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Battle of the Atlantic (1940-1943)

The Battle of the Atlantic (1940–1943).

Interesting post (with photos) at Library and Archives Canada Blog about the Battle of the Atlantic and the convoys that were so essential to the war effort.

Here’s what Doc Alexander had to say about crossing the Atlantic in June 1941:https://docalexander.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1485&action=edit&message=10

June 21: 12 noon – The convoy pulled out into the harbour. Six or seven troop transports – two Battle ships and a lot of Destroyers.
June 22: Nothing much to report – early this morning all the ships were in formation which was really very beautiful. We are all very happy to see the Battleships and Cruisers stick close. I am on duty as SMO – a lot of minor aliments and one case of Lobar Pneumonia. Everything going fine.
June 23: Very foggy during the night. Fog horns going constantly and ships making very little progress. Fog raised during forenoon and all ships visible. Nothing of importance. Very cold, climbed in bed and spent the afternoon – 5 p.m. Will now have to go on deck. Ralph is happy –is thrilled to tears. John Begg and I go for a stroll on deck and enjoy our first sight of the Land of the Midnight Sun.
June 24: Terribly cold today – we are told we have sailed up the coast of Newfoundland and are now on the southern coast of Greenland heading towards Iceland. Somewhere in the district where the Hood was sunk. Two of our destroyers have gone back. Our convoy consists of Pasteur, Brittania, Andes, Windsor Castle, two other transports – Battleship Repulse and Ramillies, and three Destroyers – their formation is very beautiful, but what a lovely target. John, George and I went on deck at midnight to find it broad daylight. Charlie Page is the Chief Flat Foot on board. A plane has been flying over us today. June 25: Still going strong – all boats in place – smooth sailing sea, nothing unusual taking place. Met a freight convoy bound towards home today. Hear all sorts of stories about Russian successes over Germany. Medical inspection today. One case of meningitis on board.
June 26: Scenery as unfamiliar as ever – no idea where we are, but rumour says we are south of Ireland. It also says a boat was sunk in the convoy right ahead of us. All the boys in good spirits but kind of bored. Very cold and windy on deck. No darkness at night at all, so guess we are near the Arctic Circle, but you can’t prove it by me. 11:45 p.m. Still as bright as day – eight more Destroyers of the Iceland Patrol joined us at supper time. Very strong wind blowing – sea becoming quite rough. George, Timmy and I have just made a tour of the decks and will now go to sleep. Our convoy consists of nineteen ships – eleven destroyers, one battle cruiser, one battleship and six large troop transports. The most impressive and thrilling sight I have ever seen.
June 27: Fine misty rain today – not nearly so cold or windy. One battleship, Ramilles, and three destroyers left our convoy at noon today, bound so we are told to Iceland to refuel. George, Timmy and I spent most of the morning on deck, looking at the various antics of these boats – nothing else to see. Saw some driftwood and a life raft drift by – some unfortunate somewhere. We are now in our seventh day out to sea. Amateur concert tonight – Ralph is taking part. Expect an air craft carrier to join our convoy tomorrow. At 12:25 a.m. George (Friar Tuck), Stanton, Poopdeck Payne and I danced the dance of the fairies on the sports deck in bright sunlight.
June 28: Very foggy and misty. Dutch cruiser joined our convoy. All making good time. Went to Sgt. Mess entertainment in evening. After – John B., Charlie Page, Col. And I went up on deck for an hour – joined by George and Timmy. Turned in at 1 a.m.
June 29: Starting of 9th day at sea. I think our ship has a flat tire. Very rough a.m. Supposed to be off north coast of Ireland, but I don’t know. We hope to be in sight of land soon. Are also watching out for German planes but have seen none yet. Expect to land tomorrow. Chas. Page and I went to Church and did everything wrong. Sited the Hebrides Islands at 12 noon – 12 midnight John, Charlie, Timmy, the Col. And I stood on deck and watched as we pulled into the outer harbour at Greenock.
June 30: Up at 6:30 a.m. As we pulled through the boom and entered the inner harbour. It is crowded with vessels. It is now 12 midnight and we are going to bed. The first draft of our Unit leaves at 10 a.m. Tomorrow to entrain for some new camp in Wiltshire. We leave at 2 p.m. For the same destination.

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Mewata Armouries in Calgary, circa 1934

Mewata Armouries in Calgary, circa 1934.

Mewata Armouries in Calgary, circa 1934. Calgary Public Library.

The Metwata Armouries in Calgary wouldn’t looked much different on March 17, 1941 when the personnel of the Calgary Regiment formed up and marched to the nearby railroad tracks where they boarded a train waiting to take them to Camp Borden in Ontario. On that day, Doc Alexander wrote: “Executive presentation. Left home 5 p.m. for Mewata. Entrained opposite barracks for Camp Borden.”

Plymouth Cave, 1941

A cave at Plymouth, England, during one of Doc Alexander’s excursions, 1941. Alexander family collection.

Salisbury Plain July 1941 photos

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March 30, 1942

Ed Brown and Major Chote from Calgary spent the afternoon and part of the evening with me. We drove all over the country. That was on yesterday. Today, I went to New Haven and Peace Haven. Some more of our boys left this morning for Calgary.

Year One: March 1, 1941 to March 3, 1942


March 1941:

March 1: Enlisted with the 14th Batn. Tank. Calgary Regiment.
March 4: Went into uniform
March 5: Batn. Dinner
March 6: Hockey game – Eleanor and Lillian present
March 7: Last trip to Morley. Party at Bill Ingrims. Present: Ingram, Inkskater, Jennings, Parks, Riley, McLeod (presentation)
March 8: presentation, Eleanor. Presentation, H.B.C. Dinner at Hicks, present: Warringtons, Hicks, Glovers, Muriel and I
March 9: Presentation by 8th Field Ambulance. Closed office today.
March 10: Warringtons for dinner. Hockey game
March 11: Spent evening at Actons
March 12: Dinner at Rhodes
March 13: Dinner with Dave Duchak and Cam. Burk. Evening inspection of Unit by Maj. Gen. Greisbach. Presentation by Kanakeena Club.
March 14: Final trip to Morley – Muriel and I. Hess enlisted today.
March 15: Farewell party Stampeders Hockey Team — radio presented.
March 17: Executive presentation. Left home 5 p.m. for Mewata. Entrained opposite barracks for Camp Borden.
March 18: Enroute – route march at Moose Jaw. 6:30 a.m.
March 19: Route march at Fort William
March 20: Arrived in Camp Borden 10 a.m. – 2 Scarlet Fever, 1 Measles on board. Visited hospitals; headquarters, Lake Superior Regiment.
March 21: Establishing R.A.P., visited W.H. Brown (Chief of Medical Staff). First letters from home.
March 22: Visited Bill Morgan at 4th Petrol Mess. We are still in quaratine, but getting more established.
March 23: Ollie and Carolyn arrived in car – spent afternoon in Barrie and brought car back again. A lot of sickness in camp.
March 28: Weekend leave to Owen Sound. Went to hockey game – then sat up until 2 a.m. to talk to Muriel long distance.
March 29: Motored to London to visit Don.
March 30: Returned to Borden.
March 31: Cocktail party at Fort Garry Horse

