HOLLAND-THE ROAD HOME
In Amersfoort, a city of 55,000 people, the S.Sask.R. and the Camerons of C. were stationed in the same barracks. These were two-storey brick buildings that had been built in 1890 for Dutch trooops and had been used by the German Army during their occupation of Holland. The officers mess was located in two large houses near the barracks. Good parade squares and and sports fields were available, also good transport garages and parking lots. Fraternization and good Canadian ambassadorship started immediately. Parades consisted mainly of PT, drill, educational lectures and sports, with the emphasis being again placed on smartness of foot drill and deportment. Entertainment was plentiful. Amersfoort had three good theatres, several clubs and tearooms, tennis courts and swimming pools, and the unit vehicles proceeded nightly to Utrech and Hilversum where the Canadian Army had arranged elaborate recreational facilities.
Superintendent H.E. Riuter, the Legion Supervisor, had been doing a first-class job in the unit canteen and movie theatre, etc., but he was desirous of getting something extra-ordinary and strictly S.Sask.R. He secured a cafe and dance hall just outside the barrack gates and named it The Antelope Club. He installed a six-piece orchestra under the direction of Eric Gedalje, a famous Dutch drummer, to play every night. Good supplies of Belgian beer were obtained as well as soft drinks and there were three Dutch waiters. The dance floow was in excellent condition, and the decorations in regimental colours presented in a very attractive appearance. The Antelope Club, with its large antelope insignia over the door, was officially opened by Briagdier J. V. Allard, D.S.O.
Under direction of Colonel Stott and R.S.M. Nix, another cafe was secured for the Sgts. and W.O.s club and was named the Log Cabin. It was in the Log Cabin on day, that a few Sgts. were entertaining some C.W.A.C.s when in stormed a couple of very profanely vociferous W.O.s the Sgts. were frozen in hrror and embarrasment when one little Canadian lass spoke up from her deep chair. "Sgt.-Majors, please, there are Sgts. present." The startled W.O.s beat a hasty retreat and the delicate situation was saved.
Army Headquarters established officer clubs in Amsterdam, Utrecht, Zeist, Amersfoort, and Apeldoorn, all in good hotels. Most of these centres also had good other rank clubs where good meals (provided by extra army rations) were served in pleasent surroundings, with bottled wines, and continental stringed music.
Boating and Sailing on Holland's famous inland lakes became an enjoyable change for prairie men, especially when the instructors were so charming and lovely.
It became very evident that the shooting war was over when the trusty old rifles were turned into Ordnance. Many veterans felt a distinct nostalgia in not having his rifle beside him waking and sleeping alike. It was almost like suddenly losing one's pants. "You felt naked for a while," said one chap. Other weapons, like the anti-tank guns, carriers, wasps, mortars, PIATS, and equipment like tin hats, camouflage nets and signal stores were turned in to collecting dumps.
Perhaps a word here about the excellent work of the Q.M. stores chaps would not be out of place. As mentioned in earlier pages a great deal of mental strain and work was taken off all S.Sask.R. C.O.s by the extremely efficient work of the Q section under Captain Archie Stephenson and R.Q.M.S. Jim Bowie. Seldom indeed did any company commander have to worry about equipment replacements, rations or other supplies for his men. All C.O.s of the regiment have stated in the outstanding record of the S.Sask.R. in battle was due in large part to the efficiency of its 'A' and 'B' echelons.
During July, Brigade and Division Track and Field Championships were held and again the S.Sask.R. Tug-of-War team won everything in sight. For their efforts, they were awarded a special 72-hour leave in Amsterdam beofre they started training for the Army games. On 4th August, the team defeated 2nd Battalion Royal Cnaadian Engineers for the Canadian Army championship. On 10th August, they defeated the Royal Canadian Air force team for the Canadian Armed Forces overseas Championship and thus won the Brigadier Sager Trophy. The team was warmly congratulated by Maj-Gen. Bruce Matthews, G.O.C. 2nd Canadian Division, and also by Princess Juliana of the Netherlands. This finalist team was composed of: Lieutenant C.J. James, Coach; Sgt. F. S. Clark, Ptes A. Bratushisky, K. Scordal, A.A. Knippsheld, A. Zwick, E.C.F. Smith, A.V. Clavelle, N. Kayman, D.F. Heichert and K. R. Wessell, anchor man.
On their return to the battalion the team was given a special dinners in the officers mess and congratulations were offered by Colonel Stott for bringing honour to the S.Sask.R. Later in the month the G.O.C. of 2nd Division arranged a special plane to take them on an extra leave to England and return. The battalion now held three cups: The YOUNG trophy for Brigade Track and Field Champions, the McNAUGHTON trophy for Canadian Army Overseas Tug-of-War Champions, and the SAGER trophy for the Canadian Armed forces Tug-Of-War Champions. The cups were put on display in the Antelope Club and at present rest in the headquarters of teh S.Sask.R. Militia Regiment.
