Veteran Stories:
John Ellis

Army

  • Mr. A. John Ellis, O.C., LL.D., O.R.S., 2003.

    A. John Ellis
  • A thank you letter from the Mayor of Utrecht, The Netherlands to Major A. John Ellis, 3rd Canadian Infantry Division Headquarters, May 22, 1945.

    A. John Ellis
  • Major A. John Ellis (foreground) and an unidentified comrade, The Netherlands, 1945.

    A. John Ellis
  • A. John Ellis (first row, extreme left) and brother officers attending a course in military administration, Brockenhurst, England, 1940.

    A. John Ellis
  • Congratulatory message from General Dwight Eisenhower, the outgoing commander of Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF), following victory over Germany, 1945.

    A. John Ellis
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"I was posted to the 3rd Canadian Division and we fought our way all the way from Bergen op Zoom up to the Leer River. The Germans retreated very quickly and I was there for the armistice."

Transcript

I had a very good friend who was the adjutant [staff officer, assistant to the commanding officer] of Le Régiment de Maisonneuve. And after I was looking for a billet, like The Black Watch [Royal Highland Regiment of Canada] or something like that, I thought to myself, well no, if I’m going to get anything out of this war, I’d like to be bilingual because I’d had sort of 11 years of college or university French, but I was not very good in conversation. So I thought, well, I’d like to get into the Maisonneuve. This good friend of mine said, well, come on down to the caserne [barracks]. I’ve forgotten exactly where he was, I think it was in Saint-Henri [a neighbourhood in southwestern Montreal], and he said, I’ll introduce you to the commandant.

So one Saturday morning I went down and talked to the commandant; and he asked me all sorts of questions in French and I, at the appropriate time, apparently said, "oui, monsieur" or "non, monsieur." After I left, he said to my friend, "that young English boy speaks good French." So he said, "we’d better take him on." So the first thing I knew, I was enrolled in Le Régiment de Maisonneuve and sent down to Valcartier camp [A13 Canadian Infantry Training Centre] for training. I was, at that time, the only English-speaking officer in the Maisonneuve. I had to speak French the best I could and they gave me a platoon, all of whom probably spoke better English than I did, and they gave me the nickname, "Le Maudit Anglais," which means "the Goddamn Englishman." They were great boys; they were great fighters, good fellows and we got along very well. The nickname was just facetious, of course. I didn’t mind that a bit.

We were sent overseas in the autumn of 1940. I came back to Canada as a, as my article states, in 1943 and went to the Royal Military College for a war staff course, concentrated. And they kept me on as an instructor there for a while; and my wife and I, my wife was English, as you know, and she came with me, so we had about a year outside the war zone. And then they got the wind up that they were losing too many trained staff officers in France, as they were; and I was suddenly called back in the middle of instructing a course and flown right back to England. And from there on, I got down to a reinforcement camp, I think it was in Aldershot [Canadian Army holding camp in England] at that time, and from there, we were sent over to a reinforcement camp in France with notables like George Hees and so on. And after about one day, George said, this is enough for me, so he got his bedroll and so forth, thumbed his way to the front and got himself a job. And I was a good little boy, I thought I had more confidence in the army’s ability to do the right thing, so I stayed for another week, then I did the same thing, thumbed my way to the front, got myself a job as a jack-of- all-trades liaison officer in the [First Canadian] Army headquarters; and eventually, I was posted to the 3rd Canadian [Infantry] Division and we fought our way all the way from Bergen op Zoom [The Netherlands] up to the Leer River. The Germans retreated very quickly and I was there for the armistice [on May 8, 1945].

And then we moved in, actually, I was on duty the night that the armistice was declared. I got the first message for the whole division that the armistice was going to be called at 9:00 the following morning. So we packed up and started to move into Emmerich in the Emden Peninsula. One of the interesting things I thought was that we had to go through on each side of the road, lines of German soldiers, fully armed and so on; and we’re very much afraid that somebody might go crazy and start shooting, but they didn’t. And we got into an officers’ mess in Aurich, Germany, and on the mantelpiece, I remember, were a whole lot of pewter mugs, so like good Canadian roughies, we put the mugs on the floor, filled them full of petrol, lit them on fire and did war dances and hoops around them, while the poor German stewards were worried out of their life with their, they got the crazy Canadians, they’re doing something silly. But we survived it.

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