A smoke generator laying a smokescreen to hide the movements of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division during Operation Veritable. Wyler, Germany, 15 February 1945.Credit: Capt. Colin McDougall / Ministère de la Défense nationale canadien / Library and Archives Canada / PA-192874 Restrictions on use: Nil Copyright: Expired
"I think I just did what I was supposed to be doing. Making sure the smoke screen was produced when it was wanted and where it was wanted. And very often that was done under fire. It came under fire more in the various canal crossings after we had crossed the Rhine."
I joined the Lincoln Welland [Regiment] first as a boy in 1933. And got my [officer’s] commission in 1936. I had always been interested in the army because my dad had stayed in the militia after the [First World] [W]ar and as a matter of fact he commanded a company of the Lincoln Welland Regiment in Niagara Falls [Ontario]. I ran the, or was head of, the Cadet Corps at Stanford Collegiate for two years, 1933-34 and 1934-35, and just naturally seemed to go into the Lincoln Welland. I went to COTC* lessons in University of Toronto and qualified there for my commission which was, however, held in the Lincoln Welland, not in the COTC contingent.
I then went down as a Lorne Scots** with the 4th [Canadian Infantry] Division, which was then the 4th Infantry Division at Debert [Nova Scotia], and I had the defence and employment platoon for the division headquarters. And, in addition, because the officers were under training, I also had the defence platoons for the three infantry brigades of the 4th Division. Then came the great day, in the beginning of 1941 when the division became armoured. And I met up for the first time with General Worthington*** who asked me if I wanted to be a reinforcement officer back in Camp Borden [Ontario] or did I want to transfer to the Armoured Corps? And those who know General Worthington know that you don’t waste a chance to go active with him. And that’s what I did. So I came up to Camp Borden briefly to qualify as an Armoured Corps officer and then back up to divisional training at Debert until we went overseas in August of 1941.
Right at the end of the year, my past caught up with me. A gentleman by the name of Lieutenant – the then Lieutenant-Colonel Reg Sawyer at Canadian Military Headquarters went through files to try and find some people who were educated in chemistry. And having found me, I was plucked out from I [Canadian] Corps and put on the strength of [First Canadian] Army Headquarters at Leatherhead [England]. But I was really sent down to Salisbury area to the British Chemical Warfare Establishment, Porton Down, and learned how to, theoretically at least, be a technical officer of chemical warfare. That lasted about six weeks and then I went back to army headquarters, arriving just in time for the notorious Exercise SPARTAN,^ when I reverted to becoming a motor contact officer or a liaison officer because there was no chemical warfare work to do. And then we started in – my first experience with smoke screens was an attempt made by Reg Sawyer to do a smokescreening exercise in the northern Kent area around Edenbridge [England] to cover a theoretical river crossing. We learned a great deal even though the actual exercise was a disaster.
Reg Sawyer loaned me to the colonel, a Royal Armoured Corps colonel, who was the Armoured Corps advisor at army headquarters. And I learned a good deal about organization and the changes that were going on in the organization of armoured regiments and in particular the armoured delivery squadrons which were the units created to supply tank crews to armoured units in battle. So working that colonel, and I can’t remember his name, gave me a pretty good, basic education in what was changing in the way of armoured tactics. SPARTAN was…I call it a disaster because the staff work and higher-level direction was not of the highest caliber and really the strategy of the exercise was badly planned.
Well, it was such a surprise to me [winning the Military Cross]. I don’t think it was any one particular action. I think I just did what I was supposed to be doing. Making sure the smokescreen was produced when it was wanted and where it was wanted. And very often that was done under fire. It came under fire more in the various canal crossings after we had crossed the Rhine [River, Germany].
*Canadian Officer Training Corps
**The Lorne Scots (Peel, Dalton and Halton Regiment)
***Major-General Frederic Frank Worthington, considered a “father” of the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps
^In March 1943, a large-scale general headquarters exercise in England with objectives to break out of an established beachhead and transition to further combat operations (demonstrated leadership shortcomings that resulted in three Canadian generals losing their commands)
Interview with James C. Bond CWM Oral History Project
George Metcalf Archival Collection
© Canadian War Museum