When we said we were Canadians, the whole town just went crazy. They realized that they had been liberated.
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I was still with the [No.] 2 Canadian General [Hospital] and they were allocated to go to Normandy as a field hospital. There was no job for me to do, so I was left behind when the [No.] 8 Canadian General [Hospital] came in to take their place. They had their own group of things, so I was sent to Aldershot [the Canadian Army’s principal base in Britain] as excess manpower, as the campaign in Normandy was going on. The casualties were mounting; and the number of available reinforcements were starting to dwindle. They decided that they would start to look at people who had had the infantry training and things of that sort, with the idea in mind that they would be transferred over to the infantry.
We went on up to Ghent [Belgium] to a place called the Leopold Barracks, and that was where they kept the reinforcements. It was rather interesting: they simply marched us out and lined us up on the parade square. There must have been, must have been, oh, 100, 125 of us in the draft. And they put us, as I say, marched us out onto the parade square; and they simply went down, and they went down so many people and they said, everybody from here, take three paces to the left, which we did. And then the one, they went down to the other end; and they said, everybody from here to the right, I guess it was, take three paces to the right. And then they said, well, now you people on this end are going to The Lincoln and Welland [Regiment]; you people in the middle are going to the Algonquins [Regiment]; and you people on the end are going to the Argylls [Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise’s)]. And that was how we were, we didn’t have any choice as to where we wanted to go.
I had never heard of the Lincoln and Welland Regiment. I didn’t know where they came from. I soon found out, but I had never heard of them before and they were in the 4th [Canadian (Armoured)] Division. So we were in the 10th Infantry Brigade and we were sent up the line just after they had gone through, this was just after the battle that they had done for Walcheren Island and things of that sort.
Towards the end of March , we went up and into Germany; and we crossed over the Rhine on Easter Sunday, which was the 1st of April, if I remember correctly. And we moved up the east bank of the Rhine and came back into Holland. We were aiming for a little place called Delden, which was on the Twente Canal. And that was about the 3rd, they brought us up. And we went a rather roundabout route. I’m not sure just exactly where they went, but they got to the canal and there was a canal to cross that particular night. And they put us into a reforestation place and Jerry [the Germans] had spotted us coming up, so he was dropping mortars into the tops of the trees. And you could hear the shrapnel zinging around. But nobody was hurt or anything like that.
And that night, to make a long story short, we advanced to the canal; and we had the canvas boats and we made our way over. "C" Company ran into some rather heavy fighting. We had skirmishes, but we didn’t, it wasn’t heavy or anything like that. And by the next morning, we were into Delden. It was interesting: we were going down a street, you know, marching, well, working our way down, when people came out and they sort of looked at us; and we said, we’re Canadians. And well, when we said we were Canadians, the whole town just went crazy. They realized that they had been liberated. And we had a very happy time with the people. It was there that I had gone out and wandered down one of the places; and I saw somebody, and I said to him, "are there any Germans about?" And he said, "no." And I thought afterwards, what a stupid thing to do. You know, here I am, all alone and if I run into Germans, what am I going to do? But he said, no, there was nobody around.
And, sort of as an offset for that, 50 years later, we went back to Delden and that day, somebody had taken my picture. And my wife had discovered it amongst a bunch of war mementos that were in the town hall. And she said that was me; and I looked at it, and I said, well no, I don’t think that’s me. I looked at it again; and I thought, my heavens, it is me. The fellow who took it was an architect. He couldn’t practice his architecture so he took up photography as a hobby; and he was sort of photographing the history. How he got away with it, I don’t know, but he did during the German occupation. And it was rather interesting. So we have a good relationship with that little town.