Veteran Stories:
C Joe Richards

Army

  • Kit bag belonging to Joe Richards, 1944.

    C. Joseph Richards
  • Gators worn around boots and pants, belonging to Joe Richards, 1944.

    C. Joseph Richards
  • Joe Richards in Victoria, British Columbia, 2010.

    Historica Canada
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"Well, we were in the British zone and they gave us the northwest part of Germany and so we were doing guard duty out in this Ems-Jade Canal, checking people."

Transcript

I tried to enlist in the navy, but they weren’t taking any more from the navy, so I went in the army and they gave you a choice of various things and I chose the artillery because they trained the artillery in Victoria [British Columbia]. And lo and behold, I thought I’d get my basic training at McCauley Point [in Victoria] and they sent me all the way to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. That’s the first time in my life I saw an icebreaker. We thought we were going to be stuck in Labrador and they sent us back here to the coast and we got the more or less advanced training in places like Wainwright [Alberta]. And then because I was going to be a radio operator, with artillery, they sent me to Camp Shilo [Manitoba]. When we were in Camp Shilo, it seems that the British needed more Canadians for infantry and so they cancelled our training in Camp Shilo and gave us a leave, what they call an overseas leave, and only once in the time I was in the army I went AWOL [Absent Without Leave] because they wanted us to return back to Vancouver on the 23rd of December, 1945. And when, the only bad thing I did was AWOL, when they come to get me, they put me in Vancouver and waited for a troop train and we left Halifax, oh, I would say, first part of the year, maybe the first week of 1945, on a troop ship called the [HMT] Mauritania. And what impressed me, so to avoid German subs, they left at night and we arrived in a place called Horsham, England on January the 15th, with the worst winter in 30 years in southern England, snow on the ground, and they turned around and checked your physical. And when I was in front of the doctor, he said, “Have you got anything to say?” And that saved my life, I think, because I wasn’t really trained for infantry and the British were using Canadian troops for infantry in Holland. And so what happened, the next morning, they called out several people and I was one of them. And they marched us away from the rest of the troops and they said, “You chaps will do the treating duty and kitchen police for the remainder of the war.” And I didn’t want to clean up shithouses, so I volunteered for kitchen police and I did that six days a week, up until the war ended. When the war ended, they re-did everybody and they said, “You’re going to be in the 3rd Division occupation force.” And because I was from British Columbia, they put me in a unit called the Canadian Scottish. And when I was in Holland, in a place outside of Arnhem, where 12 000 paratroops came down to try to help the Canadians get up into Holland, and they were more or less massacred by the Germans. They marched us one day down to a square to show us where it was just nothing but blood and so forth, in this railway station by Arnhem. And because they didn’t have enough people to fill a regiment called the Regina Rifle Regiment, they took me out of the Canadian Scottish and put me in the Regina Rifle Regiment and then we proceeded to Germany. And I don’t know why, but today, I can’t come up with whether it was a marine barracks, south of Wilhelmshaven [Germany], and they moved the Canadian Scottish up to Wilhelmshaven and brought a regiment in called the Queen’s Own Rifles. So we had three rifle regiments at this marine barracks: the Winnipeg Rifles, the Regina Rifles and the Queen’s Own Rifles. Now, we had to guard a canal called the Ems-Jade Canal. I never knew that before, but the Canadians, some people don’t know, there was three main zones to occupy Germany. One was the American zone, one was the British zone and one was the Russian zone. Well, we were in the British zone and they gave us the northwest part of Germany and so we were doing guard duty out in this Ems-Jade Canal, checking people. Turn around and took me off the guard duty and thank goodness because it was very cold in the wintertime. And because I had worked at Yarrows [type of boiler] as a stockman, the regimental quartermaster wanted me, and so I got kind of a nifty job, I didn’t have to do guard duty. And I was doing that until approximately, oh, I’d say maybe February 1946.
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