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5th. Armoured Division formation sign

THE CAPE BRETON HIGHLANDERS of CANADA

 

Cape Breton Highlanders unit sign

 

THE MOVE TO FRANCE and HOLLAND

 


official map of "Operation Goldflake", the move of 1st. Canadian Corps to Belgium

March 25th. - 26th. of march 1945. With "Operation Goldflake", the Highlanders moved from Leghorn, Italy to Marseilles, France, on the road to Belgium, then the Netherlands to join the completed 1st. Canadian Army corps, with the 11th. Infantry brigade of the 5th. Armoured Division (see map above).

Excerpt from Ch.14, Bonifica And North-West Europe p.307:

All vehicles had departed by early on the 25th and the final personnel group sailed from LEGHORN on the 26th, arriving in France at Marseilles to 70 degree weather at 1100 hours on the 27th, joining the rest of the battalion. The following day, Reveille was at 0345 hours and the unit moved off on its truck trip to Belgium.

Excerpt from Ch.14, Bonifica And North-West Europe p.308:

At 1230 hours on 5 March, The Cape Breton Highlanders crossed into Belgium and were billeted in company locations. Bat­talion headquarters, HQ and A Companies were sent to ROESBRUGGE, B Company was in CROMBEKE, C Company in WATOU and D Company in HARRINGHE, all of which covered an area of five square miles, and were approximately twenty miles from the North Sea and thirty miles southwest of OOSTENDE.


Monty visits the Cape Breton Highlanders before the start of the battle in the northern Netherlands
(Public Archives Canada)

Excerpt from Ch.14, Bonifica And North-West Europe p.309:

A parade was held for Field Marshall Montgomery, Commander of 21 Army Group, on the 18th of March. The Field Marshall " stopped at each company and spoke to the troops." A report in the 24 April Maple Leaf notes that he spoke to Lieutenants Roy, Nixon and Nelson during his ten minutes with the C.B.H. The unit was placed on 48-hour notice to move to the Front on 24 March.

At 0715 hours on the 27th, the C.B.H. moved off on a 200 mile trip to a concentration area near NIJMEGEN in Holland. On the following day, the Cape Breton Highlanders moved into the Line on an "island" which separates the rivers NEDER RHINE and WAAL, taking-over from the 4th Battalion of The Essex Regiment, 56th (British) Brigade. Battalion HQ was at VALBERG. 11 C.I.B. was now part of 49 British (West Riding) Division.

Excerpt from Ch.15, Delfzijl p.314

On the 12th the whole unit was in billets in VALBERG. The stay in VALBERG was a short one as the division was be­ing moved to a new area where, as it turned out, it would finish the war. 

click here to enlarge
The 1st. Canadian Army Massed Pipes and Drums,5th. from the left, in the front row is Pipe Major Bill Gillis.
N.B.: Do click on this photograph for enlargement; but use backspace to return!

Excerpt from Ch.15, Delfzijl p.315

The Pipes and Drums returned to the unit on the 14th, having been away for some time playing in Brussels, at Vimy Ridge and other places. While at Vimy Ridge, Pipe-Major William Gillis played a lament over his father's grave. Corporal Jack Gillis of the 85th Battalion had been killed on Easter Sunday, 15 April 1917 during that epic battle.


Third from the right, front row: Pipe Major Bill Gillis, C.B.H. taking part in the in the Brussels Parade of 11-06-1945

Another move began on the 15th when A Company led the unit to a concentration area near ARNHEM. BARNEVELD, a town between HILVERSUM and ARNHEM, was the next C.B.H. objective in this fast-moving Dutch campaign. The town was liberated peacefully and was secure in C.B.H. hands by 0530 hours on the 17th. When the C.B.H. came into BARNEVELD in the middle of the night, the soldiers received a warm and enthusiastic welcome, and in the morning, the Dutch flags were flying again.

 

C.B.H.  pipe band in Barneveld (liberators of the town) 17 april 1945

C.B.H. Liberators of the town give a concert at the Kapteynstraat in Barneveld - evening of 17th. of April 1945

Excerpt from Ch.15, Delfzijl p.316-317

We received a great welcome from the civilians here, in fact they are so friendly it is difficult to get through the crowds. Many of them were out giving hot tea to the boys as we were entering town, so judging from the reception we were given, this might be a nice place to spend a few days.

