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THE SEAFORTH HIGHLANDERS OF CANADA

 


WW2 white metal Government Issue Cap Badge for the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada,
with brass shoulder titles and Collar Badges of the Canadian Seaforths
(Credit for photographs of the badges goes to Clifford Weirmeir, with his splendid website about the Irish regiment of Canada)


the cap badge of the affiliated Seaforth Highlanders of Scotland

The Hague, 21 May 1945, Victory Parade.

The boy shown on the left, who 22 years later would become the Drum Major of the "Haagse Hooglanders", walked along for miles with P/M Edmund Esson (P.M. of the Canadian Seaforths).


 

But before this, a lot had to happen. The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada, after mobilization, first had to be shipped to Great Britain for more more training and re-equipment in preparation for battle. While over there, they visited the "Imperial" Seaforth Highlanders, who supplied them with their own cap badges (see below here), The Canadian Seaforths preferred to wear those instead of the newly designed Canadian government issue hat badges (as seen on the first photo, above here on this page)

 

The Canadian Seaforths' Regimental History by R.H.Roy

From The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada 1919/1965 Note 18,19 p52:


- On the tunic all ranks wore the regimental collar badge "in gilt, a Cougar, standing". (General Order 111, dated 15 July 1923.)
- Officially the regimental cap badge is described in General Order No. 111 of 1923 as: "In silver, a stag's head, with the letter 'L' and a coronet, set between the antlers, the whole resting on a scroll bearing the Gaelic motto 'CUIDICH'N RIGH'." The shoulder badge was described in General Order 94, of 15 June 1928, in these words: "In Gilt, the title 'SEAFORTHS' in half inch letters in the form of a quarter circle." Other ranks wore the same, but in brass. The hat badge supplied to the unit before and during the war did not conform to that worn by the affiliated regiment, and despite unending correspondence over a decade, the Seaforths were unable to have the badge they wanted issued to them.
Consequently, the Seaforths had their badges privately manufactured to ensure its conformity with the "imperial" Seaforths

 

The Canadian Seaforths' Regimental History by R.H.Roy

From The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada 1919/1965 Note 7 pp74-75:


"About a year after the unit had been in Great Britain two additional distinguishing marks were added to the men's uniform. One was the cloth shoulder badge - with "Seaforth-Canada" embroidered in buff on a dark blue background. The other was a two-and-a half square decal of the Mackenzie tartan with the regimental badge imposed on it. This was pasted on the left side of the helmet."
(see below)



Canadian Seaforths' war-time helmet decals with the same stag's head motif as the Seaforths'
metal hat badges
 

Senior Pipe Major Edmund Esson, still without beard or even moustache (front row, on the far right) in London with other Canadian Pipe majors

 

THE MOVE TO GREAT BRITAIN

The Canadian Seaforths' Regimental History by R.H.Roy

From The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada 1919/1965:

A lot of preparations had to be made for the move from Vancouver to Britain. There was also the question of bringing over the pipes and drums, for many of the pipers owned their own instruments and the drums were regimental property. Mr. George Thompson, D.C.M, and Mr. W. M. Crawford, Vancouver businessmen with a strong Scottish patriotism, helped to solve this question with the result that Pipe Major Esson and the battalion as a whole were able to bring overseas the nucleus of a first rate Pipe Band.
When
the battalion received notice that it would be leaving the city by two special C.P.R. trains on the morning of the 15th December. Lt. D. M. Clark, the Acting Adjutant, had a four-page movement order ready the next day, and early on the 15th everything was ready.
At nine o'clock the great doors of the Seaforth Armoury opened, and the roar of the drums echoing inside the building brought forth the Pipes and Drums playing "Scotland the Brave" as they led the khaki columns out into the street.

They swung right over the Burrard bridge, and at the end of the bridge the crowds thickened, and when the pipes struck up "Blue Bonnets over the Border" when marching down Granville Street, there were almost two battalions marching - one of soldiers and one of civilians. Coming up in the rear the brass band was playing marching songs from the Great War, and the combination of the two-the shrill, defiant cry of the pipes and the solid, military sound of the brass band-brought surges of emotion to the thousands who cheered the regiment on its way.

Shortly after ten, the first of the two special trains pulled away from the station, followed by the second within the hour. It took five days to travel the 3000 miles between Vancouver and Halifax. Periodically the trains stopped long enough for everyone to get out and either do some physical training exercises on the station platform or go on a short route march. In Winnipeg the Pipe Band of the Cameron Highlanders met the unit and led the men on a short route march.

