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THE ARGYLL & SUTHERLAND HIGHLANDERS OF CANADA

 


Cap Badge and collar badges of the
Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders of Canada

(Credit for photographs of the badges goes to Clifford Weirmeir, with his splendid website about the Irish regiment of Canada)

 


Embroidered shouldertitle of the
Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders of Canada

 


This picture indicates quotes from
The Regimental History of the

Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders of Canada



 

FROM 1929 TO 1939


During the pre-war period, the pipe band is mentioned in several places:

Excerpt from Chapter 1, From 1929 to 1939, page2:

On Wednesday nights the parades were more formal with a march led by the Bands through the downtown streets of Hamilton, periods of drill and weapon training and a ceremonial dismissal with the pipes and drums, the brass and bugle bands taking part.

Excerpt from Chapter 1, From 1929 to 1939, page 3:

In the evening the Pipes and Drums played a Retreat programme, after which the Battalion fell in at 2000 hours for an outpost exercise, at the conclusion of which coffee and rolls were enjoyed.

Excerpt from Chapter 1, From 1929 to 1939, page 4-5:

In the fall of each year two battalion inspections were held on successive Wednesday evenings. The first was the Brigade Commander's inspection and the second that by the District Officer Commanding, Military District No. 2. Upon these occasions the relatives and friends of the members of the Regiment were invited to the Armouries to see the ceremonial, which was coloured by the full dress of the pipes and drums, the brass band and the bugle band.
 
Excerpt from Chapter 1, From 1929 to 1939, page 6-7:

In consequence of the death of His Most Gracious Majesty, The King, which occurred on 20th January, 1936, a parade of all units of the Garrison for a memorial service in Christ Church Cathedral was held on 26th January. Service dress with greatcoats was worn, with side arms, medals and decorations. Swords were carried by officers and black mourning bands worn by officers and warrant officers. The King's and Regimental Colours were carried draped in mourning. Band instruments were not carried with the exception of the pipes and drums. The pipes were carried but not played and the drums were muffled in black crepe.
Three great assets of the Regiment were its bands, the Pipes and Drums, the Military (Brass) Band and the Bugle Band. Flourishing under outstanding leadership these bands played a tremendous part in the life and activities of the Regiment, adding much to its colour, its efficiency and its prestige. Pride of the Regiment, the Pipes and Drums have been one of its finest adjuncts. They have upheld an enviably high record of efficiency and service and have achieved over the years a military and international reputation second to none. In terms of service it can be said that the Pipes and Drums have entered wholeheartedly into every activity and undertaking of the Regiment, as well as fulfilling in addition many engagements in military and civilian functions beyond the regimental sphere, being in constant demand on all manner of occasions.


Regimental Tartan of the
Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders of Canada

Throughout each year the Pipes and Drums have collectively and individually fulfilled an annual round of duties and parades, have performed at all regimental functions, both ceremonial and social, have participated in civic celebrations and observances and in addition have performed and competed at Highland Games across the continent. All this with their many hours of instruction and practice resulted in the pipers and drummers having devoted more time to their avocation than perhaps any other element in the Regiment.

The many long service medals awarded to members of the Pipe Band speak of the loyalty and devotion of its members. As many as three generations of one family have been represented in the band at one time or another. A list of fathers and sons who have at some time played in the band, concurrently in most cases, would include Lieut. Chas. Dunbar, D.C.M., and sons William, George and Percy; Pipe-Major S. H. Featherstone and sons Sydney and William; Pipe Major J. K. Cairns and son Archie (later Pipe-Major); Pipe-Sgt. A. Ross and son Duncan; Pipe-Sgt. F. Mc.Cuaig and son Walter; Pipe-Sgt. J. MacFarlane and son John (later Drum-Sgt.) ; Drum Sgt. A. S. Neil and son William; Piper J. Morrison and sons William and Robert; Piper John Craig and sons Henry, Thomas, Andrew and James; Drummer R. Day and son William (later Pipe-Cpl.); Drummer James Craig and son Alex (Grandson of Piper John Craig). The efficiency of the Pipes and Drums can be assessed by the fact of their repeated high rating by the Director of Music, M.D.2, at his annual inspection and tests, and by their achievements in competition.

Maintaining year after year their authorized strength of 30, and exceeding it, the following excerpt from Unit Part I Order No. 3 of 9th April, 1934, serves to illustrate their devotion to duty "The Commanding Officer is pleased to congratulate the Pipe Band on its splendid showing in attendance on parades."

Excerpt from Chapter 1, From 1929 to 1939, page 8-10:

In addition to their piping and drumming, members of the Pipe Band trained as stretcher bearers. During field training and on the rifle ranges pipers and drummers acted as stretcher bearers and first aid men as well as providing company pipers. Very often also they were employed to act as "Enemy" to add realism to battalion tactical exercises. Not a few of them also took a keen interest in musketry.

The efficiency of the Pipes and Drums in their Second 25 years of existence can be further assessed by their successful annual participation in competition at Highland Games in a dozen or more centres in Canada and the United States. With more first prizes to its credit than seconds or thirds, the band has held its own year after year amongst the best military and civilian Pipe Bands on the continent of America. It first won the coveted Colonel Fraser Trophy, recognized as one of the highest awards for Pipe Bands in Canada, in 1927, the first year the Trophy was offered, and it has won it many times subsequently. The Statler Trophy, emblematic of Ontario Championship, was won a number of times and successively in 1936, 1937 and 1938.

A high honour was accorded the band and no less the Regiment, when in 1936 Pipe-Major Sydney Featherstone was chosen by the Minister of Militia to be director of the composite pipe band attending the unveiling of the Canadian War Memorial at Vimy Ridge in France (see the photograph below). This band was made up of the pipe-majors of every Highland Regiment in Canada. As Pipe-Major Featherstone was going as director, Pipe-Sgt. J. B. Cairns went representing the Argyll's so that they had two representatives in the band on the memorable pilgrimage

.
JULY 1936
:
the unveiling of the VIMY RIDGE First World Memorial.


The Massed Canadian Army Pipe Bands took part in the ceremony
,
with Pipe-Major Featherstone as director.

Early in January of each year the Pipes and Drums have held a father and sons night, and initiated many years ago by Pipe-Major Dunbar, this has been one of the many factors in maintaining and in passing on to others the traditions and precepts of the band and a strong sense of loyalties and esprit de corps. Another annual event designed for the encouragement and development of confidence among the younger pipers and drummers was the pipe band competition for members of the band only.

After the death of Lieut. Chas. Dunbar, a chanter was awarded each year by the Dunbar family to the junior piper who had shown the greatest advancement during the year. Other prizes donated by officers, N.C.Os. and friends of the Regiment were also an added incentive to both pipers and drummers to improve their playing.

On 25th January, 1939, there passed away a great-hearted Scot, a most distinguished soldier, a dean of pipers and the spirit and inspiration of the Pipes and Drums in the person of Lieut. Charles Dunbar, D.C.M. His loss was deeply felt by the Regiment. He had served His Majesty's Forces for 50 years, the first 25 in the British Regular Army with the Seaforth Highlanders and the Gordon Highlanders and the last 25 years with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (P.L.).
He had been commissioned with the honorary rank of lieutenant in the Canadian Militia in recognition of his distinguished and valuable services. With his great knowledge and experience and personal ability in piping, drumming, Highland dancing and army discipline, Lieut. Dunbar made the Pipes and Drums of the Argyll's outstanding amongst all pipe bands in Canada and gave the band a code and standard which would remain long after he had gone. Furthermore with his wealth of knowledge of Highland customs and traditions as practised by the regular Highland Regiments, he was a most helpful guide and influence in the Regiment as well as a great teacher and leader in the band. With his dignity and rare quality of character he was an appreciated and much loved personality in the Regiment.

  
Pipe Major S.H.Featherstone 1924-1945, 2nd. Battalion     

When the Regiment was called upon to mobilize its 1st Battalion for active service in the second Great War, 1939-45, and to form its 2nd Battalion for recruitment and training in a Reserve Force role, the Pipes and Drums were easily divided into two bands according to age and category of personnel. Those fit for active service went to the 1st Battalion with Pipe-Sgt. P. C. McGinlay as Pipe-Major until he became Regimental Sergeant-Major and was succeeded by Pipe-Sgt. F. Noble (later Pipe-Major). Much to their disappointment and for reasons of age or category others were unacceptable for active service and so formed the Pipes and Drums of the 2nd Battalion with Pipe-Major S. H. Featherstone as Pipe-Major.

