March 31 to April 14, 1944

March 31 – Picture show in the Evacuation tent tonight. Everything went haywire but eventually all was in good order again.

April 1/44 – Cold. Capt. Carson returned from Engineers today only to be sent straight away to Corp H.Q. again. Saturday. And only a handful of us left in camp. Suppose it will be the same tomorrow.

April 3 – Our hospital opened for real work. We have admitted six patients and are building a small permanent hospital so that patients will not tie up our main Unit for training purposes. Very wet and miserable today, but really much warmer.

April 4 – Rained like cats and dogs all night last night. The tents leaked quite a bit. It has cleared up beautifully today. Drove to 2nd Corps H.Q. this afternoon for a few minutes. The whole Can. Corps is on scheme. We are completely surrounded by the 4th Div tonight. We having a big inspection on Thursday. Fourteen patients in hospital.

April 5 – Ronnie did not go on leave as planned. Very busy rearranging canvas. Believe we have our final set up ready now. Our cat presented us with four lovely little kittens this morning. We have her in a box in the Mess and everybody makes a fuss over her. Gus McCarroll from Xth Field Ambulance visited us today. He came back with me from Italy. All in readiness now for the Brig. inspection tomorrow afternoon. Machine broke down tonight, so we will not have a show.

April 7 – Good Friday. The Brigadier did not turn for this inspection, but we were all ready. This morning Mel Pelton, Rear Officer, spoke to the troops on storage of kit. This afternoon Capt. James from Calgary visited us and Lt.-Col. Cooper from 3rd CCS also paid us a visit. Tomorrow morning all CO’s, 2nd Corps have to go to H.Q. for a conference. Censorship starts in the Unit tomorrow. Rather cold and snappy today, but we are not minding it much. All the Officers should be back by Sunday.

April 8 – Went to Corps H.Q. to a meeting this A.M. WE go on recce for new location tomorrow but do not know just when we move. All leave cancelled just when I had my pass in my pocket for Glasgow.

April 9 – Ronnie, Mac and I went at 12 noon on a recce of our new location in Folkestone at the Metropole Hotel. it is a drive of 75 miles from here. The ground floor of the hotel will be a hospital run jointly by 3 CCS and 6 F.D.S. The first floor will be used as quarters for the 3rd CCS. The second floor will be quarters for the 6th FDS and the fourth floor will be shared by the 8th Field Hygiene and the Dental Company. It is a beautiful place. In the last war it was a resort near our camp at Shorncliffe, but it looks very much different today.  Tomorrow some of the staff of 3 CCS are coming to inspect our setup. On Tuesday, I have to drive up to Aldershot. There always seems plenty to do every day. I do not know when we will be moving.

April 10 – Our visitors did not arrive today. In our absence yesterday some mustard gas bombs were put off in camp and today we had to send in two our our men with burns. All sorts of investigations under way, courts of inquiry etc. Great life.

April 11 – Returned my jeep to Aldershot, we are again close neighbours. Tomorrow morning I go with Col. Cooper to H.Q. – 2nd Can. Corps. On Thursday, Col. Hazard and about fifty medical officers will be here for an inspection. Each day seems to bring something to break the monotony. Col. Farmer has replaced Brig. Rae, as he was O.C. – 15 Gen. Hosp.

April 12 – A very long meeting at 2nd Corps H.Q. for C.O.s of Units concerning moves to concentration areas. Lots and lots of work to be done, but I have got an awful lot of it done already. We are all ready for our big demonstration tomorrow – hope everything goes well.

April 13 – Inspection only by Col. Hazard and forty-five M.O.s from C.R.U. We gave them a complete demonstration of everything we had – served tea to the officers for noon day and they then left for 2 CCS. Everything went off well. Just finished our inspection and was giving they boys a talk when Brig. Farmer, our new DDMS arrived, so I showed him around too. Tonight Ronnie and I went up to Lindfield to see Kit Bags. It was very good.