At noon on 20 December the battalion pulled up close to the Halifax dock. They were to board the H.M.T. Andes. At noon on 22 December the convoy began to move past the rocky harbour coast which looked bleak through the snow flurries.


H.M.T. Andes

Details on Her Majesty's Troopship Andes
Operating life: 1939 - 1971 - Tonnage: 25,689 - Passengers: 607
Constructed: Harland & Wolff, Belfast, Andes was launched 6 months before the outbreak of World War Two. She was immediately requisitioned as a troop carrier and spent the war on active duty. In 1947 she was released back to the Royal Mail Line and, after a major refit in Belfast, she commenced her commercial service on routes to South America. In 1959 she was refitted for cruising. In 1971 she made her last voyage to the breakers in Belgium.

The morning of the 30th of December, as dawn broke, they were between the black but welcome hills of the mouth of the River Clyde, in Scotland. As the sun rose small white-washed cottages appeared on either bank, becoming more numerous as they reached the boom ships near Gourock. By mid-morning the Andes was at anchor. Then they had to travel by train towards their destination.

Among the several hundred men on the earlier train section commanded by Major Ferrie, there was one group of men who had an inward glow sufficient to overcome the bleak weather outside. That was the pipe band. "We all wondered why our Pipe Band was so enthusiastic in playing at every stop made by the train on our way to Aldershot," Ferrie wrote. "It turned out that they had raided the bar on the train and got well fortified on `Scotland's Best'. However, it was docked from their pay and everyone was happy except the Pipe Band."

Pipe Major Esson's version is different. He claims he was playing in the New Year on the pipes as a good Scotsman should, when some of the train crew, in appreciation, brought up some refreshments for him and other pipers. To refuse would be discourteous, and the Seaforth pipers were all gentlemen.

The long, cold train journey from Glasgow to North Farnborough came to an end at mid-morning on New Year's Day, 1940, when everyone piled out of the carriages onto the icy, snow-covered platform. Here the battalion was met by Brigadier Pearkes, several staff officers from the Aldershot Command, as well as part of the Advance Party which had been getting their quarters in shape for the past week. A two-mile route march brought the unit to the Delville Barracks. Thus the training period in Britain started.

Then, before being sent into action in Libya to gain combat experience with the British 51st. Highland Division, Pipe Major Edmund Esson decided to symbolically let his beard grow for the duration of the war, and take it off only after it would have ended.


Edmund Esson, as senior Pipe major, in tropical dress with specially made brassards showing his P.M.'s stripes,
and the 3d. silver glengarry badge also shown below here.


The massed Pipes and Drums of the 51st. Highland Division
marching past in Tripoli, March 1943.
(Photograph courtesy of the Museum of The Black Watch)

In early 1943, Pipe Major Edmund Esson was posted with the "Imperial" Seaforth Highlanders in the 51st. Highland Division to gain battle experience in North Africa, and so he was in for the kill, when Tripoli was taken. 4 February 1943, Churchill took the salute at the Tripoli victory parade. A large Highland pipe band was in attendance. As the Senior Pipe Major of the entire Imperial British army, Edmund Esson had the honour of leading the massed pipe bands in the victory parade through Tripoli which made him become world-renowned and the fact that he sported a beard at a time when few Army men did, which made him even more noticeable.


the Victory Parade at Tripoli, 4 February 1943.
The Massed Pipes & Drums can be seen in the foreground.


Seaforth Highlander Pipe Major's three-dimensional silver badge

THE MOVE TO SICILY - ITALY

At about the time that Lt-Col B.M. Hoffmeister took command of the Battalion in October 1942, the focus of training shifted from the coastal defence of England to landings on enemy occupied coasts. After much intense training both in England and Scotland, by May 1943 the Seaforths knew they were finally going into action though the destination was still a mystery. On the 18th of June the Battalion was ordered to board L.S.I. Circassia [see below for details].  After more than a week of further assault training the Circassia began it's journey down the Clyde at 2100 28 July. It was not until July 1st that the Seaforths learned that they were to attack Sicily in Operation "Husky".  