  
Pipe Major F.H.Noble 1940-1946 1st. Battalion

It is perhaps unique that in two great wars pipers and drummers of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada played the Canadian Army into Germany, in the first war as the 19th Battalion at the crossing of the Rhine and in the second as the band of the Canadian Berlin Battalion entering the city of Berlin. More will be read of the Pipes and Drums in later chapters of this history.

Excerpt from Chapter 1, From 1929 to 1939, page 20:

Orders to mobilize were received on 21st June, 1940.

 

Canada and Jamaica

Excerpt from Chapter 2, Canada and Jamaica, page29:

Early in April 1941 it was announced to an enthusiastic Battalion that a move to the West Coast of Canada would be made by the 13th Brigade early in May. The first part of this move, from Niagara to Hamilton, was made by march route, the column trudging through St. Catharines, Beamsville and Stoney Creek, to arrive in Hamilton on 20th May. A broiling sun beat down on the marching men, loaded with the paraphernalia of full marching order, during all the three days of the trek, and more than a few fell out before Hamilton was reached. St. Catharines saw the Battalion behind its pipe band pass through at the slope, a fine martial sight it was too, but by the time they had cleared the town the troops were almost ready to drop from the heat, their heavy loads and the sloped rifles.

Excerpt from Chapter 2, Canada and Jamaica, page 30:

The Battalion concentrated again in Vancouver on the 25th, when it was ferried across the sparkling waters of the Strait of San Juan de Fuca to its new home on Vancouver Island in hilly Camp Nanaimo above the town of the same name. The Regiment remained in Nanaimo for about three months, until the middle of August.
The big parade, end-result of all the rehearsals, came finally when the brigade, plus a battalion of the Canadian Scottish Regiment of Vancouver, paraded before Maj.-Gen. R. O. Alexander, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Pacific Command, ending the ceremony with a march past in column formation, while the pipers, formed up opposite the saluting base, played the Regimental march, "The Campbells are Coming".

Excerpt from Chapter 2, Canada and Jamaica, page 31:

Towards the end of July, the entire Brigade moved in tracks to Victoria, provincial capital, at the southern tip of the island; and here again there were march-pasts, parades and inspections. One of the most colourful ceremonies was the retreat programme played by the combined bands of the Argyll's and the Canadian Scottish. The kilted pipes and drums, drawn up on the smooth, beautifully kept lawn before the capitol building, made a fine spectacle as they paced back and forth in the intricate march routines, pipes skirling and drums tapping under their tall, able leader, Pipe-Major Frank Noble, son of Major Harry Noble of Hamilton, former second-in-command of the Regiment in peacetime.
 


the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders of Canada in Jamaica

Excerpt from Chapter 2, Canada and Jamaica, page 32:

Soon after the return to camp, in the first days of August came electrifying news. The 13th Brigade was to be broken up, and the Battalions were to be scattered far afield. The Argyll's were assigned (and hearts leapt) to Jamaica, British West Indies, where the Winnipeg Grenadiers were then stationed. Back across Canada then to Hamilton on 19th August. Until 3rd September, the Argyll's remained in Hamilton. Tropical kit was issued, shorts, shirts and sun helmets; medical examinations, documentation parades, all the routine necessary before a move was conducted.
 
Excerpt from Chapter 2, Canada and Jamaica, page 34-35:

On 2nd September the Regiment began its move to the Caribbean. An advance party of five officers and 145 other ranks under the command of Capt. J. A. Farmer had moved ahead of the main body of the Battalion and sailed for Jamaica from Montreal on 14th August aboard the Canadian steamship "Lady Rodney", a former Canadian Pacific cruise ship, now converted for military trooping. After touching at Bermuda and Nassau, the party finally arrived at Kingston harbour, Jamaica. The main body of the unit, 20 officers and 462 other ranks, aboard the C.S.S. "Lady Drake", taking a more direct route without any ports of call, reached Jamaica on the 10th.

Details on Canadian Steamship The Lady Rodney:

The Lady Rodney on the St. Lawrence River at Quebec City.
The Lady Rodney was one of two Lady ships to survive the Second World War.
During the war, she often carried Canadian soldiers to Europe.

(Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, N10822)

There remained the rear party, headed by Capt. D. F. Coons (Regimental quartermaster at this time). This party had probably the most enjoyable trip of the three groups. The party sailed from Montreal aboard the "Lady Rodney" on the 13th, five officers and 145 other ranks strong. After passing through the Straits of Canso, between the mainland and Cape Breton Island, where the pipers serenaded the predominantly Scottish populace from the bridge as the ship passed Fort Mulgrave, and having weathered the edge of a hurricane in mid-Atlantic, the "Rodney" and its escorting corvette arrived in Hamilton harbour, Bermuda, on the 26th.
 
Excerpt from Chapter 2, Canada and Jamaica, page 41:

We laughed a little at the British way of doing things when we got to Jamaica first, but before we left, we were doing many things that way ourselves. Bugles blew for every act of the soldier's day; the bugler stiffly at attention under the orderly room clock, as the hands crept to vertical, when the bugle came up and the sweet notes of Retreat sang out over the camp; or at eight in the morning, when On Parade's brisker note summoned the companies. Later in our stay, Friday afternoons offered the colourful spectacle of the pipe band playing Retreat on the lovely smooth, green cricket-ground.

Excerpt from Chapter 2, Canada and Jamaica, page 47:

Release came at last when in May, 1943, word was received of the Battalion's imminent relief by the Irish Fusiliers of Canada, old acquaintances of days on the West coast in 1941.
 


The Steamer U.S.A.T. "Cuba"

On the 18th, after a stay of nearly two years, the Argyll's packed aboard the U.S.A.T. (United States Army Transport) "Cuba", a small coastwise steamer, passed out of the harbour between Port Clarence and the Palisades for the last time, and as the Blue Mountains fell under the horizon, the Regiment turned its thoughts toward what might lie ahead. Canada, of course, then probably England and soon perhaps the Second Front.
On the 20th New Orleans welcomed the tanned Canadians, who were whisked into Canadian colonist cars and routed up through the United States by Knoxville and Cincinnati to the border and eventually to Niagara Camp.
 
Excerpt from Chapter 2, Canada and Jamaica, page 48-49:

On 14th June, seven officers and 120 other ranks, all "old Argyll's" who had to leave the Regiment they had grown to love, were played out of camp by the pipe band.
In the afternoon there was great news when the Battalion heard read on parade the announcement that it was of this date officially warned for draft, and this meant England next stop.
On 5th July, a great draft of Westerners joined the Battalion, more than 150 men, all with the gangling prairie gait. The Regimental Sergeant-Major despaired of ever getting them to march properly to the pipes, although they got it eventually, but from these men at length were to come some of the stoutest fighting men the Regiment could boast.
An advance party left for Sussex Camp, New Brunswick, on the 7th and the main body of the unit in two trains, followed, arriving in the cool Maritimes morning of the 11th. Only a few days later final preparations were made for the journey to Halifax.

Excerpt from Chapter 2, Canada and Jamaica, page 50-51:

The next day towards dusk the hills resounded to "Black Bear", as the band led the Battalion on its last parade in Canada down the winding, dusty road to the waiting train, which carried the sleeping Argyll's through the night eastward to Halifax and the docks, beside which the cars drew up early in the morning of 21st July.
The question, what sort of ship would be assigned to us for the ocean voyage, was now answered. It was in fact the Cunard's crack liner "Queen Elizabeth", greatest and speediest ship in the world, here at Halifax to take an all-Canadian cargo of troops to England for the first time.
The Argyll's were soon aboard, but any preconceived ideas of pleasure cruising across the Atlantic were as quickly dissipated. The great liner was crammed to the gunwales with men. The total was nearly 20.000, greatest number ever carried by the ship. The "Queen Elizabeth" slipped away from the docks of the Yard in the afternoon. Although served only twice daily due to the number of troops, meals were good; there were canteen parades every day; but in the main, card games and sleep for most men consumed the greater part of the crossing. The ship rushed on unescorted, relying on her speed for safety.
On the 27th just after noon appeared the rocky coasts of northern Ireland. Soon the wet, green hills of Scotland's western shores were slipping past as the "Queen" forged up the Firth of Clyde towards Greenock. The "Queen Elizabeth" glided regally past all the others to her allotted position in the middle of the stream, where about six in the evening the anchor chains rattled over the decks and the bridge telegraph rang "Finished with Engines."


