We stormed the house there and the Germans rushed out the back door. The coffee that they were drinking was still warm when we entered the house.
Transcript / ShowHide
My father was in the First World War with the Black Watch [The Royal Highland Regiment of Canada]. And I have pictures of him in that unit. And in 1939, he joined up because he was with the same thing, the NPAM [Non-Permanent Active Militia]. He joined up and went overseas. He was a regimental sergeant major of the Black Watch, 13th Battalion. So when he went overseas in 1939, he left Canada in 1939, got over there in 1940 because they did some training in Newfoundland. So when I went over in 1941, I was able to meet my father over there and I was a corporal with the 17th Duke of York Royal Canadian Hussars. So we went on leave together which I think is rather unique, father and son. I was the only son, my mother had a daughter and myself, so there were only the two of us boys that were overseas. So my mother was a little lonesome.
The 17th Duke of York Royal Canadian Hussars became the 7th [Canadian] Reconnaissance Regiment for the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division. That meant that we were reconnoitering ahead of the 3rd Division to see where the Germans were and as we met them, or we encountered them, we would hold on and until we informed the infantry and the tanks, and the other rest of the people, they would come up and they would attack the Germans.
The liberation of Holland was probably the most memorable experience of my whole service in Europe. It was called the Battle of the Scheldt. The main battle was in the Scheldt Estuary which was situated just above Antwerp in Belgium. This was an area that the Germans wanted to hold at any cost because it was a direct supply route from the port of Antwerp directly through Holland for the Allied armies in northwestern Europe. The Germans in the Scheldt Estuary controlled all of the shipping into that port with their heavy guns; and the Allies had to take the area away from them at any cost.
We worked closely with the Dutch Resistance and the White [Resistance] Brigade forces from Belgium. We were almost always in water up to our knees for hours at a time due to German snipers. We liberated many villages during the month, some of the names were Waterland, Uitdam, Watervliet, Sint-Margriete, Maldegem. As a matter of fact, in Maldegem, our colonel, Colonel Lewis, was killed; and he is buried in the cemetery in Maldegem in a Row D, Grave 23. Other towns in the village or villages were Sluis, Oostburg and Aardenburg.
Aardenburg has a particularly sentimental memory for me because my section of nine men were the first troops to enter that town. We stormed the house there and the Germans rushed out the back door. The coffee that they were drinking was still warm when we entered the house. The headquarters for the enemy was in the house cellar. The mayor gave us a great welcome when all the Germans were cleared out the next day.
On one particular dangerous mission, our officer, Lieutenant Banks called out, Notman, you lead. So McKewan, the driver, Bill Thompson, the gunner and I moved to the front of the section and the column. And the other armoured cars and carriers followed it along this narrow road, somewhere in the Scheldt.
We passed Dutch people pushing their belongings on pushcarts, wheelbarrows, bicycles and anything they could find, trying to get out of the area that we were going into because we were heading into a stronghold of the Germans. It was a terrible sight to see the mothers carrying babies and old people with the look of sheer horror on their faces, trying to get away from their town, which was just a few miles away. We finally reached the town.
We had hardly a chance to bathe or change clothes. If you got soaked, no matter what time of the day it was, you just had to wear your uniform and let it dry on your body.
After the Germans were cleared out of the islands, we moved to Nijmegen, where our regiment was responsible for the security of the large bridge that was there. We were stationed under the bridge on the city side and went on duty, fired machine guns at any moving object floating down the Rhine River. This was done to prevent frogmen from bringing explosives to attach to the bridge and blow it up.