Near the end of July, Captain H.G. Walker, the beloved Padre of the Unit, was called back to Canada due to illness in his family. He was a very highly respected officer, both for his sincerity and helpfulness and his habit of going into every action with the companies. He was a fine "man of the cloth" and no danger was too great or favour to small for him to partake or give. He was replaced by H/Captain J.C. Daisley.
In early August, Captain Stott presented Cpl. O. Nelson of "D" Company, and Sgt. T.C. Smith with the Military Medal for bravery in action.
Nine-day tours were started to the old battle-fields for battalion veterans and many fox-holes were re-discovered and battles re-lived. Vehicles were found in the road ditches and fields where they had burned out; mine fields were gradually being cleared; lonely graves were being moved to the huge cemetaries; towns and villages were coming to life again; kids no longer asked for "Cigarette Mamma" or "Chocalate Papa" - but memories of good fellows killed and wounded made those fields a personal attachment to everyone.
On 19th August, a ceremonial parade was held in Dieppe to commemorate the Raid of 1942. A Sgt. and nine O.R.s., veterans of the raid, represented the S.Sask.R. at the ceremonies. The Regiment in Holland held a special Church service in St. Joris Cathedral, and the Sgts. and W.O.s mess held a mess dinner and dance at the Otter Yacht Club near Hilversum. A large party of C.W.A.Cs were imported from Appledoorn to give the celebration a morale lift. At the chicken dinner the toast to the King was given by C.S.M. Ward; to the regiment by Lt.-Col. Stott; and to fallen Dieppe comrades by R.S.M. Don Nix, and the toast to the C.W.A.Cs by Sgt. Symons.
August ended with the celebration of Queen Wilhelmina's birthday. For days previous, the Dutch people were preparing for their first big gala National Holiday since 1940. Archways and buildings were garnished with foliage, flowers, and bunting. Flags and coloured lights made the streets very gay and carnival-like in appearance. For three days the celebration went on with much fireworks, street dancing, parades and community singing. The regiment entered their "Saskatchewan" float in several of these parades.
On 1st September, privilege leaves were cancelled but no one cared much because it was anticipated that the battalion would be in England before long and embarkation leaves would be in order then.
Labour Day was celebrated by the huge "FEESTVIERING" sponsored by the 2nd Canadian Division at Soesterberg Airfield. Each soldier was allowed to bring a lady friend, with the battalion supplying the transportation. The festivities were officially opened by Lt.-Gen. Simonds, G.O.C.-in-C. Canadian Forces in the Netherlands. The affair was an enlargement on the Mardi-Gras held in Germany. Free hamburgers, hot dogs, cokes, coffee were a delight to the thousands of civilians and soldiers alike. U.S. Army softball and hardball teams played exhibition games. The parade of floats, including the unit's elevator float was a huge success. There were many games of chance, movies, girl shows, side-show exhibitions and some civilian acts. The horse racing and horse jumping attractions included entries from the S.Sask.R. with L/Corporals Lcokhard, Haynes, Mann and Litzgus participating.
After the evening meal the dance pavilons opened with each regiment having its own floow, and the fun continued until a late hour. It was estimated that over 60,000 people had jammed into the "Feestviering." It was the largest and finest social affair ever put on by the Canadian Army.
It became more apparent that the holiday was about over and the long trip home was drawing close. Goodbye dinners and dances were being held in the clubs and messes, and last minute "grey-market" swopping trades were rushed and souvenirs bought by the bushel. All regimental canteen funds were closed off and the surplus transfered to the S.Sask.R. N.P.A.M. regimental accounts.
On 17th September, Brigadier J.V. Allard made his last official inspection of the S.Sask.R. which was terminated by a very smart march past. On 23rd September, the officers held their final dinner and party, and Majors Buchanan and Watkinson and Captain Law, former S.Sask.R. officesr now in the Occupation Forces, came down from Germany to wish the regiment good-bye and God Speed to Weyburn.
Extra kit-bags were issued and remaining fighting equipment and transport were turned in on 25th September. On 26th September, the regiment embussed in Army Service Corps vehicles for Nijmegen, the first stage of the journey home. On 30th September, a day parade in English sterling was held and a final medical inspection conducted before entraining for Ostend. After a few brief hours in the transit camp, the troops boarded the "Princess Astrid" at 1100 hours 1st October, for Dover, England.
Thus ended the Regiment's tour of duty on the continent. It had lasted 1 year, 2 months, and 23 days.