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Oct. 10–20, 1944

Oct. 10 – Still busy. Chas. Ross inspected the Unit at work. All is going well. An awful lot of bad cases are now out of danger. It is getting rather chilly here now – guess we have had our good weather and must get ready for winter.

Oct. 12 – Major Stubbs (Br.), his interpreter and wife and myself drove into Ghent, in a Jeep, then picked up a Chev Sedan and drove to Brussels. We formed a party with the interp., wife, sister and father and set out to see Brussels. Saw the Square with gold leaf on the buildings, supposed to be the most beautiful Square in Europe. The Royal Palace and the City in general. It is very beautiful. Late in the evening we returned to Ghent, got back into our Jeep and returned to Eecloo.

Oct. 13 – Made a hurried trip to Bruges to the hospital. In the evening, went to 4th Div. H.Q. and had supper with Russ Noble.

Oct. 14 – Started clinical meetings in the hospital. This afternoon went to 22nd Field Ambulance at Maldegem – then came back and had a visit from Joe Larryman O.C. of 14th Field Amb. Two abdominal cases today. Very quiet.

Oct. 15 – Quite busy today. Col Gossage ADMS – 4th Div. called in to thank us for our work here. They are moving tomorrow. Some people from Brussels came in for the evening. Very wet and miserable.

Oct. 16 – General meeting of the O.C.s of all Corp Units at Rear H.Q. Corps, about one mile out of Ghent. Nothing much new. On arrival home found patients waiting and we were very busy for a few hours.

Oct. 17 – Not busy today but do not know what the evening will bring. Most of our busy spells are at night. Sent two nurses to #2 CCS today, that leaves me four.

Oct. 18 — Brig. Farmer arrived with orders for Maj. McLaughlin from 10 F.S.U. to proceed to Antwerp and fly to England en route for Canada. We all feel very sorry about this. He is going back to become Professor of Surgery in Western University. Yesterday I was invited to let my name stand for nomination in West Calgary — no hesitation in refusing. Went to Antwerp in the Jeep in the rain. Visited Chas Bennett at #8 Gen. He is going home the last of the week. Had a long chat with Reg Bridge while there. Fairly busy at hospital today.

Oct. 19 — Gordie Champaigne and I drove up through Bruges to Ostend to find a suitable location if needed. IT is a beautiful drive, but a good deal of the country is under water, and the great majority of the bridges are blown up. Ostend has been fairly hard hit itself, especially around the wharfs and Gas works. I did not find what I was looking for so returned in time for a late supper.

Oct. 20 — Had to go to Corp H.Q. in Ghent today covering a meeting at which I am to go tomorrow in Bruges. r.e. “Exercise Infatuate” Charlie Ross was in for awhile today. It is a terrible day, rainy and cold. We have no heat in our building yet. Busy here tonight, mostly English Engineers.

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Sept. 17 – Oct. 2

Sept. 17 — Usual run of work , not busy but fairly steady. Visited the home of Mon. Joye today — very nice. Got a new German ambulance today which I am fixing up as a caravan — very nice too. One new truck and two more to come.

Sept. 18 — Snuffy Smith, Ronnie and I started out in Snuffies car and first drove to the Canadian memorial in St. Julien; then Palcapole, Ypres and on to Lille, where we stopped and had lunch and admired the weird hats worn by the ladies. We then drove to Loos, and down the old familiar Loos Arras Road to the Canadian Memorial in Vimy. it is very imposing but not beautiful. We visited Canadian trenches of the last war and returned home. Tonight there is a combined concert, by our Unit and Belgium artists in the town cinema. We are just waiting to go. At the concern our own band, assisted by Arnold Hodgkins put on a grand show. We were all there, who could be spared from hospital duty. A Mdm. Storey — 1st prize winner on piano at Warsaw and a Protege of the Queen of the Belgiums came from Brugge and played for us. It was heavenly. Another artist who was first tenor in the Opera Comic in Paris before he was ejected by the Germans sang several solos, among them in English “Ah Sweet Mystery of Life at Last I found You,” and then three local Belgium boys played accordions. It was a grand success. These people had not been allowed to hold any kind of concert for four years and they went wild with joy. We entertained the artists at the mess following the concert, and had a grand time. Dixmude will always be a second home to us. It has been wonderful, far ahead of anything I’ve seen.