 
The Circassia was one of two identical ships built by the Firfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. of Govan: the Circassia and the Cilicia

Details on HMS Circassia (F 91):

Armed Merchant Cruiser The Royal Navy Built by Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. (Govan, Scotland) , Launched 8 Jun 1937  Commissioned 20 Dec 1939  End service 5 Mar 1942.
History On 14 October 1939 the passenger ship Circassia of the Anchor Line (Henderson Bros) Ltd, Glasgow was requisitioned by the Admiralty and converted to an armed merchant cruiser.
Conversion was completed on 20 December 1939. Displacement: 11136 BRT Armament: 8x 152mm, 2x 76mm Speed: 16 knots 
On 5 March 1942 returned and used as troopship by the Ministry of War Transport (MoWT). 1943 converted to a landing ship LSI(L).

On July 10, 1943 the Canadian Seaforths Landed in  Sicily, Italy. They would remain in action there, fighting the "Battle of the Rivers" until on the 13th. of March 1944 they were transferred to the battle area in North West Europe for the campaign in the Netherlands.

 

 

photograph taken in Sicily, of the Retreat on the evening of 28th. July, 1943, after Agira had been captured.

The Canadian Seaforths' Regimental History by R.H.Roy

From The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada 1919/1965, Chapter 06, The Campaign in Sicily, page 190:

The Pipes and Drums had always been the pride of the Seaforths and there were times when only the pipes could express the feelings of the battalion. Such was the case at Agira. Since they had landed, the pipers and drummers had been used for a variety of tasks from "mule skinners" to helping with the numerous jobs behind the lines which were vital to keep the men at the front supplied. The dry heat of Sicily played havoc with the settings and tensions of both pipes and drums, but when Pipe Major Esson was asked to beat "Retreat" in the Town Square of Agira, he managed to round up the band and have his instruments decently in tune. It was the first time in weeks they had played, but the shrill cry of those Scots tunes never sounded sweeter than in that ancient town. There was pride in every piece, and defiance in every note. There would be times, later, when the pipes would again sound their tunes of glory, but there was something about that "Retreat" played in Agira which would be remembered with particular poignancy by all who were there to hear it."
 


The Pipe Band of the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada and the Lorne Scots (who did not have their own pipes & drums with them)
taking part in the Changing of the 1st Canadian Corps Guard ceremony, Rocca, Italy, 1 March 1944.


Christmas dinner with the Seaforths.

Christmas Day found the Seaforths in the frontline. They had their Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, later in the town hall at Russi, about 12 miles behind the front. Here are diners shown eating turkey and other goodies while pipers of the regiment play during the meal.
credit:(CANADIAN ARMY OVERSEAS PHOTO)19/1/45

The story of this remarkable event is also told in the Regimental History, see below:

The Canadian Seaforths' Regimental History by R.H.Roy

From The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada 1919/1965, page268:

C Company was the First to eat diner in the church, a diner non had felt possible under such conditions, but no one had truly tested the ingenuity and resourcefulness before the QM and staff. From 11.00 to 19.00 hours, when the last man of the Battalion reluctantly left the table to return to the grim realities of the day, there was an atmosphere of cheer and good fellowship in the church, a true Christmas spirit. The impossible had happened. No one had looked for a celebration this day. December 25th was to be another day of war. The expression on the faces of the dirty bearded men as they entered the building was a reward that those responsible are never to forget. When C Company had finished their diner they relieved A Company so that they might come back the 300 or 400 yards for the same. Christmas Day was no less quiet then the preceding ones, but it is one the Regiment will never forget. PM Esson played his pipes several times throughout the meals. During the diner the Signal Officer, Lt W. Gildersleeve, played the church organ and, with the aid of an improvised choir organized by the padre, carols rang throughout the church.

 


Three Canadian Seaforths' Pipers in shirtsleeve order (wearing the horsehair sporran) posing with a drummer.


Canadian Seaforths' memorial service with bugler sounding the Last Post during the burial service at Ortona, early in 1944.
Next, the Lament was played by Pipe Major Edmund Esson.

February 28, 1944 the Commanding Officer was informed that in a week's time the Canadian Seaforths should be ready to be transferred to the battle area in North West Europe.

THE MOVE TO FRANCE and HOLLAND


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


L.C.I. -T Class Landing Craft Infantry (Large), number 48 was used to transport the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada to Marseille, France


 
Photograph 1, left: loading French Colonial 9th Infantry Division troops at Porto Vecchio, Corsica, 16 June 1944, for the Invasion of Elba, 17 June 1944. Note the censorship of the radars.
Photograph 2, right: USS LCI(L)-48 and USS LCI(L)-221 and an unidentified LCI(L) beached, date and location unknown. Photo from the US Library of Congress collection.

