Stewart Geddes's royal canadian artillery belt buckle.Stewart Geddes
18 pounder shell casing. The Canadian army started with this caliber and subsequently used 25 pounders.Stewart Geddes
Stewart Geddes, London Ontario, March 2010.Historica Canada
"I had a great admiration for the Dutch people, because they had gone through a terrible time under German occupation."
My name is Stewart Geddes and I was with the 19th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery. I was posted to Europe, I was assigned to different, what they called reinforcement units or stations. And we would be processing recruits that were coming across from Canada, updating them on current artillery procedures and just making sure they were up to snuff before we sent them out to regiments.
Well, I had a great admiration for the Dutch people, because they had gone through a terrible time under German occupation. And food was awful short. Well, they had to do a lot of scrounging, you know, to get food and keep their kids, children dressed and so on, while they had work to do but it was under German occupation, which was not a very pleasant experience for many of them.
At the end of the war when we came back from Germany, we were stationed in Holland for maybe four or five months, you know, because there was an awful lot of troops in Europe that had to come back to North America so you had to wait your turn sort of thing. And I was billeted at a home in a small town as an officer, billeted in this private home. And they treated me as one of the family, really. Like I didn’t eat with them or anything but they had four kids from age two to about 12 or so. And I became great friends with them. My wife and I have visited them at least, I would say, four times since the end of the war in Holland. Those were now children and grandchildren of the people I billeted with. And at least four or five of them have visited us here in London, [Ontario]. So we made great friends with that particular family. And as a matter of fact, I have written to them every Christmas since I’ve been home starting in 1946 and last year, what would have been, I think, when I wrote them, I said this is Christmas letter number 64, something like that. So like that’s the sort of friendship that we built with these people.
We came back [to Canada] in December of 1945. We went over [to Europe] on the [HMS] Queen Elizabeth in 1943 and we came home on the [HMS] Queen Elizabeth ship and spent Christmas of 1945 on the Atlantic Ocean. Everybody felt pretty happy. In my case, I’d been away for two-and-a-half years. I guess there was a great sense of relief that the war was over, but in the Army, most of us were three or four or five years and it had become our way of life. So that also, you couldn’t help but think, well, it’s over, we’re going to have to go back to civilian life, this sort of thing.
We all matured considerably, in our early twenties, and hopefully we would have matured even if we hadn’t been in the Army but I think that things seemed to happen not only quickly but with considerable depth to them. And the Army was a good training ground. I learned a lot. I ended up in civilian life as an office manager and I credit a lot of my readiness and my qualifications to what I’d learned in the Army. It was awfully good, becoming an officer and managing troops and stuff.