Veteran Stories:
Charles Phelan


  • Charles Phelan wearing the bush uniform and a straw hat in southern Italy, 1944

  • Group of Royal Canadian Horse Artillery soldiers with a captured Nazi flag in Italy, 1943

  • Charles Phelan plotting targets on an artillery board at the Command Post, Lamone River, Italy. December 1944

  • The staff of B Troop, A Battery, at the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery Command Post at Lamone River, Italy. 24 December 1944

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"We ended up at a place called Sable, and there we were prepared to advance up towards the front"


My name is Charlie Phelan. I joined the RCHA [Royal Canadian Horse Artillery] in Kingston on the 6th of September, 1939, and we left Kingston on December the 6th, 1939, and I was overseas until the end of the war. We went the full route, all over England and Scotland and Wales, doing our training, and then we went down through Sicily and Italy and did our thing all the way through. Then we swung over and went through the south of France and up into Belgium and Holland, where we ended up during the final days of the war. I was what they called a Command Post Officer's Assistant, known as CPOAC, and worked in the command post which controlled the fire of the guns and so forth. It was an adventure, as well as what I figured was duty, but I've never regretted it, and I had no injuries or anything of that type, so I figure I was one of the lucky ones. I think there's one thing I might tell you about that is somewhat of interest, and that was the fact that in 1940, after the British Expeditionary Force had been evacuated from Dunkirk with a great loss of equipment and so forth, it wasn't very long after that that they decided they'd better make a political gesture, and we were amongst the people they sent over to France in June of 1940. The evacuation in Dunkirk had been over for about a month or so, roughly, and away we went. So we went over and we landed on the 20th of June, and we landed in Brest. Relocated ourselves, got our equipment ready with us and we took off by road, and we traveled towards Paris. We ended up at a place called Sable, and there we were prepared to advance up towards the front. Unbeknownst to us, of course, the French were preparing to surrender, and the next morning, bright and early, a couple of motorcyclists came charging down the road, heading for headquarters. We soon got word that we were going to withdraw because the French were going to surrender, and we should be prepared to meet tanks. So we put our guns in action along the side of the road and just behind a little hill, and there we sat, ready to shoot. It's just as well that nothing came over that hill, because we didn't know a French or British tank from a German, so the first guy that came over there was probably going to be in trouble. However, nothing showed up.
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