ADVANCED TRAINING PERIOD
On return from the raid, all ranks were asked to fill out detailed reports of what they had seen and done. From these reports valuable information for future training and planning was obtained. Captain Buchanan, Lieutenant J. S. Edmondson and five other ranks all broadcast their impressions back to Canada. Large reinforcement drafts soon filled the ranks up to full strength again and Lt.-Col. H. T. Kempton, our former 2 i/c, was posted to command the regiment during the reorganization period, with Major J. E. McRae continuing as 2 i/c. The old grind of training "as per syllabus" with signal exercises, inspections, etc., soon showed results in welding the battalion back into a formidable fighting machine.
Brigadier H. A. Yound was now commanding 6th Canadian Infantry Brigade and his unexpected inspections kept units on their toes. A few days after the return to Toat from Dieppe, a German aircraft flew over the area and dropped a bundle of pamphlets for our perusal. These pamphlets showed many scenes taken on the beaches of Dieppe, and of the men who were killed and taken prisoners.
On 30th October, the unit was moved to a newly constructed hutted camp called Barkfold Camp, near Kirdford in Sussex. The settling-in process had hardly started when Lt.-Col. Kempton was replaced by Lt.-Col. F. A. Flift, former 2 i/c of the Saskatoon Light Infantry. Lt.-Col. Clift proved to be no exception to the list of outstanding C.O.s the regiment had been favoured with. He firmly believed that a battalion was only as good as its officers and for this reason the officers trained even harder than the men by extra P.T. classes, evening classes, studies and lectures. Major McRae was appointed Chief Intructor at 3 C.D.I.R.U. with the rank of Lt.-Col. Major J. R. Mather was appointed 2 i/c in his place.
At this time the Italian Campaign was in full swing and a number of officers and other ranks were posted to various Canadian Units in that Theatre of War to gain experience. The officer personnel included Lt.-Col. J. E. McRae (from 3 C.D.I.R.U.), Major F. McDougall, Captain R. L. Stephens, Lieutenants W. McLellan and J. Braden. Captain C. Mowat was also posted as a staff officer to that area. Manyof these officers and N.C.O.s gained honours and awards on the field of battle with other Units than their own S.Sask.R.
The mud and rain of that winter in Kirdford will ong be remembered and it was a miracle how so much provgress was made in training. The assault bath at the end of the run if they missed their landings on the giant swing rope over the creek. Forced route marches became common and ten miles in one hour and fifty minutes was recorded several times by companies. The sports programme was strenuous and corss-country running became the main attraction with an S.Sask.R. team winning the Division championship. This team was composed of Liutenant Ste. Keddy, Sgt. Wearing, Corporals Marriott and McKellar, Lance Corporal Turnbull and Ptes. Ford, Green, Isbister, SPence, Curriers, Souvie, Budd Dieter, Moore and Daniels. Lance-Corporal F. Neiviedomy won the Divison heavyweight championship and Pte. S. Leader the light-heavy class.
There were many exercises each designed for its special purpose. The armies were training for the offensive now. Some exercises were designed primarily for training the battalions and others for exercising the rear formations in their duties. Most of these schemes proved tougher and harder on the infantrymen than actual battle conditions later on. The most memorable of these exercises was "Spartan," which stressed endurance and was very realistic. Composite rations, later on to become so familiar, were first introduced on this exercise. "Spartan" took the unit over the areas near Guildford, Sonning, Bletchley, Buckingham, Oxford, and Reading, and provided eight-five miles of marching, besides the many miles of convoy work.
During that winter, five more N.C.O.s, Sgts. Richardson, Mitchell, Coderre, Mather, and Williams were sent to Canada for O.C.T.U. courses.
On 2nd May, an unfortunate accident with a 68 grenade in a riflecup killed Sgts. J. Rainville, W.J. Ennes, and Pte. E. McArthur, all of 11 platoon.
