Veteran Stories:
Howard McConnell “Hardtack” Breidon

Army

  • From left to right: Cliff Gillespie, unknown, Ted Cushing, unknown, Howard Breidon, in Apeldoorn, The Netherlands, 1945.

    Howard Breidon
  • Three dispatch riders on Harley Davidsons in Apeldoorn, The Netherlands, 1945.

    Howard Breidon
  • Howard Breidon (right) and his father in Antwerp, Belgium, 1944.

    Howard Breidon
  • A group picture of Canadian servicemen in Paris, France, 1944. Howard Breidon is in the bottom row, second from the right.

    Howard Breidon
  • Portrait of Howard Breidon in his dispatch rider uniform. Antwerp, Belgium, 1944.

    Howard Breidon
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"The first thing I can remember was the smell; and the tanks that were emptied, that were blown up, Canadian tanks."

Transcript

I joined up on my birthday when I turned 18. I couldn’t go overseas until I was 19. So, when I turned 19, I was on the ship to go to England, that was my second birthday. And then [after] a year in England, I’m on the ship to go into Bény-sur-Mer, Courseulles-sur-Mer on my birthday. Funny, eh? [laughs] The first thing I can remember was the smell; and the tanks that were emptied, that were blown up, Canadian tanks. And a lot of the dead laying around. The smell, yeah. And if it wasn’t the troops, it was animals too, you know. Everything. A dispatch rider? We would be communications a lot, with military information; and another thing, it was a lot of convoy work. My job was to, if we were 15 or 20 vehicles going to a place, you had to control traffic, just like a cop. We couldn’t have no traffic coming through, cutting in our convoy, in case some of the drivers got lost. That was our job, traffic control with the convoy. This is where we lost a lot of DRs [dispatch riders], oh yeah, yeah. Because we were, give the Canadians a motorcycle and a bottle of beer, and we’ll save the bullets, they [German propaganda] were saying. A lot of them were killed before we even got into France. My buddy, Charlie Milks, I come in from a run one day in England and then the OC [officer commanding] called me in the office, and Charlie was killed. So I took that pretty hard. He had an accident with his bike and a truck in England and Charlie never come home. And then we had two other riders with me when we went to Europe after that, and they never come back. The last big push, Jerry [the Germans] come into Brussels, in Veghel [The Netherlands]. The raid, it was a Christmas morning [1944], and Captain [Herbert, "Bert"] Hargrave, who was our CO [commanding officer] at the time, was just making arrangements for when we get home to come to his ranch in Walsh, Alberta. He was a Member of Parliament [Progressive Conservative for Medicine Hat, 1972-1984]. Hargrave. Bert. And that Christmas morning, that’s when Jerry come in with the last big push. Tails were flying off of the aircraft and the Messerschmitts [German fighter aircraft] were falling down; and that’s all that I can remember. But when we first went in, of course, I was at [Courseulles]-sur-Mer too, don’t forget. There was a lot of Focke-Wulves [Fw 190: German fighter aircraft], and stuff like that. They said, when you get there, you’ll need that shovel, you’re going to dig in. We didn’t think that, because we were not a combat unit, but what you were told to do, you did it or you were a goner. The worst thing I found in France; first went in there, putting civilians in the underground tunnels to sleep overnight because of the air raids ̶ taking a wheelbarrow with a mattress on it, put it down in the ground where the family could sleep. We felt more sorry for the civilians than we did for ourselves. Yeah. That was, you know, quite a thing, yeah.
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