"When we arrived at Ozada the next morning and marched to the camp we passed the shackles – a mountain of them, piled high near the main gate."
My name is Doug Hogg. I'm from London, Ontario, and I served in the Canadian Army during World War Two. I served overseas, but this article that I want to quote is from a period of service in Canada which was rather interesting.
During the period between May and November 1942, a temporary prisoner of war camp existed in a desolate area some fifty miles from Banff, where the Alberta prairie meets the foothills of the Rocky Mountain ranges. It consisted of military marquis tents, closely arranged on about one square mile of flat, barren land. The camp was surrounded by the usual high barbed-wire fence with identical guard towers spaced evenly about a hundred yards apart around the exterior perimeter. We knew it as the Ozada Prisoner of War Camp.
By October this camp was at full capacity, and as I recall it contained about ten thousand army prisoners of war, mostly German troops captured in North Africa, along with a smattering of French Foreign Legion prisoners from the same area. A contingent of the Veteran's Guard of Canada provided the guard service for the entire camp. For this purpose, they were armed with Reising submachine guns as personal weaponry. Heavier calibre machine guns were mounted in each guard tower. The Veteran's Guard had wooden hut accommodations on some higher ground outside the camp's perimeter. At this time our infantry regiment, at full strength with almost a year of training on maneuvers completed, was stationed at Seaforth Barracks in the city of Vancouver.
I remember this one October morning at the regular battalion parade when the Commanding Officer announced that the entire regiment would be leaving the city by troop train that evening with full battle gear and live ammunition on an emergency assignment, destination not disclosed. We were going to the prisoner of war camp at Ozada, Alberta. We had been to this camp briefly in May, unloading German prisoners picked up from troop ships in New York City. Why were we returning? The answer was political: the government of Canada had been informed that Canadian prisoners of war taken at Dieppe were already, or were going to be, shackled in German prison camps overseas. A reciprocal movement had been ordered for all German prisoners of war in the Ozada camp. This brought immediate reaction from the German prisoners, who threatened to riot if attempts to shackle them were made. Thus our task as the nearest trained infantry unit was to supervise this shackling, and prevent or contain any riotous behaviour by prison inmates.
When we arrived at Ozada the next morning and marched to the camp we passed the shackles – a mountain of them, piled high near the main gate. The prisoners saw the shackles and witnessed our arrival. It was October, the temperature was dropping, the ground was partly frozen, and patches of snow were lying about. The first night was a bit of an ordeal - bare-ground sleeping, six or seven men to a tent, no electricity, no heat, and one kerosene lantern per tent. In contrast, the prisoners were somewhat better off – floorboards, bunks, and heaters in their tents, with electricity and running water. That first morning we stood by while our officers and Veteran Guard officials conducted meetings to plan and coordinate the task. We waited around for most of the day, as did the prisoners. There was no indication that they would withdraw their threat to riot. We of course had our orders, and the government had issued the directive.
As I saw it at that time, this could have developed into a very messy situation. Ten thousand objecting prisoners, about one thousand heavily armed troops and guards, and a government that wanted its directive carried out. To prevent bloodshed and casualties, somebody had to blink. The Canadian government did blink, and we were given the order to stand down. The story we were told was that our government was given assurances that day by the German government that our Canadian prisoners of war would have shackles removed, and no further shackling would take place. To me this sounded like a comfortable and happy ending, that we accepted, and resulted in our immediate return to Vancouver without incident. To this day, to my knowledge, nothing has ever been publicized about this event, period.