 The 18th "When the Pipe Band played around the area this afternoon, it was followed by a parade larger than any battalion parade we ever had which proves that the bagpipes are popular (everywhere)."

 In a letter home, Lieutenant Roy described the liberation atmosphere in Holland:

We have been on the chase for this past week, moving as far as 25 miles a day. I had my first all night sleep - previous to that I had been on the go all the time. At present I am on the shore of the ZUIDERZEE and thus we have cut-off the Jerries in Holland. Two days ago, we liberated our first big town and it was an experience I shan't forget for along time. I entered the town in a small armoured car about 0200 hours. This was the first time the Dutch had seen Canadian soldiers. What a welcome we got. The town went mad - completely mad - with joy. People thronged the streets and with foolish cheering, waving, kissing and crying. Girls dressed themselves in red, white and blue dresses and everyone had a bit of orange on them (for the Royal Family. The underground laddies came out and armed with German rifles, grenades, British Stenguns and such, whizzed around on their bicycles rounding up collaborators. Any women who had relations with the Jerries had their hair completely cut off and were slapped and such by other women. Dutch SS traitors, trying to sneak away in civvy clothes, were rounded up and forced to go on their hands and knees through the main streets to jail. They were shot forthwith. Huge bands of men and women marched through the streets, arms linked and ten to fourteen abreast, singing their national anthem over and over. People everywhere were laughing, singing, shouting for joy. We were mobbed with kindness. They couldn't do enough for us. In one house where I stopped to brew tea I asked the old lady if she would join me. There were tears in her eyes. It was the first time she'd had honest to-goodness tea for over five years. There were many touching things like that. I'd give the world if you could have seen it and experienced it. You can't imagine how good it makes you feel to bring such happiness to so many.

Excerpt from Ch.15, Delfzijl p.317-318

The unit moved off again at 0630 hours on the 21st and moved to the area of DOKKUM, northeast of LEEUWARDEN where it took over from the North Nova Scotia Highlanders of 9 C.I.B. and 3 C.I.D., the unit to which the first draft of C.B.H. soldiers and officers had been dispatched at the start of the war. The task here was to watch the coastline as the Frisian Islands were still German-occupied and to ensure that no one crossed over to the mainland. The C.B.H. area of responsibility covered some 20 miles and the companies were spread far apart, Battalion HQ, B, D, and Support Companies being in DOKKUM, with A in HOLWERD and C in ANJUM. Patrols were conducted by truck, a novel experience. The Dutch underground forces also patrolled the area and kept in close touch with the C.B.H. The unit signalers were quite happy to discover that communication was to be by means of the civilian telephone system, and for a while, at least, the laying and checking of line was a thing of the past.

Another unique event took place on the 22nd at 1130 hours when a platoon from C Company captured a small German naval craft. Its Captain had made the mistake of thinking the area unoccupied and had come to visit some friends. His captors assured him that he would not see them for a long time. Also taken prisoner were three marines, a civilian, the Captain's female secretary, and a large quantity of liquor and cigarettes. The capture intrigued both the Division and Brigade commanders who were given a tour by Lieutenant-Colonel Somerville. Some of the liquor was later freed by some senior NCOs from Support Company and was used to liven up a company social gathering.

C.S.M. "Red Joe" McIntyre remembers the incident this way:

We then arranged to have an anti-tank gun brought up and after firing a shot, the people on the tug decided it was time to surrender. This was quite an event and it was widely broadcast on the international news that an infantry regiment had captured a sea-going tug. The Colonel was very pleased with our effort and he decided that he should bring the General up to see the tug which was caught in the sand. Some of the members of C Company that participated in the capture of the tug decided they would walk across the sand and investigate the boat, and they made a great discovery when they found a false floor where about 40 demijohns of liquor, containing about 20 liters each, was found. They proceeded to transport these demijohns to the shore and in the process decided to sample them. The demijohns were labeled.
One was labeled Schnapps, the other Brandy Wine and the other was marked jenever. It did not take long for all the members of C Company near the tug to participate in the sampling of this liquor.
I was directed to have all the liquor taken to the Officers' Mess. Our transport corporal took over with his vehicles and brought what we described as all of the liquor back to the officers' mess, but fortunately we retained three 20-litre jugs which served us in great stead.