April 1941:

April 3: Clinical meeting at Camp Borden Military Hospital.
April 6: Manley Edwards visited me.
April 9: Capt’s Brown and Ireland visited with me at our mess.
April 10: Motored to Owen Sound to meet Muriel. She came back with me as far as Stayner.
April 11: Good Friday – picked Muriel up at noon and went to Owen Sound to see Ollie.
April 12: Went to Toronto  and saw Hal and Gert.
April 13: Muriel returned to Stayner and I went back to Camp.
April 14: Mrs. Valentine drove over and brought Muriel to Barrie. George and I visited them in the evening.
April 20: Muriel came out to Camp and spent the afternoon. I drove them back to Barrie and saw her again in the evening.
April 25: John Begg, Atwood and myself drove to Barrie, picked Muriel up and we all drove to Toronto. John, Muriel and I had dinner together and spent the evening in his room. Caught midnight train for Montreal. Arrived there at 6:55 – caught train for Quebec City and arrived 2:10 p.m. – met at station by Mayme, Byron and Blanche. Drove around city until supper. Gerald and Evelyn arrived at supper time. Bob Arrived at 7 p.m. Spent evening at home.
April 27: Went to Church in Quebec, then toured the city and took pictures until supper time. Gerald and Evelyn left for Montreal, Bob went back to barracks.
April 28: Went through shoe factory with Byron – Muriel and I left for Montreal at midnight.
April 29: Arrived in Toronto – went for walk met Ken Wallick – had supper and waited in Royal York until met by Charlie Page, who drove us back to Barrie, where we left Muriel and picked up George Valentine and came home.
April 30: Very busy on duty at night.

May 1941:

May 4: Muriel visited Camp – we went in the evening to Orillia.
May 7: Out to woods in Camp Borden, manoeuvers – bivouac.
May 10: Weekend pass to Owen Sound, spent Saturday and Sunday at Stauble Beach at Kennedy’s cottage, late Sunday night Muriel and I drove back to Barrie.
May 12: Ralph spent evening with Muriel in Barrie – I stayed home and worked.
May 14: Manley Edwards visited camp together with 40 other M.P.s – had supper with me and we drove into Barrie. He and Muriel drove me back to North Barrier and they went on to Ottawa.
May 15: Started on 3 day convoy – entire Brigade. 240 vehicles – 21 miles long. First day went through Barrie, Orillia, the Muskoka Lake district camping in a small wood (Woodville). Third day returned to Camp Borden via Barrie.
May 23: Muriel, Bob Taylor and I caught a train at Esca for furlough in Calgary. Arrived in Calgary 8 a.m.
May 26: Attended J.D. Stewarts funeral.
May 28: Visited Morley Reserve. Received wire from Unit in Camp Borden to return 3 days early.
May 31: Rainy day, but took the children to Banff, had dinner in Camp Grounds and returned home.

June 1941:

June 1: Unit returned to Calgary on 4 days embarkation leave – Muriel and I met them at the train.
June 6: 5:47 a.m. Arrived in Esca-met at train by Freddy Jenner. That afternoon drove to Barrie to see Col. Bradbrook., stayed to dinner with Col. And Mrs. Bradbrook.
June 7: Brownie visited Mess. I went back and spent evening.
June 15: Church Parade – entire Brigade in Camp Borden.
June 16: Group from each Tank Regiment, Army Service, and 2nd Field Ambulance entrained at Borden for Halifax.
June 17: Three Rivers Regiment entrained at Borden for Halifax.
June 18: Ontario Regiment entrained at Borden for Halifax. Our officers had breakfast with New Westminster Regiment. Entire Battalion had dinner at Perth Regiment, we then entrained at 5:45 for Halifax.
June 19: Saw Mayme at Quebec City on way through. The Batn. went for exercise walk through City.
June 20: arrived at Halifax at 12 noon – several large transports and battle ships in harbour. Embarked on the large French luxury liner the Pasteaur – 30,000 tons. Saw Bob Alexander shortly after boarding boat.
June 21: 12 noon – The convoy pulled out into the harbour. Six or seven troop transports – two Battleships and a lot of Destroyers.
June 22: Nothing much to report – early this morning all the ships were in formation which was really very beautiful. We are all very happy to see the Battleships and Cruisers stick close. I am on duty as SMO – a lot of minor aliments and one case of Lobar Pneumonia. Everything going fine.
June 23: Very foggy during the night. Fog horns going constantly and ships making very little progress. Fog raised during forenoon and all ships visible. Nothing of importance. Very cold, climbed in bed and spent the afternoon – 5 p.m. Will now have to go on deck. Ralph is happy – is thrilled to tears. John Begg and I go for a stroll on deck and enjoy our first sight of the Land of the Midnight Sun.
June 24: Terribly cold today – we are told we have sailed up the coast of Newfoundland and are now on the southern coast of Greenland heading towards Iceland. Somewhere in the district where the Hood was sunk (H.M.S. Hood).  Two of our destroyers have gone back. Our convoy consists of Pasteur, Brittanic, Andes, Windsor Castle, two other transports – Battleship Repulse and Ramillies, and three Destroyers – their formation is very beautiful, but what a lovely target. John, George and I went on deck at midnight to find it broad daylight. Charlie Page is the Chief Flat Foot on board. A plane has been flying over us today. June 25: Still going strong – all boats in place – smooth sailing sea, nothing unusual taking place. Met a freight convoy bound towards home today. Hear all sorts of stories about Russian successes over Germany. Medical inspection today. One case of Menigitis on board.
June 26: Scenery as unfamiliar as ever – no idea where we are, but rumour says we are south of Ireland. It also says a boat was sunk in the convoy right ahead of us. All the boys in good spirits but kind of bored. Very cold and windy on deck. No darkness at night at all, so guess we are near the Arctic Circle, but you can’t prove it by me. 11:45 p.m. Still as bright as day – eight more Destroyers of the Iceland Patrol joined us at supper time. Very strong wind blowing – sea becoming quite rough. George, Timmy and I have just made a tour of the decks and will now go to sleep. Our convoy consists of nineteen ships – eleven destroyers, one battle cruiser, one battleship and six large troop transports. The most impressive and thrilling sight I have ever seen.
June 27: Fine misty rain today – not nearly so cold or windy. One battleship, Ramilles, and three destroyers left our convoy at noon today, bound so we are told to Iceland to refuel. George, Timmy and I spent most of the morning on deck, looking at the various antics of these boats – nothing else to see. Saw some driftwood and a life raft drift by – some unfortunate somewhere. We are now in our seventh day out to sea. Amateur concert tonight – Ralph is taking part. Expect an air craft carrier to join our convoy tomorrow. At 12:25 a.m. George (Friar Tuck) Stanton, Poopdeck Payne and I danced the dace of the fairies on the sports deck in bright sunlight.
June 28: Very foggy and misty. Dutch cruiser joined our convoy. All making good time. Went to Sgt. Mess entertainment in evening. After – John B., Charlie Page, Col. And I went up on deck for an hour – joined by by George and Timmy. Turned in at 1 a.m.
June 29: Starting of 9th day at sea. I think our ship has a flat tire. Very rough a.m. Supposed to be off north coast of Ireland, but I don’t know. We hope to be in sight of alnd soon. Are also watching out for German planes but have seen none yet. Expect to land tomorrow. Chas. Page and I went to Church and did everything wrong. Sited the Hebrides Islands at 12 noon – 12 midnight John, Charlie, Timmy, the Col. And I stood on deck and watched as we pulled into the outer harbour at Greenock.
June 30: Up at 6:30 a.m. As we pulled through the boom and entered the inner harbour. It is crowded with vessels. It is now 12 midnight and we are going to bed. The first draft of our Unit leaves at 10 a.m. Tomorrow to entrain for some new camp in Wiltshire. We leave at 2 p.m. For the same destination.

July 1941:

July 1st: The first part of the Unit leave in tender for shore at 11 a.m. And at at 3 p.m. The last part embark on a light and sail to Gourock – get loaded and leave for our new home – one hour later pass through Glasglow, 1.5 hours later – Edinburgh – supper at the station. John, Chas, Bruce and I travelled in the same compartment.
July 2: Breakfast at Leicester – then landed at Lavington (West Lavington) at noon – went to Camp in buses. Whole Brigade camped on West Lavington Down. Cabled home.
July 3: Called Reading and talked with Mother Ford.
July 4: Went to Devizes with Geo Valentine and Ching Douglas. Went in again in the evening with Chas Page, John Begg and George.
July 6: Caught train at Lavington for Reading. Met at train by Mrs. Ford and Mother. In the evening Ethel and her family came over.
July 7: Went over to Lea Heath and spent evening at Wokingham with Ethel and family.
July 8: Babs and family came down for evening.
July 9: Went to Guildford and spend evening with Wynne.
July 11: Just ready to catch train and return home.
July 12: Went to Bath in evening with Major Macdonald.
July 13: Harold Wright, Charlie Carr, Mr. Hoar and John Walsh drove over and had supper with us. Was I glad to see them. Kissed both as directed by their wives. – Took photos to prove claim.
July 18: Freddie Jenner, Uncle, Dick Eldred, Glenn and I went to Salisbury, had a bath, and spent the evening around Town.
July 19: George, Timmy, Ralph and I went out in an open truck to look the country over. Visited Warminster and mighty wet and cold.
July 25: Inspection by Gen. Dill and Gen. McNaughton – had a short chat with Gen. Dill, we got along well together. We were in perfect accord on all subjects. In the evening we had my 43rd birthday party – guests present: George, John Begg, Charlie Page, Timmy Cameron, Freddie Jenner, Uncle, and Major Mcdonald, Ralph, Jack Hoover, Verne Leonard. We played several suitable games and sang for hours. Ralph also entertained us with a little song. The caterers were ably assisted by Baby Face McDougall.
July 31: George was Field Officer and was feeling his oats – the stubborn old Jackass tried my temper and for the first time in my life I became annoyed. The fight lasted for 1 hour and those present were greatly surprised to find us enjoying a sociable drink together at noon – after parting with curses, threats, etc. We decided he was entirely in the wrong and everyone was amazed at the perfect self control I exhibited. He is stubborn and impossible, but I still love him.

August 1941:

Aug. 2: Ralph’s children arrived, we are all very fond of them and think he’s certainly has 3 children to be proud of. He is strutting something like a peacock in a barnyard.
Aug. 6: In company with the other Batn M.O.s of the Brigade and officers of the 2nd Field Ambulance, motored to Guildford and had dinner, then went to a Medical Convention in Leatherhead, held at the 8th Field Ambulance. Frank was away on leave so did not see him.
Aug. 7: Had a party in our tent put on by the R.S.M. On the occasion of the birth of  a son. Those present were: John Begg, Charlie Page, Glenn, Clint Richardson, George Valentine, Sgm Spencer, Kirkham, Collison, Sgt. Stewart, R.S.M. Law, Jack Hoover, Ralph and I.
Aug. 8: Went to Trowbridge and Devizes, then home – beautiful country – the nicest we have seen yet. Visited the “White Horse” which is now black through camoflage. Learned history – built by King Alfred at the time when he had his ears boxed – so it is rather ancient. Jack, Ralph, John Cross, Furman and I.
Aug. 9: Went to Bath for the afternoon – took a bunch of my own staff in my own truck. Visited the Roman Baths, which were built by one of the Caesers in 54 A.D.
Aug. 10: Furman, McLeod and I motored to Reading and spent a couple of hours at the Fords.
Aug. 13: George, Jenner, Clint Richardson, Tommy Cornett and I went to Salisbury in staff car and spent a very pleasant evening.
Aug. 16: John Begg and I at last realized our great ambition to sing on the Cathedral steps in Salisbury. We sang in bare head, “Peace-Perfect-Peace”. The audience, also in bare head, consisted of Uncle, Timmy, Lambert and Woodside. It was beautiful. We then spent the evening in the Rose and Crown and arrived home at midnight.
Aug. 17: Wrote my famous epistle to Manley at the feast of Ananias.
Aug. 22: Went to London and met Wynne at Paddington Station. Stayed at Waldorf Hotel – visited St. Paul’s Cathedral, H.B. Headquarters – Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, St. James Park, Green Park, Soap Box Orators at Hyde Park. Attended Piccadilly Theatre – Noel Coward’s “Blithe Spirit”. Returned home on Sunday night Aug. 24/41.
Aug. 27: Charlie Page, Glenn, Bob Taylor, Wallace, Dick Eldred, Uncle, Timmy and I went up to the Three Rivers in an exchange of officers for dinner.
Aug. 28: Col. Bradbrook and I went to Tidworth to visit an Imperial Hospital.
Aug. 31: Sunday – Ed Brown arrived at noon and spent the day with us. We took pictures of Stonehenge and White Horse and went for a tank ride in the evening. He is billeted in Epsom.

September 1941:

Sept. 2: Night convoy. Left camp at 10 p.m. And arrived home at 6 a.m. The following morning, glorious weather for the last few days.
Sept. 3: Robert Roy accidentally wounded in mess by his chum McNichol. We rushed him to Tidworth Hospital in very critical condition – wound through neck, upper lobe left lung cutting spinal cord at level of 3rd Thoracic Vertebra.
Sept. 4: Visited Roy – Stanton, McNichol, Smith and I – condition much worse.
Sept. 4: Col. Bradbrook and I went over to Tidworth to see Roy. My car followed brining Furman, Padre, and four of his chums – three from the Ontario Regiment and one from our own. Found him in deep coma. Died a few minutes later – our first casualty in England.
Sept. 5: Brigade inspected by Gen. Brook and Gen. McNaughton. Several pairs of crows seen – indicating Canadian mail – it arrived the next day.
Sept. 6: Capt. Glenn and I and four men attended an inquest at Tidworth – funeral tomorrow.
Sept. 8: The Col., Padre, and myself drove to Guildford to the funeral. Nine trucks carried the Squadron. Funeral at Brookwood Cemetery. After the funeral we called in to see Harold Wright and Charlie Carr at Aldershot. Had a nice long visit. Heard Lillian speaking on the Gramaphone record, reminded me of the little dog sitting listening to his masters voice. We then called into 2nd Div. H.Q., visited Hugh Goring.
Sept. 12: Went to London on weekend pass. Harold Wright in the afternoon and we drove around town, then met Wynne and went to Haymarket Theatre to see Dianna Wynyard and then to Albert Cafe and then home.
Sept. 13: Visited Westminster Abbey, Parliament Buildings and Chu Chin Chow in evening.
Sept. 14: Attended St. Paul’s Cathedral, then visited Royal Chest Hospital in afternoon. Found it to be badly bombed.
Sept. 20: Everything – packed – tents down with exception of marquees and we are waiting around to pull out for Linney Point, Wales, to go on the tank ranges. At 7 a.m. The motor convoy pulled out. We were up at 5 a.m. Due largely to fake air raid. At 8 p.m. We load onto a carrier and drive to W. Lavington where the tanks are loaded and pull out just as we arrive. Jim Watkins, John Cross and I share a compartment.
Sept. 21: 10 a.m. We arrive at Pembroke, South Wales and travel by bus to Stackpole Court – a huge country estate – old home covered with ivy – beautiful grounds. Got a single room – imagine four walls, bed, fireplace and electric light all at the same time. Drove over the ranges this morning to start work tomorrow. Mr. Ferguson the Imperial M.D. Dropped in and spent the evening with me. A very fine chap  and am going to his home on of these nights.
Sept. 22: Spent morning on ranges with Rx – in afternoon Ralph, Furman and I went to Haverfordwest to visit Bartholow in hospital with fractured Femur. On our way home stopped at Carey Castle – had supper – ham and eggs with Mrs. Morris – visited castle and went through it after supper – shown by Pat (3 years old).
Sept. 23: Spent entire day on Ranges – fired b.. 2 ½ rounds, not so hot. Enjoyed firing.
Sept. 24: Went to Brownsdale House with Ferguson. Went with Ralph and Furman back to Morris home and had another feed of ham and eggs.
Sept. 25: Boy by name of Armstrong mangled finger, drove him over to Haverfordwest, had Houseman give a gas anaesthetic and amputated finger and brought him back to the Unit. Went over to Dr. Ferguson’s for supper – he and I walked all over the place then went in to eat. Had a perfectly glorious evening. They are both charming.
Sept. 26: Battle tactics, went on carriers behind tanks, then back home and changed and went to Fergusons for evening. Ralph and Furman came for at 11 p.m. Said our farewells, but certainly hope to meet again.
Sept. 27: Caught train at Pembroke-Lambert, Payne and I travelled together to Cardiff. Payne and I with our men changed trains at Bristol. We branched at Bristol and Cpl. Porter, Greg Fulton, Henderson and I proceed to Plymouth. Arrived at dark and could not get out to Tregantle, and could not find hotel accomodation, so slep on floor in rear of R.T.O. At station.
Sept. 28: Met by transport at 10 a.m. – brought out to Fort – nine miles from Plymouth on Coast – given a grand reception – but nothing to do until Tuesday morning so will do some sight seeing and souvenir hunting. Went for a long walk along the coast with the O.C. And attended a staff party in the evening. Swell time.
Sept. 29: Went into Plymouth on a laundry car – strolled around the Town. Terrible destruction. The entire business section wiped out. Met by Tregantle M.O. Who drove me around and finally drove me home to Fort. Air raid last night, most trivial thing – one bomb fell in the mud. My two room mates arrive, Major Evans – 192 Field Ambulance 45 Division West Country Division (Drakes Drums) and Major Allen of the Coast Batteries. We are getting along fine.
Sept. 30: Started lectures today – what a day – worked all day and have studied all evening. Tired tonight – hitting hay. We are supposed to be taking an Instructors Course.
T…………Teach
T…………The
T…………Teacher
What…….What
T…………To
T…………Teach
Before……Before
T…………Teaching
T…………The
T…………Tommy

All our exercises start with “The object of this demonstration etc., etc.” a real by word here. This is a wonderful course but tough.