Sept. 19 — Just sent the artists back to Bruges in a Jeep. Mdm. Storey is a Court Artist and a very famous painter. No. X F.S.U. — Maj. McLaughlin and Capt. Douglas and nine men have arrived. It has been very busy today and I have no doubt but that a good deal of surgery will be done here in the next few days.

Sept. 20 — The famous dance came off tonight. Such crowds you never saw. It was a grand success. We are now practically closed, so are enjoying ourselves.

Sept. 21 — Was picked up in the square in Dixmude by a Belgian Red Cross officer and his girl — we went for a drive with them to Formiere — 5 kilo. from the coast. The Bishop of Bruges was there and sent for me, so I hobknobbed with nobility for a while. Am entertaining George and his wife tonight. Tomorrow am invited out for dinner to a Belgian doctors place. High life isn’t it.

Sept. 22 — Snuffy Smith and I went out to dinner at a Millers place — had a grand feast and a very nice time. Afterwards, Gordie and I had to go to the 16th Gen Hosp. in St. Omer. Saw Col. Hassard and old Pat Patterson. Very late when we got home. World here for me to report to Col. Gassage ADMS of 4th Div and to recce a suitable spot north of Ghent (Gent) for an “Advance Surgical Unit.”

Sept. 23 — Ronnie, Gordie and I started from Dixmude at 10 a.m. — drove south east through Tielt — then north to Eecloo (Eeklo) — a lovely town about twenty miles north of Ghent and about twenty east of Bruges. Reported at 4th Div. H.Q. and then ran into Doug Harkness — had a grand visit with him and lunch, then went and met Col. Gasage and we drove down to Oost Eecloo, Leuebeke, then back to Eecloo, searching for a suitable spot. Found one in a convent and hope to move on Monday, but must wait for Bde (Brigade) order.

Sept. 24 — Went out to dinner at a Doctor’s home in Courtimarck today. There were present, a Dutch doctor escaped from a German concentration camp and a boy from Danzig who had recently escape also being held for six years. Both were very bitter. On returning home, orders were in for a move tomorrow, so everything very upset tonight.

Sept. 25 — Left Dixmude at 8:30 A.M. — Gordie, Mark, S.Sgt Schofield and I in jeep and Cpl. Flint, Fred, Cpl Herman, Sgt. Brady and Sgt. Carter in my caravan following.  Had a good trip down — laid out our hospital and Gordie and I went back and met and guided the convoy in 12:30. It is a beautiful place — the sisters and natives again furnished my room. It is beautiful. Everybody used to call me the Burgermeister of Dixmude but now I have changed my name to the Earl of Eecloo. Saw Doug Harkness again tonight. We opened at 3 p.m.

Sept. 26 — 9 p.m. World came in that my four senior NCOs were to report to Dieppe tomorrow to return to Canada as escorts for P.O.W. Quite a bat in the head, but by midnight, I have my new slate formed and everything is running normally. Much busier tonight.

Sept. 27 — S/Sgt. Schofield, Sgt. Kirby, Sgt. Alfred and Sgt. Archer all left for Dieppe en route to Canada. The new slate of NCO’s were already at work. Attended Mass this A.M. at 8 A.M. — sat through Belgium National Anthem. Picked up by friends and taken to Bruges — to dinner and after visited a local doctor, the Bishop and then went sightseeing in the Town. Returned home early in the evening.

Sept. 28 — ADMS 4th Div — Chas Ross and others held a conference in my room in the afternoon. In the evening Dalrymple and Russ Noble were over. Two nurses N/S Thompson and N/S Braide arrived today. Our rear party is still in Dixmude.

Sept. 29 — Busy all day. Saw Grant Marshall, Doug Harkness and in the afternoon Brig. Farmer was here and we visited ADMS – 4th Div. This job keeps a person on his toes all the time. Am going on call tonight.