 

Excerpt from Ch.15, Delfzijl p.319:

The CBH moved into a concentration area at LOPPERSUM, just west of DELFZIJL, and were complete by 1330 hours on the 25th. Another move, this time to BIERUM and SPIJK on the River EMS just slightly north west of DELFZIJL, was made on the 28th.
Meanwhile, responsibility for the capture of the DELFZIJL pocket had been given to the 11th, Canadian Infantry Brigade, while the Cape Breton Highlanders of Canada were to liberate Delfzijl.


And so they did ! Patrolling the streets of Delfzijl in full battle order:
Left: Cpl Howie Dawe with a British Sten submachine gun (holding a package of cigarettes under his right arm) and Right: Pte. Earl Wilson with a BREN L.M.G.


Cape Breton Highlanders C Company, equipped with flamethrower carriers (Wasps), during the liberation of Delfzijl.
Do note the C.B.H. regimental number "62" on the Bren Carrier vehicle plates.

Excerpt from Ch.15, Delfzijl p.331:

At 2359 hours on 4 May, C.B.H. HQ sent a message to HQ 11 C.I.B. "Despite official communiqué and local newspaper we still hold the town which we captured and mopped-up."

Shortly before noon on the 2nd, C Company, equipped with flamethrowers (WASPS, see the photograph above here), moved off to ensure that the area between the DAMSTER canal and the EEMS canal was free of Germans. After contact was made with the Irish and the B.C.D., the company returned without seeing any enemy.

 


After the battle for Delfzijl was finished, the Pipe Band led the regiment on the Victory March through Delfzijl,
with Pipe Major Bill ("Bull") Gillis in command.

 


Some more photographs of the C.B.H. Pipe band, victoriously marching through Delfzijl.

 

Major-General Hoffmeister paid a two-hour visit in the afternoon. He went round the companies and said that the whole division was proud of the C.B.H. The next day, the unit was moved and occupied the triangle DELFZIJL, UTWIERDE, APPINGEDAM. While there, on the evening of 4 May, the soldiers heard of the unconditional surrender of the Germans in Holland, Northern Germany, Denmark, the Friesian islands and Helgoland. Brigade also informed us of this and told us cease-fire would be at 0800 hours tomorrow morning. The news brought hearty cheers from the boys.

Excerpt from Ch.16, From War To Peace, p.333:

The transition from a war situation to one of peace began almost immediately. A ceremonial Guard Mounting was started and would be supported by the Pipes and Drums.


11 Infantry Brigade Officers during the Crerar visit:
L. to R.: O. in C. The Irish Regt. of Can.: Lt. –Col. L.H.C. Payne, Commander 11th. Can. Inf. Bde.: Brig. E.S. Johnston, General Crerar,
O. in C. The Cape Breton Highlanders: Lt. –Col. T.S. Somerville, O. in C. The Perth Regt.: Lt. –Col. M.W. Andrew.

Reveille on 23 May was at 0430 hours and all ranks moved to the EELDE airfield for the First Canadian Army parade called Exercise FINALE. Preparations had been underway for some time and almost 100 C.B.H. soldiers had been at the airfield for a number of days assisting with its set-up. There was a general salute when General Crerar, the Army Commander, arrived. Then he, Major-General Hoffmeister and Brigadier Johnston drove through the ranks. After lunch, there was a drive past by units and a return to unit lines.


(Left) Delfzijl: C.B.H. fatalities after the final battle. (Right) Sgt. Bennie Peters pays his final farewell.


A final farewell at the Delfzijl temporary burial site, before the war graves were moved to Holten.

