Guardsman R.W. Ferguson of The Canadian Grenadier Guards watches two French children examining his Centaur MkII anti-aircraft vehicle, Elbeuf, France, 28 August 1944. Mr. Arcker servied with The Canadian Grenadier Guards.
Credit: Lieut. Ken Bell / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-211326
Restrictions on use: Nil
"[...] and with another young officer, and they were both killed by sniper fire, unfortunately. It was difficult for me to write his mother in London, Ontario, but I wanted to let her know of her son’s outstanding heroism."
I was a medical officer for The [Canadian] Grenadier Guards [22nd Armoured Regiment], which was a tank regiment stationed initially in Montreal [Quebec], but they were overseas. And I was sent across from Britain to a reinforcement training centre in France in late June 1944. Then, when the medical officer of the Grenadier Guards, which was a tank regiment, was killed in a stray mortar [blast], unfortunately, I was assigned to take his place. Although I travelled in a jeep, The Grenadier Guards was a tank regiment. I joined this regiment in France at the Battle of Caen/Falaise.
I followed along, not near the front, close to it, because these are all soldiers, mostly in tanks and in some other vehicles. And I had two vehicles. One was a half track with rails that could take stretchers with wounded soldiers and another one which carried my equipment and supplies and all sorts of things, you see. So we just moved along as the war progressed. There was a big stop when the Germans entered what was called the Ardennes Forest [during the Battle of the Bulge, December 16, 1944 to January 25, 1945] in about the middle of France and we had to retreat for a day or two, but eventually that was overcome and we continued on through northern Europe.
Well, there were lots of casualties, people wounded. Because I was there with my troop of helpers, sort of male nurses type of thing. And we had to give first aid and control bleeding and give comfort and get them either on vehicles or on planes sometimes back to England for treatment of various sorts.
When the war ended, I was with a group that reached the eastern side of the Rhine River, between Oldenburg and Wilhelmshaven [Germany]. And just as an anecdote, we entered the home of a German farmer and asked for a bottle of wine to celebrate the end of the war. Well, he claimed to not have any wine. Well, we didn’t believe him, we went down to his cellar where we found a large wine collection, some of which we confiscated.
I was shot at by a sniper while travelling in my jeep in an unsecured area. It was evening and I had gone to the front on a report of a wounded soldier from our regiment. I quickly turned around and withdrew to a safer spot. In Holland, the chaplain who worked beside me went out into the battlefield in an attempt to bring back some wounded soldiers. I spent considerable time and effort to convince him not to venture into no man’s land because of the danger. Well, he went out nonetheless, and with another young officer, and they were both killed by sniper fire, unfortunately. It was difficult for me to write his mother in London, Ontario, but I wanted to let her know of her son’s outstanding heroism.
Well, I recall our regiment coming into an area where there’d been heavy fighting and a large tent set up to deal with casualties and wounded soldiers and men doing surgery. And one of the men, one of the surgeons, when he was relieved, we noticed he had on a German uniform underneath his surgical scrubs. He had stayed behind when his German battalion had retreated to treat wounded soldiers.
Well, eventually, the Allies managed to defeat the German forces and May 8, 1945 [V-E Day], was the date of the unconditional surrender of the armed forces of Nazi Germany. Hitler committed suicide a few days earlier during the Battle of [Berlin] and that was the end of the war.
Well, I continued to stay of course with the regiment in Europe and then finally back into Britain. And there’s a long wait until our turn came for our repatriation back to Canada. You had a certain number of points: how long you were there, if you were married, and how many children you had and so on. You get accumulated points. I had to wait until March 1946. I had already come back to England and I was in a large military community in, I forget the name of the place. But, anyway, waiting your turn to come back. Come back by ship. And there were 10,000 troops on, this was the [RMS] Queen Mary, the earlier Queen Mary. I don’t know, maybe it was an 80,000 ton ship, but it was loaded with troops. We had bunks about six bunks high because everybody wanted to get home.