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The Seaforths: Immediate Awards for Sicily

Posted By on March 27, 2018

Second World War Seaforth Highlanders of Canada cap badge.

Second World War Seaforth Highlanders of Canada cap badge with glengarry.

Burrasca furiusa prestu passa.
A furious storm passes quickly.
(Sicilian expression)

The following Immediate Awards were presented to members of the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada for their actions during operations on Sicily. The regiment landed 10 July 1943 and by 18 August 1943 Sicily was held by the Allies.

The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada were granted the following battle honours for Sicily; Landing in Sicily, AGIRA, Adrano, Troina Valley, SICILY, 1943. The two titles in bold capitals are emblazoned on the Regiment’s colours.

The awards recorded below are shown in date order of action. They include the Distinguished Service Order [DSO], Military Cross [MC], Distinguished Conduct Medal [DCM] and the Military Medal [MM].

William Kenneth MacDonald MC. (Canadian Virtual War Memorial of Canada).

William Kenneth MacDonald MC. (Canadian Virtual War Memorial).

Captain William Kenneth MacDonald MC
Canadian Army Medical Corps attached Seaforth Highlanders of Canada

On 19 July 1943, “A” Company, advance guard to the Battalion [Seaforth Highlanders of Canada], were pinned on the forward slope of a hill near Caltagirone* by heavy and continuous machine gun and mortar fire.

Captain MacDonald, with a complete disregard for enemy fire, moved from platoon to platoon rendering first aid. As the action continued and for several days thereafter, without sleep day and night, this [medical] officer succoured and evacuated wounded. He constantly exposed himself to enemy fire and refused rest until every wounded man had been cared for.

He set an example worthy of his Corps.

William Kenneth MacDonald was killed by a sniper 5 August 1943 when attending a wounded soldier. He is buried at Agira Canadian War Cemetery, Sicily.

Private Jack Greig McBride MM
M52518

On 19 July 43, A Coy, the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada, while advance guard to the battalion, came under heavy machine gun and mortar fire, and were pinned on the forward slope of a hill near Caltagirone*.

Pte McBride, a medical orderly in A Coy, although wounded in three places early in the action, moved from one position to another under fire, giving first aid to the wounded without thought for his own personal safety or his injuries.

His conduct was an inspiration to all ranks.

Rupert Rhoades Story MM. (Canadian Virtual War Memorial).

Rupert Rhoades Story MM. (Canadian Virtual War Memorial).

Lance Corporal Rupert Rhoades Story MM
K52299

On 19 July 43, A Coy, advance guard to the battalion came under very heavy machine gun and mortar fire, and were pinned on the forward slope of a hill near Caltagirone* offering no cover.

L/Cpl Story, although badly burned by an incendiary bomb, moved from section to section, disregarding enemy fire, to render first aid to the wounded. Although constantly under fire and in extreme pain, he refused to be evacuated and discharged his duties until all wounded had been cared for.

Rupert Rhoades Story was killed by a sniper 29 July 1943 when attending a wounded soldier. He is buried at Agira Canadian War Cemetery, Sicily.

Private (Acting Corporal) Frederic William Terry MM
K52631

On the 27th July 43, during the assault of the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada on AGIRA, “A” Company; Seaforth of C. was ordered to gain the high ground dominating the town on the right.

Cpl. Terry of “A” Coy, found his section faced with a steep ascent under direct fire from an enemy machine gun as well as indirect fire from machine guns on the flanks. By superb leadership, Cpl. Terry worked his section up the slope without a casualty. He then led a charge which silenced the machine gun post and turned the gun on the enemy. His conduct and that of the section he he [sic]led was a major factor in gaining a foothold on the feature.

Frederic William Terry was killed 28 July 1943. He is buried at Agira Canadian War Cemetery, Sicily.

Bertram Meryl Hoffmeister DSO wearing the black beret of a Canadian Armoured unit. (Wikipedia).

Major General Bertram Meryl Hoffmeister DSO as commander of the 5th Canadian Armoured Division, ca. 1944-45. (Wikipedia).

Lieutenant Colonel Bertram Meryl Hoffmeister DSO

In the two days fighting to capture Agira on 27/28 Jul 43, the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada bore the brunt of the fighting.

Under the inspired leadership of Lieut.-Col. Hoffmeister the Battalion fought its way forward against very heavy opposition.

The Battalion objective was to capture some high ground completely dominating the town. During the final battle for this objective, communications were difficult. Lieut.-Col. Hoffmeister, with complete disregard for his own safety, made his way from Company to Company and though under very heavy fire, personally directed the attack on the enemy position.