 Excerpt from Ch.16, From War To Peace, p.335:

At 1000 hours on 4 June, Major-General Hoffmeister inspected the C.B.H. for the last time. He had been appointed commander of the force that Canada was to send to the Pacific to help finish that war. He said that he "hoped to see many C.B.H. lads under his command" in the Pacific.
Over
200 soldiers took him at his word and volunteered for the Pacific force. Amongst them was Pipe Major Bill Gillis of the Cape Breton Highlanders. This left the task of Acting Pipe Major to LanceCorporal
George Sutherland.

In April 1945, Lieutenant-Colonel Somerville became Commander 11 C.I.B. and Major Syl McKinnon was named Second-in-Command of the C.B.H. and then became CO on 6 June. On his first day in charge, he held a battalion parade and then drilled all ranks for 30 minutes.

 


Delfzijl (Eems Canal North bank): Cape Breton Highlanders watch German P.O.W'.s put to work at unloading food relief

Towards the end of May, Captain JF Lockman and Lieutenant GB Langley took a party of soldiers to HARLINGEN to act as guards for German prisoners on their journey home. Later in the month, 250 prisoners arrived in DELFZIJL and were guarded daily as they were employed unloading barges and clearing mines.

 

C.B.H. pipe band on parade through Leeuwarden, Friesland

Left: May 13, 1945 on the "Nieuwe Buren", Leeuwarden. Right: As the same place looks now, December 2012
Here, in the afternoon the Cape Breton Highlanders'pipe band is leading Canadian troops, Dutch police and -underground resistance fighters towards the "Grote Kerk" for a Thanksgiving Service.
On this photograph, the one taken at the Kapteynstraat in Barneveld above, and from now on:
George Sutherland has taken over as Acting Pipe Major, since P.M. Gillis had volunteered for service in the Pacific with Paiforce.

 


Left:Portrait of P.M. Bill ("Bull") Gillis
Right: Arm badge of the Canadian Army Pacific Force (
Paiforce)

 


on the way to the Thanksgiving Service in the “Grote Kerk” in Leeuwarden, with Parade afterward.
 


after the Thanksgiving Service, passing the "Beursgebouw" at the Wirdumerdijk.
After countermarching, the band is now marching in reversed positions:
- 1st. row L. to R.: Archie MacKay, Dan Gillis, George Sutherland
- 2nd. row: Gordon and Malcolm Cooper
(brothers), Willie Gillis.
 


On the Wirdumerdijk, the Pipe Band plays while (left) the "Underground" (male Frysian resistance fighters) parade past the "Beurs",
and (right) the Frysian women who were messengers for the resistance


on the left, you can just see the Pipe band along the road
 


and afterward, here is the Pipe Band walking past the Library, from Beursplein towards Zaailand, on the way to transport back ...
 


to Barracks in Bolsward, where the changing of the C.B.H. Quarter Guard will take place on the "Appelmarkt".


A well-known C.B.H. sign.

Excerpt from Ch16, From War to Peace, p.336:

The unit moved to BOLSWARD in July and began the process of winding-down and preparing for the journey back to Canada which would not take place for a number of months. What follows is a summary of the main highlights of unit life until it left Northwest Europe.

 


This Cape Breton Highlander of Canada took part in the liberation of Groningen, Friesland and Bolsward,
where he for some time lived in the house of the parents of a lady who at that time was only a little girl.
Now she is 77 years of age herself, but she still has this photograph of Teddy Mc. Donald hanging on the wall in her house
in Bolsward, Friesland.

 

 In a telephone conversation, the lady who owns the above photograph, Mrs. Bep Faber (Birth Date 16 09 1932), who was called by the surname "Beppie", told us her story:

In 1945 the soldiers of the Cape Breton Highlanders in Bolsward were mainly quartered with the inhabitants in existing civilian buildings, some of them (who drank, the more “tough guys”) also in bars and hotels. The family of Mrs. Bep Faber had two C.B.H. soldiers as boarders, one could already return home to Canada earlier, and the other, TeddyMac.Donald, some time later: after about half a year. He was a corporal.
Teddy was regarded and treated by the mother of the family as a sort of “son”, and he was very well liked by all. He was over 20 years of age and had already seen some 5 or 6 years of military service by then. He had also been on holidays in England, during which occasion he did have a photograph taken (a print of which was framed and hung on the wall in Bolsward, it still hung there when the mother died).