April 14 – Very busy today starting our loading. This afternoon I lectured to the Workshops at Fores Row (Capt. James Unit) then went on to Corps at Ditchling. Came home to see the hospital Unit down and packed.

April 14 –

March 9 – 27, 1944

March 9 – Up early and formed up in convoy with 2 CCS – 3rd CCS – Fld Hygiene Section, Dental Co. and our own 6th FDS. Proceeded south about ten miles below East Grinstead and formed up on road at 9:30. Inspected by the King; then drove back home. It was very cold and we were nearly frozen. Am just ready now to go over to the men’s dance in their quarters.

Lance Corporal W.J. Curtis, Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps, fixes the burned leg of a French boy, while his young brother looks on. Between Colomby-sur-Thaon and Villons-les-Buissons, Normandy, 19 June 1944. Photo by Ken Bell. Department of National Defence / National Archives of Canada, PA-141703.

Lance Corporal W.J. Curtis, Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps, fixes the burned leg of a French boy, while his young brother looks on. Between Colomby-sur-Thaon and Villons-les-Buissons, Normandy, 19 June 1944.
Photo by Ken Bell. Department of National Defence / National Archives of Canada, PA-141703.


March 11 – Went into London early today – got a lot of odd jobs done and had lunch with Freddie Jenner. Saw Cal Johnson at CMHQ. In the evening caught a train to Lewes and had my car pick me up there. Freddie is going to spend the weekend with me.

March 12 – Sunday. Ronny Place and I drove in jeep down to CCS and picked up Freddie and brought him home. In the afternoon, Rus. Noble, Jack Medic, Molly Hunt, Jean Black and Peggy (somebody) dropped around. Stayed for lunch then caught a train back to London. Freddie stayed the night with me.

March 13 – Drove Freddie to early morning train then went to work. A new Dentist – Capt. Lindsay arrived today.

March 15 – Maj. McKellar arrived back from leave. He leaves on Saturday for 2nd CCS. Capt. Carson is supposed to arrive here on Saturday. Was at Corps yesterday and arranged to move to 5 miles north of Lewes on Monday, March 27th. Attended an Ensa show tonight. Not very good.

March 16 – Had a letter from Ralph today – he is on his way to England. Will try my best to claim him or at least attach him.

March 17 – Saturday afternoon, have just had a real house keeping. Three years ago tonight we left Calgary.

March 19 – Capt. CArson from 2nd CCS joined us today. This makes our Officer slate complete.

March 20 – Spent the forenoon at Corps HQ or rather 2nd Corps HQ and have two meetings there again tomorrow. On Wednesday I speak to the 17th Light Field Ambulance.

March 21 – Meeting at Bde HQ or rather 2nd Corps HQ – A&I. Followed by a medical meeting. Everything seems to be coming along OK, but there is certainly lots of work to be done. May go on leave to Scotland on the 2nd of April. I feel that I could certainly use a leave right now.

March 22 – Went over to Reigate and gave a lecture to 17th Light Field Ambulance. Spent a very pleasant evening there. Timmy Cameron’s brother-in-law is there. Had my first letter from home address to my present Unit. We are very busy getting everything in shape for our move out under canvas on Monday. The boys are having their farewell dance tonight.

March 25 – Practically everything packed up in readiness for the move to Flashett Park north of Lewes on Monday morning. We will be under canvas then for the remainder of the our stay in England. Very heavy air raid last night on London. All the planes coming in, come over us and the London barrage is plainly visible from here.

A Heinkel He 111 bomber flying over the Isle of Dogs in the East End of London, at at the start of the Luftwaffe's evening raids of 7 September 1940. © IWM (C 5422)

A Heinkel He 111 bomber flying over the Isle of Dogs in the East End of London, at at the start of the Luftwaffe’s evening raids of 7 September 1940. © IWM (C 5422)

March 26 – Sunday, what a beautiful day. Everything is packed ready for the move in the morning. We had a glorious sun bath today.