His coolness, determination, and personal bravery under fire were an inspiration to all ranks under his command.

Henry Pybus Bell-Irving as the 23rd Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia. (Wikipedia).

Henry Pybus Bell-Irving as the 23rd Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia. (Wikipedia).

Major Henry Pybus Bell-Irving DSO

In the attack of the Seaforth of C of AGIRA, 28 Jul 43, Major Bell-Irving, Officer Commanding “A” Company, was ordered to gin [sic] and hold the sharp ridge on the right which was held by the enemy in strength. This operation entailed a most difficult ascent of a precipitous feature under direct fire from enemy machine guns. During the approach to the feature “A” Company came under heavy fire from two hidden enemy tanks. Major Bell-Irving, despite the heavy enemy fire and the resultant casualties, attacked and routed the tanks. He continued the advance, positioning himself in the forefront at all times and under his bold leadership, “A” Company stormed the hill, gained a foothold, and held the feature in spite of repeated counter attacks and heavy enemy machine gun fire. The courage and determination with which this officer pressed forward completely disregarding his own safety was in [sic] inspiration and contributed to the success of the battalion attack.

Acting Lance Corporal Denis Meade MM
K53836

During the afternoon of 28 July 43, the Seaforth of C were attacking AGIRA. Cpl. Meade, NCO i/c control wireless set was experiencing great difficulty in communicating with the attacking companies. With complete disregard for his own safety and in the face of heavy enemy mortar and small arms fire, Cpl Meade made his way forward to a position from which he was able to re-establish communications. The action of this NCO contributed materially to the success of the Battalion’s attack.

Private Malcolm Rae MM
K53544

During the attack of the PPCLI [Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry] on AGIRA, 28 July 43, it became necessary to move the unit anti-tank guns well forward. The only route to the new gun positions lay along a half mile stretch of road exposed to observed and accurate mortar fire which caused a number of casualties.

Pte. Rae, a regimental despatch rider [Seaforth Highlanders of Canada], was detailed to bring up their guns. On his first trip forward at 1500 hours, he was wounded in the chest by a burst from close range.

Pte Rae, despite the enemy fire and his wounds, led the guns into the new position. Then, showing devotion to duty of a high order, this soldier made four additional journeys to and fro, under the same intense fire, only ceasing at 2100 hours when he was ordered to go to the RAP [Regimental Aid Post].

Private Frederick Webster MM
K76078

During the afternoon of 28 July 43, the Seaforth of C attacked AGIRA. “A” Coy was ordered to attack and capture a ridge dominating the town from the right. In the course of the attack on the ridge, 8 platoon was held up by fire from an enemy machine gun post. Pte Webster, a Bren Gunner, with complete disregard for his own safety, and in the face of heavy machine gun fire, made his way forward to a position from which he could provide covering fire for his section. So accurate and effective was Pte Webster’s fire that his section was enabled to wipe out the machine gun post and his platoon was able to continue its advance.

Private (Acting Corporal) Robert John Donohue MM
K53254

During the daylight attack on the 600 foot dominating ridge West of ADERNO**, on 5 Aug 43, by “A” Coy, Seaforth of Canada, Corporal Donohue’s section, having been pinned down by enemy machine gun, was ordered to give covering fire to enable the rest of the Coy. to get on.

Unable to give accurate covering fire from this position owing to the nature of the terrain, Cpl. Donohue, seeing Cpl. McParlon, an N.C.O. [Non-commissioned officer] from another section, advancing alone toward the enemy post that was holding up the advance, turned his section over to a senior soldier, took a Bren Gun and pouches, and went forward to assist Cpl. McParlon.

Together they crawled 500 yards under enemy fire towards the enemy position; then firing skilfully and boldly from point blank range Cpl. Donohue and Cpl. McParlon cleared the post, enabling the advance to continue.

Private (Acting Corporal) George Lynn McParlon MM
K98595

During the daylight attack on the 600 foot dominating ridge west of ADERNO**, on 5 Aug. 43, by “A” Coy of the Seaforths of Canada, Cpl. McParlon was ordered to lead his section around the right flank to act as a cut off.

The section had only advanced some 300 yards when it was held up by observed fire from an enemy machine gun post, and Cpl. McParlon was wounded in the leg and back.

Despite his wounds and enemy action, this NCO displaying gallantry and devotion to duty of a high order, continued to advance.