Also, he had requisitioned a big black motorbike from a German, on which he went out driving in the countryside. Rest of the time he was at home, unless every now and then he did have to take part in the “Quarter Guard”. Initially he did also have a girl friend in Bolsward but they broke up, and he also knew some girls in other villages. Whenever he asked the mother of the family where he stayed wherever he should go for a drive on the motorbike this time, like Dokkum or some other more remote place, she would say: go to Wommels (a nearby village), that is not so far away, as long as you are back before 10 o’clock tonight! And he always did so.
The Cape Breton Highlanders did not go to church (church parade) in Bolsward, but often the pipe band came to play on the Market on which occasion everybody was very exited and came out to watch and listen.

The younger sister of Mrs. Bep Faber was 5 years of age then and so did not remember much about 1945, and she was about 13 herself at the time. Later, after he had returned home, Teddy had still sent letters about how he got married, a child having been born and that he had moved to the U.S.A.
But when her mother died, the younger sister (who was not so interested) had already thrown everything away (letters and all), only the framed photograph of Teddy on the wall remained, so no further names or places are known of the Canadian soldier that Bep Faber had come to regard as part of her family, like an older brother. So this is why she would very much like to know if he is still around, alive and well.


 
Left and Right photographs: The C.B.H. Pipes& Drums on the march in Bolsward - Middle: C. Company H.Q., Bolsward, Holland 1945:
Kneeling in front are Capt. John Johnson, C.S.M. Ron Hawkins, Maj. Donald Chisholm and Lieut. F.A. Heuback.

Activities and programmes of every nature were established to help pass the time and also with the aim of improving the education and skills of the soldiers so as to prepare them to meet the challenges they would face in the transition back to civilian life.
Included among them was a mutual cooperation programme under the terms of which soldiers would help the Dutch farmers with their chores, and in turn the Highlanders would receive an education in agricultural matters. Some of those who had been farmers before the war enjoyed the experience of learning different ways while others encountered their first work on a farm.
There were also academic courses offered to help the soldiers improve their  educational qualifications. The Department of Veterans' Affairs sponsored a series of talks after which all could ask questions con­cerning the benefits they were eligible to receive.


Here is another photograph of Lt.Col. Somerville* of the Cape Breton highlanders, presenting the first prize to Captain J.M. Lockington,
winner of the running broad jump event, Track and Field Day, Sneek, Netherlands, 3 July 1945.
The pipe band would also play at similar sports events.
*In April 1945, Lt.Col. Somerville became Commander of 11 C.I.B., Major Syl MacKinnon following him up as C.O. of the Cape Breton Highlanders.
 

 

The Cape Breton Highlanders of Canada's pipe band did also, (as the 5th. Canadian Armoured Division massed pipes and drums)  play together with the pipe band of the Irish Regiment of Canada, on the following occasion:

 14 Juli: the Irish Regt. & CBH pipe bands play for Prince Bernhard at farewell to the B.S. Leeuwarden


The combined (5th. Canadian armoured Division) pipe bands of the Irish Regiment and Cape Breton Highlanders of Canada 
arriving on the Wilhelminaplein, Leuwarden


On his birthday, H.R.H. Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands is escorted by the Commander of the Cape Breton Highlanders, Major Syl MacKinnon,
after he arrived on Leeuwarden airbase, for the final inspection of the B.S.


14 july – Left: the 5th. Canadian Armoured Division Pipes and Drums marching past the “Gerechtsgebouw” of Leeuwarden.
Ex- Pipe Major Gillis came over from his Paiforce training for this special occasion (note the different Argylls & Sutherland highlanders sporran he is wearing now)

 


14 july, Leeuwarden – the farewell parade of the Nederlandse Binnenlandse Strijdkrachten -
the combined C.B.H. and Irirsh Regiment of Canada Pipes & Drums playing on the “Wilhelminaplein”.  

 


Farewell Parade and inspection of the "B.S."
- the former armed resistance, which was to be disbanded and from volunteers of which the “Grensbattalion Indië” were to be formed -
on the “Zaailand” in Leeuwarden, by Prince Bernhard, 14 July 1945, Major Syl MacKinnon following close behind.