RMS Queen Elizabeth

Details on the R.M.S. Queen Elizabeth
Gross Tonnage - 83,673 tons - Dimensions - 300.94 x 36.14m (987.4 x 118.6ft)
Number of funnels - 2 - Number of masts - 2 - Construction - Steel
Propulsion - Quadruple screw - Engines - Single reduction steam turbines
Service speed - 29 knots - Builder - John Brown & Co Ltd, Glasgow
Launch date - 27 September 1938
Passenger accommodation - 823 1st class, 662 cabin class, 798 tourist class
In 1942 the Admiralty drew up plans to convert the two Queens into aircraft carriers but these were later abandoned as it was considered that their troop carrying role was too important.
In April 1942 the Queen Elizabeth relocated from Sydney to New York. Here the troop accommodation was altered to make its capacity 10,000. In June 1942 it began to make voyages from New York to Gourock and then to Suez, via Cape Town. In August it began a shuttle service between New York and Gourock. Despite the ever present threat of U-boats the ship continued its service unscathed, although the German press stated that a U-boat had hit the vessel with a torpedo on 11 November. By the end of the war in Europe the Queens had brought over a million troops to the war zone. The ship's next duty was to repatriate these troops and redeploy troops for the war against Japan. The repatriation of American troops continued until October 1945 when the Queen Elizabeth was released from US service and allocated to the repatriation of Canadian troops. On 6 March 1946 it arrived back in Southampton and was released from Government service as the need for troop movements had diminished. During the war it had carried over 750,000 troops and travelled 500,000 miles.

The United Kingdom

Excerpt from Chapter 3, The United Kingdom, page 52:

The evening of 27th July, 1943, was spent on board, but early morning brought a great bustle of activity. The Battalion landed at Gourock pier in the afternoon, greeted there by a pipe band and by the friendly canteen workers, their light Scottish voices a delight to the ear. The men of the Argyll's fell in love with Scotland from that moment, the natural Scenic beauty of the land, the people's warm-hearted, generous kindness, the friendly accents heard on every side, reminding more than a few of their own Canadian homes, all conspired to win the Regiment over, now and ever after. Later leave rosters, with their long lists of men going "north of the border", were evidence of this bond forged initially here at Gourock quay. Two trains carried the Battalion to Camberley, Surrey.

Excerpt from Chapter 3, The United Kingdom, page 53:

The Battalion stayed in England, for a year almost to the day. Finally, from late autumn into the summer of 1944, came a period of preparation, specialized training, hardening and of just waiting for the invasion of North West Europe.

Excerpt from Chapter 3, The United Kingdom, page 60-61:

The division was now to move south to winter quarters in Sussex. The Battalion pulled up stakes and reached Uckfield, the Argyll's destination, about five in the afternoon and at once moved into a number of requisitioned houses and schools. Uckfield was The Battalion's English home from this date until the crossing to France.
Each company held a Christmas party for the local children, with Santa Claus, presents, Christmas tree, and biscuits, cocoa and candy provided by the men themselves from their own parcels from Canada.
Soldiers and children alike had a glorious time. The usual Christmas and New Year's festivities followed with plenty of beer at noon on Christmas Day, then a great feast, the finest since mobilization, served by the officers and cleared away by the sergeants and warrant officers. At New Year's again in true Scots fashion great celebrations included all the colourful visits behind pipers of officers and sergeants to each other's messes, there to consume large quantities of whatever was going. It was a wonderfully happy end to the most eventfully decisive year the Battalion had yet seen.



taking part in a Combined Operations training exercise at Inveraray, Scotland

Excerpt from Chapter 3, The United Kingdom, page 63-66:

On 14th February; the Battalion entrained for Scotland, where at Inveraray in Argyllshire the Regiment was now to go through a period of training in combined operations, involving beach landings. The Argyll's stay at Inverary lasted 10 days.
The Regiment made a good impression on the combined operations staff while at Inveraray; everyone worked with a will and felt, perhaps for the first time, part of the great plan of invasion. The townsfolk evinced friendliness and hospitality; they felt a certain bond with the Canadian Regiment, since the Duke of Argyll himself lived in their midst, and the countryside was full of Campbells and MacDonalds.
Two concerts by the Battalion's pipe band on the town square drew crowds of spectators full of enthusiasm. The wild, rugged Highland scenery, the lovely, dark blue waters of the loch with tree-crammed slopes rising beyond, and the Scots folk themselves made the short stay enjoyable for the Regiment. Uckfield was regained in very cold weather on 23rd February.
The 28th and 29th were big days. On the former, there was a brigade parade at East Grinstead, as Maj.-Gen. Worthington, regarded by all in his command with the liveliest emotions of respect and affection, now retiring to Canada, handed over command of his division to the youthful, dashing Maj.-Gen. G. Kitching.
The following day, at the same place, the great commander of the 21st Army Group, General (later Field Marshal) B. L. Montgomery, inspected the brigade, the men standing at ease while "Monty", with a hard, piercing glance for every man, made his way through the ranks. This completed, the brigade, closed round the jeep, was treated to one of the famous Montgomery fight talks, the effect of which in fact was as exciting and inspiring as those who had heard him before had led the Regiment to believe.
He spoke of team spirit, mutual confidence and the certainty of victory, but words can hardly bring to life the vision of the intense black-bereted commander, nor the hard, fiery determination of the man who won Britain's greatest victories in the year of 1939-45. After the Battalion had seen and heard Montgomery, it was easier to understand his accomplishments and the knowledge that he was to direct the impending invasion (as far as the Canadians were concerned) heartened all who heard him.

Excerpt from Chapter 3, The United Kingdom, page 70:

Meanwhile in England, having received its orders on the 17th, the main body left Uckfield for the last time at 8 a.m. the following day, and had reached the staging camp, No. S 6, by 4.30 that afternoon. Here the formidable "sausage machine", which was movement control for the cross-Channel operation, absorbed the Regiment.
 

Falaise, France and onward

Excerpt from Chapter 4, Falaise, page 74-75:

By evening on 26th July, the Battalion had emerged from the "Sausage-machine" and was once again with the rest of the 4th Division in the fields just north of Creully about 10 miles northwest of Caen. The Battalion remained in this area for the next two days.
Towards midnight on the 28th, orders were received to move the following day to an area around Fleury-sur-Orne just south of Caen, preparatory to relieving units of the 3rd Canadian Division, who were holding positions in Bras, Hubert-Folie and Bourguébus. The unit moved off the following morning in convoy, and passed along the road towards Caen through the shattered hamlets of Buron, (Gruchy and Vieux-Cairon, each place the scene of bitter struggles in the early days of the bridgehead, when the 3rd Division, thrown back from Caen, was fighting desperately to hold its line in this area.
The unit eventually established itself along the main road just north of Fleury by 1400 hours. After dark on the following day the Argyll's moved into Bras, relieving the Highland Light Infantry of Canada.

 


Tanks of the 4th. Canadian Armoured Division at Caen, France 1944

After the battle at Caen, the Argyll's moved on to Belgium with the 4th. Canadian Armoured Division.