March 27 – We left Apsley house just north of East Grinstead and travelling south to 3 miles south of Rickville and 5 miles north of Lewes. Pitched canvas in Plaskett Park – the boys did a wonderful job – believe me, I was proud of them.

Feb. 29 – March 8, 1944: promoted

Feb. 29 – General inspection a few miles north of Lingfield. Gen. Montgomery gave his usual address. Everything went off well.

March 2, 1944 – We had a dance for the men in their mess hall. This was largely an experiment but went off a hundred percent. We are planning on another next Thursday night. Yesterday Lt. Dibb and I went to Woking where we met Col. Hazard and proceeded to the 3rd Cacru where I lectured to the Officers and then gave a demonstration of my jeep. Later gave a demonstration to the 3rd Div.

March 3 – Went with 3rd CC (Maj. Patterson) to a rendevous for a general inspection next week. On Monday I go to a medical meeting in London. On Wednesday I lecture to 3rd CCS. I am now waiting for Timmy Cameron to arrive. He will spend the weekend with me. Timmy arrived at Dormans station and I met him in a jeep. We went to East Grinstead for the evening.

March 4 – Rus. Noble (of 4th Div.) phoned for Tim and I to meet him in Burgess Hill. we took a jeep and went over. Molly Hunt (Bill Hunt’s wife) was there and a Jean Black from Toronto, also Major … ? from 4th Div. workshop. We went back to his Mess for lunch then back to Russ’s Mess for dinner. It was grand to see them all again. The old Army Tank Brigade in force.

March 5 – I took an early morning train to London to attend the Royal Society of Medicine meeting. Met a lot of chaps I knew. Came home late the same night. Timmy’s brother-in-law called for him during the day. It was a grand weekend.

March 6 – on another meeting with 4th Div and 2nd Corps – in final preparation for the inspection by the King which will take place on the 9th of March.

March 7 – Was at Corps H.Q. for a medical meeting.

March 8 – Gave a lecture on Sicily and Italy to 3 CCS today. This afternoon I go to Lewes to see Capt. Fleetwood (Eng), an old friend of mine from 14th days. I am trying to find a suitable place for going under canvas. Tomorrow will be a heavy day. The King’s inspection.


Meanwhile in Italy: Unidentified personnel of the Saskatoon Light Infantry (M.G.) in a Universal Carrier equipped with a Vickers machine gun, Italy, 8 March 1944.
Credit: Lieut. Alexander M. Stirton / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-189892

Feb. 8–23, 1944

Feb. 8 – 2 p.m. we hav ejust docked at King George V Docks, after sailing up the Clyde. Wonderful view of the ship building yards on the way up. We are packed ready to disembark, but will not get off until 1:15 in the morning. Our train will pull out at 2:15 and we will arrive in North Farnborough Station at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. We are not looking forward to the train trip.

Feb. 9 – At 1 a.m. we disembark and entrain almost at once. Bill Findlay, Waldie, Judge, Doug Harkness, Fullerton and I occupy one compartment. At 2:15 we pull out and our first stop is at Newcastle, where we are given tea at 8 a.m. We then proceed to Nottingham where we have a lunch at 2 p.m. then pass through Banbury, Oxford, Reading and arrive at North Farnborough Station at 7:30 p.m. Am taken by truck to Salamanka Barracks. I go over to R.A.P. (Regimental Aid Post) and get swell bed with sheets. It is 10:30 and I am now going to bed, very tired. Tomorrow should be an interesting day.

Feb. 10 – Musters and final separation into our different holding units. We are billeted in the Royal Pavilion. Visit Col. Hazard in the afternoon and Chas Bennett at 8th Gen. Hosp in the evening.

Feb. 11 – Spent last night with Charlie at the Hospital and returned to Col. Hazard at 10 a.m. who took me over to see Maj. Gen. Roberts. I am going to build one of the jeep ambulances like we had in Italy. On Tuesday I am going to Leatherhead to see Brig. Fenwick. Don’t know what my ultimate job will be. Arrived at Worthing at 5 p.m. today. Mr. Spofforth met me at the train and we had a gorgeous meal of ham and eggs. He phoned London and had my mail sent down. Had a lovely visit.