 
The combined (5th. Canadian Armoured Division) pipe bands of the Irish Regiment and Cape Breton Highlanders of Canada playing
for the march-past of the B.S. who turned in their arms and were then disbanded.


H.R.H. Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, escorted by the C.B.H. Commander, Major Syl MacKinnon, greeting the B.S. (Dutch Resistance) at their farewell parade.


Poster recruiting volunteers for the “Grensbattalion Indië”

 Excerpt from Ch.16, From War To Peace, p.336:

Guard mountings and band concerts continued and the news of victory in Japan brought a two-day holiday. A liberation ceremony was held in BOLSWARD on 31 August, speeches made and tokens of appreciation presented to the unit for its part in the freeing of Holland. The "BAY NEWS", the newspaper of the C.B.H., began weekly publication with its first edition hitting the streets on 25 August. It was intended to be a self-supporting venture but the staff was assured that any losses would be covered. Its last edition was on 24 November.

The Cape Breton Highlanders of Canada's pipe band did also, (as the 5th. Canadian Armoured Division massed pipes and drums)  play together with the pipe band of the Irish Regiment of Canada, on the following occasion:

   9 September 1945: Irish Regt. and CBH - Mounting 11th. Brigade Guard-Leeuwarden


9 September 1945: The combined pipe bands of the Royal Irish regiment of Canada and the Cape Breton Highlanders
at the Mounting of the 11th. Brigade Guard-Leeuwarden



9 September 1945: The combined pipe bands of the Royal Irish regiment of Canada and the Cape Breton Highlanders
at the Mounting of the 11th. Brigade Guard-Leeuwarden

On 26 October 1945 the C.B.H. Pipe Band play on the Leeuwarden "Zaailand" again, at the farewell parade of the Friesian Battalion 1-9 R.I.


26 October 1945 the C.B.H. Pipe Band played for the farewell parade of the Friesian "War Volunteer Battalion 1-9 R.I."
the "Grensbattalion Indië"
who were formed from the former Friesian resistance, just before they left for service in the Dutch Indies.

Click on the photograph above to see a clip of the Pipe Band playing on the 26-10-'45 Zaailand, Leeuwarden parade.


The front cover of the Memorial Book:
"The Cape Breton Highlanders".

Excerpt from Ch.16, From War To Peace, p.337:

On 8 November, the eagerly-awaited memorial book "The Cape Breton Highlanders" arrived. With the unit tartan and badge on the cover, it was a handsome effort which listed the names of those who had been killed while serving with the CBH. Three days later, 5 CAD held a memorial service at the cemetery in WIERDEN to honour those killed at DELFZIJL. The Burgomasters of DELFZIJL and LOPPERSUM attended and laid wreaths. Each soldier's name was read, a tradition continued to this day at the annual CBH Memorial Service held at the unit memorial on King's Road in Syd­ney. Since that time, the bodies of the soldiers have been moved to the Canadian cemetery in HOLTEN, Holland.

On 22 November, the Pipes and Drums, the CO and other Highlanders travelled to DELFZIJL for a farewell ceremony. Another, similar event was held in LEEUWARDEN.


Delfzijl, 1945: The City Councils of Delfzijl, Bierum, Appingedam and Termunten celebrate their liberation by the Canadians
with a Dinner for Cape Breton Highlanders of Canada - and other 11th. Brigade officers in the Delfzijl City hall

Excerpt from Ch.16, From War To Peace, p.337-339:

At 0200 hours on 28 November, a 23-truck convoy of 24 officers and 375 soldiers departed for GRONINGEN and a train to NIJMEGEN. Arriving at 1700 hours, the Pipes and Drums played the unit during its five minute march to the rest camp. The C.B.H. departed Europe from OSTEND at 1330 hours on 2 December and the Pipes and Drums played "The Road to the Isles" as the soldiers marched onto the ship. Arriving at Dover four hours later, they made their way to B Wing of No. 10 Repatriation Depot at Dunley Hill. Later came the welcome chores of filling out leave and discharge papers. Following a last Christmas spent away from Canada, all proceeded on 9 January 1946 to Cove and No. 3 Repatriation Depot. Eight days later came the word that the 354 all ranks of the C.B.H. would sail from Southampton on 20 January on the ILE DE FRANCE. Arriving from Farnborough Station at Southampton at 0100 hours, bedding-down was quickly accomplished and the ship sailed at 1300 hours. The War Diary noted that "The ship is crowded but who cares, we are going home." It was three days short of five years since some of the Highlanders had departed the Dodd Street station in Sydney. Delayed one day by Atlantic storms, the ILE DE FRANCE docked at Halifax at 1700 hours on Saturday 26 January, 1946.


The S.S. Ile de France

Details on the Ile de France:

The SS Ile de France was a French ocean liner built in Saint-Nazaire, France for the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique. The ship was the first major ocean liner built after the conclusion of World War I and was the first liner ever to be decorated entirely with designs associated with the Art Deco style. It was neither the largest ship nor the fastest ship, but was considered the most beautifully decorated ship built by the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique (CGT, known also as the "French Line") until the Normandie.

At the war's beginning, the Ile de France was berthed at its New York pier. Since the French were not anxious to return the ship to its homeland, it was towed to Staten Island by ten tugs and was laid up after special dredging that cost $30,000. Its crew of 800 persons was reduced to a security staff of 100 while it was inoperative for the next five months. Then during March 1940, commanded by the British Admiralty, to which it had been lent, the ship was loaded with 12,000 tons of war materials, submarine oil, tanks, shells, and several uncrated bombers that were stowed on the aft open decks. On 1 May 1940 she departed for Europe, veiled in gray and black. From there, it traveled to Singapore where, after the Fall of France, it was officially seized by the British. During 1941 she returned to New York and made several crossings from the northeast as a troop ship such as the one on February 14, 1944, sailing from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Greenock, Scotland, carrying among others the 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion at the end of the war the Ile de France was used to ferry American and Canadian troops home.


The Long Voyage Is Over
(on the T.S. Ile de France)

The 43,000-ton ILE DE FRANCE carried over 7,000 troops from The Cape Breton Highlanders, The Princess Louise Fusiliers, The PEI Light Horse, The Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders, The Lincoln and Welland Regiment, The Algonquin Regiment, The Canadian Grenadier Guards, The British Columbia Regiment, and The Lake Superior Regiment, the Canadian Women's Army Corps band, some artillery regiments, over 1,000 RCAF personnel and small groups from other services and units. Almost two dozen troop trains were deployed to take them to their homes; the first left Halifax barely three hours after the ship had docked.

Led by Lieutenant-Colonel McKinnon, the C.B.H. marched off the ship at 1830 hours. The Pipes and Drums of the C.B.H reserve battalion were there to pipe them to the armouries. "Black Jack" MacDonald was there that day piping for the C.B.H. as they came home, just as had been done for him when he returned in 1919 as part of the 85th. They were met by two former Commanding Of­ficers, Colonel Weir and Lieutenant-Colonel Somerville, by Lieutenant-Colonel Ogilvie a former C.B.H. company commander, Father A.D. MacDonald, the long-time unit Padre, and by R.S.M. Diplock. Lieutenant-Colonel Fred Crooks, C.O. of the C.B.H. reserve battalion, was also on hand. The mayors of Sydney and Glace Bay and other Cape Breton dignitaries journeyed to Halifax for the occasion and then most of them travelled by plane to Sydney so as to be there to greet the unit when it arrived. The Halifax reception lasted four hours and then the troops boarded a train for Sydney and home.'

Over 5,000 Cape Bretoners jammed Dodd and Ritchie Streets and the whole of the area surrounding the C.N.R. station on Sunday, 27 January 1946. Once again the pipes played, and in the words of the Sydney newspaper, everyone "extended an enthusiastically warm welcome to the warriors who fought from the tough, rugged scenes of combat in Italy down to the Holland theatre of war."

click here to go to the C.B.H. regimental Museum
This is how a C.B.H. collar badge looks
click on it to go to the C.B.H. regimental Museum