Contemporary photograph of Ossie Tancock.Osborne Tancock
Photo of Osborne "Ossie" Tancock taken in Germany, 1945.Osborne Tancock
"The key leaders of an army in the field are platoon commanders like Lieutenant Ossie Tancock of Burlington, an Officer of the Highland Light Infantry of Canada. The average life-span in the battle of a platoon commander was a matter of weeks. These were men who made a difference." (PA132867/Oybkuc Archives Canda).Public Archives Canada
"When you put it on single, it goes, “Bang-Bang-Bang,” but if you put it on repeat it goes, “Brrrrrrrrrrrrt,” and you’d fire 28 shots straight away. So I used that all the time and it saved my life many times."
One of my bosom pals, Lynn Els, was in the HLI, the Highland Light Infantry, so I decided to go there. So I changed my records so that I went there in the middle of February. And just at the [battle of] Hochwald after the big Battle of the Bulge, we went through France into Holland. We were the first Canadian force to go across the Rhine River. When we got to the Rhine, the Rhine is half a mile wide, and we got there at 3:00 in the morning and some Dutchman came with a little old motor boat, it held six of my men and me, and we got in and got halfway across the Rhine. The Germans were shooting at us, but they could not see us. So we drifted down about half a mile before the motor conked out in the middle of the Rhine so we had to use our rifles as paddles to get to shore!
So we finally got there. And then the Black Watch [(Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada] had got into Speldrop and they had badly fought the Germans, but were defeated and they withdrew and there were about 50 of them trapped. The Germans had them surrounded so they decided to send the HLI in to relieve them. So we went in and we killed about 20 and then about 30 others surrendered. We got into Speldrop and then we had to go Biennen and do the same thing because the Argyll and Sutherlands [Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise’s)] were trapped in there and we had to save them. So we had quite a battle. It was a three-day rough battle, but we survived it.
I was a platoon commander. Yeah, I had 37 or 38 men. The officers had meetings. The colonel has to tell you what’s going on then you had to go back and explain to the men what’s going on and then you’d direct them. If you were going to go in to take a house, I went first all the time because I had my Tommy gun and I’d throw a grenade too. So I’d go up to a house, and you open the door and you throw a grenade in, and just open the door and fire a Tommy gun. I’ll first spray at the Germans – you either killed them or they surrendered.
I was as good as there was. I figured I was a first-class soldier. I looked after my men and I brought them through real tough times.
So I met up with some Americans. They had Tommy guns so I talked to one guy and he said, “You get me two German Lugers and I’ll give you a Tommy gun.” So I went and got two prisoners and got their guns and I had a Tommy gun, which you pull the trigger it will fire one bullet or it will fire 28 at a time. When you put it on single, it goes, “Bang-Bang-Bang,” but if you put it on repeat it goes, “Brrrrrrrrrrrrt,” and you’d fire 28 shots straight away. So I used that all the time and it saved my life many times.
I stayed right with the outfit until the end of the war. And then the Colonel Hodgins was single and I had enough points to come home in July because I had been overseas two years and I was married. But he decided he wanted the officers who fought with him to parade up on the main street of Galt [Ontario, now amalgamated into Cambridge], so he didn’t let me come home until the unit came home on the 6th of January. So when we paraded up the main street of Galt I saw my wife and my nine-month-old daughter who I’d never seen before. So I just walked out of the parade and got in her car and drove home!