Excerpt from Chapter 5, Pursuit to the Maas, page 108:

In 1944 as four years before this part of France, so cruelly ravaged in 1914-1918, practically escaped damage. It was by way of being a negative recompense for that earlier war, but the inhabitants had after all been living under the rule of a conqueror for the four years, and they made no effort to conceal their delight as the Canadian vehicles rolled through their land. Though not exactly "roses, roses, all the way", it was exhilarating and delightful to be greeted with flowers, cognac and embraces instead of the less pleasant shells and mortar bombs.
The only fly in this particular ointment was that one was never able to accept some pretty maid's invitation to stay a while; it was always onward, onward, past the little French towns, travelling by day and by night; signs reading "Abbeville 15 km.", "St. Omer 6 km.", and then, no longer the white French road signs but the blue of Belgium : "Bruges 10 km." Some things still stand out, peaks in the range of memory. Names of villages : Salmonville, h'orges-les-Eaux, Hallencourt, Pont-Remy and Buigny l'Abbaye. The approach to Hallencourt in a wet, pitch black night over the merest mud tracks ; it took eight hours to travel the 30 miles from Orival, and everyone was asleep when the town came in sight and Wild Bill said to the carriers in front, "Go in there and see what's going on", and we could see many people in the street even from where we were. They might have been Germans and it looked like another Igoville, but fortunately they were just more happy Frenchmen.
The German stragglers we took there and set to digging slit trenches. They thought they were digging their own graves and one prayed while they shovelled dirt, but afterwards we gave them tea and bully-beef and they brightened appreciably. Crossing the Somme at midnight, with a big plan all ready in the event something happened, the unit found all as quiet as ever, and many said, "There's no use digging, they're miles away", and just lay down to sleep, and they were right.
There was a memorial church parade in Buigny for all the men who had been killed with the Argyll's; the Battalion paraded in a rough square while the padre, Hon. Capt. C. H. McLean, his vestments ruffled by the breeze, went through the service. Everyone felt a little embarrassed at first by the loud clear bugles and the unashamed Scots sentiment of "The Flowers o' the Forest", for it was the Regiment's first service of that kind. But afterwards, when they thought and talked about it and felt its meaning, it came home.


St. Lambert-sur-Dives, August 1944
A soldier of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada runs forward past a burning Sherman tank in the village street.
 

Excerpt from Chapter 5, Pursuit to the Maas, page 109:

The British, we heard, were in Antwerp and Brussels, and the Americans no one knew where away off to the southeast, and it looked as if the war would be over soon, and we'd never hang our washing on the Siegfried-line. Everyone was saying that then.
Another thing you didn't forget was the cold, wet morning of 7th September when you crossed into Belgium at Oostcapel, the rain glistening on the humped cobblestones and dripping from the soaked Balmorals. All the people were cheering, cheering. They were wild with excitement and they ran alongside and screamed at us and there was always another bottle of cognac and a prettier girl around the next corner. All the air was full of sound and the constant "Vive . . . Vive . . . !"
There were many towns life that, but that was the best. You understand how it was in those days: It was war, of course, but as in the books and, in the movies, excitement and glory and swift movement, and none of the mud and danger and fear. We had forgotten the real war for the moment.
That was how it was in those early September days, just a tour across France, all expenses paid. Somewhere in that area some reinforcements finally arrived and the Battalion went back to a four company basis.
The Battalion left Oostcapel at 0800 hours on 8th September and made its way still northeast in the direction of Bruges. The column bowled along merrily through the Belgian countryside, with the network of canals which now began to replace the wooded farmland on to Waerschoot.


German 28 cm. Railway Gun of the Heeres-Eisenbahn Artillerie Abteilung 702,
taken by the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada at Sluiskil and photographed in Eeklo railway station.
 

Excerpt from Chapter 5, Pursuit to the Maas, page 120:

The main brigade column, consisting of the South Alberta tanks, the Algonquin's and the Argyll's, each less one company left temporarily at Moerkerke, and a battery of the 19th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery, left at 1500 hours. Craters in the roads made progress slow, but there was no active opposition. Reports of enemy groups well to the north were received, but for the moment these were not the Battalion's concern.
Crossing the Lys Canal without incident, the column around 2100 hours pulled into Waerschoot where it received a splendid reception, since although tanks of the Canadian Grenadier Guards had passed through earlier, these were the first troops actually to stop in the town, and many grimy, grinning Argyll's submitted willingly to passionate embraces from one Belgian mademoiselle after another, Women threw roses and other flowers at their liberators, while men rushed out with long-hoarded bottles of cognac or vin rouge, saved against this day. The customary "chocolate for mama, cigarette for papa," tries echoed on every side, and the Canadian stalwarts responded with a generous hand.
One pleasant evening and one day, however, were to be all the Regiment's share of these delights, for it was vital to push on and clear out lingering Germans. Sunday morning was given over to short company services, with the exception of "C" Company, who with tanks of the South Alberta's carried out a sweep of the area northeast of the town to flush out any remaining Germans, but none was encountered.
During this day incidentally the air armada destined for Nijmegen and Arnhem passed overhead. The clouds of aircraft and towed gliders filled the skies as far as the eye could reach, while the droning of motors made one vast, continuous roar of sound. It was an impressive enough sight, and seemed sure evidence of the impending final defeat of Germany to be brought about by our command of the air as much as by any other single factor.
 

Winter Quarters

The Argyll's arrive at Winter Ouarters at Heusden, in the Netherlands.

Excerpt from Chapter 6, Winter Quarters, page 154-155:

The town square, wide open looking right across the river, was always deserted for obvious reasons. One might walk across once but never twice, and in any event a few mortar bombs invariably followed an appearance there. To vary the routine occasionally a few 105-millimetre shells were lobbed in and even now and then some high-velocity armour piercing shots, the zip-p-p of which down the street was the signal for a miraculously rapid clearing of the streets by all ranks.
That was one peculiar and tragic feature about Heusden; the civilians never seemed to learn. Warned by the crash and black smoke of an exploding mortar bomb, any soldier would instantly take cover and stay there until things quietened, but although they might duck into a doorway for a moment, most civilians kept right on walking after a few seconds. As a natural result, many civilians were killed or wounded, especially by mortar fire, although mortars caused scarcely any casualties among the troops, many women and children were unnecessarily hurt and killed because of this inexplicable stolidity and seeming carelessness.
On the whole, however, if one were careful and alert, life for the Argyll's was not overly depressing. German patrolling on the Battalion front was slight; for some reason he preferred to send men over the river on our right and left, where the other battalions of the brigade had frequent encounters. In Heusden, "A", the occupying company now commanded by Major Rupert Fultz of Winnipeg, a newcomer to the Battalion, made many friends among the citizens of the place ; drank large quantities of a violently alcoholic liquid made up by the hospitable Heusdenites, and generally endeared itself to the feminine element of the town. Col. Stewart ensured that there were plenty of movies and baths, and that 48-hour leaves were given as generously as possible to Antwerp, Brussels and Ghent.


Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada cooking a meal and warming themselves around a fire

The Argyll's occupied their square of low-lying, drab, unprepossessing, dike-bounded, wet Dutch farmland from the 9th until 25th November. A few incidents remain in memory : the elderly German soldier found in a haystack near Doeveren, who had apparently been there for days, but gave up quietly as a lamb when they unearthed him; Armstrong and Whiteside, both through all kinds of bitter fighting without a scratch, coming back from a "48" in Antwerp bandaged from injuries received when a V1 fell there and knocked the hotel's plate glass window all over them; the big evening celebration when Col. Stewart got his D.S.O.; the night a two-man German patrol came over and entered the front weapon slits ; the "Maybe" bridge between ourselves and the Algoquin's, finally knocked out by German shelling after they had tried for a week; large shells, about 175-millimetre, landing near Battalion Headquarters one day right out of the blue and everyone scuttling for cover like rabbits.
And more homely things : musical evenings in Support Company headquarters, everyone joining in the singing and drinking cognac between choruses until they were all high as kites; the good lady in the house out at the west end of Elshout bringing in the pitcher of warm milk, each glass upturned and on top a bright silver coin for each man on a big feast day when , she wanted us to have them; the worried countryman asking Doc Bryce, our gangling, whimsical medical officer, for advice on the care and treatment of sick cows, for which he prescribed some unheard of physic and the beast perked up at once, so that ever after her owner kept pestering Doc for more "Canadese" remedies.
Although this time was certainly pleasant in many ways, it was not a real rest period, especially for the rifle companies, whose nights were often broken by hurried "stand-to" orders, and a least some of whom nightly faced unknown dangers as they patrolled the muddy, slippery banks of the misty Maas. This time was now to end.
On the 25th, the 6th Highland Light Infantry of the British 52nd (Lowland) Division, replaced the Battalion in the area, and the Argyll's pulled right back out of the line, the first time since Bourguebus, and established themselves south of Den Bosch in a huge monastery, known as St. Michaelsgestel. At the same time, the rest of the brigade was relieved and moved into similar buildings and billets in the area. Here the formation was supposedly to remain for not less than two weeks.
An energetic programme of reorganization, vehicle and weapon maintenance, inspections and training was at once instituted. The long unheard bugles rang forth once more through the echoing hills, summoning the faithful to rise, eat or rest. And in the mornings the pipers marched back and forth outside, kilt swinging and drummers' arms tossed high in the traditional "Hey, Johnny Cope, are ye waukin' yet?" Everyone worked busily. A school for non-commissioned officers was set up under Capt. L. V. Perry, while improvised ranges were soon in daily use and sports occupied many afternoons. Nor was other recreation neglected, for the great hall in the evenings became a cinema; a cafe across the street was requisitioned for the Battalion's use; company dances were held with the local belles as willing partners, refreshments, a magic word, being after all the great attraction.

