"Our first major battle was called ‘Operation Totalise,’ which was meant to break through the German forces beyond Caen and possibly trap a consider portion of the German Army."
My name is Stuart Johns. I was born in Windsor in 1925. I joined the Army out of high school in June of 1943. I took my basic training in Chatham, and then went to Camp Borden, Ontario for more advanced training in tanks – driving, gunnery, wireless, etc. I went overseas in March of '44, arrived in a place called Woking in England, a very pretty town where the reinforcement was located. In April of 1944, I was sent to the Canadian Grenadier Guards, a tank unit in the 4th Armoured Division. We did very little training from then on because the tanks were all prepared for the invasion and were waterproofed, and so could not be moved.
So we went to France in the middle of July of 1944. For the first week or ten days it was mainly just patrolling, watching, etc. Our first major battle was called 'Operation Totalise,' which was meant to break through the German forces beyond Caen and possibly trap a consider portion of the German Army. It worked partially, but many of the Germans did escape through a feature they called the Falaise Gap. Well, that was eventually closed toward the end of August, and we proceeded through the remainder of the northern part of France, into Belgium and on up into Holland.
The rest of the winter with the Canadian Army was spent more or less patrolling along the Rhine and the Maas rivers. The weather was very bad. The supply situation wasn't ideal, so major advances couldn't be attempted at the time. We spent about three weeks of this period billeted in Dutch homes, so we got to know the Dutch families fairly well. In recent years on a trip over there, we made contact with this family again, which was quite an enjoyable experience.
In February of 1945, when the advance started again, there was a major series of battles to clear the area completely up to the Rhine River. And then in March of 1945 crossings were made, and then our armoured division, which came along later, towards the back end of the columns. Then we advanced up through parts of Holland, and we were on the extreme eastern side of Holland, so we gradually pushed over and our division spent the last month and a half or two months fighting in northwest Germany. These were fairly wet conditions so tanks were pretty well confined to the roadways, which made very difficult fighting, especially for the infantry that was supporting us.
We finally ended the war in a little village about five or six miles from the German town of Oldenburg, and the war for us ended on May the 5th at eight o'clock in the morning. We had received word on the evening of the 4th that a ceasefire had been arranged, and our unit was ordered up to a little hamlet and we were to just hold this position. At eight o'clock there were no bells or fireworks, but the war ended for us at eight o'clock on that morning of May the 5th. Everything was very quiet, and no visual celebrating or anything going on among us. Everyone was quite relieved and more or less sat around and did nothing for the rest of the day, and that was our V-E Day celebration.