October 1941:

Oct. 4: Had first exam today – drilling a squad in “Testing for Gas” – damned fussy about their drills, and I am as nimble as a deer.
Oct. 5: Went to see the “Grotto” with the O.C. – Took a lot of pictures around the Fort.
Oct. 6: Oral Test by Major Collison – one more step over in the rise to fame.
Oct. 7: The “Silver Tongued Orator” speaking on Anti Gas Ointment #2 – funny but serious. We all had to do a talk on something and were marked like little school kids. Last night Gas Attack when we were all in bed – lights not only off, but gone entirely; a lot of fun though. We are all studying like blazes.
Oct. 9: Just returned from writing our final exam. Long tough paper but thank heavens it is over and tomorrow we start back to our Unit. I am sure Canadian mail will be there.
Oct. 11: Arrived home at 1 a.m. After an awfully hectic trip – Plymounth to Reading, change to Guildford, and Guildford to Haslemere. Good old Freddie Jenner came to the rescue and met me at the 12 Batn. I am rooming with Major McDonald – lovely big front room. 13 letters and 10 parcels waiting. Ed Brown phone this afternoon – coming tomorrow morning.
Oct. 12: Ed Brown arrived – we drove over and visited the old haunts of Bramshott, Devil’s Punch Bowl, Hindhead. After much searching we found our old camp site and had photo taken on the spot. Area pretty well grown up and changed absolutely.
Oct. 13: Bob Taylor is sick, in my room, insists on being mentioned as model patient. Bert Little claiming he can’t drink following flu, on account of stomach. Our billets are in Headley-Mount – training ground – Ludshott Common, Pismirco home, known as “Reptile” – very appropriate.
Oct. 16: Inspection by Col. Ralston, Gen. Crerar, and Gen. McNaughton – had a chat with Col. Ralston and sent my regards to Manley Edwards.
Oct. 18: Saturday afternoon, motored over to Guildford, 17 miles, spent the afternoon and evening with Wynne, returned via Haslemere.
Oct. 19: Capt. McLeod (ex RCMP) called me and took me over to his home – his wife, Dorothy Cavanaugh used to work in C.F.A.C. My picture at home with the two Mounties and the Indian Chief – the chap who autographed it is Capt. McLeod.
Oct. 21: Received word from Hess on leave, so proceeded to Reading and had lunch with Mother Ford – then went on to No. 1 Neurological Hospital at Basingstoke to see two of our boys  – from there went to 2nd Field Ambulance to a medical meeting.
Oct. 23: Two car loads of us went to Leatherhead to Corps. Medical meeting. Brig. Mitchner was the speaker and was awfully good. In evening after our regular meeting at H.Q., George, Timmy McDonald and I went back to “A” Squadron with John Begg and his boys and had a feast., after which we went over and roused “C” Squadron and emptied their bar – then combined force invaded “B” Squadron and emptied their bar, and then we all invaded H.Q. And sang and had a big time until 3 a.m.
Oct. 24: Went to Bramshott Military Hospital and met Major Dickson, Head of Medicine and received a grand reception (bad headache today).
Oct. 25: Evening party at “C” Squadron, had a very nice evening. Jenner, Richardson and I there from H.Q. Squadron.
Oct. 26: Just leaving for seven days leave in Scotland. 1:30 p.m. Arrive at Waterloo Station and taxi to St. Pancras Station. Go to Great Northern Station and taxi Euston Station, only tofind it is the wrong one – so taxi to St. Pancras Station. Go to Great Northern station hotel and get a room for the afternoon. Go to bed and sleep all afternoon, then dinner with a lawyer from Edinburgh. On train now for Scotland – Comp. 11, funny little compartment, but very complete – much nice one of our lower berths, so expect to have a swell trip up.
Oct. 27: Arrived at Enoch Station at 9:30 a.m. – Met at train by Mr. And Mrs. Muir. He had to return to work so Mrs. Muir and I went home and had breakfast – then went down town and did our Christmas shopping and met Mr. Muir and Helen for dinner downtown for dinner. Went to the Alhambra Theatre to see Richard Tauber in Blossom Time, came home and talked until 2 a.m. In the morning we are motoring to Loch Lomond.
Oct. 28: After all the years of dreaming, I have at last seen Loch Lomond. I met Mr. Muir at his Bank an we went and met two of his friends, Alex Greenshields and Jimmy Cullen and in the former’s car we motored out from Glasgow about twenty miles, had dinner at Loch Lomond Hotel and then motored along the shore of Loch Lomond – we all sang “On the bonny bonny banks of Loch Lomand”. The Lake was glorious, and Ben Lomond towering above it – the leaves tinted bright red – the sun shining beautifully. It was gorgeous – not so rugged as our lakes but a soft appealing beauty, which thrilled me more than I can ever tell you. We then visited Loch Long, and Gare Loch, both extremely beautiful but really not as thrilling to me as Loch Lomond – we continued to Gourock (?) and then back to Glasgow, passing the Rock, the University, and Johnny Walker Brewery. One of the most glorious days I have ever spent – a day like this makes you see why an Empire like this, built by people like these, can never perish. Scotland is more magnificent than I ever dreamed any place could possibly be. Scottish people are even more wonderful than I had ever imagined. Tomorrow we got to Ayr – and visit the home of Robbie Burns. The next day we spend in Edinburgh. We have sat in front of the fireplace talking until well after midnight. Now to bed.
Oct. 29: Went down town early this morning with Helen to get my camera fixed – then met Mr.s Muir and we caught a bus to Kilmarnock, and Ayr – had dinner in hotel – then went to Tam O’Shanter Pub and blew the froth off a pint of beer as Robbie Burns did before me. Saw the room and furniture as Burns used it in the upper floor, sat in his chair and Tam O’Shanters chair. Then caught a bus to the old Burns home – wonderful old place, consisting of four rooms, a shed, a stable, a kitchen and a room with several old pieces of furniture and pictures in it. Took some pictures in the garden, then visited a Mr. Brown, an artist, a friend of the Muirs for a few minutes and proceeded to the Old Kirk, which is only ruins now, then visted the Auld Brig O’Doon, which crossed the Doon – “Ye banks and braes of bonny Doon”. We then visited the Burns memorial monument, climbed the tower and visited the little cottage which contains Souter Journeys and Tam O’Shanter in stone. Caught the bus back to Glasgow, met Mr. Muir and Helen and we all went to the Royal Theatre to see Shakespeare’s Hamlet – most magnificent show. Tomorrow Helen and I go to Edinburgh. This has been another great day.
Oct. 30: Helen and I catch the train from Queen Street Station, Glasgow at 9:55 a.m., arrive at Waverly Station, Edinburgh at 11:15 – climb the hill to the Castle, inspect the Castle inside and out, and spend considerable time in National War Memorial – then walk down the Royal Mile to the Heart of Midlothian, beside St. Giles Church – also visit the Church then go to the Delphi Hotel for lunch. After lunch we continue down the Royal Mile, and climb a stairway leading to a shop – but it is a private home. We enter on paying 6sh – the woman informs us that this is John Knox’s house – so we inspect it. It is the oldest house in Edinburgh and very, very interesting. Discover the origin of the saying “as dead as a door nail”. Proceed on down the Royal Mile to Holyrood Castle, where we see the big banquet hall with the phoney pictures of Kings hanging around – also the living quarters of Mary Queen of Scots, and visit the old chapel, which is pretty much in ruins.  We then proceed to Princes Street and walk along it seeing the Flower Clock, Scott Memorial etc. And catch a bus for the Firth of Forth Bridge; after visiting it, have great difficulty in getting back to the City. Buy tickets for show at Lyceum – and during supper find out last trains leaves for home at 9:07, so can’t attend. Stroll through sunken gardens and finally catch a 7:55 train for home. Arrive at Rocklea at 10:30 – have supper. A perfectly lovely day – too cloudy for any snapshots at all.
Oct. 31: Tie up parcels all morning and go down in afternoon to the Bank to meet Mr. Muir. – We go over to “Creigs” and meet the men who were at Loch Lomond with us and several others, just for afternoon tea. Helen goes out to a dance in the evening and the three of us visit and talk until she comes home, then have tea and go to bed.
Nov.1: Mr. Muir and I take my parcels down town and mail them – then he goes to work and I go for a hair cut and a little shopping. At 12 noon we catch a bus and go through Bannock Burn to Stirling Castle, see both Bruce and Wallace’s Monuments, King’s Park, and then return Glasgow and eat in the Royal Cafe – then meet Mrs. Muir and Helen and go to the Royal Theatre to see Richard the Third – simply magnificent. It is now 2:30 a.m. I am packed as far as possible and will catch the train at 10 a.m. At Central Station for London. Hope to reach Haslemere at 10:47 – where Furman will be waiting for me.