July, 1943, was a momentous month in the history of the Regiment. For security reasons, it was designated as exercise "Flag", but in reality was the presentation of the Colours by His Majesty the King. Both the S.Sask.R. and the Royal Regiment of Canada were to receive their Colours on the same parade. For the S.Sask.R. this was to be the culmination of a long train of events in the quest for colours. In August, 1940, Lt.-Col. Wright had approached Mr. Murphy of the Reliance Grain Company, Winnipeg, with regard to the financing of Regimental Colours by his Company. This was agreed upon and application was made to authorities for design. Now after three years and a vast accumulation of letters, the dream was to come true. On 7th July, the unit moved to Algonquin Camp, Witley. Here they were joined by the Royal Regiment and a cadre of drill instructor from the Coldstream and Scots Guards. The training details were in charge of R.S.M. Brown of the Scots Guard trianing depot. A short but very intensive period of drill perparation and reherasals under the critical eyes of those instructors began immediately. On 11th July, Major-General E.L.M. Burns, G.O.C. 2nd Candian Division, attended the final rehearsal and inspection. On this parade, Lt.-Col. Nicholls of the Royal Regiment presented a drum to Lt.-Col. Clift for use in the S.Sask.R. band. This had been a drum that had originally been presented to the Royals by Major-General Rennie, a former C.O., and was a gesture meant to bridge the gap between Eastern and Western Regiments, and to cement their bonds of friendship. This drum was hereafter to be carried on the right of the band.
16th July dawned with the prospects for a beautiful day for the ceremonies. By 1000 hours the guests and senior officers had alla rrived, and at 1045 hours the four hundred-men guards of each battalion marched on to the parade sqaure accompanied by the band. The Royal Regiment formed the first half of the square and the S.Sask.R. the left half. The first thrill of the day came the moment Lt.-Col. Clift gave the command, "Order Arms." It was as if one man had carried out the order. A loud gasp of appreciation by the spectators was heard across the parade square. The parade had started with a bang.
Everything was in readiness for the arrival of Their Majesties. Motion picture cameras were in position and sound equipment ready. At 1100 hours a silence fell over the gathering as the sound of the motorcycle escort for the Royal limousine could be heard coming into the area.
Their Majesties were met and received by the Right Honourable Vincent Massey, Canadian High Commissioner to London, Lieutenant-General H. D. G. Crerar, C.B., D.S.O., Commander 1st Cdn. Corps, Major-General P.J. MOntague, C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., M.C., V.D., Senior Officer C.M.H.Q., and Major-General E.L.M. Burns, O.B.E., M.C., G.O.C. 2nd Canadian Infantry Division. The King and Queen, the Royal Equerry, the Lady-in-Waiting and Mrs. A.G.L. McNaughton moved on to the dais and were given the Royal Salute by the two regiments. Both Commanding officers were presented and then began the Inspection, first ofhte Royals and then the S.Sask.R. While the inspection was in progress, the drums of the Band and the Colours were piled fifty paces in front, and in line with the center of the square.
Next the Colours were presented to the regiments in turn by the King. THe Colour Party for the S.Sask.R. consisted of Majors J. Mahter and G.R. Mathews, Lieutenants J.K. Kemp and A.P.W. Watkinson, R..M. Nix, R.Q.M.S. Bowie, C.S.M. Smith, C.Q.M.S. Keyes, C.Q.M.S. Campbell and Sgt. Dalzeil. After presentation the Battalions marched past their Majesies carrying the Colours and then formed up in close column facing the Dais. On command of Lt.-Col. Flift, both Battalions advanced in review order, gave the Royal Salute, and concluded with three cheers for Their Majesties. The Royal Party then left and the Battalion were marched off for dismissal.
Over noon hour, Their Majesties were introduced to the officers of both regiments in the combined Mess. After the introductions they had a short informal chat before proceeding to the Senior Officers Mess for lunch. Photos were taken in the afternoon with the King and Quuen posing for two pictures with the officers and Colours of each regiment. Shortly after, they left the area to the resounding cheers of both battalions lining the route.
