Archive | May 2013

Three daggers, a bayonet, a bugle, an escape map and a Zippo lighter…

What do a First World War bugle, three Second World War daggers and a bayonet, a silk escape map and a Zippo lighter (not to mention a pile of badges and other insignia) have in common? They all belonged to my grandfather – Doc Alexander – and have been passed on to me via my uncle, Don, and his brother, my dad, Bob. It’s a veritable treasure trove and I’m really excited as I have the mate to two of the daggers and have never seen the other two, one of which is a German bayonet. My grandfather did not play the bugle during the First World War. He was in a mortar unit and then served as a stretcher bearer, but somehow, he came to have this beautiful, but very battered bugle in his possession. Along with all of that is a King’s Own Calgary Regiment Zippo lighter from 1950 that has obviously been well used. I’m not a smoker, never have been, but there is something about flicking a Zippo lighter open and closed. It’s incredibly satisfying, especially knowing that my grandfather would have done the same thing with it. The silk escape map is of Germany and some of the badges would have been on his uniforms at different times during the war. The two white rams lying on the escape map can be seen in a photograph of my grandfather taken in his Regimental Aid Post in Seaford, England early on in the war. The rams were early insignia of the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps. I’m a pack rat by nature and I love old objects, so I’m thrilled to have this little treasure trove of my grandfather’s fall into my lap and many thanks to my uncle for passing it on to me!

Commando daggers and a German bayonet (front).

Commando daggers and a German bayonet (front).

Doc Alexander's name emblazoned on one of the commando daggers.

Doc Alexander’s name emblazoned on one of the commando daggers.

The treasure trove, including the First World War bugle and the armoured corps white ram badges.

The treasure trove, including the First World War bugle and the armoured corps white ram badges.

Doc Alexander's King's Own Calgary Regiment Zippo lighter, 1950.

Doc Alexander’s King’s Own Calgary Regiment Zippo lighter, 1950.

First World War bugle.

First World War bugle.

Doc Alexander in his Regimental Aid Post. Note the white ram badge on his arm.

Doc Alexander in his Regimental Aid Post. Note the white ram badge on his arm.

May 19, 1943

Saw DuBarry was a Lady last night. Am all changed into battle dress now, going to have lunch, then down town to pick up my stuff and then to the station. There should be some mail for me when I get back. Caught train at Glasgow Central at 3:50 p.m. and arrived at Carlisle at 6:40 p.m. Met at train by Bert and Jim with my jeep.

May 17 & 18, 1943

May 17 Went down to Hilliards and bought some surgical instruments – then met Mr. Binning at Grosvenor for lunch. He introduced me to the Wholesale Drug House and I bought the drugs I needed. Last night Mrs. Muir and I went out to watch Mr. Muir bowl.

May 18: Had lunch downtown with Mr. Muir – Mrs. Muir and I are going to the Alhambra tonight to see “DuBarry was a Lady.” Phoned the Unit today – they will meet me in Carlisle tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. – and I will go back to work again.

May 11, 13, 15 & 16

May 11: After Officer’s board this afternoon, Poop and I went down to meet a Tank train in Langholm – stepped into a little tea room and had a swell tea. Jill’s photo arrived last night.

May 13: Have finished boarding the entire Unit tonight and am absolutely exhausted. Expect to go to Glasgow early on Saturday morning – phoned Rena Ferguson tonight, but she will not be there. I have never seen it rain any harder than it has for the last two days – everything is drenched. All the Unit with the exception of HQ Sqaudron is out on the ranges and will remain for another week. Two letters from home tonight, but expecting me back, but I am afraid it will be a long time before that happens.

May 15: at 7 a.m. – Dawson drove Ralph and I into Carlise, where he caught the train for Blackpool and I caught the train for Glasgow. Arrived in Glasgow at 12:29 and made connection with train to Giffnock station. Saw Rena before she went on holiday, then came home and had a sleep. In the evening Mr. Muir and I went to the Royal Theatre to see “Tonight’s the Night”. It was a grand show. Mrs. Muir’s sister is here for the weekend – we are having a grand time.

May 16: Mrs. Muir, her sister, Mr. Muir and I went to Church this a.m. This afternoon Alex Greenshield (the man who drove me to Loch Lomond) came in to tea and spent part of the evening here. Mr. and Mrs. Bruce were in for supper and have just gone home. Tomorrow I am to meet a Mr. Binning at Grosvenor for lunch – he is a drug manufacturer and I am trying to get a supply of drugs for the Unit. I am not on leave, but do not know when I will return to the Unit. As soon as I get my work done I guess. Now to bed.