Excerpt from Chapter 6, Winter Quarters, page 156:

After only a week, however, the Regiment moved back to its familiar Elshout square, taking over from the 6th Highland Light Infantry, who were now sent south to the fighting around Geilenkirchen on Dempsey's Second Army front. Another long period of relative inactivity for the Argyles ensued until 21st December.
 The usual mortaring and shelling programme was carried on by both sides. Maj.-Gen. Chris Yokes, now divisional commander, paid two calls during this time, inspecting the men of the Battalion and becoming acquainted with them in the approved gather-round-my-jeep style, by this time apparently the drill for all commanders in 21 Army Group. V-bombs began to come over the area about the middle of December, directed, we thought, on Antwerp, from somewhere in northern Holland. Many fell uncomfortably close, one landing on the German side of the river, to our general satisfaction, but for the time being we were not directly affected by them, except that the Intelligence squad nearly went crazy trying to keep track of the numerous reports from companies about approaching "Divers" and "Big Bens". Reports on the latter, code name for V-2, eventually became so confusing that only survey regiments were officially allowed to see them.
 

Children at a Christmas party sponsored by the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada, Elshout 19 December 1944


         Dutch children under the care of nuns arriving for the Christmas party                           Private M.M. Barnhart and Lance-Corporal C.G. Balazs talking with children attending the party
 


Children at the Christmas party sponsored by the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada,
Elshout, Netherlands, 19 December 1944.

Carrying on the Canadian Army's custom begun in England in 1940, men of the unit worked hard to prepare a children's party for the youngsters of Heusden and Elshout, whose Christmas would otherwise not be much fun; and eventually two parties were in fact held, one for each town, involving movies, Santa Claus, small presents and refreshments. As usual the refreshments attracted a large number of "children" of 18 or 19, but that also was accepted. Both parties were a huge success, although on the 19th, the day of the Heusden party, there was more than usual enemy fire on the town and for a time it seemed that the children might have to forego their fun, but it all went off very well in the end.

Excerpt from Chapter 6, Winter Quarters, page 157:

On the 21st, the first move back to "St. Mike's", where it was devoutly hoped we would eat our Christmas dinner, was satisfactory; and arrangements for this went on apace. Our own notice to move dwindled from six hours to two, and eventually on the 24th to immediate readiness. Most exasperatingly for the quartermaster and for all persons connected with the Christmas preparations, the unit finally moved at 1430 hours on the 24th to Dorst, a small village about a mile of so. northeast of Breda on the main Breda-Tilburg road.
Christmas Day dawned clear and cold, and all companies, thanks to really praiseworthy efforts by cooks and the various company headquarters, got a magnificent Christmas dinner. Extremely pleasant and friendly, the local civilians benefited by the soldiers' generosity to some extent. The Battalion continued on the alert in Dorst for a week; conditions of heavy fog made it quite possible each day that the Germans would make their expected effort, but save for two really close V-1's, there was no unusual activity.
 

The Hochwald

 

 

Operation "Blockbuster", a deliberate assault over the plateau between Calcar and Udem, driving on to the Rhine, took the Argyll's way into Germany.


Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada having dinner in a barnyard near Veen, Germany, 7 March 1945.

Excerpt from Chapter 7, The Hochwald, page 187-188:

On the 9th and 10th, the troops of the Guards Armoured Division and the 52nd (Lowland) Division passed to the southward, eliminating the last German stragglers between Veen and the Rhine. Operation "Blockbuster" was thus brought to a successful conclusion.
The German defences had been smashed and overrun and more than 23,000 prisoners had been taken by the First Canadian Army. To achieve this, a heavy toll in lives had been paid, for in the 12 days from 26th February to 9th March, the Argyll's lost 260 killed and wounded. Throughout the campaign, the Battalion had distinguished itself in every way against some of the most unyielding resistance yet encountered by Canadian troops.
For the first time since entering Germany in Veen the Battalion encountered civilians in some numbers, not Germans but chiefly Polish, Russian and French, former slave workers, human flotsam on the stormy sea that Europe had become, ragged, undernourished, many bearing scars from maltreatment and all glad to see Canadians and full of hatred for their former masters. These unfortunates scrambled through the wretched town in search of food and clothing, against the time when they should take the road back to their native countries.
The Regiment stayed in Veen for two days enjoying baths and movies, and the canteen was open. On the second day the Colonel inspected all the companies and spoke a few words of praise for their efforts, as well as of warning for the future. He also indicated that although a period out of the line was now to be the Battalion's lot, the time would be fully taken up with training.

 


Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders line up for rations in Veen, Germany, 7March 1945
 

About midnight on the 12th, the Argyll's moved out of Veen and joining the brigade convoy, retraced their steps of three weeks earlier into Holland through Nijmegen and s'Hertogenbosch to the new rest-training area at Esch near Boxtel. With Support Company as usual in the lead, the convoy presented a peculiar sight to the good people of Holland; in addition to military luggage, each carrier was crammed with foodstuffs, chiefly good German beer and pork.
The Colonel's injunction to eschew indiscriminate looting had been obeyed, but no such restriction had been laid on livestock, and the Canadians had no intention of subsisting solely on army fare while they were out of the litre. It is sure that the Argyll's diet for some weeks included huge, delicious steaks, canned peas and carrots and preserved cherries and peaches in profusion.
Esch itself was a real country town, but at least it was in Holland, a land of authorized fraternization and the belles of the little hamlet were a great relief after the uninhabited desolation of the Rhineland. And greener fields were at hand and made available: Tilburg and the unit's former winter quarters, Waalwijk, where inhabitants welcomed any returning Argyll with open arms. In fact Waalwijk became quickly a Mecca for any member of the Regiment who had established connections there in the long, cold winter months.

 


An Argylls’ PIAT team, Meppen, Germany, 8 April 1945


Excerpt from Chapter 7, The Hochwald, page 189

It was soon evident that life in Esch would be neither a bed of roses nor a breakfast-in-bed existence, but as the Colonel had promised a period of toil and sweat, and at least occasionally after long route marches of blood and tears.
Always in prime shape himself, the Colonel absolutely insisted on tip-top physical condition for all tanks, and to achieve this a series of gradually stepped-up route marches was instituted. The countryside was full of marching men and the skirl of pipes. As in England, each company was assigned its piper who led the marches and heartened the men with his Gaelic melodies. These Caledonian wailings were a source of perpetual wonderment to the Dutch, to whom all tunes seemed discordant, but as those who have traipsed the weary miles behind the much-maligned musicians will know, there was no doubt that the gay, lilting pipes kept more than one footsore Canadian going by their warlike, inspiring song.
So the Battalion marched round about the country and then it marched some more. A number were marched off their feet to be sure, but reluctant to fall out, the majority kept up and were rewarded by graduating to combined "runs-and-walks" of five to eight miles, led by their dogged if often wheezing platoon and company officers, most of whom were not precisely the equal of Jesse Owens. Despite the travail and the moaning and groaning, the Regiment got the work done and in the end was the better for it.
Now began practical work, company attack schemes, woods-clearing and house-fighting. Affectionately known to the troops as "Crafty Chris" Vokes, the General Officer Commanding had intimated that future battles might be even more the concern of the infantry than previous engagements, and the Argyll Colonel was determined that his men should be able to meet with confidence any sort of opposition and to subdue it as far as possible by their own devices.
 