He detailed his section to give him covering fire; then, joined by Cpl. Donahue from another section, attacked the machine gun post. Together they advanced 500 yards in full view of the enemy and then, skilfully and courageously firing his TSMG [Tommy sub-machine gun] at point blank range, he and Cpl. Donahue cleared out the post and enabled the advance to continue.

Disregarding his wounds, and in spite of the pain he was suffering, Cpl. McParlon assisted in the evacuation of casualties. Only after the position had been consolidated and all casualties evacuated, did he accept treatment.

George Lynn McParlon was killed 23 December 1943. He is buried at Moro River Canadian War Cemetery, Italy.

Private (Acting Corporal) Daniel Hadden DCM
M37034

On the morning, 6 Aug 43, “D” Coy. was ordered to attack and capture a 600 foot high rocky ridge overlooking the main road west of ADERNO**.

The ridge was well defended, little cover was available, and the section commanded by Cpl. Hadden soon came under heavy fire from a German machine gun post, suffering two casualties. This soldier then dispersed his section to give him covering fire and coolly crawled forward himself to take on the enemy post.

During the 700 yard advance on the post, he inflicted sufficient casualties with his Bren to keep the enemy heads down and then brought his section still further forward. Continuing on alone, still under the same heavy fire, he reached grenade range, threw five grenades at the position, with his section assaulted at the point of bayonet and routed the enemy.

Cpl. Hadden’s leadership and personal bravery were in the highest traditions of the service.

Alternative Place Name Spellings
*Caltigirone

**Adrano

The March Hare

Posted By on March 14, 2018

The March Hare from Lewis Carrol's, "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland". Illustration by John Tenniel.

The March Hare from Lewis Carroll’s, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Illustration by John Tenniel.

Far from the Perfect Circle of the Sky

The White Rabbit put on his spectacles. “Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?” he asked. “Begin at the beginning,” the King said gravely, ”and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” (L. Carroll)

The March hare has risen amidst the March thaw in search of spring. Soon the bounty of nature will be upon us as new growth and blossoms speak to us of new beginnings. So too the landscape of the Great War, upon the fields, towns, villages and cities will feature the cyclical joys of nature offering solace and colour to the weary eye turned grey to years of war. The hare will hop from burrow to burrow, hedgerow to hedgerow, garden to garden as men continue to feel the rasp of fragments hot burst from their barrels or shredded fragments that pierce the blue and smoke-filled ‘scape. The hare may be mad in his search for amour, une jeune fille but for soldiers there can only be thoughts of love, no new beginnings at this time. There is more war to come in the Spring of 1918.

On 21 March 1918 the Kaiser’s Battle…the German Spring Offensive on the Western Front commenced. With the addition of 500,000 troops newly released from the Russian Front, the German command was confident of victory. Still there would be nearly eight more months of war. And in that time a generation of hares would have its leverets, its youth, adolescence and maturity. The hare would continue to hop amidst the minds of men whose lives, like the sword of Damocles, hung “far from the perfect circle of the sky.”

The March Thaw
Edwin Curran – March 1918

On – turgid, bellowing – tramp the freshet rills
Heaped up with yellow wine, the winter’s brew.
Out-thrown, they choke and tumble from the hills,
And lash their tawny bodies, whipping through.
With flattened bells comes scudding purple rain;
The cold sky breaks and drenches out the snow.
Far from the perfect circle of the sky
The heavy winds lick off the boughs they blow;
And fields are cleansed for plows to slice again,
For April shall laugh downward by and by.

With purifying blasts the wind stalks out
And sweeps the carrion of winter on;
It prods the dank mists, stamps with jest about,
And sows the first blooms on the greening lawn.
Far up the planks of sky the winter’s dross
Goes driven to the north; her rank smells wave
In unseen humors to the icy pole.
The charwomen of the sky, with brushes, lave
And wash the fields for green , and rocks for moss,
And busily polish up the earth’s dull soul.

Did You Know?

Alice Liddell (1852 – 1934) was a young acquaintance of author Lewis Carroll (1832 – 1898) and may have been the inspiration for Carroll’s character Alice in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865). Alice married Reginald Hargreaves and the couple had three sons, Alan Knyveton Hargreaves, Leopold Reginald Hargreaves and Caryl Liddell Hargreaves.

Captain Alan Hargreaves DSO, age 33, was killed with the 2nd Battalion, Rifle Brigade 9 May 1915 and is buried at Le Trou Aid Post Cemetery, Fleurbaix, France.

Captain Leopold Hargreaves MC, age 33, was killed serving with the Irish Guards, 25 September 1916 and is buried at Guillemont Road Cemetery, Guillemont, France.