To top off this memorable parade, a special dinner was given tot he men's mess and a regimental dance was held in Horsham in the evening.
On return to Kirdford,t he Guards' Brigade N.C.O. Instructors were invited to the battalion for a few days leave. In the Sgts. Mess, C.S.M. "Shorty" Warren, a very diminutive chap, was stating that the finest part of the day had been when the Queen looked up into his eyes and caused his stomach to do flip-flops with her beauty. A Guardsman with great dignity and disdain stated that Her Majest the Queen could only look down on one of such short stature. Tall R.Q.M.S. Jim Bowie continued to haze Shorty on this incident for the duration of the War.
It also became known that the drill instructors of the Coldsteram and the Scots Guard units had bet 15 £ on which of the two Canadian Regiments would put on the best show. The guardsmen training the S.Sask.R. won the money.
After the comparative relaxation of exercise "Flag," it was not easy to get back to field training at Barkfold Camp. Exercises "Hammer," "Pickaxe," and "Harlequin" soon put everyone back into the grimmer business of training for war. Exercise "Harlequin" was an embarkation exercise south of Winchester. It was used to practise both troops and staffs in the passing of thousdands ofmen through the "sausage machine," as the embarkation organization was called, to the boats for the future invasion of Europe.
On 1st October, Brigadier G. S. N. Gostling became Commander of the 6th Canadian Infantry Brigade, and on 2nd October, the unit was moved to Worthing on the Sussex Coast. It was an agreeable change to be billeted in a pleasant town instead of the countryside for the winter.
On 28th October, Captain G. B. Buchanan and Pte. G. P. Buchanan were awarded the "Croix de Guerre" in recognition of gallant and distinguished service in the Dieppe raid. The latter soldier was blinded and during his re-establishment at the St. Dunstan's Hospital, he married his beautiful nursing sister.
The 5th Victory Loan ended on 8th November, with the battalion subscribing more than double its objective with a final figure of $25.000.
Night training and advance to contact exercises were stressed during the latter part of the year with the Divisional Commander watching much of this training. Schemes were conducted for training the various vehicle echelons in their battle functions. The 3-inch mortars were developing the new technique of firing as a battery, in much the manner of artillery.
It was at the Worthing Officers Mess that a sweet young thing was telling how, during a recent air raid alert, she had "jumped into a wolf-hole" and found an S.Sask.R. officer in it already. "You mean a fox-hole, darling," she was asked. "Maybe a fox dug it," she replied sweetly, "but when I jumped in it was occupied by a wolf."
On 17th December the regiment was inspected by Colonel Ralston, Minister of Defence for Canada.
Special Christmas cards, with the unit badge and colours on the front and with the picture of the King presenting the Colours on the inside, were printed and sold at cost.
And so dawned another Christmas Day, the fourth the regiment had spent overseas. Many must have wondered when they would have their next Christmas dinner at home. The dinner that day was not without its lighter moments. The picture of the war had greatly changed since the dark days of 1940 when the regiment had its first Christmas overseas, and so New Year's Eve was celebrated with high hopes for the coming year.
Junuary began with exercise "Frosty." This exercise was designed to accustom troops to living on a flat beach. The training was carried out from Castle Toward in Scotland. The names of Wemyss Bay, Castle Toward, Rothesay, Lomond, Dunoon will be remembered by all concerned. The weather was wet and foggy most of the time and the barracks very short of heat. The unit was on British Army rations and the grumblings were loud and long. It made the Canadian rations more appreciated after the return to Worthing. Several very wet exercises were held, chief of which were "Kedge" and "Trident," held from the Landing Ship "H.M.S. St. Helier." Before leaving Dunoon the Scottish folk gave the regiment a highly successful dance. Shortly after returning from Scotland, Lieutenant Stewart Keddy was killed while training in house clearing, using live grenades.
It was at this time that Major-General C. Foulkes, C.B.E., took command of the Division. On 28th December he visited the unit and gave a short talk to the officers. General Foulkes was destined to be the officer to lead 2nd Canadian Infantry Division into battle and to guide its destinies throughout the most bitter part of its actions.