November 1941

Nov. 3: Had a grand trip back to London, a Scottish doctor, a lady doctor in the Navy, an actor and an actress were present in our compartment and we had a grand time. Furman was waiting at the train for me. Today I have been very busy, spent most of the morning in Bramshott Hospital and this afternoon went to see Hess, only to find him in hospital.
Nov. 7: Arose at 1 a.m. To go out on a Batn. Scheme – zero hour 10 a.m. – Followed in carrier behind Tanks, got very badly bogged down and had to be taken out by L.A.D by means of winch. Have taken a terrible kidding over it all evening.
Nov. 8: Visited Wynne in Guildford.
Nov. 9: Attended an Armistice Parade at Headley Church. Uncle and I went together. In the afternoon, Uncle, Major McDonald and I visited Manchester in staff car.
Nov. 10: Hess became attached to Unit today as Dental Officer. We have chewed the fat so much, there surely can’t be anything left to talk about. He has his office in my R.A.P. And is rooming with Uncle.  Tonight John Cross, Major Mac, Hess and I celebrated with a little party – ate the canned pheasant which Bert and Eileen Warrington sent.
Nov. 11: Armistice Day – what memories. Nothing unusual dong today. The war still goes on. Uncle and I attend a Veterans meeting on Sunday, but nothing unusual today.
Nov. 13: Went to Aldershot to Medical Stores.
Nov. 14: Went over to Neurological Hospital in Basingstoke. In the evening Furman, Ralph, Jenkins, Hess and I went to Guildford – got lost in the fog. Hess and I spent the evening with Wynne – arrived home around midnight.
Nov. 15: Alex Miller, Uncle, Bert Little, Hess, Tommy and I went to Farnham for the evening. Went to Bush Hotel and had a lot of fun.
Nov. 17: Left camp at 9 a.m. In convoy – entire Brigade and proceeded through Bordon, Winchester to the “New Forest”, at the point right opposite the little village of “No Man’s Land”. Slept under out trucks in the forest that night – moved about five miles north to another harbour for 1-2 hours, then proceeded to yet another harbour south of Bordon. After dark rode home by way of Liphook and Bramshott – to Headly Mound, arriving at 11 p.m. The New Forest was founded by William Rufus.
Nov. 21: Col. Bradbrook, Major McDonald, Don Woodside and myself went in to Aldershot today to see a film, “Baptism of Fire” – a German propaganda film captured from the enemy. A terribly over acted show.
Nov. 23: Uncle, Wynne and I had dinner at the Angel Hotel, Guildford.
Nov. 26: Major Mac and I went back to Salisbury, Devizes and to the old campground on Salisbury Plain.
Nov. 28: Major Mac and I drove over to Guildford and took Wynne out to dinner. On arrival we learned that Col. Bradbrook had been notified to leave us and a that a farewell party was in progress. We went to “B” Squadron and joined the crowd. We all feel as if someone had slipped up and kicked us when we were down. He leaves on Tuesday – Dec. 2 and he will be a special military observer in some active theatre of war. We are tickled to see him go ahead but certainly hate to see him go.
Nov. 30: The Col. And Mrs. Bradbrook were with us in the mess this afternoon for tea. They will be here for dinner tomorrow night after the farewell Unit parade tomorrow afternoon.

