July 11 – Aug. 14, 1944

First off, my apologies for neglecting updating the journals for the past month. It has been one of those months. I was a single dad for three weeks while my wife was off upgrading her teaching skills and then we made the move from Canmore into Calgary, the home of the Calgary Tanks and of Doc Alexander, and now, finally, life has settled down enough to allow me to get back on track. If you haven’t had the chance to read about Doc Alexander’s experience at Dieppe, I shared that story with author Elinor Florence, who posted it this week on her blog Wartime Wednesdays. Unlike other stories about Dieppe, this one shares the role of medical men during a small sliver of that raid, Aug. 19, 1942. And now, as they say in the Calgary Regiment, Onward!

Rob

July 11 – We are on a 2 hr. notice to move. Will move to vicinity of Secqueville-en-Bessin – about halfway between Bayeux and Caen. The V.D. Section will be leaving us, and a Dental Office, lab and technician will be coming. They will be a great help. Capt. Kearney, our new Dentist – arrived this afternoon.

July 12 – A movement meeting at Tac. Corps H.Q. at Cairon. We are moving to Thaon about eight miles north of Caen. We move off at 2 a.m. tomorrow and will be open by 12 noon. The V.D. Section is staying with us.

July 13 – 2 a.m. We headed the convoy to our new location. The 9th and 10th FDS and 8th Field Hygiene follows us. We head south to the main Bayeux Caen Road, travelled south east to Bretteville L’Orgueilleuse, then north to Camilly, then north east to Thaon and landed in our field at 4 a.m. We let the boys sleep until daybreak, at 6 a.m. started to erect our canvas. At 9:30 a.m. we were open for patients. At noon, an Exhaustion Centre Unit came to us for attachments and in the evening a company of 2 M.A.C. – twelve ambulances arrived for attachment. We have now twelve officers and one hundred and forty seven other ranks.

July 14 – We are filling up and are very busy, but we are enjoying it immensely. we had a very bad air raid both this afternoon and in the night. We had a lot of casualties brought in. The sky was absolutely aglow for over one hour.

July 15 – We have over one hundred cases in and have evacuated a lot. Today has not been as busy as yesterday, but still we are going on all fours.

July 16 – Brig. Fenwick visited us and wanted a little more dispersal, so we had to move all our tents. Probably tomorrow some other Brigadier will come and we will have to move back again.

July 17 – Another M.O. attached, and we are very busy, about one hundred and forty cases in and we are evacuating all the time. Air raids every night, but not nearly as bad as the last two nights.

July 18 – Terrific bombardment and the most planes I have ever seen in the air at once. The din is terrible. A big push has started. We are ordered to prepare for a hundred battle casualties tonight. 10 p.m. Have just had a cup of tea and piece of cake with Major McNeil. Very few casualties coming in – but the guns are certainly roaring plenty. The big advance has started and there is a big Tank battle in progress south of Caen.

July 19 – Went to Corps first thing this morning. We are having difficulties in evacuation. There is very poor Medical organization, but perhaps it will straighten out. Today the Brig. has been here and everybody else, but our knowledge has not increased much. Patients are still rolling in and everything is under control. Apparently the attack is being very successful, so I suppose in a few days we will be moving up again. Just received word of Gerald’s death. Poor Mayme and Bryron.

July 21 – Was so busy all day yesterday and last night – had no time to write. Very busy today too. Over one hundred exhaustion cases in yesterday. We have evacuated about 85 cases today, admitted some but are ready for a big rush tonight. We had two hundred and forty three cases under canvas this morning. It is certainly keeping us busy.

July 22 – Maj. McLarren and Q. from 13th British F.D.S. visited us tonight. He and I chummed together on the boat over. He is a Scotsman commanding a Welsh F.D.S.

July 23 – Mac and I went down south of Bretteville L’Orgueilleuse to pay a visit to the 13 F.D.S.

July 24 – 2 & 3 CCS have moved forward today, but we have to stay behind to run this awful Exhaustion Centre. Oh well somebody has to run it and I suppose we have to be the ones.

July 25 – My forth sixth birthday today. One year ago I was in Sicily. We had a very heavy air raid last night, lasting the greater part of the night. The big attack is on this morning, but no details are available as yet. We are prepared to handle about two hundred casualties today. Supper time – some casualties have come in, but not great number yet. We are prepared for several this evening.

