Chapter XIV


Arriving in Dover at 1630 hours, 1st October, the battalion entrained for C Wing, No. 2 Repatriation Depot, at Sheffield Park, east of Haywards Health, which was to be their home for the next six weeks. At this camp, final documentation, medicals and repatriation lectures were given. The waiting period was mainly one leave after another, while the men scattered all over Britain to say good-bye to old friends and relations.
The 9th Victory Loan drive was held during this time and the regiment subscribed $63,450. Some special drill parades were held on the Irish Guards parade square in East Ginstead in preparation for the Grand Finale, the March Past in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, and trooping the colour. On 9th November, Colonel Stott told the battalion that the regiment would sail on the next trip of the "Queen Elizabeth" out of Southampton. New Division and Regiment patches were issued and all extra baggage labelled and turned in to Kit Storage Depot.
Six mor awards were announced with Major Ken Williams receiving the D.S.O., Major A.M. Matheson the M.C., and the M.M. going to C.Q.M.S. J.M Smith, Sgt. A Kennedy, Cpl. A. Carroll and Pte. A.K. Clark.
Finally the last muster and pay parades were held and the troops were issued "K" rations and entrained for Southampton where, on 14th November, they boraded the "Queen Elizabeth." Farewell messages were delivered over the ship's loudspeakers by Admiral Sir Arthur Bromley and Air Commodore Howe, and the great ship sailed at 0700 hours, 15th November.
The crossing took only four days as compared with the ten days on the Pennland in 1940, and in much quieter weather. On board the ship also was the Earl of Athlone Governor General of Cnaada, and his wife Princess Alice. Before noon on 19th Nov., the Canadian Coast was sighted and at 1300 hours the ship, with its 12,400 happy Canadians, sailed into Halifax Harbour. It was 4 years, 11 months, 3 days, and 5 hours since the main body of the S.Sask.R. had sailed out of this same harbour.B At 1400 hours, 20th November, the regiment boarded their special train with Captain Lehman, a former S.Sask.R. N.C.O. as conducting officer. On baord the train was a Red Cross worker who distributed fruit, stamps, chocolate bars, and writing paper, and who looked after myriads of telegrams for the men. At Winnipeg a grand welcome was given to the men. Tension and excitement was mounting now as home drew closer. 24th November was to be the big day - 'D' Day (Demobilization Day).
The train was due to arrive in Weyburn at 10.30 hours and by that time a last polish had been given to all brass and leather, ready for the last parade. The train pulled into the station where thousands of chering people voiced their welcome. After arrival, one half hour was allowed for hellos to wives, sweethearts,a nd families, before the regiment fell in for the big parade. The March Past was led by the S.Sask.R.s own band under Sgt. Munday, through 15,000 wildly shouting, cheering crowds, through streets hung with banners, decorated store windows and lamp-posts with placards of the regiment's battles, to the Canadian Legion Hall where the Salute was taken by Mayor Joe Warren.
The King's Colours and Regimental Colours were on parade and were escorted by a party of six under R.S.M. D. Allen. After the parade the battalion formed up outside the Legion Hall where speeches were made by local and Regimental people.
Brigadier Trudeau's opening words said simply and sincerely what was in the hearts of all the people: "I'm glad to see you home."
Due to the ill health of Premier Douglas, the Honorable J. H. Sturdy, Minister of Reconstruction, spoke on behalf of the Premier. He paid tribute to the S.Sask.R. in saying that it represented the finest body of men that Saskatchewan had ever sent overseas, and that it typefied the very best in Canada's citizen army. This, he said, was personified in the person of Colonel Merritt, while the citizenship was personified in the person of Tommy Douglas, who had been a member of the 2nd Battalion, S.Sask.R. Not only had the S.Sask.R. set an example to the Canadian Army, but it set an example that had never been set before when the regiment fought at Dieppe. It had helped to drive the wedge which had shattered the Nazi forces for all time to come. In closing, Mr. Sturdy said "You have been great in War, we know you will be great in Peace."
Mayor Joe Warren of Weyburn, voiced the feeling of those present when he spoke of the day as the proudest day of his life and stated that Weyburn was very proud of its regiment.
Mayor H. Nicholson of Estevan voiced the plea that those who had paid the supreme sacrifice would never be forgotten.
Lt.-Col. Merritt, V.C., who had won his decoration leading the Regiment at Dieppe, spoke of the gathering as being not only for the men at ease before the platform, but for all those men who had already returned to Canada, and for those who, during the execution of their duty, had sacrificed their lives. "We are proud of you and glad to see you keep up the traidition as we always knew you would."
Lt.-Col. F. A. Clift, D.S.O., another former commander, spoke of the S.Sask.R. having covered themselves with glory, and of their being "absolutely first class." "It was something to belong to the S.Sask.R." His clsoing remark brought much laughter from hardened souvenir hunters "I'd like to wish every one of you the best hunting in civilian life."
Mayor J. B. Smith of Assiniboia, expressed so aptly everyone's feelings when he said "It is almost impossible for us to express our feelings at this time as to what we owe to you."
Mayor F. McClellan of Moose Jaw, extended greetings and said that his city had watched with pride and admiration the exploits of the S.Sask.R. in action.
Honorary Major W. Cole, E.D., original Padre of the regiment, said he was proud to be a part of the reigment and expressed the belief that those who were not present in the body were present in the Spirit.
Lt.-Col. V. Stott, D.S.O., responded to all the adresses of welcome as follows: "On behalf of the officers and men of the S.Sask.R., I want to offer to you all their sincere thanks for the wonderful home-coming we have had this day. It will be something we will remember for ever and ever." He said he had seen many familiar faces in the audience and stated that the ceremony was as much for them as anyone in the regiment. "Many were woudned and sent home, but their job was done. Once an S.Sask.R., always an S.Sask.R." Col. Stott said that the last service held overseas was in honour of the boys who had to remain because they had given their all. In memory of those chaps, he extended the heartfelt sympathies of the regiment and said: "We liek yourselves will not forget them because they were real men." As this particular speech was his swan song, he wanted to "thank all of you for the co-operation and support you have given me in the past. You have never failed me once and I do thank you."
R.S.M. Roger Strumm closed the momentous occasion by paying tribute to the men who were present and to those who were not. He also said it had been a privilege to serve in the Regiment and closed by saying: "There is only one Regiment, the S.Sask.R."
Following the ceremonies, the troops received their documents, leave passes, pay and ration books; and meals were seved in the Hostess Club and in the Legion Hall. By sundown, Weyburn was quiet once more, but much happier. Most of the citizens had looked forward to the homecoming of their loved ones, for many months and went off to their homes, proud and contented.
A regimental dance was held in the evening and Weyburn really opened wide the hospitality door. The next morning by car, bus, and train, 6 years and 23 days after it started, the March of the Prairie Men ended in homes all over Southern Saskatchewan.