Details on the LCI (L) 48:

USS LCI(L)-48

LCI-1 Class Landing Craft Infantry (Large):
Laid down, 5 November 1942 at New York Shipbuilding Corp., Camden, N.J
Launched, 10 December 1942
Commissioned USS LCI(L)-48, 9 February 1943
During World War II LCI(L)-48 was assigned to the Europe-Africa-Middle East Theatre and participated in the following campaigns:

 Europe-Africa-Middle East Campaigns Campaign and Dates Campaign and Dates
Sicilian occupation, 9 to 15 July 1943  West Coast of Italy operations
Anzio-Nuttuno advanced landings, 22 January to 1 March 1944
Elba and Pianosa landings, 17 June 1944
Salerno landings, 9 to 21 September 1943 
Invasion of Southern France, 15 August to 18 September 1944
USS LCI(L)-48 earned four battle stars for World War II service

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Specifications:
Displacement 216 t.(light), 234 t.(landing), 389 t.(loaded)
Length 158' 5˝" - Beam 23' 3"
Draft Light, 3'1˝" mean, Landing, 2' 8" forward, 4' 10" aft, Loaded, 5' 4" forward, 5' 11" aft
Speed 16 kts (max.), 14 kts maximum continuous
Complement 4 Officer, 21 Enlisted
Troop Capacity 6 Officers, 182 Enlisted
Cargo Capacity 75 tons
Armor 2" plastic splinter protection on gun turrets, conning tower and pilot house
Endurance 4,000 miles at 12 kts, loaded, 500 miles at 15 knots; and 110 tons of fuel
Armament four single 20mm guns one forward, one amidship, two aft, later added two .50 cal machine guns
Fuel Capacity 130 tons, lube oil 200 gal.
Propulsion two sets of 4 GM diesels, 4 per shaft, BHP 1,600, twin variable pitch propellers

The Canadian Seaforths' Regimental History by R.H.Roy

From The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada 1919/1965:

The voyage on board the "L.C.I. 48", from Italy to Marseill, France, lasted little more than 24 hours.

By 0800 hours on 15 March the outline of the southern coast of France came into view and an hour later the craft was easing its way into the cluttered harbour at Marseilles. By mid-morning the battalion disembarked and embussed on waiting T.C.Vs. which took the men to a huge staging or transit camp some twelve miles north of the seaport. Later that evening the drivers of the jeeps and unit vehicles which had come to Marseilles on a L.S.T. rolled into camp and the unit was complete.

For the next week the Seaforths were shuttled from one staging camp to another on their way to Belgium. By the 21st of March the journey of over 1700 miles ended when the Seaforths crossed over the border into Belgium and the companies were directed to their billets in the small villages of Westmeerbeek, Houvenne and Ramsel.

Almost immediately the Seaforths were ordered to sew up their unit and divisional patches (which, like the vehicle identifying signs, were removed before the move for security reasons). Vehicles had their identifying signs painted on by drivers and mechanics who were also busy checking the wheeled vehicles after their long journey.

For the next three days the Seaforths remained in the Reichswald, making themselves as comfortable as they could in the raw, rainy weather which made the dark, black earth a gluey mud. By mid-morning on 7 April the Seaforths, along with the rest of the brigade, were on the move north. Shortly after noon the Seaforths arrived at their area a short distance south of Baak. Two miles to the west was the IJssel River.

The liberation of Amsterdam on the 8th. of May, 1945

After crossing the river IJssel in the Netherlands, the Canadian Seaforths fought their way towards the West. On 21 April when the battalion moved to take up billets in a number of farm houses about two miles south of Barneveld. On the 23rd the battalion moved two miles further west to the small village of De Glindhorst and after the German capitulation, at 0800 hours on 8 May they left from where they were at De Glindhorst and drove through Amersfoort, Baarn and Bussum towards Amsterdam, where they were stationed for some time, and the pipe band would play for church parades and liberation festivities. The Seaforths were very enthusiastically received in town and became the big heroes of Amsterdam for ever.