Feb. 13 – Have just arrived back in Aldershot, so don’t know what the score is yet. May learn something in the morning.

Feb. 14 – Was driven out to Borden and got nicely started on my jeep – have just come in and unpacked my trunk. All the boys have gone on leave and I am absolutely alone in the building for a few days, seems most awfully quiet. Am going back to Borden again in the morning and hope to get finished tomorrow, but I rather doubt it. Am awfully tired tonight so am going to hit the hay at once.

Feb. 16 – Still working on my jeep – not nearly finished yet, but today should help. Had both lunch and dinner ant Ordinance Mess today and driven into Aldershot by Capt. McKenzie. Went to Tank barracks and met nearly all 1st Bde – all XIth and 14th boys whom I knew. spent the evening with Poop and Tommy Johnson – had a grand time. Hope to see them again tonight. Poop is on draft for Italy and Tommy is going back to Canada. Everybody else is on leave here excepting myself. I hope to get away next week.

Feb. 17 – Farewell party for the boys of the XIV who are returning to Italy. Poop, Ian Allison, Tommy Johnson, Mickie Mouse, Jack Forrest, Maltby and Spittal present. Have finished my jeep and it had been approved by Col. Hazard.

Feb. 19 – Have to lecture to the Armoured Corps one week from Monday. Col Hazard drove me up to Army H.Q. to see Brig. Fenwick – DDACS of Army. I am being given command of the the 6 F.D.S. (Field Dressing Station) I think, will probably know today if there are hitches in it. Will get my majority at last and not by seniority.

Feb. 21 – Still no definitive word on the 6th FDS. Drove out to Borden today and brought my jeep ambulance in and demonstrated it to the General Staff. Had lunch at H.Q. I am now waiting for general instructions.

Feb. 23 – Air raid both nights. Quite a few bombs dropped on London, but only the odd one around here. Capt. Williams and I took my jeep down and demonstrated it to the British Medical. Their Commercial artist from the War Office took a sketch of it. Received word today not to go on leave as my posting was coming through.

A jeep ambulance of the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps (R.C.A.M.C.) bringing in two wounded Canadian soldiers on the Moro River front south of San Leonardo di Ortona, Italy, 10 December 1943. Credit: Lieut. Frederick G. Whitcombe / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-180097

A jeep ambulance of the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps (R.C.A.M.C.) bringing in two wounded Canadian soldiers on the Moro River front south of San Leonardo di Ortona, Italy, 10 December 1943.
Credit: Lieut. Frederick G. Whitcombe / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-180097

Feb. 1-7, 1944

© IWM (NA 11797)

Feb. 1/44 – Our fifth day at sea. We are now out of sight of land in the Atlantic. The trip through the Mediterranean has been grand and our first day out in the Atlantic is also beautiful. About ten ships – all liners and we appear to be making good time. There is much more swell here than inside the Rock. Should arrive in England in about a week’s time I hope. Still going almost due west.

Feb. 2 – Wednesday, our sixth day at Sea. The weather is good and we are still sailing westward. All exchange Medical Officers had a meeting this morning concerning our official duties on arrival in U.K. Present at the meeting were: Gus McCarroll from the 4th Field Amb, Williams and Townsend from the 9th F.A., and Bruce Hunter and I from the 2nd Light Fld Amb. We are the only Armoured M.O.s on board, we hope to be posted to the same Bdge. in England.

Feb. 3 – Thursday – our seventh at sea. It is getting much colder and the Sea is rougher, but this ship is very steady, so we are still having a good trip. About four or five days should land us in Liverpool or Greenoch. Another ship joined our convoy this A.M. we are now sailing north, northeast.

