Archive | September 2014

Sept. 15, 1944 – a return to Ypres and the First World War

Ypres in ruins.  Rob Alexander collection

Ypres in ruins.
Rob Alexander collection

Sept. 15 — Took Jeep – a Belgium guide, two ambulances and a truck through Ypres and the Menin Gate up the long hill to Passchendaele Village where a fair was in progress. In the next little village I took over thirty seven wounded Germans and staff and sent them back to Dixmude. They were in a Convent, and when we took them over I seized a lovely German pistol. The Coth Hall and Menin Gate were very familiar, but I would not recognize Passchendaele at all. The Towns are fully built up — the country is filled with cemeteries — German, British and Canadian, with war memorials everywhere. We passed old familiar spots like Langemark, Zounebek, Zillebeke, Palcapoele, St. Julien, Kemmel Hill and La Clyte. Old Hill Corner our of La Clyte was familiar, but not the rest.

The Cloth Hall in the city of Ypres (Ieper) following the German bombardment during the Second Battle of Ypres, 1915.  Rob Alexander collection.

The Cloth Hall in the city of Ypres (Ieper) following the German bombardment during the Second Battle of Ypres, 1915.
Rob Alexander collection.

The Menin Gate and the Cloth Hall today. Once a cloth market and warehouse completed 1304, it was largely destroyed. The reconstructed Cloth Hall houses the Flanders Fields Museum. The Menin Gate, meanwhile, is a British and Commonwealth war memorial where the Last Post is played every evening. Rob Alexander photo.

The Menin Gate and the Cloth Hall today. Once a cloth market and warehouse completed 1304, it was largely destroyed. The reconstructed Cloth Hall houses the Flanders Fields Museum. The Menin Gate, meanwhile, is a British and Commonwealth war memorial where the Last Post is played every evening. Rob Alexander photo.

Aug. 15 – Sept. 14, 1944 — Canadians liberate Dieppe

Aug. 15 – Continuing the process of getting settled. Everything taking shape again. Allied landing in southern of France today.

Aug. 16 – Another very busy day. Our K of C Supervisor – A. Sullivan replaced today by YMCA, Mr. Jim McNab. Just started writing this when a German plane swooped down over camp. Here comes another one. Will have to put light out. No damage done.

Aug. 17 – Order to report to Corps H.Q., then recce a new site for my Hospital. The spot chosen is near a railroad, and dug into the bank are numerous old German tanks. We are moving in the morning from Basse which is five miles south west of the Caen, through “Ifs”, “Fontenay-le-Marmion”, Caillouet, to the road junction just north of Bretteville-sur-Laize, then east to about a quarter of a smile south of Cintheaux. For the next two days we will be very busy. War news is good. Here comes another German plane. They are a real nuisance at night, but not in evidence in the the day time. Just hear today of Brig. Booths death.

Aug. 18 – At 9:00 a.m. Sgt. Major Gordie Champagne, Mr. Dibb and I went forward to lay out our new camp. At 11:30 the vehicles arrived bearing Evacuation, Reception, Pack Stores and Stretcher Dump and eighteen men. At 1 p.m. – Harley Street arrived, at 3 p.m. admitting staff arrived and at 6 p.m. everybody was here with the exception of Light Section which was still in Basse. Everything is up and we are running along merrily.

Aug. 19 – 2 years ago today – Dieppe. Last night, British flares lit up the pocket constantly, and bombers were over them all night long. This morning General Corps conference at Cailloat. News good. IN a few days we expect to reach the Seine; then the next line will be my old friend the Somme. After the Somme, the we really expect only rear guard action to the frontier. More convinced than ever that the war will be over by Nov. 11/44.

Aug. 20 – Six nurses from No. 21 Gen. in Bayeux came out and spent the day with us. News is very good. Mac, Ronnie, Cook and I drove in around Falaise tonight and scrounged a motor cycle wheel, thus completing another trailer. Scrounged a stool, cabinets and tables from a German prison camp too. Very shapr air raid tonight lasting about 20 minutes. Started to rain just before midnight. Prisoners coming in by the hundreds. A complete German Field Ambulance surrendered today. It is still pouring and raining. Have just come back from Corps H.Q. about six miles north east of Falaise. Between here and Falaise there is an orchard which was caught by our bombers – it reminds me of a picture called the Elephant’s Graveyard, absolute ruin with several ruined tanks lying around Saw between seven and eight hundred prisoners brought in.

Aug. 22 – The advance still continues. We have started on the move again. Part of my Unit are gone and the rest of us will go in the morning. This time we have moved about seventeen miles to a spot outside St. Pierre-sur-Dives. A beautiful country untouched by war. Col. McFarlane spent the day with me and went out on recce with me to the new ground. It is most definitely a war of movement now.

Aug. 23 — Unit canvas erected and notified at noon that we would take over the full duties of a CCS. No. 8 Field Surgical Unit arrived and set up. At 8 p.m. our casualties started coming in and in eighteen hours we attended three hundred and twenty five cases. Twenty resusitation and nine major operations.

Aug. 25 – Moved forward using MAC ambulances as transport. This time we moved almost due east to just below Livarot — we are on wheels awaiting a further move. Col. McFarlane, Lt. Col. Chas. Ross spent the night with me here. It is beautiful here.

Aug. 26 – The Exhaustion Unit and V.D. Unit both moved to X F.D.S. today. We are going forward as a forward Advanced Surgical Unit. Freddie Jenner visited me here today. No further word.

Aug. 27 — Sent Mr. Dibb up forward as a recce party today. 2CCS moved through us. Brig. Fenwick visited us today — we are going forward as a Forward Surgical Unit and hope to land across the Seine in a couple of days, I hope to be in Dieppe once more. Today the French Maquis lined up eight German SS men who had killed a woman and shot them dead after a very short trial. I do not think we will move today. This part of the country is absolutely beautiful.