And we will all go together

Posted By on February 17, 2018

Pipers of the 51st Highland Division, 1945. In 1940 the 51st (HD) "was isolated, abandoned, and forced to surrender". (51st HD website).

Pipers of the 51st Highland Division, 1945. In 1940, the 51st (HD) “was isolated, abandoned, and forced to surrender”.  (51st HD website) Only one brigade escaped from St. Valery through Le Havre, France. The  reformed Division returned to St. Valery, in September, 1944.

Will Ye Go Lassie Go

Though perhaps this tune has wandered to my ears sometime in my past, it was only recently when the tune was featured in Their Finest that the melody, sung by actor Bill Nighy, has become anchored to my person. That anchor comes, not only in the form of the lyric and melody, but how it was presented to me – perhaps to us all – assembled in an aging theatre. The film’s tune was delivered in a wartime home, with friends and colleagues capturing the essence of the unknown, what is to become, what is to be…..when will they come home.

Home…what is it to us? Like the definition of family it can be many things. Home can be our relatives, friends, our workplace…..our group and so on. To a soldier it can be the regiment, the company, the platoon, the section. For the Scottish soldier it can be the Highlands, the Lowlands, the pipes and so too the hearth. And as the gentle refrain of Wild Mountain Thyme passes to your ears this day…think  to another day, when home and family was not so close, when all about you provided only questions and longing.

Wild Mountain Thyme
(Francis McPeake)
Oh, the summertime is comin’
And the trees are sweetly bloomin’
And the wild mountain thyme
Grows around the purple heather
Will you go? Lassie, will you go?
And we’ll all go together
To pick wild mountain thyme
All around the purple heather
Will you go? Lassie, will you go?
I will build my love a tower
By yon pure and crystal fountain
Yes and on it I will lay
All the flowers of the mountain
Will you go? Lassie, will ya go?
And we will all go together
To pick wild mountain thyme
All around the purple heather
Will you go? Lassie, will you go?
If my true love won’t come with me
Then I would surely find another
To pick wild mountain thyme
All around the purple heather
Will you go? Lassie, will ya go?
And we will all go together
To pick wild mountain thyme
All around the purple heather
Will you go?
Will you go?
Lassie will you go?

See the History of the 51st Highland Division

Behind the Wire 1916

Posted By on January 20, 2018

16th Battalion C.E.F. Prisoners of War (Part 2)

Barbed wire, familiar to all soldiers on the Western Front. The barbed wire symbol, in this instance of French origin, was sometimes used by PoW veteran's organizations.

Barbed wire, familiar to all soldiers on the Western Front and elsewhere. The barbed wire symbol, in this instance of French origin, was sometimes used by Prisoners of War veteran’s organizations.

...the enemy opened a heavy bombing attack against the left flank. Sergeant Slessor was wounded and captured – he died three days afterwards. His post was overwhelmed. Only after hard fighting was this onslaught stopped and the block retaken. (Urquhart, The Sixteenth, page 183)

See also Behind the Wire 1915.

(DATES OF CAPTURE IN BOLD)

19 July 1916

Warren, John Henry
Private     130200
Released 12 December 1919

8 October 1916

Balfour, Robert
Private     420377
Died of Wounds as Prisoner of War 12 October 1916
Gunshot wound – head
Held as Prisoner of War at Marcoing, Nord, France
Son of Mr. & Mrs. R. Balfour, Easterbank, Forfar, Scotland
Buried St. Souplet British Cemetery, Nord, France. Age 23

Boyle, Thomas Edward
Private     700073
Died of Wounds as Prisoner of War 21 December 1916
Gunshot wound – back. Also reported as wounded in hip when caught in barbed wire entanglement
Held at Festungs, Koln, Germany
Only son of Thomas H. and Beatrice Boyle, 309 Redwood Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Buried Brussels Town Cemetery, Evere, Belgium. Age 21

Thomas Edward Boyle, Winnipeg Evening Tribune via the Canadian Virtual War Memorial).

Thomas Edward Boyle, Winnipeg Evening Tribune via the Canadian Virtual War Memorial.

