Veteran Stories:
Clare Joseph Swartzentruber

Army

  • Clare Swartzentruber on his last leave before going overseas in 1944.

    Clare Swartzentruber
  • Clare Swartzentruber and his future wife on his last leave before going overseas in 1944. Mr. and Mrs. Swartzentruber were married on June 7, 1947.

    Clare Swartzentruber
  • Group portrait of 2/7th Hussars in Deventer, The Netherlands, in 1945.

    Clare Swartzentruber
  • Letter, dated May 25, 2004, honouring Clare Swartzentruber's participation in Military Warfare Testing during the war.

    Clare Swartzentruber
  • Clare Swartzentruber's military medals received for his time in the service. Medals: Canadian Volunteer Service Medal (CVSM) and War Medal (1939-45).

    Clare Swartzentruber
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"We’d go through there and you’d see people crawling out of that rubble that were still living in basements underneath the buildings"

Transcript

They asked for volunteers to do some research work. So a few of us in the group volunteered and we were stationed then in [CFB] Ottawa for, I guess, about five to six weeks. They didn’t tell us at the time what we were going to be doing, but when we got to Ottawa, we found out. They put mustard gas on our arms, testing the mustard gas, how it worked and the remedies for releasing it, you know, and getting over it.

So we went to the research department every day for about a month; and they tested these spots and then they saved whatever fluid came out of there and analyzed that. Then after that period of time, we went to Newmarket [Basic Training Centre] for basic training. Finally, we were sent overseas and we went to, by train, to Halifax and then got on the, I think it was, the [RMS] Aquitania, to go over to Europe.

We zig-zagged all the way across the Atlantic to avoid the submarines that were still in the ocean. And we wound up in Glasgow [Scotland] at Greenock. And then we went down to England and had some more tank training down, I think it was around Blackpool. We did our tank training and we were just getting ready to go out on the last tank run for a week’s time when we got the announcement one morning that it was over. VE [Victory in Europe] Day was declared; and the war was over.

So after that time, in a few days, we were sent over to the Continent and we went by boat to Ostend in Belgium and then from there, we got onto army vehicles and went up to northern Holland. I think Groningen was the place we stayed at in northern Holland for a week or two, while they were getting everything organized to where they were going to put us, I guess. So then we went down the south end to Holland to Deventer, and that’s where the whole organization got put together. From there, we went over into Germany and actually, we stayed in a small place in northern Germany. It was Weiner they called it. And we were stationed there for a few weeks with our, we didn’t take tanks into Europe then, we took armoured cars and Bren Gun Carriers [light tracked vehicles]. That’s what we used while we were in Germany.

So we got our vehicles there and from there, we went down to outside of Oldenburg near Leer in Germany; and we lived in some, it was what used to be a sales place, I think, for selling cattle. And there were some nice well structured buildings there; and we stayed in these buildings and had our vehicles there with us. And then we went out and, and did a lot of bridge control where they had put in Bailey bridges [portable truss bridges] and moved quite a few troops, German troops from one camp to another; wound up moving a lot of these. And then we also transported a lot of army vehicles to a huge airport at Antwerp in Holland. There were miles and miles of vehicles put there. I don’t know what they did with them all. I guess some of them were sold to local farmers, I believe, but other than that, maybe they sent a lot back home, but we don’t know. We moved a lot of vehicles down there and continued to do our patrols around the traffic, around Leer.

The damage we saw in Germany, it was terrific. It was horrible to see everything blown up. All the bridges on the rivers all blown up and put army bridges across, the Bailey bridges, you know, put them across and that’s how they’d get across. The time we went on leave up into Denmark. We went up to Hamburg in Germany by a military bus. And they drove through Hamburg and that place was so hard hit by bombers that they just took bulldozers and bulldozed the streets open, pushed the stuff off the streets to make room that you could drive vehicles through. We’d go through there and you’d see people crawling out of that rubble that were still living in basements underneath the buildings, just crawling out of there and going to work and trying to find something to do.

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