The Canadian Seaforths' Regimental History by R.H.Roy

From The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada 1919/1965:
 

Waiting for us were thousands of people of all ages, lining the sidewalks and encroaching on the roadway to such an extent that the convoy was forced to slow down and finally stop. Immediately every vehicle was smothered under a mountain of humanity. Every part of a vehicle offering support or a hand-hold was used.... However, there was no scraping them off and it was with the greatest difficulty that the convoy was able to move again under the guidance of a member of the N.B.S. ... We were led by a very circuitous route to the Vondelspark ... where the swarming civilians were gradually herded out. . .

In the convoy was Padre Durnford who wrote in his diary:

Amsterdam. Thousands upon thousands upon thousands line the streets for four miles. Flowers-roses, tulips, and every sort. Crowds load every vehicle including our R.A.P. jeep. I ,stand on running board. Terrific welcome. Nothing like it in history of Holland. They tell in broken English with tears and unbridled joy how thankful they are to us. Children are lovely. Terrible shortage of food. . . .

An N.C.O. in "C" Company added:

The reception we received from the population along the entire route was something we'll always remember. On the outskirts of the city the people mobbed the vehicles.... It was more than your life was worth to pull out cigarettes.... All evening crowds were thronging around our billets.... When a soldier steps out of a house dozens of children mob him for his signature'. . . .

And as the Adjutant wrote home a few days later, summing up the feeling of most Seaforths: "There were flags and streamers and smiles and cheers and everywhere such obvious happiness as to stir the soul most deeply. . . ."

 


fraternization was no problem in friendly Amsterdam

  


although it sometimes did look as if all the Dutch did was collecting signatures!


But some would also offer their liberators bunches of flowers, such as tulips in this case.

Since then:

On 21 May 1945, P.M. Edmund Esson was leading Pipe major at the First Canadian Army Massed Pipes and Drums at the The HagueVictory Parade.

On 10 June the Seaforths'Pipes & Drums took part in a First Canadian Army division parade at Rotterdam. This was a most impressive demonstration of the division's strength, not only of men, but of hundreds of guns, vehicles, carriers, armoured cars, self-propelled guns and other military equipment which most men in the battalion had never seen all together at one spot. It took close to two hours for this demonstration of armed power to pass, even though the infantry battalions marched eight abreast. The marching troops were led by the Pipes and Drums of the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada and the 48th Highlanders of Canada under Pipe Major Esson.


10 June, the First Canadian Infantry Division parade at Rotterdam

P.M. Edmond Esson and his Pipe Band again took part in festivities in Brussels on 11 June 1945, where he led the Canadian Massed Pipes & Drums.


Ed Esson on parade in Brussels 11 june 1945, at the Parc du Cinquantenaire

And on 28-06-1945 the Amsterdam three days Liberation Festival was held, where again Pipe Major Edmund Esson, who now wore his M.B.E. ribbon but no longer his beard, was the leading Pipe major.


Parade after the impressive memorial service at the Oosterkerk, Amsterdam on the 23rd. of May.
The Seaforths' appearance as they paraded through the streets of Amsterdam was as smart as if they had marched from barracks in England in 1940


Scores of kids and other spectators watched the Pipe Band play near the "Tropeninstituut" in Amsterdam.
In fact some of those kids, inspired by this, years later started the Amsterdam based Y.M.C.A. pipe band.

In mid-month of July the Pipe Band also payed a visit to all the "Imperial" Seaforths pipe bands (of the 2nd.,5th.,6th. and 7th. Seaforth battalions) that were stationed together at Cuxhaven in Germany, where a unique 100 pipers and drummers-strong Canadian/British Seaforths Massed Pipes and Drums event took place.

The Canadian Seaforths' Regimental History by R.H.Roy

From The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada 1919/1965, p.443-444:
 

In mid-month the unit began to turn in its vehicles, but fortunately this did not take place until after the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada joined with the 2nd, 5th, 6th and 7th Battalions of Seaforth Highlanders for one last, glorious get-together at Cuxhaven. A little over one hundred of the Canadian Seaforths were able to make the trip for the three days of sports and festivities. The spectacle of the 100-strong massed Seaforths Pipes and Drums alone was worth the trip.

The massed pipe bands were under the leadership of Pipe Major E. Esson. "Later that evening," wrote the war diarist, "a surprise birthday party was given for our `Pipes' at which no fewer than fourteen Cdn. Pipe Majors were present." (WarDiary, Seaforth Highlanders of Canada, 28 June 1945.)

 


 


 


Group photograph of all the members of British and Canadian Seaforths Pipe Bands, 1945, Cuxhaven.
Pipe Major Edmund Esson is seated in the middle of the front row, next to the commanding Officer.


