Veteran Stories:
Robert “Bob” Appell

Army

  • Newspaper clipping reporting that Robert Appell was wounded in Europe.

    Robert Appell
  • Mr. Appell's telegram to his family letting them know that he had arrived safely in Halifax , Nova Scotia and was proceeding to the hospital.

    Robert Appell
  • Portrait of Robert Appell.

    Robert Appell
  • Telegram letting Mr. Appell's family know that his medical status had been changed from critically ill to seriously ill on May 18, 1945 and he was progressing favourably.

    Robert Appell
  • Mr. Appell's telegram home after he arrived in England letting his family know that his next stop was Canada.

    Robert Appell
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"The field hospital had been set up and when I became conscious, I was back in Friesoythe and told the war was over."

Transcript

My name is Robert “Bob” Appell, corporal, retired. And I’d like to tell my little story about towards the end of the war in 1945. And this story I entitled "A Short Battle and A Long War."

We are the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders [of Canada], 4th [Canadian Armoured] Division, Canadian Army. We’re advancing towards Oldenburg, Germany; our orders are to take the key town of Friesoythe on the way. At midnight, the Argylls set out on the route set by their commander who himself went along with the marching men. Here and there, small bands of the enemy put up a fight but surprise was being achieved as coming from an unexpected angle, the German defenders had no organized scheme of logistics.

The speed of the advance at 0800 hours led to a tragedy though. Colonel [Frederick] Wigle and his headquarters group, intelligence officers, Lieutenants Earp and Roscoe, signallers and pioneers established themselves in a house on the outskirts of Friesoythe. Unfortunately, a party of about 50 Germans emerged from the woods 500 yards away, were unaware of the colonel’s group set up in the house and would likely have not, or would have passed by without incident. But some of the Canadians in the house opened fire.

The Germans, believing themselves cut off, made a determined advance on the house, firing and closing in. Colonel Wigle at once sent a message to send any available troops to deal with the threat. In spite of rapid fire from the defenders, the Germans continued with many killed at point blank range. Others did reach the house and one broke down the door, when a burst from a Schmeisser killed the colonel. The German in turn fell dead with Sten Gun fire from Lieutenant Roscoe and Private Fraser. Then a large hand grenade crashed through the window and instantly killed Privates [Cecil] French and [John] Brown and wounding others.

The odds were heavily against the remaining defenders but then a platoon from "A" and "C" Companies arrived and swept down the Germans, killing and taking prisoners, the entire party. Well, Friesoythe fell to the Argylls in the ensuing days after the bloody skirmishes. The battle strength was down to 225 officers and men from a regular complement of 400. Well I was spared the Friesoythe fight because I was in the town itself.

On April the 27th [1945] I returned to the battered town on a stretcher by ambulance Jeep, 88-millimetre air bursts shelled at the outside of a German farmhouse at dusk. The field hospital had been set up and when I became conscious, I was back in Friesoythe and told the war was over. At 2130 hours, May the 5th, the following message was received from brigade headquarters: "All offensive operations cancelled forthwith. All units stand fast until further orders. Acknowledge all informed." The war was over for Corporal Bob Appell and the war was over for the Argylls. Colonel Wigle and Corporal [Welby] Patterson, Privates [Brown] and French were buried in a little white-fenced plot on the main road entering Friesoythe [and were later interred at Holten Canadian War Cemetery in the Netherlands]. Lieutenant Roscoe was awarded the Military Cross, Private Fraser the Military Medal for combat in this battle.

This story I wrote for Remembrance Day in 2004. Thank you for listening.

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