Sept. 30 — Pat Patterson, McLaughlin, Tom Wilson and I attended 4th Div. Medical meeting in Maldegem, we each gave a small talk. It is still fairly quiet and will be for the next few days I believe. Expect to see some rather dirty fighting here soon when 3rd Div. comes in. (Battle of the Scheldt )

Oct. 1/44 — Most of the Officers and one Nurse went in to Ghent to a Concert Party. I stayed at home and entered the Senior Padre of the 4th Div.

Oct. 2 – Chas. Ross, Athol Gordon, Col. Gassage and a Belgian doctor visited us today. We are still playing a waiting game, not a great deal of work. In the afternoon I went in to Ghent for a short visit. It is a lovely town. In the evening Dan Woodside called in for a visit. I have not seen him for three years. Very cold and damp, but our quarters are excellent.

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.

Aug. 15–19, 1944: 72nd anniversary of the Dieppe Raid

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.

July 9-10, 1944

July 9 – ABout 1:30 a.m. one German plane swooped low over our camp and gave us a splash of machine gun fire. No one was hurt, but the Plane itself was brought down shortly afterwards. Sunday today – Church Parade in a few minutes. At 12:30 noon we received word to move. We went out and made a recce, went to RCASC called out three trucks and were ready to move off at 3:40 p.m. We travelled west to Crouilly, then south west on the Bayeux Road, to a spot about one mile north of Esquay sur Seulles. It is now 7:30 p.m. and we are all set up in a lovely orchard, a much nicer harbour than the one we left. We are just now stringing up the light. Went down to “Goldsmith,” a concentration center and met and guided 9th F.D.S.(Field Dressing Station) to their harbour.

July 10 – Went to Camilly and Le Fresne-Camilly this morning – worked all afternoon on loading tables. This evening dropped down to 3 CCS and 9FDS. Expect to move in a few days.

The following July 10 recap is from the website The Battle for Normandy at http://www.ddayoverlord.com

July 10, the Northern part of the town of Caen is finally liberated, more than one month after D-Day, whereas the totality of the city was to be precisely captured in the evening of June 6. This delay of 34 days is the proof of the dead end in which the Anglos-Canadians are. Once the Northern sector of Caen (almost entirely destroyed by the bombardments) captured, the British military forces decides to focus on the key position of hill 112, located 3 kilometers South-west of the capital of the Calvados, Caen. This offensive is part of the Jupiter Operation, which aims at boring the front in the valley of Odon, South-west of Caen, and to cross the Orne river in this sector.

The 8th British Corps launches its offensive on July 10 in direction of the hill 112, and if its progression is supported by the fighter-bombers and by the Allied artillery, the German resistance remains very strong and limits the British movements in this sector. Hill 112 is defended by the soldiers of the 2nd SS Armoured Corps, which are conscious of the strategic importance of this position. Indeed, it defends the accesses of the Southern area of Caen, held by the Panzergroupwest led by Eberbach.

The 43th British Infantry division Wessex moves towards the village of Maltot, 6 kilometers South-west of Caen, and whereas it manages to enter the city, the German defenders of the 9th and 10 SS Panzer Division push back the attackers. By using a heavy fire they isolate some British soldiers in the village: the Allies losses are very heavy and they are obliged to fold up a few kilometers in the North of Maltot.

The Americans progress with difficulty to the North of Periers and of Saint-Lo, and this in spite of the intensive bombardments of the aviation and of the Allied artillery. The American soldiers face in this area the very bloody fighting known under the name of the hedgerows war. They painfully leave the marshy area in the South of Carentan and progress untiring, although very slowly.

July 8, 1944: The bombardment of Caen continues

The terrific bombardment and air attacks from last night are continuing. Thee is a roar over the whole front this morning. The report is of fighting in Caen. From Camilly this morning, we could look down on Caen, which seemed to be almost completely enveloped in smoke. The greater part of Corps H.Q., rear is now in – all my Unit is back with me with the exception of an RAP (Regimental Aid Post) at Tac H.Q. and three, 3 ton lorries which are still loaned out for hauling rations to new troops landing.