The early part of February saw the companies going out on separate five-day self-contained schemes, an on 23rd February, part of the battalion moved to the Limehouse district in London to carry out street fighting and village clearing training, using live ammunition.
On 24th February, General M. Mathenet of the French Forces presented Sgt. C. Ward with the "Croix de Guerre aves Etoile d'Argent" for gallant and distinguished service at Dieppe. Shortly after these events, General Sir Bernary L. Montgomery, K.C.B., D.S.O., the C.-in-C. 21st Army Group, inspected the 6th Canadian Infantry Brigade. With him were Lieutenant-General K. Stuart, C.B., D.S.O., M.C., Lieutenant-General G. G. Simonds, C.B.E., D.S.O., and Mr. Alan Moorehead.
On 9th March, the King visited the Division. The Guard of Honour was supplied by the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry and the band of the S.Sask.R. played the Royal Salute. After hte inspection, the band proceeded to "A" mess where it supplied the music for the luncheon given His Majesty. General Officers and C.O.s of units attended and were presented to the King.
During this period the "Paper War" was at its height. Particularly so, in the Q.M. Stores sections. Captain Archie Stephenson, snowed under by mountains of forms, etc. called in Corporal Affie and handed him a huge pile of workshop order forms: - "Corporal, you will segregate these things chronologically and return them to me as soon as possible." "Yes, Sir!" replied the bewildered Affie and, saluting dazedly, walked out of the office to find R.Q.M.S. Bowie. Much later Bowie found the Corporal trying to find the meaning of the work "chronologically," filling the air blue with english. To Bowie he implored "These gall darn school teachesr - just what in hell does the old man want?"
On 22nd April the Battalion moved to Broome Park between Dover and Canterbury for further and final training. This was to be the final campsite inEngland. The Orderly Officer attending the first meal parade was surprised to see the cook wearing a pistol. He soon found out why. A number of schemes were carrie dout with tanks in order that a closer knowledge of co-operation with armour could be learned. At the Brigade Sports Meet in May, the S.Sask.R. took top honours once more, and Brigadier H.A. Young, who had once again taken command of the brigade, presented his championship trophy to Colonel Clift. The unit tug-of-war team also won the Division championship.
In May, all privilege leaves were cancelled and a general air of expectancy prevailed everywhere. The issue of the new beret headgear added to the sense of impending events.
On 29th May, General Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, inspected the brigade. After the inspection, the General called for the men to break ranks and gather around him. He talked for five minutes, stressing that success or failure in future operations depended on every last man doing his part fully and well.
All vehicles had been waterproofed and tested, loading tables prepared, and all surplus kit sent to the Excess Kit Storage Depot. The Battalion was ready for battle. Enemy air activity increased and the first V.I.s, the German rocket bomb, landed not far from Broome Park. In a few days time, these rockets were a familiar site as they chugged in over the sea coast, London bound.
It was 6th June, 1944. First the rumour and then the confirmation swept the camp. The long awaited day had arrived. Soon the regiment would be in the fight along side the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division who had landed in France that morning. A muster parade was help outside and the unit warned for overseas duty. All outside passes were cancelled except for short trips into Dover and Canterbury. These last few days were filled with sports, route marches, and final checks on all equipment. On 18th June, Lt.-Col. Clift left with the advance party of 6th brigade as the Brigade Senior Representative. Major G.R. Matthews acted as C.O. during his absence.
At last the movement order arrived and the transport left Broome Park on 3rd July, travelling via Chatham and London to their marshalling area at Tilbury Camp near Tilbury, Essex. The marching personnel, under Major Matthews, entrained at Sheperds Wells Station on the same day and detrained at Chailey Station, north of Lewes. After issue of hard rations and embarkation cards, all personnel were loaded on the landing craft. On 6th July the S.Sask.R. were consolidated in Normandy, with Colonel Clift once again in command.