Seaforth Highlanders Sporran Badge

The move to Castle Eyckenstein in Maartensdijk, Bilthoven


the beautiful Castle Eyckenstein in Maartenstein, Bilthoven

Now the Canadian Seaforths were to forever become historically linked to a Dutch castle !
For on 19 juni 1945 the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada moved from Amsterdam to Castle Eyckenstein in Bilthoven which had been requisitioned for them by the Canadian Army.

The Canadian Seaforths' Regimental History by R.H.Roy

From The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada 1919/1965, p.443:
 

However, on 19 June the Seaforths were moved to the small rural village of Maartensdijk, located midway between Utrecht and Hilversum. It was a pleasant spot, somewhat like the south of England but flat, criss-crossed with dykes and water ditches, and with little local entertainment potential except for a nearby lake. Hilversum and Utrecht were not far away. however, and there were numerous opportunities to send men away on leave, both to the United Kingdom and to such places as Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam.

From there they finally left in January 1946, after Beating the Retreat at Bilthoven (see the Canada's Weekly photographs below here). Two days after arrival at Eyckenstein, one of the  Canadian soldiers carved his name: "W. Foster", in a beech tree, with the badge of his unit (Take a look at the photographs of this below here).

According to Canadian military records the full name of the soldier who did carve his name in the tree on June 21, 1945 probably was W.C. Foster. W.C. Foster did serve with The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada from 18 december 1944 till 18 July 1945.
 


Carving in a beech tree:"W. Foster 21.6.45"                     Badge of the Canadian unit "The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada"
 



Canadians on the Continent
(CanadianWeekly, Sept. 14, 1945 p.651)

LEFT: Major-General W.H. Foster. G.O.C. First Canadian Division, inspecting the 2nd. Canadian Infantry Brigade at Bilthoven on their last parade before leaving the Continent. CENTRE: The Loyal Edmonton Regiment marching to the music of the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada's pipe band during the parade. RIGHT: Pipers of the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada playing during the parade at Bilthoven, "Beating the Retreat".


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 Canadian Seaforths' Regimental History by R.H.Roy

From The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada 1919/1965:

So it was not until this time that the Seaforths left The Netherlands for the United Kingdom, and some weeks were to pass before the men boarded the Ile de France for the return trip to Canada. When the Seaforths left Southampton on the Ile de France at the end of September, the last flurry of arrangements were being tidied up for the unit's return.


On the way home, on the Ile de France.

7 October would be "Seaforth Day", and flags and bunting were hung up along Granville, Georgia and Burrard streets, the route of the unit's parade. In the city's newspapers there were daily acounts from correspondents accompanying the two trains bearing the Seaforths steadily westward. There were, of course, the last arrangements to be made but finally the great day arrived. On Sunday, 7 October, the Seaforths arrived in Vancouver early in the afternoon, and for the next few hours they received a tumultuous reception which equalled that of the Royal Visit in 1939. An estimated 100,000 people thronged the route, and the city police and military provost had a difficult time opening up a lane wide enough for the troops to pass. Marching six abreast, and led by the Pipes and Drums, they formed an impressive sight as they marched through the crowds of people who cheered themselves hoarse.

Passing the Georgia Hotel, where Lieutenant Governor W. C. Woodward was on the saluting stand, the Seaforths' band broke into the "Pibroch of Donald Dhu", and then the column swung left on Burrard towards the Armoury.

The sight of the battalion led by the Pipes and Drums coming over the Burrard Bridge would never be forgotten. In perfect step, with kilts swinging to the skirl of "Scotland the Brave", with colours flying and the cheering from the crowds growing even louder, the battalion swung into the huge parade ground behind the Armoury. Here the entire regiment lined up - both battalions, the cadets, the overseas veterans who marched with the returning unit. Surrounding the square were the men's families and relatives whom they had not seen in years, yet the discipline was such that no one broke ranks. The formalities were exceedingly brief - a few one-minute welcome speeches by several dignitaries, a brief reply by Lt-Col. D. M. Clark, and then the order "Dismiss". There was hardly an instant's pause before the Seaforths on the parade square were engulfed as veterans and civilians merged in an indescribable scene of happiness. The Seaforths were home!

 


When the victorious Seaforths returned home to Vancouver, over 200,000 people turned out to welcome them home,
lining the streets from the train station to the Armoury on Burrard Street.