Spring 1943: Prelude to Operation Husky

In case you hadn’t seen the recent comment left by Mike Hunter, I wanted to share it as he provides a succinct and excellent background to what was occurring in the spring of 1943. Thank you Mike! And I’d be remiss in pointing out that Mike’s father, Lt-Col. Kenneth A. Hunter was my grandfather’s commanding officer in the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps. They were also together on Tank Landing Craft No. 8 during the Dieppe Raid.
Here’s what Mike had to say:
Some “big picture” info might be of interest to your readers.Ever since they arrived in England the Canadians have been considered to be a vital element in the “defense against invasion” strategy. Their training and their physical location (near the Channel coast) have been directed to this end. Other than Dieppe they have seen little or no action and there has been great discontent about this inactivity both at home and in England. Now (1943) the risk of invasion has virtually disappeared and everything is swinging to the offense. At the highest levels plans are afoot for the invasion of Sicily/Italy. Up until late April 1943 Canadian troops were not part of the invasion plan. On April 23, 1943, as a result of major pressure from Ottawa and from the highest levels of the Canadian military, a decision was made to replace the British 3nd Division with the 1st Canadian Infantry Division and the 1st Canadian Tank Brigade. This must have been extremely upsetting for the Brits as they had already undertaken major planning and preparation. To their credit and without any apparent bitterness, they handed over all their plans and preparations to the Canadians and then helped them to initiate the activity. The Calgary Tanks, and my father’s medical unit, were small parts of the selected Canadian forces. Despite the fact that Doc Alexander has “no idea what is going on” this move to Scotland is for training in preparation for the Sicily invasion which is only a few months away. It will not be until they are on the ships that they will know where they are going. The numerous changes in personnel reflect Montgomery’s attitude of “out with the old and in with the young” (except for him of course).

Dambusters 70th anniversary

Saturday (May 11) the Bomber Museum of Canada in Nanton, AB is commemorating the 70th anniversary of The Dambusters. 

According to the museum the Dambusters pulled off “one of  the most daring and tactically demanding air operations in history,
the legendary Dambusters Raid utilized a bouncing bomb released at an altitude of sixty feet to destroy enemy hydroelectric dams.
A brilliant tactical success was achieved but eight of the nineteen Lancaster bombers did not return. Of the 133 airmen who flew on the raid, 53 were killed
and three became Prisoners of War. Of the thirty Canadians who flew, only fifteen returned safely to base. Albertans were prominent,as seven of the thirty Canadians were from our province”

The event runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and it offers the opportunity to climb into the museum’s Lancaster bomber and to hear the roar of its Bristol Hercules engines. It’s a remarkable sound and a remarkable plane.

An interview on CBC Radio Calgary about the Dambusters can be found here.


-Lancaster Engine Runs and Cockpit Tours

-Aviation Art Exhibit -“The Dambusters –The Legendary Raid in Art”

-Book Launch: “Big Joe McCarthy –The RCAF’s American Dambuster”

-Commemorative Program and Display Opening

-Special Guests including a wartime 617 Squadron Veteran and Family Members of several Canadian Dambusters

-Bristol Hercules (14 Cylinder Radial; Sleeve-Valve) Bomber Engine Run-ups

-Premiere of the video: “Dambuster Terry Taerum”, a Calgary Dambuster

-Replay of 50th Anniversary Speech by Canadian Dambuster pilot Ken Brown CGM

-Special Display of Dams Raid items from the Museum’s Archives


CHECK: for details, updates, and timing.

VISIT: for background information and Dams Raid articles.

CONTACT:  (403-646-2270)



May 7 & 9, 1943

May 7: All week we have been reboarding the entire Regiment. What a job – 60-70 men per day, on top of all our other routine work, certainly makes a full day. I still can’t exactly remember the name of this place – I believe it is Langholm, or something like that. Famous Mess meeting last night – St. George’s Mess dinner tomorrow night. WE haven’t had any entertainment for so long – we are just crazy about it.

May 9: Mess dinner last night – everybody present. A lovely lunch, then everybody sat round in the lounge until quite late. Only seven of the same men who were with us at the first St. George’s dinner were present tonight. Johnnie Cross, Tom Ward and Jack McKinly Kee, struck off strength today. Had a long talk with John this afternoon, he is being sent back to Canada I believe. Had a wire from John Begg a couple of days ago. It is colder than the devil here today. The reboard still goes. on.