Across the Rhine

Excerpt from Chapter 8, Across the Rhine, page 194-195:

Reaching Ruurlo just before dawn, the main body of fighting troops was pushed on to Lochem. Needless to say after the long delay at Bienen neither crossing of the canal was taken; one had been blown long before and the other as the troops were still some distance away. The soldiers turned to clearing Lochem, a task which did not take long; save for the usual stragglers, the town had been abandoned by the enemy, so the complete battle group moved in about noon.
The civilians in the town made the Canadians very welcome, seeming really glad to see their liberators and losing no time in offering billets. One interesting thing was the house of Mary of Arnhem, dulcet-voiced German Cassandra of the airwaves, whose gentle propaganda and hot records were well-known to Allied listeners: It now appeared that this lady was not "of Arnhem" but a local belle: Well-known to the citizens, her activities had earned her their hatred and she had moved away some months previously. A fine modern structure, the building was now taken over by the Dutch underground for their headquarters. Also in the town had been a German rear headquarters ; the speedy retreat had forced these officials to flee precipitously, leaving behind them many valuable records and papers, which were turned over by the Battalion to personnel of the security control, who appeared on the scene soon after the Regiment took possession.
The Argyll's remained in Lochem during the night. To the left in the hours of darkness, a bridgehead across the canal was made by troops of the 2nd Division, actually the Royal Regiment of Canada, news doubly welcome, since it made unlikely the chance that the Argyll's would have to do likewise. Since Moerbrugge, canal crossings were not very popular with the regiment.


Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada aboard a Kangaroo armoured personnel carrier, 11 Apr 1945

Excerpt from Chapter 8, Across the Rhine, page 196-197:

Col. Wigle took a few minutes to study his map in the yellow glimmer of two candles, while the company commanders waited ; then his plans made, issued his orders for the taking of Almelo, which he hoped but did not anticipate might prove to be evacuated. If this were so, a company would push north quickly and get across the canal where the tanks had been repulsed. Before first light, Whiteside's "D" Company in the lead was on its way, followed by "B" and "C", and as morning broke by "A" and Support.
The men soon found that the enemy had pulled back; there was neither firing nor opposition, only hordes of excited Dutch civilians, who adoringly followed every Canadian wherever he went and crowded about him in great shrieking mobs if he stopped, imploring chocolate or "smoking", and generally making a great nuisance of themselves. It was just as well the Germans had decamped, as if they had offered opposition things would have been pretty confusing with these milling mobs all over the place.
While the red tabs considered the next move, however, the Regiment sat back in Almelo to receive the adulation of those who had been liberated. In person, General Vokes appeared on the scene during the morning to congratulate the Colonel on the Battalion's showing. It was in Almelo that men of the Argyll's witnessed for the first time what they had previously seen only in the papers or the "Maple Leaf", the head shaving of female collaborators. With mock solemnity and to the beating of a drum these unfortunates were paraded about the town streets; jeered and insulted by the fickle mobs, and then exhibited one by one on the balcony of the town hall, while their hair was roughly sheared away.
It was a degrading and distasteful spectacle, and as they watched despite themselves, many Argyll's could not but wonder how many wealthy burghers who had collaborated more efficiently and enthusiastically if with less passion were at the moment among the exulting crowd of spectators. It is to the Battalion's credit that most of its members openly expressed their dislike for such acts of mob rule. An attractive town, Almelo bore few scars of war and would evidently be a pleasant place in peacetime, and to do them justice the townsfolk threw open their homes and hearts to the Canadians, who gladly accepted such homely delights as hard-boiled eggs or perhaps a pan of hot water for shaving.
As usual, however, whenever the Regiment found itself in a quiet place, the bubble soon burst; "on once more" came the order at 1600 hours and away we went in a cloudburst leaving Almelo this time under command of Brig. Moncel's 4th Armoured Brigade, and, of course, leading that formation. This move really was the kind of dash generally associated with an armoured division as represented by the newspapers.

 

Canada via Berlin

Excerpt from Chapter 9, Canada via Berlin, page 222-223:

Many an Argyll will recall among other vivid memories along that dusty, cratered road that took him up to the front for his first taste of battle, a sign on a post "Canada via Berlin." It was one of those morale-boosting signs erected by the Canadian Provost Corps to be seen with those others of theirs marking the military routes, warning of dangers or notifying "verges cleared to eight feet." It was a sign memorable and pregnant. In their hearts the Canadian Argyll's knew that symbolically it would come true for all of them personally if not literally.
It was their ambition, indeed their goal, and when just two months later the Battalion Headquarters and two companies of the Argyll's with the Pipes and Drums of the Regiment entered Berlin, it was a climax replete with thrills and satisfaction for the years of preparation, guard duties, training, waiting and finally the bitter fighting.
 


Piper E.W. Mc.Kie, Piper Alex Ednie with Sgt. Craig

After the cessation of hostilities the Battalion settled down in the quiet little Dutch village of Nijverdal, province Overijssel, there to await with patience its turn for repatriation to Canada. As it was among the later units to proceed across the Atlantic, the Argyll's would be among the last to return. Meanwhile many volunteered for services in the Canadian Far East Force and the Canadian Occupation Force (Europe) and left the Battalion.
Educational and recreational programmes now took the place of tactical and weapons training and educational films and lectures became daily routine in the Battalion. Brigade and Divisional schools got under way affording men the opportunity of learning or improving their knowledge of useful trades for civilian life. Candidates for these courses were guided into them by the vocational guidance films and lectures shown and delivered from time to time. With the 10th Canadian Infantry Brigade located in the area Almelo-Nijverdal-Rijssen, competitive sports and inter-unit games occupied much of the time. Unit, Brigade and Divisional sports days were run off with great success, while baseball, volleyball and soccer afforded lively, friendly rivalry and healthy recreation. Generous leaves were allowed and almost daily parties went or returned from privilege leaves in Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris and, insofar as transportation would permit, to the United Kingdom.
Much in the minds of everyone, repatriation to Canada was first of all on an individual "Points Score" basis, ensuring that all personnel with long service away from Canada would have accelerated priority over those with less service abroad. Reinforcements and more recent arrivals overseas were posted to various units to take their places and when all high points personnel had been moved home whole units were to be returned to Canada in order of priority of arrival overseas. This resulted in not a few individual Argyll's proceeding home on points earned by two years in the British West Indies, one in England and one on the Continent of Europe, but the Battalion could not expect to go home before the end of the year, or more likely until the New Year.
In the midst of the somewhat monotonous routine of administration, education, recreation and repostings in June word came that a Canadian composite Brigade was to go with the British Occupational Force to Berlin, and furthermore that the Argyll's were named as one of the units of the Brigade. This was indeed welcome news, but alas, after preparations had proceeded to the point at which the Brigade was concentrated and all keyed up with spit and polish and ceremonial, the move to Berlin was cancelled in its present form but later revived and revised.
 

 

Excerpt from Chapter 9, Canada via Berlin, page 224:

The Russians, who of course were in possession of Berlin, protested that with all the terrific destruction in the city and rubble to be cleared away, there was no room for more troops other than strictly labour parties. The Allied Military Government ruled there were too many problems to solve in restoring the services, utilities and accommodations in Berlin to warrant bringing in several thousands more troops to billet and ration. Later, however, the situation so improved that it was decided to form a composite Canadian Battalion to represent the Canadian Army in the victory parade and ceremonies planned for Berlin at the time of the meeting of the Big Three scheduled for July. Called the Canadian Berlin Battalion, it came into being on 17th June, 1945.
The composition of the Battalion was as follows: Battalion Headquarters, Headquarters Company and one Rifle Company from the 1st Battalion, The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (P.L.) (4 Can. Armoured Division) ; Support Company and two Rifle Companies from Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal (2 Can. Inf. Division) ; two Rifle Companies from The Loyal Edmonton Regiment (1 Can. Inf. Division).
The Argyll element of the Canadian Berlin Battalion moved from the Battalion area at Nijverdal, Holland, at 1130 hours on 18th July, 1945, in a convoy of 35 vehicles in fine weather. A total of 14 officers and 236 other ranks made up this group, which was to be joined at Braunschweig by elements of The Loyal Edmonton Regiment, Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal, a section of the Canadian Provost Corps, the Canadian Infantry Corps brass band, a detachment from the Royal Canadian Dental Corps and an Auxiliary Services detachment.


Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada in Germany, 26 April 1945.
(L-R): Lance-Corporal M.J. Montague, Private W.F. Brannick, Lance-Corporal R. Templeman, Private A. Gledhill, Sergeant J.W. Boudreau.


Excerpt from Chapter 9, Canada via Berlin, page 225:

The convoy travelled by Almelo, Hengelo, Oldenzaal, Lingen, Haselünne, Löningen, Cloppenburg and Hemsted to a wood near Bassum where bivouac was made for the night. The next day it would proceed to Braunschweig, where the Canadian Berlin Battalion was to be concentrated to join the 7th British Armoured Division (The Desert Rats) under Maj-Gen. L. O. Lyne, C.B., D.S.O., which division was to be the British occupational force in the British Zone of occupied Berlin.
After crossing from friendly Holland into defeated, stunned, sullen Germany, one felt the immediate change in the atmosphere and surroundings. Just at first there was not a person to be seen and the country looked desolate. Then at the first village, war wrecked, there were a few most unhappy looking people, nearly all women in black. None paid any attention to the convoy of troops except to turn their backs to it.
Later the appearance of the country began to improve and more people were to be seen about, but all unhappy and cold to the Canadians. Gradually, however, as the convoy progressed deeper into Germany, this tempered until, when over the Elbe River up to which the Russians had fought from the East to meet their Allies from the West, there was a marked change and a positive interest shown, a curious interest which, in Berlin, reached later, was almost if not altogether one of welcome and certainly one with a desire for friendliness at least.
The German scene, however, was changed from the Germany in which only five weeks previously the Argyll's had seen bitter fighting. The civilians were now for the most part cleaning up their houses destroyed by the war, working in the fields or repairing the roads. Apathy and sullenness began to give way under this antidote. Under supervision of the British Pioneer Corps, whole battalions of German soldiers were engaged in repairing the highways and roads. Unlike the rest of the populace, the German soldiers stopped what they were doing to regard their conquerors with various expressions of interest or haughty curiosity, but mostly sober and sullen, although sometimes sheepish, sometimes no longer hostile, yet often still arrogant and resentful, but all aware that they were soundly beaten. Nevertheless these soldiers, it was to be so often noticed, looked their conquerors in the eye.

Excerpt from Chapter 9, Canada via Berlin, page 226:

These were the real German soldiers. Frequently along the road beaten looking squads of dirty, ragged Wehrmacht trudged wearily home, unescorted, to get back to work on the land or to the trades and professions they had left when desperate last stands were made in the doomed last stages of their war.
Policemen in the various towns and villages which the convoy passed through stood out, however, in a class by themselves worthy of comment. Invariably they were well disciplined, alert, business like and polite. They directed the convoy and cleared it through the towns and cities with efficient courtesy. At one small town at which the roads divided, a momentary pause occurred for the purpose of checking the route map. A German police officer stepped up to Major Farmer's jeep, which at that time (driven by Pte. Frank Best) was leading the convoy, saluted and in perfect English asked "Where do you want to go?" and being told, gave clear directions, saluted and waved the convoy through.
Moving on by Nienburg the convoy swung onto the Autobahn near Hanover. Here it stopped for lunch beside a huge brick factory (capacity 1,000,000 bricks a day - they'd need them). The country began to look better with open grain and root fields and singing larks, but the cities, towns and villages were a picture of desolation. Even knowing what our Air Force had accomplished, it was astonishing to see the actual results. Braunschweig was reached at 1530 hours on 19th June. The centre of the city was found to be almost totally destroyed, but the suburban areas were more or less intact with substantial civilian activity, some stores open and the street cars in operation again.
The billets for the Battalion were in the Heinrich der Lowe barracks in the south end of the city, formerly occupied by S.S. troops. Like most German barracks it was filthy until commandeered local labour, fire pumps and hoses employing liberal quantities of sanitary supplies made it bearably habitable for the Canadian troops. Here the Argyll's were joined by the companies of The Loyal Edmonton Regiment and Les Fusiliers Mont Royal. After a couple of days of cleaning, uniform pressing and haircuts, units of the 7th British Armoured Division began to arrive, including the 131st Lorried Infantry Brigade, commanded by Brigadier John Spnrling, D.S.O.
Excerpt from Chapter 9, Canada via Berlin, page 227:
The section of The Canadian Provost Corps, the Canadian Infantry Corps Band, the Auxiliary Services detachment and the Royal Canadian Dental Corps detachment arrived. In charge of the Dental detachment was Capt. J. J. Katzman, who later was to be of great assistance acting as Interpreter and Public Relations Officer, he having a fluent command of the German language and an intimate knowledge of the ways and characteristics of German people.

 

Canadians in Berlin


The Parade before the Column of Victory, 25 July 1945

Excerpt from Chapter 9, Canada via Berlin, page 228:

The Canadian Berlin Battalion held its first parade as such complete on 21st June, when Lt.-Col. Coffin outlined the task of the Battalion in Berlin, which primarily was to represent the Canadian Army at the forthcoming Allied victory parades and ceremonies: The Battalion now came under command of 131st British Lorried Infantry Brigade. Spit and polish and ceremonial drill became the daily routine with recreation in the evenings by way of motion picture and sports. The Headquarters of the Ninth United States Army was located in downtown Braunschweig, where at their canteen the Americans extended a hearty welcome and every hospitality to the Argyll's. Coco-cola and doughnuts were an exciting change from the NAAFI tea and biscuits to which all ranks had become so accustomed. The Americans had also a large, modern theatre operating for the rank and file and the Canadians and British were made most welcome.
On the evening of 23rd June the Americans played host to the Canadians at a baseball game prior to which the Pipes and Drums of the Argyll's played a programme received with enthusiastic applause. The game was fast and exciting, the Canadians edging out the Americans 5-4. Following the game refreshments were enjoyed with the Americans in their canteen: Several return games were staged, and with ceremonial parades, church parade, band concerts, movies and sports time did not lag.
On 26th July Brigadier Spurting took the salute from his Brigade and attached Canadian Berlin Battalion on the wide Autobahn. The parade marched past in column of sixes, a novel formation for the Argyll's, but it went well as a good rehearsal for the victory parade in Berlin. One event of interest while at Braunschweig was the occasion upon which the Pipes and Drums of the Argyll's played by special invitation for the ceremonial changing of the United States Army Guard at the Ninth U.S. Army Headquarters.

Excerpt from Chapter 9, Canada via Berlin, page 229:

For the move to Berlin, an advance party under Col. Coffin, who left Major Pete Mackenzie in command of the main body, left Braunschweig at 0500 hours on 2nd July to proceed with the Divisional advance party to Berlin. The main body of the Division, including the Canadian Berlin Battalion under command 131st Brigade, moved off in a long convoy on 4th July on the Autobahn by Magdeburg. In this city on the Elbe River not a house stood intact west of the river. According to civilians who were questioned on the road the whole job of eliminating Magdeburg had been accomplished in the incredibly brief time of 38 minutes during the second week of January, 1945.

