Veteran Stories:
Arthur Holden

Army

  • Mr. Arthur Holden, April 2012.

    The Memory Project
  • Newspaper clip from The Montreal Star showing the four Holden brothers serving during the Second World War. From left to right: Cecil, Arthur, Leonard and Henry. Henry was serving with the Permanent Force and Arthur was doing militia service with the Royal Montreal Regiment before the war.

    Arthur Holden
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"[...] so I was teaching the Officers the wireless, how to operate you know, because they had no idea of the procedure and everything else [...] If you didn't get it right, you'd get a lot of whistles and if you imagine if you've got 50 guys in different tanks and they're trying to net into your signal, it’s not easy."

Transcript

[Serving in the pre-war Non-Permanent Active Militia] I was in the Reserve [the Canadian Non-Permanent Active Militia] when I was 16 and when the War started I was 17 and I joined the active [the Permanent Active Militia], and I went overseas with the 1st Division [the 1st Canadian Infantry Division]. My brother was in the Reserve and he said, ‘maybe you'll like it. It’s only one night a week in summer camp,’ so I joined and I joined The Royal Montreal Regiment and I was in the band for a while and I went to Saint-Bruno [Quebec] and Valcartier [Quebec] for summer exercises, and I enjoyed it. When the War...actually it was August 26th [1939] before the War was declared, I was called up and asked if I would like to be on the quarter guard and the regimental armouries on Saint Catherine Street in Montreal. So I went there and I stayed there until the War started and then I automatically signed up [in September 1939] [Training as Machine Gunner]. Actually I was trained as a machine gunner, Vickers machine gunner [the British water-cooled Vickers machine gun]; that’s because the regiment was MG. It was a machine gun regiment. That's why when we were overseas, in 1944 they dissolved the Regiment, because they figured they had too many machine gun regiments and it was sort of going out of style, you know, and so we became a reconnaissance unit. Then they dissolved that and before D-Day [the Normandy invasion of June 6th 1944] they put us all in different armoured units. I went to the British Columbia Regiment [28th Armoured Regiment (The British Columbia Regiment), BCR] and I was a wireless Corporal in the […] and when I went over there I became a Sergeant with the BCR, and I was in charge of the wireless for the Regiment. [The Northwest Europe Campaign, 1944-1945] After that, we seemed to go fast. We crossed the [Seine] River at Rouen, I think, below Paris and then we went of course, when we went to Belgium, it wasn’t a touch; everything was untouched, so we went through Belgium pretty fast and then we got into the Scheldt [a river that crosses Northern France, Western Belgium and the Southwestern part of The Netherlands] and then Holland, Bergen op Zoom. As a matter of fact, we were on Dutch farms and, over Christmas, I even went skating on Christmas Day [1944] with the Dutch wooden skates, because the Germans flooded the dykes and it was all water and they froze, so I got on. I didn't last long on the wooden skates, I’ll tell you, but, no, we had people like...we used to meet every morning and, you know, we had one girl, she used to come over there and bring us some eggs from the farm and we’d give her cigarettes and boiled sweets, and canned goods and they loved that. [Managing the Regimental communications on the battlefields] The Infantry had these walkie-talkies and we had the 19 sets in the tanks [the Wireless Set No. 19, a British mobile radio transceiver], which I was teaching the rest to do and how to operate, because I went on several courses in England on wireless school, and...so it wasn’t like it is today where everybody’s got a cell phone. Every morning I had to bring them all onto the same frequency; at five o’clock I did that in the morning and it was all we had; our codes/frequencies given to by our Command and I had to get them all in the battalion and then communicate with the Corps and everything else, and sometimes it was with Morse Code and sometimes it was by speech, depending. The 19 set was a three-way set. You have your intercom in the tank, you have between the squadron and then you have the long range for the battalion, so when we switched from Infantry [as the BCR became an armoured unit], I'd been on a lot of courses, […], so I was teaching the Officers the wireless, how to operate you know, because they had no idea of the procedure and everything else, so that's what I did and when we went operational, well, it was all the time. It wasn’t perfect. It was very hard to use to net in and they had four screws on the main dial, you know. If you didn't get it right, you'd get a lot of whistles and if you imagine if you've got 50 guys in different tanks and they're trying to net into your signal, it’s not easy.
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