 19th of [May], 1946.
After I was de-mobbed [demobilized], it took me six months to learn to be inside a building. Because over the seven years or so, I had spent most of it outdoors and I loved the outdoors. That’s all I can say and I’m very pleased that I was with the Canadians in Holland and we were part of their force because they said to me, Ernie, if you get out of this, immigrate to Canada, get a job and you’ll get everything you wanted. And this has been proved very well. Even though it took me ten years after we married in 1947, it took ten years for us to come to Canada before my wife [agreed to leave England]; but when we got here, she said, I don’t know why we didn’t come before. I’ve been married to my wife, Grace, 63 years this year and I’m very grateful for Canada, the best country in the world.