Jim Caird (on top left) and Camarades in Saskatchewan, 1943.Jim Caird
The Liberation of Rijssen, April 9, 1945. Child pictured to the right of the tank, with arrow, is a young Charlie Tharner.Jim Caird
In town for the memorial ceremony at the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, Jim Caird is pictured here on May 6, 2000 standing next to Charlie Tharner (on far right) who holds a framed copy of the original photograph picturing the Liberation of Rijssen, April 9, 1945, and Mr. Tharner as a child.Jim Caird
The Liberation of Rijssen, The Netherlands, April 9, 1945.Jim Caird
The Liberation of Rijssen, The Netherlands, April 9, 1945.Jim Caird
"He let a rocket go but he pulled up a little and the rocket went over our heads, down the road and exploded. So he could have hit us right there."
Anyways, we landed in England and I went to Aldershot, which is the normal place where you go for tanks and stuff, armoured corps. While I was in Aldershot, I finally got orders to move to the regiment that I was in, 29 Canadian Recce [29th Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment], who were at that time on a scheme, they were on a training exercise out in the country. So when we joined it, there was just the Nissen huts and the kitchen and stuff. And it was eight of us, plus a sergeant, I think.
And we did our training there in Ram tanks [Cruiser tank], which were built in Montreal. And they were a very difficult tank to drive because they were, well, archaic, I think. Anyways, we were doing that training; and while I was there, I developed appendicitis. So I went to Bovington Military Hospital. There’s a long story in between that, but I won’t go into it. I went into Bovington Military Hospital and watched the invasion go over from my window. Looking up in the sky, it was just covered with aircraft, thousands of them, pulling gliders and everything else.
So I missed my regiment going into the Falaise Gap into the landing spot, Sword [Beach], I guess they called it at the time. And they sent me out on convalescence for a week or two, and then called me back to the regiment which was just on the northern part of France into Belgium. We went into there; and we were put in there to service tanks, brand new tanks, to get them ready for the front. We had to clean all the guns, you know, in boiling water and put them on the tanks and load them and all that stuff.
Then I had a fairly good tank. I had a Sherman with 105 [Howitzer short-barrel artillery] on it. I had one driver up at the top to keep an eye open, that’s all. Just two of us. And there was a lineup of about 15 tanks or 20, took off out of there on the tanks and started to head north to the front, which wasn’t, well, 20 miles away maybe.
It was quite a unique trip, I’ll tell you. Because we were driving at night too and we had no lights, just followed two little beads or red lights on the back of the tank ahead. And one of them I think went up on, they called it, I guess it was a railway track, but it was more like a streetcar track. And all I could see was this snake going up in the air and it was railway tracks. He’d ripped them about 20 feet of railway track. I was hoping they weren’t using it.
Anyway, when we got up to the regiments, that’s where we turned our tanks in and were assigned to whatever we were going to be assigned to. But because I’d had appendicitis and that, they got a new driver for the tank I was using and they said, we’re going to put you in the scout cars. So I went into a scout car.
Because I was in headquarters and when they come up, their driver wasn’t available, because we had six scout cars or seven, and each one servicing a squadron. And they had three in the headquarters and I was one of them. So any time we had to go up to the front or take maps or take officers or do something, we were the taxis. We drove all over.
Well, when we got up into Holland, we moved into Holland, and I was on delivering stuff. And then this one time, we were told to take two scout cars and go up and see how far we could go before the Germans started shooting at us. And, you know, so that we could move the regiment forward. Because our regiment was a reconnaissance regiment, the rest of them were all behind us.
We got up into a place just called, well, just south of Rijssen, in Holland. R-I-J-S-S-E-N. And we were driving along and a Typhoon [British fighter-bomber] came along, one of these aircraft and he spotted us on the road. Well, we’re in enemy territory then. So he made a circle around and the fellow who was driving the armoured car behind me, by the name of Eugene, he said, have you got the tarp with the white star on? And he says, you’d better roll it out because this guy’s coming around. So the Typhoon came around and I could see him come around the back over here and I was rolling out this tarp and I think at the last second, he saw that star, he let a rocket go but he pulled up a little and the rocket went over our heads, down the road and exploded. So he could have hit us right there.
So what he did, I guess, to make up for it all, is he knew what we were doing so he went down the roads we were going to go and he’d come back and wave his wings to let us know there was nothing there, so we could make more progress. Then we got to a place, of course, the bridge ahead of us where that Typhoon had fired at us, the bridge ahead of us blown up and it was a canal. But it wasn’t a wide canal, about a couple of hundred yards. But it was still a canal and you had to get across it. And there was a Dutchman and he had a barge there, a hand barge that he could pull. So we got on the barge, one at a time of course because it was quite tippy, you had to be careful. And we got across the canal on a barge.
Then we drove up farther and we got to another spot where the Germans had dropped trees across the road. But it was just the tops of the trees and they were evergreens. And you could drive over them if you wanted to. But we stopped and take a look at them and right between the tops of the trees was mines. They had planted mines on the road and if we’d have gone, we would have run over one and bang, bang.
Anyways, we turned around and he said, well, we’ll go another way, we’ll go around where that road is and take the dirt in through part of the woods and come back on the road later. And we did that and just as we got to that point, where we were going to turn off, a tank came out of the woods, getting ready to shoot at us and of course, we had a sergeant who was in charge of this expedition sort of thing, and he kind of waved at the tanks a little bit and he went up and talked. It was Poles, Polish. And they had six tanks coming out of there.
So we swung up the road and left them and we got up the road about a mile, I guess, south of Rijssen, and a Dutchman on a bicycle saw us, knew that we were Canadian because we had insignias on our vehicles. And he was so happy to see us; and he hopped on the fender of one of the cars and we drove him right up to Rijssen. And I got pictures of myself in the tank and thousands of people around. So we were the first ones into Rijssen and end up being the first they had seen in five years of the Allies.