Excerpt from Chapter 9, Canada via Berlin, page 230:

The barracks was "The Gestapo House", a large hospital-like building at 32-35 Berkaerstrasse. Although very dirty, the building was . comparatively free from damage except for the usual broken windows and the occasional direct hit from a shell. The local German labour office was contacted and instructed to supply 150 men and women to clean it. This help was supplemented by a door to door canvass by which the inhabitants of the immediate area were directed to report early in the morning with brooms, mops, pails and energy. This resulted in good, general cleanliness and in the next few days electricians, plumbers and carpenters put the building and its kitchens. refrigerators, lavatories and even telephones into serviceable condition. The men were as comfortably accommodated here as anywhere heretofore. Officers' and sergeants' messes were located in large private homes nearby, requisitioned for the purpose.
The German civilians in Berlin were co-operative and displayed a desire to fraternize. They expressed the hope that the Canadians were to remain in Berlin for their fear of the Russians, very justified in view of the horrible atrocities committed by the Germans in the Soviet Union earlier, had become almost an obsession with them.
As everywhere, little children were attractive with curiosity and interest in the troops, and fascinated by the kilted pipers and drummers and enthralled by the pipes. Candies and tid-bits from the cookhouse soon won the hearts and confidence of the youngsters, but with other than small children fraternization was forbidden. At first this came easily, for after all these, the aggressors, were enemies, the cause of the dreadful years of war and destruction, but as it became apparent, all were neither Nazi nor sympathetic toward the war but rather victims, suffering now the agonies of lost homes, families and country, and the loss of almost all hope. All ranks felt the desire to talk to these people and in the Canadian way, now that the war was over, and the enemy hordes destroyed or put away, at least to be civil if not cordial, and besides, cameras, radios and watches of quality for which the German makers had world-wide reputation were offered for such a few Canadian cigarettes. A German man or woman would give almost anything then for a cigarette, and to the young soldier's eyes, moreover, the young blond women were attractive, often beautiful.

Excerpt from Chapter 9, Canada via Berlin, page 231-232:

Having settled in, rested, cleaned up and got used to the place, and having had some brushing up in foot and arms drill, the Argyll's and the attached troops were ready for the parades and ceremonies to take place with the Allied troops. The first of these was the ceremony of raising the British flag over the city of Berlin on 6th July. A Guard of Honour was formed from representative units of the British and Canadian troops and comprised one Captain, two Lieutenants and sixty other ranks from each of the British battalions, the 1st Bn., The Grenadier Guards, the 1st/5th Bn., The Queen's Royal Regiment, 2nd Bn., The Devonshire Regiment and from the Canadian Berlin Battalion. A splendid, much appreciated gesture was the request of Brigadier Spurling that the Canadians supply the Guard Commander and Major Farmer of the Argyles was appointed.
For the purpose of uniformity of dress, the 60 men from the Canadian Berlin Battalion were chosen from the Argyll's, Capt. Roscoe, Lieut. Hubie and Lieut. Clarabut being the officers. WOI (R.S.M.) P. C. McGinlay, M.M., was parade Sergeant Major. The Pipes and Drums of the Argyll's and the military bands of the Canadian Infantry Corps and the 2nd Devonshire Regiment supplied the martial music.
After much last minute clothes pressing and polishing, and after a hearty lunch with the British, the Guard of Honour moved by motor lorry into the Kaiser Wilhelm Strasse, debussing just east of the Land Wehl Kanal. Using the railway crossing at the edge of the Tiergartens as a start point, the Guard moved off at 1400 hours led by the Pipes and Drums of the Argyll's, and proceeded along the wide Charlottenburter Chausse towards the tall column of the Franco Prussian War Memorial. Then the sun came out.
 


The pipes and drums of The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise's),
which accompanied the Canadian Berlin Battalion,
on parade before the Column of Victory, 25 July 1945.

With the skirl of the pipes, the swaying of the kilt of the pipers and drummers, the rhythm of the clean, immaculate troops marching with fixed bayonets and heads high, it was a striking sight for the great crowd of Berliners, German children and Russian soldiers, who a full hour before had gathered to line the route and witness the ceremonies. British and Provost Corps personnel smart in their white belts and gaiters together with silent German civilian policemen, lined the route to keep it clear.
Interesting for those few of the British and Canadian pressmen and photographers present were the remarks to be heard among the civilians, expressions of excitement at seeing the Frauensoldaten, lady soldiers, meaning the kilted pipers and drummers, expressions of admiration : "How clean they look, more like ours than those others" ; "After all they didn't want it any more than we did", and "Thank goodness we are under the British now, not Russians." Yet some were bitter but after the ceremony was over and the troops marched away little boys, women and old men waved hands and handkerchiefs and followed the troops.
The ceremony itself, simple but deeply impressive, was held at the base of the 200 foot high Victory Column commemorating the Franco-Prussian War in the centre of the Tiergartens. The column was pitted and scarred by the machine gun bullets, mortar and shell fire from the battle which had raged around it but a few weeks ; before. Brought from the Olympic stadium, a flag staff and a saluting platform had been erected at the foot of the column. The Guard of Honour moved into position in line, the Argyll's on the left flank, bands in rear and flanked on either side by the armoured cars of the 11th Hussars (Prince Albert's Own). The crowd of Berliners and others closed in to watch. Distinguished visitors then began to arrive, including generals and high ranking officers of the British, American, Canadian, French, Belgian and Russian Armies, who were welcomed by Major-General L. O. Lyne.
Lieut.-General Sir Ronald Weeks, Field-Marshal Montgomery's deputy to the Allied Control Commission, arrived to take the salute and to inspect the Guard. As the latter presented arms with clockwork precision, a Russian officer was heard to remark "Horosho" (Magnificent). Following the inspection of the Guard, General Week~1 and his party ascended the saluting base and faced the flagstaff. Upon the word of command from Major Farmer, "Royal Salute; Present Arms", the Union Jack broke out superbly and was caught by the breeze in the sunshine. Simultaneously .the Guard of Honour presented arms, officers saluted, German policemen came smartly to the salute, civilians stood silent with doffed hats, and in this tense moment the majestic strains of "God save the King" swelled from the bands.
Proudly and magnificently the British Flag flew over Berlin in the centre of a defeated and desolate country and over a people brought to their knees after their vile, brutal, inhuman state had been completely shattered by the indomitable forces of the British and their Allies, whose people the Germans had sought to overrun and dominate.




The Canadian Berlin Battalion was composed of troops from:
The Loyal Edmonton Regiment (1st Canadian Division),
Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal (2nd Canadian Division) and
The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (4th Canadian Division).
The soldier at the far right is a Canadian Argyll.

Excerpt from Chapter 9, Canada via Berlin, page 233:

As the flag broke out it was a moment of awe, solemnity, dignity and significance, and the intense expressions on the faces of the German people as they gazed. upon it suggested their recognition of a symbol of Right and of hope for them. The Argyll's were proud of their part in this uniquely historic ceremony and of the events that had made it possible for them to be there.
While the Argyll's attended church parade on Sunday, 15th July, 1945, Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal ("A" Company of the Canadian Berlin Battalion) supplied a guard of honour for Prime Minister Winston Churchill, President of the United States Harry Truman and British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden, all of whom arrived in Berlin by aircraft for the Big Three conference. Generalissimo Joseph Stalin was due to arrive as well, but much secrecy surrounded his coming.
It was on 21st July, 1944, that the first elements of the 1st Battalion, The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (P.L.) had landed in Normandy. On the first anniversary of that memorable day the Argyll's, part of the Canadian Berlin Battalion, were privileged to participate in a great Victory parade through the heart of Berlin, the capital of the now utterly defeated enemy.

Excerpt from Chapter 9, Canada via Berlin, page 234:

The main duties of the Canadian Berlin Battalion were now complete, and the next event would be its return to Holland. After a few days of sightseeing, souvenir hunting and baseball games, it moved out of Berlin on 26th July after a memorably historic visit.

Excerpt from Chapter 9, Canada via Berlin, page 235:

Travelling again by the autobahn, the trip to Holland was made in two days. The three different units comprising the composite battalion separated upon leaving the autobahn and each journeyed on to rejoin its respective unit, and so the Canadian Berlin Battalion closed its six-week-old career. At 1930 hours the Argyll's arrived in Nijverdal again to relate their experiences to those left behind and to confess that their time in Berlin had been the most fascinating and memorable in their whole Army career. Nijverdal seemed dull after Berlin. For many weeks thereafter the routine was one of changing personnel, outgoing drafts for repatriation, incoming drafts of low points reinforcements, educational classes, sports, shows and sightseeing tours, until the time came for the Battalion to start for Canada at last.

The officers were told by General Simonds at a conference that it would be six months before the Battalion could expect movement to Canada, because of the heavy commitments of available shipping, and while these months in contrast to the preceding 12 might seem dull to say the least, time was to pass quickly enough. As it turned out the sudden ending of the war with Japan greatly relieved the shipping situation and the repatriation of Canadian units was hastened considerably as a result.

 

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