December 1941

Dec. 1: Farewell dinner for the Col. He was presented with a very lovely cane. All H.Q. Squadron officers and the C.O. Of the other Squadrons present for dinner. All officers present for the evening.
Dec. 2: Welcoming party at Haslemere for John Begg – present: John Cross, Pim Walkins, Bruce Trotter, McIndoo, Bert Little, Timmy Cameron, Alex Miller, Jack Hesson and I and John Begg. In the afternoon I took Major…..E.N.T. And his nurse, Miss Turnbull for ride in “C” Squadron tank, Stanton commanding.
Dec. 3: Met Art McFarlane, Senior Consulting Surgeon, RCAMC – private with me in the last war. Later took the ENT Nurse, Miss. Parr, for ride in tank (Ian Allison).
Dec. 4: Visited Basingstoke Neurological Hospital – drove on to Reading and had dinner with Mother Ford.
Dec. 7: John Begg, Mac and I had dinner at the Royal Anchor Hotel in Liphook “Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree”. On our arrive home, all is excitement – Japan invaded American Territory as well as British. The following day – A Declaration of War is made.
Dec. 8: Our new Col. Arrived today. Col Andrews. Formerly a P.P.C.L.I man and Brigade Major of 1st Army Tank Bde before coming here. We are all very pleased with the appointment – and celebrated his coming by a midnight feast of a fried egg and onions in Hess and Uncles room. Very fine repast.
Dec. 9: Two terrible things happened today. First I had to go to Canadian Corps H.Q. With Col (Andrews). James – O.C. 2nd Light Field Ambulance and got the very old hell bawled out of me by Brig. Linton over a letter written by Lieut. Lord. It didn’t worry me much though, as he is really a howling success as a doddering old woman – I don’t particularly love him, but I think I will wait until the end of the war to tell him so. Secondly – Old Uncle and Dick Eldred severely trounced Hess and I three out of three at Cribbage for a hotel dinner. Disgusting exhibition and very fatal as well.
Dec. 11: Col James, Capt McLeod and I go by staff car by Godalming, Shere to Dorking to NO. IV COs to a medical staff meeting. Meet Eddie Carrigan, Morley Elliott, Bill Boyd, Pete Ireland and Art McFarlane. Watson Jones is the speaker and talks on fractures of Scaphoid, Astragalus, Lumbar Spine and Dorsal Spine Fracture. Germany and Italy declare war on U.S.A. today, she returns declaration in 36 minutes.
Dec. 12: Week end pass to London – meet Wynne at Waldorf Hotel.
Dec. 13/14: Spent morning shopping – buy Modern War Surgery, Watson Jones Orthopaedics, War Medicine, Anatomy etc. until I am broke. Attend Globe Theatre in the evening “The Morning Star” excellent show.
Dec. 15: Charlie Page and I went to Basingstoke and to Camp Bordon.
Dec. 17: Operation – Col Wansberg on one of our men at Bramshott, recurring dislocation of shoulder. In the evening – Bert Little, Hess, Timmy, Geo. Valentine and I went to Haselmere for a farewell drink.
Dec. 18: Left Hedley Downs at 8:45 a.m. – In convoy – 70 miles. Arrived at 1 p.m. At Seaford, a little town on the south coast. Set up R.A.P. And Sick Bay, a on blind end of street, our house “Larksfield” is situated three doors down the street – Bert Little, Bill Hunt, Hess, Ralph and I live in it. I have a little front room on the ground floor – big bay window, and fire place, and Ralph has it looking like a million dollars  – Xmas cards all over the mantle piece as before. Across the road, Hess has his office and the batman and hospital staff live here. Really the loveliest billets we have ever been in – hope we are here for a few months.

Dec. 21: Fairly well settled, our hospital is in operation and our homes are looking more permanent. Harold and Rich, both of whom are billeted in Lewes drop in for a call. We have afternoon tea then have to go out and rescue a woman who was bitten by a dog, run over by one of our cars, but who was rescued by old Dick Eldred. Have afternoon tea at the house and have a very nice time.
Dec. 24: Harold and Barry from the 91st Battery came over – I went back with them to Lewes and had supper there, then accompanied Harold to his various mess Xmas Eve celebrations – had a very nice time and arrived home about 1 a.m. Xmas morning.
Dec. 25: A complete narrative of Xmas 1941 – Arose early went to the Mess for breakfast – had an egg, then went to R.A.P. For sick parade, following which I returned home, shaved, got cleaned up and opened my parcels – might lonely, but still keeping busy. After this Bill Hunt and I went up to H.Q., then down to L.A.D. And returned to Mess at 12 noon. I called all the waiters in and Timmy and I had a drink with them and were later joined by Col. McDonald and Jenner. We all stood around Mess and sang Carols and talked until 2 p.m. When we had our Xmas dinner – roast pork, but a good meal. After dinner listened to the King – then Bill Hunt and I went to tea with a Mrs. Stevenson from across the road and at 5 p.m. Landed at “A” Sqaudron Mess for a party. At 7 p.m. George, Timmy, Dick and I landed at the Harrisons for Xmas dinner – real turkey. Had a lovely evening and arrived home at 11:30 p.m. Our first Xmas away from our families. Over, thank heavens.
Dec. 27: George and I had tea at Mrs. Harrisons – after arriving home had a call to “C” Squadron – found Tpr Clarke with Cerebro Spinal Meningitis – rushed him to 2nd Field Ambulance.
Dec. 28: Got back from ambulance at 3 a.m. – Today went in staff car to Horsham – 1st Can Field Hospital to see young Clarke – very sick. Saw Mort Spooner today. Tonight Mac, Clint Richardson, Patterson, Dick Eldred and I went to Church in Seaford – Xmas service. Finished up with “The First Noel” under full steam. A huge success.
Dec. 30: The Padre, Jackson and myself drove to Bramshott, Basingstoke and Aldershot to visit the Hospitals. Returned just in time to hear the latter part of Churchill’s speech in Ottawa.
Dec. 31: The last day of the year. Have been trying to get Harold on the telephone, but have not succeeded, so guess I will stay home.

