Veteran Stories:
William John “Danny” McLeod

Army

  • Canadian Army, Air Force, and Navy officers. Back row second from left Danny McLeod, Back row third from right Harvey Theobald, all others unidentified.

    Danny McLeod
  • Royal Armoured Corps Officers' Cadet Training Unit (OCTU), Sandhurst, 1943.

    Danny McLeod
  • Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, Viscount of Alamein, decorating Major Danny McLeod with the Military Cross, Calgary, Alberta, March 9, 1946. Signed by Field Marshal Montgomery.

    Danny McLeod
  • Field Marshal Bernard Montogomery, Viscount of Alamein, shaking hands with Major Danny McLeod after having decorated him with the Military Cross, Calgary, Alberta, March 9, 1946.

    Danny McLeod
  • The South Alberta Regiment (29th Canadian Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment) guidon.

    Danny McLeod
Enlarge Image
Listen to this story

"We sometimes questioned whether it made any sense because once you took it, you couldn’t stay there. It was like shooting fish in a rain barrel."

Transcript

My name is Danny McLeod, served throughout the war with the South Alberta Regiment. I joined as a private. Most of us were green but all the senior officers, company commanders, 2ICs [second-in-command], quartermasters, paymasters, were all from World War I. So we were extremely well-trained by these people. They knew that they weren’t going to fight a trench warfare and so the whole training was in a mobile atmosphere.

We were commanded by an officer five times wounded in World War I and he was a regular force officer, [Lieutenant-]Colonel [James] Carvosso. And our Regimental Sergeant Major was regular force from the Patricias [Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry]. Now, we were a special unit I’d say because we had companies from the Calgary Tanks, the 15th Alberta [Light] Horse, the 19th Alberta Dragoons, and the Edmonton Fusiliers. For example, my company commander was [Harcus] “Jock” Strachan, a Victoria Cross winner.

We did our training in Edmonton [Alberta], which was dress, deportment, esprit de corps, etc. We went to Dundurn [Saskatchewan] for our weapons training and field training. From there, we went to Nanaimo [British Columbia] where we did mountain and forest fighting. From there we went to Niagara-on-the-Lake [Ontario], where we did training of guarding the power canal [the hydroelectric power installations were vulnerable to sabotage], the Welland Ship Canal and Niagara Falls itself. From there, we went to Debert [Nova Scotia], where we were converted into armour because the balance between the infantry and armour was out of whack and we were blessed there by having [Lieutenant-]General E.L.M. Burns and [Major-]General [Frank] Worthington, two World War I officers. The training went amazingly well and, of course, we were very pleased and especially so when we got into action.

When we went to Europe, as you know, they had to expand the bridgehead in order to bring in an armoured division. And it wasn’t one armoured division, it was two. The [1st] Polish Armoured [Division] as well. We didn’t get there until about six weeks after the invasion took place. We were in the line for a couple of days to get the feeling of incoming fire and what have you but then shortly thereafter, we were right into the thick of it. Basically, not in a bragging sense but we were pretty much in front the rest of the war.

My squadron commander was [Major] Dave [David Vivian] Currie, he won the VC [Victoria Cross, at Saint-Lambert-sur-Dives, Normandy]. That was a very heavy battle. We then went through to Belgium and ended up at Four Div. [4th Canadian Armoured Division], was basically the clearing force until we got to Terneuzen [Netherlands] and then tanks couldn’t navigate in the ground in order to cross the Leopold Canal, so the Third Div. [3rd Canadian Infantry Division] was put in, a Bailey Bridge was put in first for 7th Brigade to go up to Knokke, Knokke-Heist [Belgium] on the left line, [Brigadier J.M.] Rockingham’s Brigade 9, went out through Terneuzen in the Buffaloes, DUKWs and Weasels [amphibious tracked vehicles] and made a right hook into Hoofdplaat. And then 8th Brigade went across the Bailey and with all that pressure, they, in a pincer motion, they took the Breskens Pocket. In the meantime, poor old 2nd [Canadian Infantry] Division had taken over from the British and were trying to go up through North Beveland through Walcheren to clear the Scheldt.

And that was a tough battle for the Canadians, 7,600 casualties in the process, but eventually it was clear and then the Scheldt itself was cleared and Antwerp was opened and the Allies breathed a breath of relief. And the next thing that happened was we had to deal with the Germans because they were constantly counter-attacking 2 Div. as they were going up the isthmus of North Beveland. We eventually took that, namely Bergen-op- Zoom and Steenbergen, that cleared the fighting in the northwest. We then went to Kapelsche Veer which was a nasty scene. The British division [No. 47 Royal Marine Commando] tried to take it, didn’t work. The Polish [1st Armoured] Division didn’t work but the [4th] Canadian [Armoured] Division did. We sometimes questioned whether it made any sense because once you took it, you couldn’t stay there. It was like shooting fish in a rain barrel.

Anyway, from there, the Brits had to turn and support the left flank of the Americans because the Battle of the Bulge started [in December 1944] and when the British made their stand, the Canadians were moved in to take over from the Brits. And then when the situation with the Bulge was stabilized, Britain, who had been sitting there for about four months, the Brit Corps was put under command of the Canadian Army and they did the first couple weeks of [operation] Veritable, only got halfway to the objective and then it was reorganized under [Lieutenant-General Guy] Simonds and the Canadians then pushed forward with a view to trying to go through the gap and bring a short order to the Germans who were holding the bridges at the Weser [river]. Which was probably the biggest battle in Northwest Europe. Although maybe not as big as the landing in France, far more casualties.

When that was finished, we went in back to Holland, licked our wounds and recalibrated guns, replaced gun barrels, in the meantime, put a pontoon bridge across the Rhine [River] and again, we were pushed across at Emmerich. And then it was moving back into Holland and then finally, the push took place to go up into Oldenburg, where the war ended for the Canadians.

Right from day one, right through until the end of the war, and then basically with the Pacific Force, once the war was won in Europe, you were just bouncing from one situation to another, fortunate enough to not be killed along the way or badly wounded. The whole operation was such that you had great respect for the enemy and I think probably the most outstanding thing that I remember of the war was that the tank was your home. That’s where you got your supplies; that’s where the mail came and so on. That’s where you slept and when you had a chance to retaliate, you had something to retaliate with.

[Mr. McLeod has also submitted an additional written record of The South Alberta Regiment's achievements in the Second World War. Should you wish to consult this material, please contact The Historica-Dominion Institute at memory@historica-dominion.ca]"

Follow us