Bradshaw, Blake
Private     420483
Released 15 June 1918

Slessor, George H.
Lance Sergeant     29402
Died of Wounds as Prisoner of War 10 October 1916
No. 11 Platoon
Husband of Mary Slessor, 128 Wellington Road, Aberdeen, Scotland
Buried Porte de Paris Cemetery, Cambrai, France. Age 44

Numbers 11 and 12 platoons early met with misadventure [27 September 1916]. Their guide bore to far to the right. With little warning, they found themselves advancing against a heavily manned German trench, from which fire was opened on them with rifles and machine guns. Fortunately the warning they had received enabled them to retire with few casualties, but with the loss of Sergeant Slessor of Number 11 platoon. Slessor lost his bearings, He wandered into an unoccupied part of the Kenora Trench, where he was found next morning, all by himself, sound asleep with his head pillowed on a dead German. (Ibid, page 179)

Smith, John Albert
Private     700080
Died of Wounds as Prisoner of War 1 November 1916
Brother of Mrs. William Smart, 7 Edgewood Crescent, Toronto, Ontario
Buried Porte de Paris Cemetery, Cambrai, France

John Albert Smith, image from 9th Platoon, C Company, 101st Battalion CEF booklet via the Canadian Virtual War Memorial.

John Albert Smith, from 9th Platoon, C Company, 101st Battalion CEF booklet via the Canadian Virtual War Memorial.

Thomson, Peter Samuel
Private     427353
Released 12 January 1918
Leg amputated

Woodfine, James Moore
Private     105876
Released 26 September 1916
Amputation

8/9 October 1916

Armstrong, Henry Owen
Private     700996
Released 30 November 1918

Bent, George
Private     700398
Released 6 January 1919

Boden, George Henry
Private     129076
Released 15 December 1918

Burt, Frederick Audry
Private     199110
Released 2 December 1918

Cook, James Ray
Private     871467
Released 18 December 1918

Emerson, George Gordon
Private 426941
Released 29 November 1918

Fellows, Alfred
Private     701176
Released 12 December 1916

Foote, George Windsor
Private     488802
Released 4 December 1918

Galloway, Robert Neil
Lance Corporal     29445
Released 24 December 1918

Green, Arthur Charles
Private     105339
Released 12 January 1919

Oliver, Alfred
Private     77647
Released 15 December 1918

Ousey, John Percival
Private     700222
Released 12 January 1919

Scherbauk, Peter
Private     417655
Released 12 January 1919

Smith, Reginald Arthur
Private     105554
Released 2 January 1919

Steeds, Leslie Arthur
Private     700170
Released 2 January 1919

Thorp, Gilbert
Private     152705
Released 27 December 1918

Ussher, Noel
Private     420575
Released 8 December 1918

Walker, William Henry
Private     426322
Released 12 January 1919

9 October 1916

Irving, Arthur Beaufin
Lieutenant
Died of Wounds as Prisoner of War 9 October 1916
Son of Paulus H. Milius Irving and Diana Irving, 622 Cook Street, Victoria, British Columbia
Graduate of Royal Military College, Kingston, Ontario
Formerly of the Royal Canadian Dragoons
Commemorated on the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, Vimy, France. Age 26

Albert Beaufin Irving, Toronto Star, 4 December 1916 via the Canadian Virtual War Memorial.

Arthur Beaufin Irving, Toronto Star, 4 December 1916 via the Canadian Virtual War Memorial.

List of Prisoners of War (16th Battalion CEF) compiled from:
Wigney, Edward H. “Guests of the Kaiser; Prisoners-of-War of the Canadian Expeditionary force 1915-1918”, (CEF Books, 2008)

St. Paul’s Cathedral amidst the Whirlwind…

Posted By on December 29, 2017

The famed image of St. Paul's Cathedral taken photographer Herbert Mason was taken 77 years ago, 29 December 1940. (Wiki image via the Imperial War Museum and the Daily Mail)

The famed image of St. Paul’s Cathedral taken photographer Herbert Mason was taken 77 years ago, 29 December 1940. (Wiki image via the Imperial War Museum and the Daily Mail)

…Amidst the Peace

For a few days in December 1940 the skies above London were without enemies.

Christmastide, beginning at sunset on Christmas eve through St. Stephen’s Day (Boxing Day) was without the falling rain of incendiaries, high explosives, mines, fuzes, time delays and other harm from Dorniers, Heinkels and Junkers. The rain, the lightning war, began again 27 December 1940.

Two days later Herbert Mason clicked the shutter of his Van Neck camera capturing St. Paul’s Cathedral amidst the second great fire of London. The smokey image captures the spirit of defiance as Christopher Wren’s jewel in his crown stands brazenly amidst the whirlwind.

St. Paul’s Cathedral remains with us today and can be seen standing tall from various vantage points. Its dome – upon the skyline – strikes a landmark feature during the day and at night, a beacon of survival, a jewel amidst the peace.