Feb. 4 – Very foggy this morning when we got up. This is Friday, our eighth day at Sea, and we are now travelling north east. Orders have just been posted announcing that we will land somewhere on Monday. This has been a wonderful trip, but it is becoming somewhat monotonous.

Feb. 5 – Saturday, our ninth day at Sea. Action Stations – practice only. A lecture in the lounge this afternoon by a Major on Gen. Montgomery’s staff on the campaign of North Africa. ABout the best military lecture I have heard yet. An impromptu concert in Officers lounge this evening. Very good. It is much rougher out today.

Feb. 6 – Sunday – our tenth day at Sea. rather rough and rainy today. Church in lounge at 10:30 – Maj Sutherland, who at one time was with us is to be the speaker. We should see land tomorrow. It has been a lovely trip but we will all be glad when we reach the other end and find out what we are supposed to do.

Feb. 7 – Monday – eleventh day out – We sighted the North Coast of Ireland today and are now sailing through the Irish Sea. The Convoy has divided. One half appears to be going to Liverpool while we seem to going to Glasgow. Should arrive in the Clyde this afternoon, but do not expect to get off the ship until tomorrow morning. Pass “Paddy’s Mile Stone” in Clyde Estuary at 12:30 noon. Pass through boom at 3:50. 5 P.M. – now anchored in Garoch Harbour. Will proceed up the Clyde to King George Docks in Glasgow in the morning.

L/Cpl J Leigh of the Seaforth Highlanders has carried his mascot, 'Churchill', throughout the Italian campaign, 7 February 1944. © IWM (NA 11797)

L/Cpl J Leigh of the Seaforth Highlanders has carried his mascot, ‘Churchill’, throughout the Italian campaign, 7 February 1944. © IWM (NA 11797)

Jan. 16–31, 1944: returning to England

Jan 16 Went to Naples by ambulance and visited there while car went on to Caserta. Went to the base post office about my mail, and did not find any. Walked around the City until the Ambulance returned. in the evening driving home, Vesuvius put on a grand show for us. Flames shooting high in the air and red hot lava pouring down the side of the hill. Won several games of cribbage in the mess after returning home.

Jan. 17 Orderly officer today – no excitement.

Jan. 18 Col McFarlane, Montgomery, and Hunter arrived tonight. Had a long talk with McFarlane and Hunter. Expect to sail the latter part of next week, quite possible on a Hospital Ship. Don’t know what job I will be put on in England.

Jan. 19 – Two young M.O.s from here called in draft, so we are short handed. I am taking admitting office today and tomorrow until the two are replaced.

Jan. 20 – McLeod and I went in to Naples today – did some shopping and went to the Officers Club for lunch, and then went to the electric railway, up the Mt. overlooking Naples. Visited Faro San Elmo (sp), the most massive castle I have ever seen, were very fortunate in being shown all through by Americans, and from the top saw the grandest view of Naples and harbour with all sorts of ships in it. We bought tickets for San Carlos Opera Co. and will go in and see it tomorrow. Brig. McCusker was here tonight – I had a grand talk with him – he assured me he has recommended me for DADMS – 2nd Army Tank Bdge in England, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

Jan. 22 – Just about ready to start to Naples with Maj. Howard to see Tosca at the San Carlos Theatre. The Bact. lab, the Field Hygiene lab, and the 4th Field Surgical Unit are leaving very shortly for San Vito. The #3 F.D.S. will very shortly be leaving too – so our whole ancillaries setup will be changed, at about the same time I leave. Gus McCarrol and Touve are going back to England with me. Touve was on the course with me in Cambridge two years ago. Sent world last night to see whether Frank Fish could come over on Monday to see me, as I do not dare to go that far away from home as the draft may be called any time after today.

Jan. 2(?) – Maj. Howard and I went in to Napoli in an open truck. Went to the San Marcos Opera House to see Tosca. it was really wonderful. The singers and scenery were both grand, but the Opera House was the most gorgeous thing I have ever seen. A huge floor and six rows of boxes going completely around the semi-circle, each row containing 35 boxes. Went out and had a drink with two Officers of the Free French. The landing north of Rome today – I wonder what next. I expect to move from here very shortly now.