January 1942

Jan. 1: Harold visited our Mess this morning and Chas. Page and I dropped into his this afternoon. Nothing unusual happening.
Jan. 2: Spent evening at 2nd Light Fld Amb with Major Hunter.
Jan. 3: Dance in evening at Mrs. Harrisons. Those present: George Valentine, Timmy Cameron, Freddie Jenner, Clint Richardson, John Cross, Pim Walkins, Pat Patterson, Bill Purdy, Tommy Carnett and myself.
Jan. 4: In company with Capt. Backman of the Camerons, visited 2nd Div HQ – consulted with Maj Tom Brown, who used to be DMO Calgary. Didn’t know any more after we left that before we started, which was quite to be expected.
Jan. 6: Had chicken dinner at Harrisons. Timmy dropped in afterwards.
Jan. 7: Very bad accident outside Alfriston – carrier turned over. Took Allen to 2nd Field Ambulance. He died shortly after reaching Horsham. 2nd Death in England.
Jan. 11: Drove to Alfriston and caught a bus to Wilmington, then walked home across the fields. At one point, could get a lovely view of the “Long Man” or Giant, carved in the chalk on the side of the hill, similar to the white horse at Salisbury. Then visited Lullington Church, a tiny old fashioned thing only holding twenty people – then returned to Alfriston and had tea at the Jenners. Tomorrow I got to Guildford to attend the funeral of Tpr Allen who was accidently killed when a carrier rolled off the road about one mile from Alfriston.
Jan. 13: Col Andrews and I drove over to Woodland Cemetery to Tpr Allen’s funeral. Very cold and snowy. Military funeral held in severe snow storm.
Jan 14: Went to Brighton and attended a Pantomime in the afternoon and had a dinner party in the Norfolk Hotel in the evening. Charlie Page and I together.
Jan. 16: We moved our RAP up near the Squadron, still retaining our own living quarters. Frank Fish and Capt Warren from the 8th Field Ambulance visited us. The first time I had seen Frank since coming to England.
Jan. 23: Harold sent his car over and I went over to the 91st battery where the boys were celebrating his promotion. I blessed his crown and pip with good pure gin and kissed him fondly on the cheek. Dan Ellingson and Charlie Campbell’s son from Calgary just arrived the day before. Spent a very enjoyable evening.
Jan. 25: Left Seaford at 9:45 a.m. Arrived in London, Victoria Station – taxied to Liverpool St. Station and caught train for Cambridge. Billitted in St. John’s College. Major McConnell, 13th Field Ambulance, Capt Tower, 7th Fld Amb, Capt Gillrie, 24th Fld Amb, Maj Sheare, DADMS, 3rd Div and Major Howard, 23 Fld Amb, all six Canadians living in the same chambers. Quite a spot, but colder than the dickens – expect to arrive London on Saturday.
Jan. 27: Tuesday afternoon we are taken to New Market by Field Ambulance to make recce on station for shipping out hospital train. In the evening were addressed by Head Master of St. John’s College.
Jan. 28: Taken twelve miles out of Town by ambulance to 6th Armoured Division to a demonstration of removal of patients from a tank by 165th Field Ambulance. No new methods shown but some wonderful work in carrying men by stretcher slings.
Jan. 29: Very heavy day – eight lectures, but the course is now finished. It is raining hard today and very very cold, so we are all huddled around a gas fire to keep warm. Tomorrow we shall motor to London. I am catching a ride with the three boys from the Armoured Division, so will stay in London until Sunday evening. These chaps were just telling me the terrible tragedy of Hughie Inksater.

February 1942

Feb. 1: Arrived home at Seaford at 11 p.m. – Very very glad to see my little room again and to sleep in my own bed. Received letters from home telling me about Xmas, sat up very late reading them. Also received the parcel with all the Xmas cards in – a wonderful bunch. Received your letter Muriel written Oct. 28 and given to Hugh Inksater to bring over. It was enclosed in a letter from the Padre of his regiment telling me of poor Hughies death.
Feb. 2: Have been very busy today getting everything straightened up after my absence.
Feb. 7: First Regimental Dance we have had – George, Dick Eldred and myself took Mrs. Harrison, Irene Owen and Jo Jenner. We met at Harrisons and then went down together. Had a very enjoyable evening, and all pronounced the dance a huge success. John Begg returned from his school today and is living in my “villa”. The present occupant are John and I downstairs Dick Eldred  and Bill Hunt in one room upstairs and Alex Miller in the other.
Feb. 11: I addressed the 2nd Field Ambulance at Hasocks on Invasion Tactics and the organization of an Armoured Regiment. Col Hunter and I sat and discussed Medical arrangements in the field from 12 midnight until 3 a.m.
Feb. 14: Valentine Day. General inspection by Gen. Worthington, a farewell to the Unit – on his return to take command of the 4th Armoured Divison. The Band of the Calgary Highlanders were with us and the parade was at “C” Squadron. Photos were taken of the Officers after the parade and individual groups were also taken.
Feb. 15: John, Charles, George and I made a record to send home are making another one this afternoon. John and I are now busy in my room getting out personal broadcast made for home. Repeated several times, finally got one to my liking.
Feb. 17: Went out on tank scheme with Tom Ward and nearly froze to death, but enjoyed it. 10:55 p.m. Just returned from a night convoy out beyond Alfriston, just HQ taking part, darker than the dickens. Stuck Maj Mac for bacon and chips guessing the waitresses
age.
Feb. 20: Cpl Thompson, McDougall, Alex Miller and I go up to Aldershot in staff car on business. We cannot get any work done, so phone CO and stay until the next day. See Wynne in Guildford, finish up our work on the next day and come home in the afternoon.
Feb. 21: A farewell party in Brighton for Timmy, but I was tired and did not go in. Very cold and raw today.
Feb. 25: Went on all night scheme to our battle stations. Slept in woods, John Begg and I curled up in our bed rolls behind Rex.
Feb. 26: Sham attack over Seaford Downs – very cold. Nearly froze to death in carrier.
Feb. 28: Farewell Regimental Dance for Major MacDonald and Capt Atwood who are returning to Canada.

March 1-3, 1942 (End of Year One)

March 1/42: Ed Brown came down and spent the afternoon and evening with me. We had a grand time.
March 2:  Ed, as usual had forgotten a paper so came back and we had another evening visit.
March 3: Finished my first year in the Army by having dinner in the Star Hotel in Alfriston, the place where Alfred the Great was supposed to let the good wife’s cakes burn.
The end of Year One.