Aug. 28 — I am having a tiny caravan built today. Went down this A.M. to see an execution, but none took place. I did four girls who had their hair cut and were thrown into prison. The French are most certainly not fooling. Orders have just come in for another move at 11 p.m. tonight.

Aug. 29 – At 11 p.m. last night we started in convoy moving mostly east by north. Passed Orback, then to Bernay then north east to Brionne — arrived at 6:30 A.M. — laid down for a sleep and got soaked. Nothing unusual happened. 5th FDS went forward to the vicinity of Elbeuf to open up a Froward Sugical Centre. In a day or so we will leap frog across the Seine.

Aug. 30 — Still wet — still waiting.

Aug. 31 — At 5:30 P.M. we started in convoy and reached Elbeuf at 7:30 P.M. and crossed the Seine on a Pontoon Bridge shortly after. We passed along the Seine to le Port St. Ouen, where we turned east and set up an Advanced Surgical Centre down the road about one mile and a half.

Sept. 1 /44 — No. 8 Surgical Unit and a Field Transfusion Unit joined us. At 2 p.m. Lieut. Horn of M.A.C. called for me and started out to see whether Dieppe had fallen. We passed through Rouen and then along a beautiful highway of 50 Kilom. to Dieppe. It was a gala day for the French, and the Canadians as well. People in the thousands thronging the road all dressed in their best. At 3 p.m. we entered Dieppe — a large sign with the name Dieppe in the center, on one side — the tri color of France, and on the other, the Canadian flag. I met Chester McDonald here and a Press reporter took our photo. We were both here with the Calgarys. I looked over the harbour and all the familiar land marks, then went to visit the Canadian Cemetery. It is beautifully located and beautifully laid out in rows of green grass frowing over the graves and a cross at the head of each grave. Each is numbered and a record is kept in a little office naming each number. The landing place was plainly visible and certainly brought back a lot of memories. Saw a German snap and readily recognized Dick Wallace. On the return trip we drove to a hill overlooking Rouen and had a beautiful sight of the city. Returning from Rouen, I found a lovely German ambulance and brought it home. It was a Chevrolet, made in Oshawa — we have repainted it and added it to our transport.


Sept. 2/44 — we are not very busy but all the forward Medical Units are open — so a few ar ecming through, although casualties are very light. We are starting to tear down and pack again so we move about eighty miles to the Abbevile district in the morning. We are half torn down when casualties begin coming in; so we reopened and admitted one hundred and ten wounded — some French, some German, some Canadian and English. At 11 P.M. order came for us to remain open.

Sept. 3 — Still open. Gordie and I set off to find Corps H.Q. We went up Diamond Route to Rouen — then north to Neufchatel and then north east to the crossroads leading to Camaches. We reached the Town and were invited in to dinner with a French family. There was an American airman there who had parachuted down 3 mos. before. It was a grand place and a grand dinner. After dinner we set out again and went to le Mesnil-Reaume then north to Eu. just a couple of miles from Le Treport — then returned home, where we are still running a hospital waiting for orders to move to Abbeville. Chas. Ross dropped in an spent the night with me.

Sept. 5 — At 3 A.M. orders were received for a move at 8 A.M. We got busy and then were on the road at that time. Passed north through Rouen — then north east to Neufchatel and then north to Abbeville. Crossed the Somme at 8 P.M. and struck straight north to Beaucamp, about twenty miles north of Abbeville. Bedded down in a pasture and at 8 A.M. started to erect our hospital. Saw a very beautiful German cemetery in Abbeville. The total move covered one hundred miles.

Sept. 6 — No. 9 Surgical Unit arrived this morning and we are setting up as the Forward Medical and Surgical Unit to handle the seige of Boulogne. We have now both No. 7 and No. 9 Surgical Units and one F.T.U. The work is starting to come in.

Sept. 7 — Very busy, both teams going full blast and our triage section working overtime.

Sept. 8 — still terribly busy. It is raining and blowing and very difficult to keep our tents up.

Sept. 9 — We close today at 10 A.M. — no, we didn’t. At the last moment we were told to stay open. Our Surgical Units and Transfusion Unit moved forward to Steenvoore on the Belgian frontier with #5 F.D.S

Sept. 10 – Closed at 10 A.M. 3 CCS and 6 Gen. Hosp. opened at our location. Bill Moffat and I are sent forward to Boulogne area to recce site for Hosp. This done, we moved north to Hedingly to a German Hospital and got some valuable supplies. We then visited a Corp P.O.W. cage and looked over one thousand German prisoners — then went to St. Omer and to Cassel to report to Corp. Had moving orders for a hundred mile move in the morning.

Sept. 11 — At 11 A.M. McDonald, Gordie, Fred and I set out with our jeep and trailer to go to Dixmude (Diksmuide). The convey was to follow about two hours later. We moved through Hesdin, Lumbres, St. Omer, then north east to Belgium border. The border towns are gaily decorated and the people very friendly. We moved to Dixmude to set up an Advanced Surgical Center in a hospital in the Town. 12th FDS is also here — they handle the walking wounded and we handle all the stretcher cases. My bedroom and office has been beautifully furnished — just like a hotel suite. Tomorrow I am going to Ypres and Passchendaele.

Sept. 13 – Could not get away as the DMS is supposed to come. Will get there yet through. Usual day, not awfully busy.

Sept. 14 – The DMS has not yet come so I will stay at home again today. Met old Snuffy Smith from the XIIth today. He will live with me for a week while taking some treatment. Snuffy was with me in Italy. It certainly is nice to run into the old boys again. Very busy today. The Algonquins crossed the Albert Canal and got pushed back with heavy casualties.