Jan. 25 – All packed and ready to leave for N.E.T.D. Rumours have it that we leave there tonight at midnight and go on board ship on the morning of the 26th and sail on the 27th but I do not know. Maj. McLeod leaves this morning also. The whole hospital will be changed by the last of the week:
Maj Sturdy
Maj Card
Capt. Hanley
Liet Hatch
Capt Black

Maj Andrews
Capt Marshall

Biv. Lab
Majo McLeod

Hyg. Lab
Maj Howard
Maj Glass
Capt Alexander
Preese, Calvert, Nanskovill

Nursing Sisters
Daisy Boyd
Betty Cocker
Mac McTavish
Nickie Megus
Mrs. Goring
Joan Anderson
Kay McGovern
Joe Lochen
B. Bowers

Moved to Farino about nine miles from Avellino – signed papers – met all sorts of my old friends going back on the same boat. Buchanan is here, also Doug Harkness, Frank Royal, and all the boys from the 11, 12, and 14th.

Jan. 26 – All our luggage went this morning and we are sleeping on the floor tonight – have scrounged two swell American, so am o.k. We get up at 5:00 a.m. tomorrow and fall in at 8 a.m. – then sign all our embarkation papers and pulled out at 9 a.m. by truck for Naples, where we hope to get aboard right away. Last night Bruce Touve and I went in to the 3rd F.D.S. for our final evening. Am going to turn in fairly early tonight.

Jan. 27 – Moved off Farino by truck at 9 a.m. Landed in Naples just off Garibaldi Square at 12 noon. Marched to dock at 4 p.m. after Doug Harkness, Johansen and I had a good meal of fried eggs,, friend potatoes and macaroni. Boarded the Almanzara, good room – four to a cabin, most excellent meals.

Jan. 28 – Doug Harkness, Findlay, Fullerton and I eating at the same table. Pulled out at 10 a.m. just now passing Vesuvius with Isle of Capri off to our right. Our convoy consists of four passenger liners and six little Italian Frigates as escort.

Jan. 29 – Saturday – Good day yesterday and last night. Passed Cape Bon, Africa at noon – have now passed the Bay of Tunis and are approaching Bizerte – 2 p.m., another large Convoy has joined us. About ten fairly large vessels and we seem to be making awfully good time. Apparently it is not going to be another slow Convoy like we came out in. In my cabin are: Capt. Brudin – Judge Advocate, Capt. Fullerton – S/Capt. 2nd Echelon from Saskatoon, Capt. Waldy – A.A. from the Thousand Islands. Doug Harkness, Major Findlay and myself, all from Calgary, and Fullerton from Saskatoon are eating at the same table. Good grub, good sleeping accommodation and good sailing. Don’t know how long it will take us to get back to England, but we are doing fine so far. We are now in the position where the the ship carrying the 14th Gen Hosp was sunk.

Jan. 30 – One of the most beautiful days I have ever seen. Our ship, with two small destroyers, has pulled ahead of the Convoy, apparently to pull in either at Oran or Gibraltar for fuel and then rejoin the Convoy. We will be passing Algiers in an hour or so. This morning we had a grand Church service in the lounge; sang all the old hymns most lustily. 3rd day out and bacon and eggs for breakfast.

Jan. 31 – 6 p.m. pulled into Gibraltar in daylight. A wonderful scene. We were in several hours before the rest of our Convoy and dropped anchor in the harbour in order to take on a few passengers and oil. At night, the scene was wonderful. The whole side of the rock was lit up and both sides of the strait were a blaze of light. It was beautiful watching the scene lights pick up the planes. We rejoined the Convoy after midnight.

Jan. 15, 1944

Came home in the evening with Hard Rock McDonald, the resident engineer. Spent the day in Avellino with the old boys – had supper at 5th Btn with young Hyde from 14th (Calgary Regiment) – then home to bed.


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