"When we were ready to go across the open ground, we had a creeping barrage, which we followed."
My name is Malcolm Buchanan. I live now in Sudbury. I belong to the Highland Light Infantry of Canada, the 9th Brigade, 3rd Division. We were the first Canadian Division to cross the Rhine. For the purposes of crossing the Rhine we were under the command of the 51st Highland Division from England. As well as us, there was the Black Watch and the Argyles.
We took some prisoners after crossing the Rhine, and saw some paratroopers dropping in the distance. I believe they were dropping down at Oosterbeek. In the afternoon we were called on to help Speldrop because two companies of the British Black Watch had been cut off and were in trouble. When we were ready to go across the open ground, we had a creeping barrage, which we followed. Their officers told us that their men were all dead or taken prisoners, and anybody that we saw we were to shoot them.
As we were going in, barrage stopped just this side of Speldrop and we had to run through it as the Jerries were dropping mortars behind us. On the outskirts of Speldrop, my number two noticed a house with several dead Germans lying by the back door. I fired a burst through the cellar windows, and into the kitchen, and went into the house. (?) was about ready to drop a grenade down the stairs when we heard a voice yelling, "Black Watch here!" A sergeant, very brave man, came up the stairs in the face of bren gun fire and said that there were several men in the basement. He said it was a grand sight to see us coming through the smoke and the shells of the barrage, and knew that they were going to be rescued.
Looking around we could see that the boys had had a really rough time. We'd taken a lot of casualties, and I thought then that we sure deserved the nickname that they'd given the regiment: "Hell's Last Issue", taken from our HLI initials. One of the proud boasts of my regiment was that we had never had a man taken prisoner. We had never given up any ground that we had taken, and no man was ever reported missing.
A little later, a British regiment passed through. I believe it was the Dorset. A short while later, I heard a firefight going on up the road maybe two or three miles. In an hour or two there was a group of men coming down on a dead run. Turned out there were about twenty-five or thirty German paratroopers being chased down the road by two British soldiers – one on a bicycle, and one with a long whip. They stopped by us for a few minutes, and I asked the guy on the bike how far they'd come. He says, "oh, about three miles." Now, these German paratroopers were very terrified. They had long overcoats on and were really sweating. I asked the guy with the whip, he said he urged them on with the whip: "These boys really like to run!" I said, "What if they fall behind?" He said that the guy on the bicycle takes care of them. They still had about three miles to go to the prisoner of war camp by the river. I often wonder how many of them really made it there.
As I said before, we'd taken a lot of casualties. I found out later that the HLI had been awarded seven medals in the Rhine crossing. For me, that was quite an experience, and I thank you for the chance to talk.