July 26 – The attack was not the success expected, so every thing is back where it started. We had eighty-six in yesterday, and a quite a few today.

July 27 – Drove in to Bayeax No. 7 Canadian Hospital, found #8 setting up along side of it, so dropped in and had a chat with Chas. Bennett.

July 28 – Busy making out a report of activities. our Auxiliary Service Man arrived today and is holding a picture show tonight. The war news is still good. Was down to Corps H.Q. today – Hospital not nearly so busy.

July 29 – Fourth Div. have all landed now. Last night we had quite a bit of air activity around, but were not hit at all. Everything is very quiet – only a little over one hundred patients in. Imagine we will be moving in a few days.

July 30 – Attended a general conference at Main Corps. H.Q., held at Cairon. A lot of the usual routine things were taken up. Slim Hooker came to our Unit today – he will drive the Q.M. truck. The news of the advances on all fronts is very cheering.

July 31 – Everything is very quiet on our front. We have only sixty five cases in. We rather expect something will start up in a few days and we probably will move up to do another job. We are awfully tired of this job and will be so glad to really get doing something.

August 1/1944 – A visit from Brig. Farmer this morning. A little bit busier today, but all is quite quiet on this front. This afternoon we looked up to see a parachute descending on us. A young American Flt. Lieut. Carls from Pennsylvania had had his Liberator knocked out from under him. He landed right in the middle of our Camp. We took him in, gave him a drink and supper and then drove him over to an R.A.F. Station. A very pleasant visit.

Aug. 2 – Gus McCarrol from 10 Fld Amb. just dropped in for a visit. He came back from Italy with me and is expecting to go back to Canada as an instructor. My staff of Officers has increased again It now consists of:
Capt. Place
Capt. Carson
Capt. Anderson
Maj. Birch
Capt. Walker
Capt. Geggie
Mr. Dibb
Maj. Ellis
Maj. McNeil
Capt. Frasier
Capt. Harrison

Quite a family. The news from the front is awfully good today. Perhaps the end is nearer than we think. A lot of letters arrived today, dated Feb. 1-9 — they had all been to Italy

Aug. 5 – Nothing of particular interest has happened in the last couple of days. The work has been steady but by no means heavy. Have visited by lots of M.O.s from other Units. Yesterday the Red Cross representatives were here and today I have sent Ronny in to Bayeaux for some supplies which they promised to give us. The war news continues awfully good, but all is comparatively quiet on the Canadian front.

Aug. 6 – In the evening I drove to Corp H.Q. – then was detailed to drive Brig. Farmer over the Medical Units. We went to Caen and visited 9 and 10 F.D.S. – 2nd and 3rd CCS – 5th DS, then north of Thaon to 6 CCS. A big push is expected on our front. 2nd Corp now consists of 2nd, 3rd and 4th Can. Div., 2nd Armoured Brigade, Canadian, a British Armoured Bde., 51st Scottish Div. and the Polish Armoured Div., some Corps – we will continue to run Exhaustion, V.D.G. and sickness for this show, and will then exchange with one of the other F.D.S. We expect to be very busy this week.

Aug. 8 – Last night at 11 p.m., the Lancasters and Liberators went over in mass and bombed the country in front of Caen. This was followed by a heavy barrage and then the attack. It is now 1 p.m. and we are all set up for a large number of casualties, but so far there has been only the usual run. It will probably get heavy this afternoon and evening.

Aug. 11 – Very hot for the last few days. A good deal of air activity over our heads. We are busy again, but do not know yet the extent. All our available canvas is up.

Aug. 12 – Very busy. Order to move just in. We cannot close but most be open right outside of Caen at 6 p.m. Trickling move as no additional transport available. We evacuate, admit and move at the same time and are really running two places.

Aug. 13 – Complete move to a spot opposite Carpiquet on this main Bayeux Caen road, about one mile from Caen. It is a horrible spot, but we have managed to fix it up pretty well.

Aug. 14 – Order to repeat move. We open at Baase, about six miles south east of Caen. Patients pouring in and everybody’s on the jump. A real air rad to start our day – our camp is lit up by flares like a city. Not damage done, but a wonderful exhibition of fireworks.

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About Rob Alexander

I am a writer, photographer and historian and the author of The History of Canmore, published by Summerthought Publishing of Banff, AB.

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